Friday, September 19, 2014


I had a great friend from Devon, England - Frank Gill (1920-2006) who introduced me to the British Dance Bands. He opened a whole new world to me full of great music and different sounds. In some ways, the British Dance Bands were ahead of their counterparts. I learned a lot about the bands of Ambrose, Ray Noble, and Roy Fox, but one of the last bands I was introduced to was the band of Jack Jackson. Jackson is not as famous as Ambrose is, but he had a wonderful sound. He also was a very interesting personality.  Jack Jackson was born on February 20, 1906 in Belvedere, Kent, the son of a brass band player and conductor, and began playing cornet at the age of 11 before playing violin and cello in dance bands. He learnt to play trumpet and worked in swing bands in circuses, revues, ballrooms and ocean liners before joining Jack Hylton's band in 1927. He left Hylton in 1929 and freelanced for a while. Jackson joined Jack Payne and the BBC Dance Orchestra in 1931. On August 1st 1933, Jack Jackson opened at the Dorchester Hotel with his own band. With him were some old friends from the Hylton days, Poggy Pogson and Chappie D'Amato, along with a host of other top flight musicians including multi-instrumentalist and ace arranger Stanley Andrews. He became immensely popular with the smart set at the Dorchester and the band always set a good dancing tempo as may be heard on his recordings. His signature tune was Make Those People Sway, and his regular closing theme tune was Dancing in the Dark. By 1939 he had a regular radio show on Radio Luxembourg. In December 1939 his moved to Rector's Club, then to the May Fair Hotel in March 1940.
During the war he spent some years at the Ministry of Information drawing cartoons and he also worked as a band booker at Foster's Agency. He wasn't cut out to work behind a desk, it seems, and he made a comeback with a new band at Churchill's in February 1947, opposite Edmundo Ross. He followed this with some theatre work and a spell at the Potomac in October 1947, after which he gave up bandleading to compere a BBC big-band series called "Band Parade". The following year he was given his own late-night record show called "Record Round Up". This was in June 1948 and it ran for over 20 years making him a household name all over again with a new generation and an audience of 12 million.He also broadcast regularly for Decca on Radio Luxembourg and made many TV appearances, and hosted his own chat-show on ITV in September 1955. In between times he compered band shows at theatres and even appeared as a solo variety act. He emigrated to Teneriffe in 1962, building himself an elaborate recording studio where he recorded his radio shows, flying them to London by jet-plane every week. His methods of presentation included punctuating records with surreal comedy clips, and using quick cutting of pre-recorded tapes to humorous effect. This was a major influence on later British DJs such as Kenny Everett and Noel Edmonds. In 1973, aged 67, he became seriously ill with a bronchial complaint associated with playing the trumpet, which was aggravated by the climate in the Canary Islands. He returned to Rickmansworth, where his 2 sons ran their own recording studio in an historic mansion which used to belong to Jack. He had apparently aged tremendously, all his energy sapped by the emphysema. He made a remarkable recovery, however, and presented a new radio program in 1975, "The Jack Jackson Show", although he had to rely a lot on the use of an electrical air-compressor for his breathing. For two years he was back on top, but then his health deteriorated. He was affectionately known as the 'daddy of all disc jockeys' during his brief spell (9 months) on Radio 1. His humour survived, however. When Melody Maker journalist Chris Hayes wrote to him in 1977 asking for an interview, he replied "Sorry, I'm unable to give you an interview as my respiratory organs are not blowing too well of late. It's alright as long as I don't breathe; in fact, I'm thinking of giving it up altogether, but the appalling funeral expenses put me off". Jack died in 1978 at Rickmansworth, just short of his 72nd birthday...

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


If you are talking about the pioneers of the film industry, many people would have to talk about Charlie Chaplin or D.W. Griffith. In that early era of American film, as was the norm in society as a whole, women were not allowed to be the leaders. However, one of the first woman pioneers in film was silent screen star Mary Pickford. Known as "America's Sweetheart", Pickford was so powerful in Hollywood that she could dictate her roles, her movies, and everything about her career. It was very rare for a woman to have that power in the early days of Hollywood. Mary Pickford, however, disappeared from film, and left the business at the height of her fame to become an elusive legendary figure.

When she retired from acting in 1933, Pickford continued to produce films for United Artists, and she and Chaplin remained partners in the company for decades. Chaplin left the company in 1955, and Pickford followed suit in 1956, selling her remaining shares for three million dollars. On June 24, 1937, Pickford married her third and last husband, actor and band leader Charles 'Buddy' Rogers. They adopted two children: Roxanne (born 1944, adopted 1944) and Ronald Charles (born 1937, adopted 1943, a.k.a. Ron Pickford Rogers). As a PBS American Experience documentary noted, Pickford's relationship with her children was tense. She criticized their physical imperfections, including Ronnie's small stature and Roxanne's crooked teeth. Both children later said that their mother was too self-absorbed to provide real maternal love. In 2003, Ronnie recalled that "Things didn't work out that much, you know. But I'll never forget her. I think that she was a good woman."

 After the love of her life, Douglas Fairbanks Sr, died in 1939 Mary withdrew and gradually became a recluse, remaining almost entirely at Pickfair and allowing visits only from Lillian Gish, her stepson Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and a few select others. The Political Graveyard reports that Mary Pickford Rogers was a candidate for presidential elector on the Republican ticket of Dewey-Bricker in 1944. She did appear in court in 1959, in a matter pertaining to her co-ownership of North Carolina TV station WSJS-TV. In the mid-1960s, Pickford often received visitors only by telephone, speaking to them from her bedroom. Buddy Rogers often gave guests tours of Pickfair, including views of a genuine western bar Pickford had bought for Douglas Fairbanks, and a portrait of Pickford in the drawing room. A print of this image now hangs in the Library of Congress. In addition to her Oscar as best actress for Coquette (1929), Mary Pickford received an Academy Honorary Award for a lifetime of achievements in 1976. The Academy sent a TV crew to her house to record her short statement of thanks - offering the public a very rare glimpse into the fabled Pickfair Manor. On May 29, 1979 Pickford passed away at the age of 87. She was a forgotten icon of a legendary era in Hollywood history...

Friday, September 12, 2014


Readers of my blog know that I am always talking about one of my favorite entertainers Bing Crosby. However, I think one of the greatest actors of all-time was Cary Grant. He is on the top ten list of most classic movie fans. Anyways, I figured it would be fun to take a look at some candid Cary Grant pictures. I tried to find photos that were different...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Please - no more classic movie remakes!

James Ellroy, the two-fisted author behind such crime novels as L.A. Confidential and Black Dahlia, is making a rare foray into film.

Fox 2000 has signed the author to write a remake of Laura, the classic 1944 film noir that was directed by Otto Preminger. Stewart Till is exec producing.

Laura was made during the Darryl F. Zanuck era of 20th Century Fox’s history. The Golden Age production had a troubled road to the screen as Zanuck took Preminger off directing duties, replaced him with Rouben Mamoulian, only to later put Preminger back on when the dailies were disastrous.
In the end, the film, which starred Gene Tierney, Dana Andwers, Clifton Webb and Vincent Price, received five Oscar nominations (including best director, best adapted screenplay and best supporting actor) and won one for cinematography.

Without giving too much away of the twists and turns, the adaptation of the book by Vera Caspary told of a detective who slowly falls in love and becomes obsessed with a well-heeled advertising exec over the course of investigating her murder.

Ellroy is one of Hollywood’s favorite authors, with several adaptations of several of his noir-draped books. L.A. Confidential was translated into the much-loved Oscar-winning Russell Crowe-Guy Pearce thriller. Dahlia was turned into a Brian De Palma-directed film that starred Josh Hartnett, Aaron Eckhart and Scarlett Johansson. And his White Jazz novel has been patiently in development with Joe Carnahan for many years. (The three novels are part of his hailed LA Quartet.)

Ellroy has in recent years turned to screenwriting and wrote Street Kings, which was directed by David Ayer (End of Watch), and Rampart, Oren Moverman’s 2011 police thriller that starred Woody Harrelson.

The author, who is repped by Intellectual Property Group and Sobel Weber Associates, is launching a new LA Quartet with his novel, Perfidia, out Sept. 16 in the U.S...


Sunday, September 7, 2014


Doing research on comedians, I discovered that a lot of them adopted their children like Jack Benny, George Burns, and Bob Hope. However, I was always amazed at how many children Charlie Chaplin had. He had 11 children between 1919 and 1962. It was an amazing record, and knowing how much of a genius Chaplin was at everything else, it only goes to show he was a genius at having children as well. Here is a run down of his children:

Norman Spencer Chaplin was born July 7th, 1919. Sadly the baby died three days later. The mother was his first wife Mildred Harris. Harris and Chaplin divorced in 1921.

Charles Spencer Chaplin, Jr. was born May 5, 1925. Charlie's Jr. was in Limelight (1952) as one of the clowns with his father. As young children, he and his brother were used as pawns in their mother's bitter divorce from Charlie Chaplin, during which a lot of the couple's "dirty linen" was aired in sensational—and very public—divorce hearings. Following the divorce, the young brothers were raised by their mother and maternal grandmother until the mid-1930s, when they began to make frequent visits to their father. He is burried next to his maternal grandmother Lillian Grey (1889-1985).

Sydney Earle Chaplin was born March 30th, 1926. Sydney played with his father in Limelight in the role as Neville. In 1957 he won Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical for Bells Are Ringing, opposite Judy Holliday, and received a Tony nomination for his performance as Nicky Arnstein, the gambling first husband of Fanny Brice, opposite Barbra Streisand, in the Broadway musical Funny Girl in 1964.Until he died, he still attended Chaplin events held for his father and can be seen in many film interviews about Charlie. Sydney died March 3, 2009.

Geraldine Leigh Chaplin was born August 1, 1944. Geraldine was an actress known for many roles, but first recognized for her work in Dr. Zhivago. She also played her own grandmother in the 1992 Richard Attenborough film of Chaplin. Her first film appearance was in Limelight with brother Michael and sister Josephine at the beginning of the film.

Michael John Chaplin was born March 7, 1946 He appeared in Limelight with his sisters in the beginning and played the boy 'Rupert Macabee' in King of New York.

Josephine Hannah Chaplin was born March 28, 1949. She has been in a number of films, including her father's Limelight and A Countess from Hong Kong, and Pasolini´s Canterbury Tales. She had a son Julien Ronet (born 1980) by Maurice Ronet, with whom she lived until his death.

Victoria Chaplin was born May 19, 1951. Chaplin was born in the United States but grew up in Switzerland. As a teenager, she appeared as an extra in her father's last film, A Countess from Hong Kong (1967). Her father also wanted her to star in the main role of a winged girl found from the Amazonian rainforest in his next planned film, The Freak, in 1969. However, the project was never filmed because of his declining health and because Chaplin eloped with the French actor Jean-Baptiste Thiérrée.

Eugene Anthony Chaplin was born August 23, 1953. He is a Swiss recording engineer and documentary filmmaker. He is the president of the International Comedy Film Festival of Vevey, Switzerland. He directed the documentary film Charlie Chaplin: A Family Tribute produced by Jarl Ale de Basseville and created the musical "Smile", which is a narration of Charlie Chaplin's life through his music. As a recording engineer, he worked with The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, and Queen.

Jane Cecil Chaplin was born May 23, 1957 and married film producer Ilya Salkind. She has two children.

Annette Emily Chaplin was born December 3, 1959 and is the most private of all of the Chaplin children.

Christopher James Chaplin was born July 6 1962 in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland. Christopher is a composer and actor. He is the youngest son of film comedian Charlie Chaplin and his fourth wife, Oona O'Neill.

What also is so remarkable is that the Chaplin children did not seem to fall into the pitfalls that the children of other legends have. They all are talented and seemingly well adjusted children. His children may be Charlie Chaplin's most remarkable body of work...

Thursday, September 4, 2014


Despite all his later accomplishments, this career-making hit for Gershwin would remain the biggest hit of his entire life. Written on a train ride with Caesar one New York afternoon as a parody of Stephen Foster's "Old Folks at Home", it was introduced in the Broadway revue Demi-Tasse. The song had little impact in its first show, but not long afterwards Gershwin played it at a party where Al Jolson heard it. Jolson then put it into his show Sinbad, already a success at the Winter Garden Theatre, and recorded it for Columbia Records in January 1920. "After that," said Gershwin, "Swanee penetrated the four corners of the earth.".

The song was charted in 1920 for 18 weeks holding No. 1 position for nine. It sold a million sheet music copies, and an estimated two million records. It became Gershwin's first hit and the biggest-selling song of his career; the money he earned from it allowed him to concentrate on theatre work and films rather than writing further single pop hits. Arthur Schwartz said: "It's ironic that he never again wrote a number equaling the sales of Swanee, which for all its infectiousness, doesn't match the individuality and subtlety of his later works."
Jolson recorded the song several times in his career, and performed it in the movies The Jolson Story (1946), Rhapsody in Blue (1946), and Jolson Sings Again (1949). For the song's performance in The Jolson Story, Jolson, rather than actor Larry Parks, appeared as himself, filmed in long shot. Although usually associated with Jolson,

Swanee" has been recorded by many other singers...
Recorded By: Al Jolson (numerous times)
Judy Garland (numerous times)
Bing Crosby (numerous times)
Buddy Clark (on radio)
Jaye P. Morgan
Rufus Wainwright
The Temptations

Monday, September 1, 2014


One of my favorite articles to write for my blog is the “Born On This Day” stories.  I not only get to celebrate some of the great stars of classic Hollywood, but I also get the opportunity to revisit some of the stars that I have forgotten. One such star was Richard Arlen, who was born on this day on September 1, 1899.  Born Sylvanus Richard Van Mattimore in St. Paul, Minnesota, he attended the University of Pennsylvania. He served in Canada as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps during World War I. His first job after the war was with St. Paul's Athletic Club. Then he went to the oilfields of Texas and Oklahoma and found work as a tool boy. He was thereafter a messenger and sporting editor of a newspaper before going to Los Angeles to star in films, but no producer wanted him. He was a delivery boy for a film laboratory when the motorcycle which he was riding landed him a broken leg outside the Paramount Pictures lot.

Impressed by his good looks, executives also gave him a contract after he had recovered. Starting as an extra in 1925, Arlen soon rose to credited roles, but the quality of his work left much to be desired. However, this was the silent era, which was more about looks than substance, and he continued on. His big break came when William A. Wellman cast him as a pilot in the silent film Wings (1927) with Charles 'Buddy' Rogers and Clara Bow. The story of fighter aces would win the Oscar for Best Picture and Arlen would continue to play the tough, cynical hero throughout his career. Arlen appeared in three more pictures directed by Wellman, Beggars of Life (1928), Ladies of the Mob (1928) and The Man I Love (1929). In Wings he had a scene with a young actor named Gary Cooper. In 1929, he again worked with Cooper in the western The Virginian (1929), only this time Cooper was the star and Arlen was the supporting actor. While Arlen moved easily into sound, his career just bumped along.

At the age of 34, he was cast as a college student in the Bing Crosby musical College Humor (1933). The film did nothing to further Arlen’s career, but it was Bing’s second movie, and it made him a star. By 1935 he was working in such "B" pictures as Three Live Ghosts (1936). It was in 1935 that he became a freelance actor and his freelance career soon waned. In 1939, he signed with Universal and began working in its action films. In 1941 he moved to the Pine-Thomas unit at Paramount, where he appeared in adventure films. With the war on, most of his earlier films included war scenarios. By the end of the 1940s Arlen was becoming deaf and this seemed to signal the end of his career. However, he had an operation in 1949 that restored his hearing and he went on making a handful of adventures and westerns through the 1950s and working more in the 1960s. He made 15 westerns for producer A.C. Lyles, who worked with the old western stars.

Besides movies, Arlen also appeared on television and in commercials. After leaving the business in the late 1960s, he was coaxed back to the screen for three small roles in films that were released the same year that he died. Married three times, Arlen only had a son who also appeared in movies. Richard Arlen died on March 28, 1976 of emphysema in Hollywood…