Friday, December 31, 2010

THE PASSING SCENE OF 2010

As we say goodbye to the year that was 2010, we also say goodbye to some wonderful entertainers. Many of them performed and delighted audiences with their talents for generations. These wonderful entertainers left us this year - they are gone but hopefully not forgotten...

Tony Curtis


Tony Curtis (1925 - 2010)
Actor. Born Bernard Schwartz, his father was a tailor who immigrated from Hungary; he was brought up in poverty in a tough Bronx neighborhood. He would go on to be one of the greatest actors of a generation, starring in films such as Some Like It Hot and The Defiant Ones.

Leslie Nielsen (1926 - 2010)
Actor. Born Leslie William Nielsen, he was a World War II-era Royal Canadian Air Force veteran. He attended the Lorne Greene Academy of Radio Arts and Neighborhood Playhouse (New York City actor's training school) before beginning steady television work in the late 1940s. He gained his greatest fame in comedy movies such as Airplane! and Naked Gun.

Barbara Billingsley (1915 - 2010)
Actress. Born Barbara Lillian Combes, she attended Los Angeles Junior College in the mid 1930s and then moved to New York City, where she worked as a model. In the 1950s she represented a generation of housewives playing Mrs. Cleaver on the television series, Leave It To Beaver.

Tom Bosley (1927 - 2010)
Actor. He will be remembered for his role as the patriarch Howard Cunningham in the popular TV series "Happy Days" (1974 to 1984). Born in Chicago, he served in the US Navy, and attended DePaul University following his return home.

Rue McClanahan (1934 - 2010)
Actress. Best known as the co-star of the popular TV sitcom The Golden Girls. Born Eddi-Rue McClanahan, she grew up in Ardmore, Oklahoma, graduated from the University of Tulsa, and began a career as an actress in 1957.

Art Linkletter (1912 - 2010)
Television and Radio Personality, Author. He hosted two of the longest-running programs in broadcast history and was a presence in American media for more than six decades. "Art Linkletter's House Party," a variety show, debuted on radio in 1944 and was seen on CBS television from 1952 to 1969.

Dennis Hopper (1936 - 2010)
Actor, Director. He was considered one of Hollywood's most outspoken and versatile actors. He appeared in over 150 motion pictures during his lifetime, working as both an actor and film director, in a career that spanned over five decades. He was known in the motion picture industry for his anti-establishm.

Lena Horne


Lena Horne (1917 - 2010)
Entertainer. She broke through racial barriers as the first black performer to sign a long-term contract with a major Hollywood studio. Born Lena Mary Calhoun Horne, her grandparents were active in the NAACP and she was a cover girl for the organization's monthly bulletin at the age of two.

Patricia Neal (1926 - 2010)
Actress. Striking, husky-voiced leading lady of stage and screen. She won a Best Actress Academy Award for "Hud" (1963). In 1965 Neal nearly lost her life to a series of crippling strokes, but fought back and triumphantly resumed her career.

Peter Graves (1926 - 2010)
Actor. Born Peter Aurness, he participated in athletics and was an accomplished musician before beginning his career as a radio announcer, where he utilized his robust speaking voice. After studying drama at the University of Minnesota, he followed his older brother James Arness into the entertainment field.

Fess Parker (1924 - 2010)
Actor. Born Fess Elisha Parker, Junior in Fort Worth Texas, he would become famous for playing Davy Crockett on television.

Jimmy Dean (1928 - 2010)
Jimmy Ray Dean was an American country music singer, television host, actor and businessman. Although he may be best known today as the creator of the Jimmy Dean Sausage brand, he first rose to fame for his 1961 country crossover hit "Big Bad John"; and became a national television personality.

Lynn Redgrave (1943 - 2010)
Actress. She had a long career on stage, television, and film. The child of a distinguished British theatrical family, she was raised within the show-business milieu and studied at the London School of Speech and Drama before making her professional stage debut in "A Midsummer Night's Dream".

Jean Simmons (1929 - 2010)
Actress. A leading lady of captivating beauty, she appeared in British and American motion pictures. She was only 15 when chosen for the role of 'Heidi' in the 1944 picture "Give Us the Moon", followed with performances in "Great Expectations" as 'Young Estella' (1946) and "Black Narcissus" (1947).

John Forsythe (1918 - 2010)
American Stage, Television and Film Actor. Forsythe starred in three television series, spanning three decades, as single playboy father Bentley Gregg in the 1950s sitcom Bachelor Father (1957–1962); as the unseen millionaire Charles Townsend on the 1970s crime drama Charlie's Angels (1976–1981).

Gloria Stuart (1910 - 2010)
Actress. Best remembered for her Academy Award nominated role of the more mature, 'Rose Calvert ' in the multi-Academy Award winning motion picture, "Titanic" (1997). Stuart's film career spanned nearly seven decades. During the "Golden Age" of Hollywood she worked along side James Cagney, Claude Rains, and Eddie Cantor.

Dixie Carter


Dixie Carter (1939 - 2010)
Actress. She graduated from the University of Memphis and competed in the 1959 Miss Tennessee pageant, earning first runner-up. She then began an acting career, first on the Memphis stage and later in New York City theaters. Her most famous role was on TV's Designing Women

Kevin McCarthy (1914 - 2010)
Actor. The younger brother of author Mary McCarthy, they were both orphaned when their parents fell victim to the 1918 influenza epidemic, and he would be raised by various relatives. His most famous role was in The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.

Gary Coleman (1968 - 2010)
Actor. As a child he appeared in episodes of "The Jeffersons" and "Good Times" before attaining celebrity status as a star of the NBC situation comedy "Diff'rent Strokes", where his character's usual retort to his brother (played by Todd Bridges) "What'choo talkin' 'bout, Willis?" became a national catchphrase.

Jill Clayburgh (1944 - 2010)
Actress. A star of both the large and small screens, she was twice nominated for the Academy Award as Best Actress. Raised in an upper class Manhattan family, she received a degree in theater from Sarah Lawrence College in 1966.

Robert Culp (1930 - 2010)
Actor, Screenwriter. Best known for his work in television, he earned an international reputation for his role as Kelly Robinson on I Spy (1965-1968), the espionage series, where he and co-star Bill Cosby played a pair of secret agents.

James MacArthur (1937 - 2010)
Actor. He is most identified with the role of Detective Danny "Danno" Williams in the long-running police drama "Hawaii Five-O" (1968 to 1979). The line "Book 'em, Danno", often used during the series' run, is one of the most memorable in television history.

Mitch Miller (1911 - 2010)
Conductor, Record Producer. He shall probably be best remembered for getting a large television audience to "Sing Along With Mitch" on Friday nights in the early 1960s.

Blake Edwards (1922 - 2010)
Motion Picture Director, Screenwriter, Producer. He is best remembered for the "Pink Panther" film series. Born William Blake Crump, his parents divorced while he was a child, and his mother would remarry to Jack McEdwards, a Hollywood production manager who helped to get Edwards in the business. He was also married to Julie Andrews.

J. D. Salinger (1919 - 2010)
Novelist, Short Story Writer. His book "The Catcher in the Rye" (1951) is considered the classic 20th Century novel of alienated youth. It has sold over 60 million copies worldwide.

Eddie Fisher (1928 - 2010)
Entertainer. One of America's most popular singers of the 1950s, his career was later overshadowed by his private life. The Philadelphia native began performing as a teen and got his big break in 1949 with an appearance on Eddie Cantor's radio show, which led to a recording contract with RCA Victor.

Zelda Rubinstein (1933 - 2010)
Actress. She is best remembered as the ghost-hunting psychic from the "Poltergeist" movies of the 1980s. The 4'3" Rubinstein, who preferred the designation "little person", attended the University of Pittsburgh and the University of California, Berkeley.

Meinhardt Raabe (1915 - 2010)
American Actor. One of the last surviving Munchkin-actors in The Wizard of Oz, he was also the last surviving cast member with any dialogue in the film. At 4'7", he played the coroner in The Wizard of Oz in 1939, with his lines being: "As coroner, I must aver. I thoroughly examined her. And she's no...

Frances Reid (1914 - 2010)
Actress. She is fondly remembered for her role of Alice Horton in the daytime TV serial "The Days of Our Lives", from the show's debut in 1965 until 2007. Raised in Berkeley, California, the daughter of a banker, she studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse and made her Broadway debut in 1939.

Kathryn Grayson


Kathryn Grayson (1922 - 2010)
Singer, Actress. She starred in a number of film and Broadway musicals from the 1940s to the 1960s. Born Zelma Kathryn Hedrick, she moved from North Carolina to St. Louis with her family where, at 12, she was discovered singing on the stage of an empty opera house. She became one of MGM's best loved singing stars.

Agathe Von Trapp (1913 - 2010)
Entertainer. She was a member of the Von Trapp family of singers, who escaped Nazi-occupied Austria and found success in America. Their story was told in the Broadway musical and Oscar-winning film "The Sound Of Music" (1965), in which she was portrayed as Liesl, the daughter who was "16 going on 17.

Billie Richards (1921 - 2010)
Actress. Known primarily for voice characterizations, she shall be remembered as the title lead in the 1964 television special "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer". Raised in Toronto, she was dancing by age two and at five was appearing in a revue titled "The Merry Makers".

Ilene Woods (1929 - 2010)
Actress, Singer. She voiced the title role of Walt Disney's 1950 animated classic "Cinderella". Born Jacqueline Ruth Woods, she originally wanted to be a teacher, but was pushed into show business by an ambitious mother who arranged for her to receive dance and music lessons.

Steve Landesberg (1936 - 2010)
Actor, Comedian. Best remembered as Arthur P. Dietrich, the intellectual, unflappably deadpan detective from the long-running 1970s television series "Barney Miller".

Art Gilmore (1912 - 2010)
Voice Artist, Actor. Best remembered as the 'voice' for such hit television shows as "The Red Skelton Show " and "Highway Patrol", he had a career that spanned over 6 years.

Marie Osborne (1911 - 2010)
Actress. Appearing in around two dozen Hollywood features, she was silent film's first major child star. Born Helen Alice Myers, she was placed at age three months with a foster family named Osborn who changed her name to Marie and later added an "e" to their surname.

Dorothy Provine


Dorothy Provine (1935 - 2010)
Actress. Born to a businessman and an interior designer, she was raised in Washington. She was educated at the University of Washington, where she received a BA in Theater Arts and began performing in several amateur stage productions. Her most famous role was as Milton Berle's wife in the comedy It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World in 1963.

These stars have stopped glowing but they will never fade away...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: GUY LOMBARDO

Guy Lombardo was New Year's Eve for the better part of 50 years. When he died in 1977, so did New Year's Eve for many people. This undated picture below is a great picture of Guy Lombardo. He stayed up for midnight on New Year's Eve for years and yet here he is catching a snooze. It is a classic picture of a classy guy...

Monday, December 27, 2010

RIP: LINA ROMAY



Lina Romay, who sang with the Latin-inflected Xavier Cugat orchestra in the early 1940s before beginning a decade-long career as a film and TV actress, has died. She was 91. Romay's son, Jay Gould, says his mother died Dec. 17 of natural causes at a hospital in Pasadena.

Romay began her entertainment career by touring as the Cugat orchestra's lead singer.

A performance with the orchestra in the 1942 Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth film "You Were Never Lovelier" led to roles in some 15 other films and appearances on the Milton Berle Show, the Red Skelton Show and other TV programs.

An exceptionally fine singer, she was often heard on popular radio shows of the 1940's such as Jack Benny, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. She sang on Hollywood Canteen and in USO shows broadcast to American serviceman overseas during WW2. My research has uncovered her appearances on at least 15 Command Performance radio shows. She also was featured in several Mail Call broadcasts, and with the Marx Bros, quite an impressive lineup! She sang on Bing Crosby's Philco Shows and others. She even had her own radio show, some of which are available by some private collectors. We know, based on what I've read, her early days as the lead female singer with Xavier Cugat's orchestra, while he was the headlining at the Waldorf Astoria. But I think she left his employ when she signed a film contract with MGM during that period. She also has appeared on Broadway, most notably in Michael Todd's Peep Show and singing in many small venues.

Her show business career ended in 1953, but from the late 1970s into the 1980s, she worked as a Spanish-language radio announcer for horse races at Hollywood Park Racetrack.

SPOTLIGHT ON JEAN ARTHUR



Jean Arthur was born on October 17, 1900 and was arguably the epitome of the female screwball comedy actress. As James Harvey wrote in his recounting of the era, "No one was more closely identified with the screwball comedy than Jean Arthur. So much was she part of it, so much was her star personality defined by it, that the screwball style itself seems almost unimaginable without her." Arthur has been called "the quintessential comedic leading lady."

Arthur is best known for her feature roles in three Frank Capra films: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), You Can't Take It With You (1938), and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), films that championed the everyday heroine. A memorable later performance was in George Stevens' Shane (1953), her last screen appearance. Arthur was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1944 for her performance in The More the Merrier (1943). However, she never won an Oscar.

Arthur was born Gladys Georgianna Greene in Plattsburgh, New York to Protestant parents Johanna Augusta Nelson and Hubert Sidney Greene. She lived off and on in Westbrook, Maine from 1908 to 1915 while her father worked at Lamson Studios in Portland, Maine as a photographer. The product of a nomadic childhood, Arthur also lived at times in Jacksonville, Florida; Schenectady, New York; and, during a portion of her high school years, in the Washington Heights neighborhood of upper Manhattan. She came from a family of three older brothers: Donald Hubert (1891), Robert B. (1892) and Albert Sidney (1894). Her maternal grandparents were immigrants from Norway who settled in the American West. She reputedly took her stage name from two of her greatest heroes, Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc) and King Arthur.

The turning point in Jean Arthur's career came when she was chosen by director Frank Capra to star in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Capra had spotted her in a daily rush from the film Whirlpool in 1934 and convinced Cohn to have Columbia Studios sign her for his next film as a tough newspaperwoman who falls in love with a country bumpkin millionaire. Arthur co-starred in three celebrated 1930s Capra films: her role opposite Gary Cooper in 1936 in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town made her a star, while her fame was cemented with You Can't Take It With You (1938) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in 1939, both with James Stewart. She was re-teamed with Cooper, playing Calamity Jane in Cecil B. DeMille's The Plainsman (1936), and appeared as a working girl, her typical role, in Mitchell Leisen's 1937 screwball comedy Easy Living opposite Ray Milland. So strong was her box office appeal by 1939 that she was one of four finalists that year for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind; the film's producer, David O. Selznick, had briefly romanced Arthur in the late 1920s when they both were with Paramount Pictures.

She continued to star in films such as Howard Hawks' Only Angels Have Wings in 1939, with love interest Cary Grant, 1942's The Talk of the Town, directed by George Stevens (also with Grant), and again for Stevens as a government clerk in 1943's The More the Merrier, for which Jean Arthur was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress (losing to Jennifer Jones in The Song of Bernadette). As a result of being in the doghouse with studio boss Harry Cohn, her fee for The Talk of the Town (1942) was only $50,000 while her male co-stars Grant and Ronald Colman received upwards of $100,000 each. Arthur remained Columbia's top star until the mid-1940s, when she left the studio and Rita Hayworth took over as the studio's reigning queen. Stevens famously called her "one of the greatest comediennes the screen has ever seen", while Capra credited her as "my favorite actress".

Alan Ladd and Jean Arthur in Shane (1953)Arthur "retired" when her contract with Columbia Pictures expired in 1944. She reportedly ran through the studio's streets, shouting "I'm free, I'm free!" For the next several years, she turned down virtually all film offers, the two exceptions being Billy Wilder's A Foreign Affair (1948), in which she played a congresswoman and rival of Marlene Dietrich, and as a homesteader's wife in the classic Western Shane (1953), which turned out to be the biggest box-office hit of her career. The latter was her final film, and the only color film she appeared in.

Arthur next decided to teach drama, first at Vassar College and then the North Carolina School of the Arts. While teaching at Vassar, she stopped a rather stridently overacted scene performance and directed the students' attention to a large tree growing outside the window of the performance space, advising the students on the art of naturalistic acting: "I wish people knew how to be people as well as that tree knows how to be a tree."

Her students at Vassar included the young Meryl Streep. Arthur recognized Streep's talent and potential very early on and after watching her performance in a Vassar play, Arthur said it was "like watching a movie star." Jean Arthur died quietly in retirement on June 19, 1991 at the age of 90...



Sunday, December 26, 2010

MOVIE SHOWCASE: IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD



If you want to watch simply a fun movie then I recommend "IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD". Despite its length (192 minutes the original film ran), the movie flies by, and does not drag at all. The movie is an American comedy film directed by Stanley Kramer about the madcap pursuit of $350,000 in stolen cash by a diverse and colorful group of strangers. The ensemble comedy premiered on November 7, 1963. Ensemble cast is an understatement, because as many stars as possible are crammed into the movie.

"Smiler" Grogan (Jimmy Durante), a suspect in a long ago tuna factory robbery and on the run from the police, careens his car off a twisting, mountainous road in the Southern California desert and crashes. Five motorists stop to help him - Melville Crump (Sid Caesar), a dentist; Lennie Pike (Jonathan Winters), a furniture mover; Dingy Bell (Mickey Rooney) and Benjy Benjamin (Buddy Hackett), two friends on their way to Las Vegas; and J. Russell Finch (Milton Berle), who owns an edible seaweed company. Just before he kicks the bucket (quite literally), Grogan tells the five about $350,000 (equal to $2,510,687 today) buried in the (fictitious) Santa Rosita State Park, near the Mexican border, under a mysterious "big W". Initially, the motorists try to reason with each other and share the money, but it soon becomes an all-out race to get the money first.

Unbeknownst to them all, Captain T. G. Culpepper (Spencer Tracy) of the Santa Rosita Police Department has been patiently working on the "Smiler" Grogan case for years, hoping to someday solve it and retire. When he learns of the fatal crash, he suspects that Grogan may have tipped off the passersby, so he tracks them by various police units. His suspicions are confirmed by their behavior.

Everyone experiences multiple setbacks en route to the money. Crump and his wife Monica (Edie Adams) charter a shabby World War I biplane and harrowingly make it to Santa Rosita but get stuck in the basement of a hardware store. They free themselves with the help of some dynamite conveniently located in the basement.

Dingy and Benjy charter a modern plane, but after their alcoholic pilot (Jim Backus) lets the two fly the plane, erratically, and consequently gets knocked unconscious while he attempts to make a drink in the back of the plane, the terrified friends are forced to land the plane themselves. On the ground, two cab drivers, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, whisking Dingy and Benjy away from the airport, and Peter Falk, in a separate cab driving Crump and Monica away from the hardware store, thus also get in on the hunt.

Pike's furniture truck crashes into the vehicle containing Finch, his wife Emmeline (Dorothy Provine), and his overbearing dictatorial mother-in-law, Mrs. Marcus (Ethel Merman). The three persuade Pike to ride off for help on a girl's bicycle, then flag down a British army officer, Lt. Col. J. Algernon Hawthorne (Terry-Thomas), to get them to Santa Rosita, and drive past Pike when he attempts to thumb Hawthorne's vehicle down. After many arguments, most caused by Mrs. Marcus, she and Emmeline refuse to go any farther, and Finch and Hawthorne leave them behind.

Pike tries to get motorist Otto Meyer (Phil Silvers) to take him to Santa Rosita, but Meyer betrays Pike and races for the money on his own. Pike, outraged over Meyer, destroys a service station at which Meyer has been forced to stop due to a tire blowout. After the rampage, Pike steals the station's tow truck and picks up Mrs. Marcus and Emmeline. Mrs. Marcus calls her beatnik son Sylvester (Dick Shawn), who lives near Santa Rosita, to get the money, but the almost Oedipally obsessed Sylvester races hysterically to the defense of his mother, running out on his beautiful bedroom companion (Barrie Chase). Meyer experiences his own setbacks, including losing his car and nearly being drowned. All the while, Culpepper and the police department secretly track their activities.

Eventually, all the characters meet up at the state park and search for the Big W. Culpepper orders all policemen to leave the area and goes in solo to retrieve the money but actually plans to take the money to Mexico to escape his dysfunctional family and unsatisfying job after the police department tells Culpepper that his pension won't change. Emmeline, alone and wiping her face at a water fountain, ironically the only one who wanted no part in any of the matter, is the first to recognize the Big W, composed of four palm trees standing at odd angles. Culpepper comes out of the bushes as Emmeline makes the discovery. Emmeline offers to split the money evenly with Culpepper and openly states her wishes to leave all her troubles behind, and maybe even live in a convent (reminding the audience that both Tracy and Provine are Roman Catholic in real life), but in saying so, unwittingly reveals to Culpepper the location. Minutes later, however, Pike, then the others, notice the palm trees and frantically began digging, while Culpepper quietly mixes in with the others and watches. Eventually Sylvester is the only one left in the resulting hole, and his attempts strike the suitcase containing the money. After the suitcase is opened and the group unsuccessfully attempts to strike deals with each other on the money's distribution, Culpepper identifies himself and orders the now-stunned ensemble to turn themselves in, saying a jury may be more lenient. The ensemble climb into the two taxis (Falk's cab had Caesar, Silvers, Adams, Hackett, and Rooney, and Rochester's cab had Berle, Merman, Winters, Provine, Terry-Thomas, and Shawn) and drive out of the park, initially intending to turn themselves in.

But when the two taxicab groups see Culpepper traveling out of the park's exit in the opposite direction with the money, they reverse direction and follow him. Meanwhile, after a number of unsuccessful attempts to reach Culpepper to tell him that his pension would be trebled, the police department revokes his pension and orders his arrest. After a long and frantic chase sequence, all eleven men in the group end up stranded on the fire escape of an old building slated for demolition. While trying to keep from falling off, the men lose control of the suitcase containing the money, and all $350,000 flutters down to the crowd watching below after the suitcase opens. The men then all attempt to climb down a Santa Rosita Fire Department aerial ladder truck, but their combined weight makes the firemen lose control of the ladder, causing the ladder to pivot and rotate wildly and fling the men in many different directions, resulting in many injuries and landing all the men in the hospital awaiting arrest, and eventually to crash into the ground.

In the hospital, the dejected group, in casts and with varying degrees of immobility and pain, criticize Culpepper for taking the money, but he says they will get off easy with the justice system because he will have the harsh sentence. He adds that maybe ten or twenty years from now, there'll be something he can laugh at, but the rest remain unsympathetic. The three women then enter, with Mrs. Marcus (in the middle) scolding all of the hospitalized men. Mrs. Marcus promptly slips on a banana peel that Benjy had thrown on the floor moments before and is carried off on a gurney by interns. Everyone, even Culpepper, begins to laugh hysterically.

A sequel was talked about a few years ago, but hopefully they will never tinker with this 1960s comedy masterpiece...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

RIP: VOICE OF THE LONE RANGER



Fred Foy, an announcer best known for his booming, passionate lead-ins to "The Lone Ranger" radio and television series, died Wednesday of natural causes at his Woburn, Mass., home, his daughter said. He was 89.

Nancy Foy said her father worked as an actor before landing the job as the announcer and narrator on "The Lone Ranger" radio show in 1948.

The show's live lead-in introduced its masked cowboy hero and his trusted horse with the line: "A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty 'Hi-Yo Silver!' ... The Lone Ranger!"

Foy's dramatic introduction and narration, performed in a powerful baritone, were so good it "made many people forget there were others before him," said radio historian Jim Harmon, who called him "perhaps the greatest announcer-narrator in the history of radio drama.

"He pronounced words like no one else ever had — 'SIL-ver,' 'hiss-TOR-ee.' But hearing him, you realized everyone else had been wrong," Harmon wrote in his book, "Radio Mystery and Adventure and Its Appearances in Film, Television and Other Media."

Foy never tired of giving a spirited rendition of "The Lone Ranger" introduction to anyone, anywhere, who would ask, his daughter said.

"Dad would do the intro at the drop of a hat," she said. "He loved it. He loved for us to let people know so he would be asked to do it."

Foy was born in Detroit in 1921, graduated from that city's Eastern High School in 1938 and landed a job on the announcing staff of radio station WXYZ in Detroit in 1942. He was drafted into the Army that year and served in an Armed Forces Radio unit in Cairo during World War II.

Foy returned to WXYZ in 1945, then three years later won the job on "The Lone Ranger," even stepping into the lead role for one radio broadcast when actor Brace Beemer had laryngitis.

Foy's son, Fritz Foy, said the introduction's signature opening line, "Hi-Yo, Silver!" was done by an actor on the radio show, though his father belted it out for the TV series.

Foy also performed on radio series including "The Green Hornet" and "Sgt. Preston of the Yukon."

In 1960, Foy began working for the ABC network. He spent five years as an announcer on the "The Dick Cavett Show" and narrated documentaries. He left ABC in the mid-1980s and later retired to Woburn, Nancy Foy said.

Foy is survived by his wife of 63 years, Frances Foy, their three children and three grandchildren.

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: BETTE DAVIS

Normally I associate Christmas with stars like Bing Crosby and Perry Como, I do not really think of actress Bette Davis and Christmas in the same breath. However, this picture of the day comes from a Vogue magazine spread that Davis did to celebrate the holidays. Unfortunately I do not know an exact date of the photo...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

FORGOTTEN ONES: S.Z. SAKALL



Most fans of classic movies have seen S.Z. Sakall's chubby face, but many will not know the name. He starred in countless movies in a ton of endearing roles. Szőke Szakáll, known as S.Z. Sakall, was a Hungarian-Jewish film character actor born on February 2, 1883. He was in many films including In the Good Old Summertime, Lullaby of Broadway, Christmas in Connecticut and Casablanca in which he played Carl, the head waiter.

Chubby-jowled Sakall played numerous supporting roles in Hollywood musicals and comedies in the 1940s and 1950s. His rotund cuteness earned Sakall the nickname "Cuddles," and he was often billed as S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall in his later films, though he was never happy with the name. He was famous for using the phrase "everything is hunky dunky."

Szőke Szakáll was born Gerő Jenő, but even during his schooldays he was writing sketches for Budapest vaudeville shows under the pen-name Szőke Szakáll ("blonde beard", in reference to his own beard, grown to make him look older), which he retained when at the age of 18 he turned to acting.

The actor became a star of the Hungarian stage and screen in the 1910s and 1920s. At the beginning of the 1920s, he moved to Vienna, where he appeared in Hermann Leopoldi's Kabarett Leopoldi-Wiesenthal. In the 1930s, he was, next to Hans Moser, the most significant representative of the Wiener Film, the Viennese light romantic comedy genre. He also appeared in Berlin.

When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, Sakall was forced to return to Hungary. He was involved in over 40 movies in his native land. When Hungary joined the Axis in 1940, he headed for Hollywood with his wife. Many of Sakall's close relatives later died in Nazi concentration camps, including all three of his sisters and his niece, as well as his wife's brother and sister.

At the age of 59, he portrayed his most famous character, Carl the head waiter in Casablanca. Producer Hal Wallis signed Sakall for the role three weeks after filming had begun. When he was first offered the part, Sakall hated it and turned it down. Sakall finally agreed to take the role provided they gave him four weeks of work. The two sides eventually agreed on three weeks. He received $1,750 per week for a total of $5,250. He actually had more screen time than either Peter Lorre or Sydney Greenstreet.

Sakall appeared in 30 more movies after this, including 1945's Christmas in Connecticut with Barbara Stanwyck. Sakall appeared in four films in 1948: the drama Embraceable You, followed by April Showers, Michael Curtiz's Romance on the High Seas (Doris Day's film debut), and Whiplash.

1949 was a big year for Sakall. He was in four top movies. First Sakall played Felix Hofer in the Doris Day's second film, My Dream Is Yours. Later that year, he starred with June Haver and Ray Bolger in Look for the Silver Lining. Next, he played Otto Oberkugen in In the Good Old Summertime, with Judy Garland and Van Johnson. Finally, Sakall was given the principal role of songwriter Fred Fisher in Oh, You Beautiful Doll, though top billing went to June Haver.

Sakall appeared in nine more movies during the 1950s, two of them musicals with Doris Day, playing J. Maxwell Bloomhaus in Tea for Two and Adolph Hubbell in Lullaby of Broadway. His other roles included: Poppa Schultz in the Errol Flynn western Montana; Miklos Teretzky in the June Haver musical The Daughter of Rosie O'Grady; Don Miguel in the Randolph Scott western Sugarfoot; Uncle Felix in the musical Painting the Clouds with Sunshine with Virginia Mayo; in one of the episodes in the movie It's A Big Country which featured such famous names as Gene Kelly, Van Johnson, Gary Cooper, Janet Leigh, Fredric March and Ethel Barrymore.

His last movie was in 1954 where he had the role of Joseph Ruder in The Student Prince. Sakall died of a heart attack in Hollywood shortly after filming the The Student Prince on February 12, 1955, ten days after his 72nd birthday...

Monday, December 20, 2010

THE LAST DAYS OF DEAN MARTIN

Christmas Day is supposed to be one of those few days a year where you are always happy. Surrounded by family, you cherish the times you have with them. However, each Christmas Day since 1995 I take a moment to remember the great talent that left us...now fifteen years ago. For on Christmas Day of 1995, Dean Martin passed away. He was the quintessential "Cool Cat". He was the link between the evolution of Bing Crosby's crooning and the newer style of Elvis Presley. In 1987, Dean's son Dino Jr., 35, a part time actor, was killed in a National Guard jet crash. It is common knowledge that this incident was the beginning of the end for Dino.

Skip ahead a few years, and on September 16th of 1993, Dean Martin went into Cedars Sinai Medical Center for tests. Doctors found that his lungs were "riddled with tumors." Supposedly, the doctors gave him only a few months to live. Dean walked out, and continued drinking and partying for over 2 more years. When Frank Sinatra turned 80 on December 12, 1995 there was speculation that maybe Dino would make an appearance - he did at his favorite restaurant. He ate alone, and it would be one of the last times he was seen publicly.

There are two conflicting reports about his death. One says that he spent his last evening alone, sipping red wine, and watching television until 2 AM. The "help" heard him hacking, and knew he was restless, and in the morning, they checked on him, and found him dead. The other report came from his ex-wife Jeanne, who was still close with Dean. She stated that she was with him when he died, and then she crawled into bed with him, and just hugged him. Whatever the truth, on Christmas Morning 1995, at 3:30 AM, Dino passed away. He was 78 years old. Merry friggin' Christmas.

The memorial service was held in the chapel at Westwood Memorial Park on December 28th. Dean's body wasn't there, just an Italian flag and a photograph of the star. Along with Dean's family and various ex-wives, others who attended included Jerry Lewis, Rosemary Clooney, Shirley MacLaine (who cracked a joke, "I talked to Dean an hour ago." Priceless.), Tony Danza, Bob Newhart, Charles Nelson Reilly, Dorothy Hamill, Don Rickles, and Robert Stack. Sinatra skipped it. He sent his wife. Sinatra, having health issues himself, said it was too much to bear.

The Dino I like to remember is the happy-go-lucky crooner of the 1950s and 1960s. Men aspired to be like him, and women aspired to be with him. Now fifteen years after Dino's death it is hard not to think of him at Christmas time and remember what a great talent we lost.

SPOTLIGHT ON WILLIAM HOLDEN



William Holden was one of the biggest box office draws of the 1950s. A combination of good looks and acting ability made him a sought after actor. However, personal demons derailed his career in the 1960s and caused him to have a tragic end in 1981.

Holden, eldest of three sons (brothers were Robert and Richard), was born William Franklin Beedle, Jr. in O'Fallon, Illinois on April 17, 1918, the son of Congregationalist parents Mary Blanche (née Ball), a schoolteacher, and William Franklin Beedle, Sr., an industrial chemist. Holden's first starring role was in Golden Boy (1939), in which he played a violinist turned boxer. That was followed by the role of George Gibbs in the film adaptation of Our Town.

After Columbia Pictures picked up half of his contract, he alternated between starring in several minor pictures for Paramount and Columbia before serving as a 2nd lieutenant in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II, where he acted in training films. Beginning in 1950, his career took off when Billy Wilder tapped him to star as the down-at-the-heels screenwriter Joe Gillis who is taken in by faded silent-screen star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) in Sunset Boulevard, for which Holden earned his first Best Actor Oscar nomination.

With Gloria Swanson in Sunset BoulevardFollowing this breakthrough film, he played a series of roles that combined good looks with cynical detachment, including a prisoner-of-war entrepreneur in Stalag 17 (1953), for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, a pressured young engineer/family man in Executive Suite (1954), an acerbic stage director in The Country Girl (1954), a conflicted jet pilot in the Korean War film The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), a wandering braggart in Picnic (1955), a dashing war correspondent in Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955), an ill-fated prisoner in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and a WWII tug boat captain in The Key (1958).

He also played a number of sunnier roles in light comedy, such as the handsome architect pursuing virginal Maggie McNamara in the controversial Production Code-breaking The Moon is Blue (1953), as Judy Holliday's tutor in Born Yesterday (1950), as a playwright captivated by Ginger Rogers' character in Forever Female (1953) and as Humphrey Bogart's younger brother, a playboy, in Sabrina (1954), which also starred Audrey Hepburn.

Holden starred in his share of forgettable movies — which he was forced to do by studio contracts — such as Paris When It Sizzles (1964), also co-starring Audrey Hepburn. By the mid-1960s, his roles were having less critical and commercial impact. According to the Los Angeles County Coroner's autopsy report, on November 12, 1981, Holden was alone and intoxicated in his apartment in Santa Monica, California, when he slipped on a throw rug, severely lacerated his forehead on a teak bedside table, and bled to death. Evidence suggests he was conscious for at least a half hour after the fall but may not have realized the severity of the injury and did not summon aid, or was unable to call for help. His body was found four days later.

Holden dictated in his will that the Neptune Society cremate him and scatter his ashes in the Pacific Ocean. No funeral or memorial service was held, per his wishes.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

CHRISTMAS MOMENTS: KATE SMITH

There is no one quite like Kate Smith...in personality and talent. I wish she made more Christmas recordings. Here is Bing Crosby introducing Kate from the Hollywood Palace show of December 24,1966. Kate is singing "Christmas Eve In My Home Town"...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

MOVIE SHOWCASE: MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET



I remember seeing the original MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET as a child, and I really believed that Edmund Gwenn was Santa Claus. MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET is a 1947Christmas film written by Valentine Davies, directed by George Seaton and starring Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn. It is the story of what takes place in New York City following Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, as people are left wondering whether or not a department store Santa might be the real thing. Because of its Christmas theme, the film has become a perennial Christmas favorite.

The film won Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Edmund Gwenn), Best Writing, Original Story (Valentine Davies) and Best Writing, Screenplay. It was also nominated for Best Picture, losing to Gentleman's Agreement.

Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) is indignant to find that the person (Percy Helton) assigned to play Santa in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is intoxicated. When he complains to event director Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara), she persuades Kris to take his place. He does such a fine job that he is hired to be the Santa for Macy's flagship New York City store on 34th Street.

Ignoring instructions to steer parents to goods that Macy's wants to sell, Kris tells one shopper (Thelma Ritter) to go to another store for a fire engine for her son that Macy's doesn't have. She is so impressed, she tells Julian Shellhammer (Philip Tonge), head of the toy department, that she will become a loyal customer. Kris later informs another mother that archrival Gimbels has better skates for her daughter.

Fred Gailey (John Payne), an attorney and neighbor of Doris, is babysitting the young divorcee's six-year-old daughter Susan (Natalie Wood) and takes her to see Kris, who makes an impression on the young girl. When Doris finds out,she asks Kris to tell Susan that he really isn't Santa Claus, but Kris surprises her by insisting that he is.

Fearing that he may be insane, Doris decides to fire him out of a concern that he might harm someone. However, Kris has generated so much good publicity and customer goodwill for Macy's that a delighted R. H. Macy (Harry Antrim) promises Doris and Shellhammer generous bonuses. To overcome Doris's misgivings, Shellhammer proposes getting Granville Sawyer (Porter Hall) to give Kris a "psychological evaluation". Kris easily passes the test, but antagonizes Sawyer by questioning Sawyer's own psychological health.

The store expands on the marketing concept. Anxious to avoid looking greedy by comparison, Gimbels implements the same referral policy throughout its entire chain, forcing Macy's and other stores to respond in kind. Eventually, Kris accomplishes the impossible: Mr. Macy shakes hands with Mr. Gimbel (Herbert H. Heyes).

Pierce (James Seay), the doctor at Kris's nursing home, assures Doris and Shellhammer that Kris's delusion is harmless. Meanwhile, Fred offers to let Kris stay with him so he can be closer to work. Kris makes a deal with Fred – he will work on Susan's cynicism while Fred does the same with the disillusioned Doris, still bitter over her failed marriage.

Then Kris learns that Sawyer has convinced a young, impressionable employee, Alfred (Alvin Greenman), that he is mentally ill simply because he is generous and kind-hearted (Alfred plays Santa Claus at his neighborhood YMCA). Kris confronts Sawyer and, in a fit of anger, raps him on the head with his cane. Doris and Shellhammer only see the aftermath; Sawyer exaggerates his injury in order to have Kris confined to Bellevue Mental Hospital.

Tricked into cooperating and believing Doris to be part of the deception, a discouraged Kris deliberately fails his mental examination and is recommended for permanent commitment. However, Fred persuades Kris not to give up. To secure his release, Fred gets a formal hearing before Judge Henry X. Harper (Gene Lockhart) of the New York Supreme Court. Ordered by Mr. Macy to get the matter dropped, Sawyer pleads with Fred not to seek publicity. To Sawyer's dismay, Fred thanks him for the idea. As a result, Judge Harper is put in an awkward spot – even his own grandchildren are against him for "persecuting" Santa Claus.

Fred quits his job at a prestigious law firm to defend Kris and has a falling out with Doris, who calls his resignation an "idealistic binge" over some "lovely intangibles." He replies that one day she might discover that they are the only worthwhile things in life.

At the hearing, District Attorney Thomas Mara (Jerome Cowan) gets Kris to assert that he is in fact Santa Claus and rests his case, believing he has prima facie proven his point. Fred stuns the court by arguing that Kris is not insane because he actually is Santa Claus – and he will prove it. Mara requests the judge rule that Santa Claus does not exist. Harper is warned privately in chambers by his political adviser, Charlie Halloran (William Frawley), that doing so would be disastrous for his upcoming reelection bid. The judge buys time by deciding to hear evidence before ruling.

Fred calls R.H. Macy as a witness. Mara pointedly asks if he really believes Kris to be Santa Claus. Macy starts to equivocate, but when Mara asks him point-blank, Macy remembers the expressions on the faces of small children upon seeing Kris and firmly states, "I do!" On leaving the stand, Macy fires Sawyer. Fred then calls Mara's own young son to the stand. Thomas Mara Jr. testifies that his father had told him that Santa was real and that "My daddy would never tell a lie!" Outmaneuvered, Mara concedes the point.

Mara then demands that Fred prove that Kris is "the one and only" Santa Claus on the basis of some competent authority. While Fred searches frantically, Susan, by now a firm believer in Kris, writes him a letter to cheer him up, which Doris also signs. A mail sorter (Jack Albertson) sees that it is addressed to the courthouse and realizes that the post office could clear out the many letters to Santa taking up space in its dead letter office by delivering them to Kris.

Kris is uplifted by Susan's letter. Just then, Fred learns that over 50,000 pieces of mail have been delivered to Kris. He presents Judge Harper with three letters addressed only to "Santa Claus", which the U.S. Post Office (which was then a Cabinet-level department of the federal government) has just delivered to Kris. When Harper demands that Fred produce "further exhibits", the judge is soon hidden behind many bags of letters. Harper rules in favor of Kris. Afterwards, Doris invites Kris to dinner, but he reminds her that "It's Christmas Eve!"

On Christmas morning, Susan is disillusioned because Kris was unable to get her what she told him she wanted most. As they are about to leave, Kris gives Fred and Doris a route home that will supposedly avoid traffic. Along the way, Susan is overjoyed to see the house of her dreams (exactly matching the drawing she had given Kris earlier) with a For Sale sign in the front yard. Fred learns that Doris had encouraged Susan to have faith, and suggests they get married and purchase the house. He then boasts that he must be a great lawyer, since he managed to do the seemingly impossible. However, when he notices a cane leaning against the fireplace that looks just like the one Kris used, he wonders "Maybe I didn't do such a wonderful thing after all."

Friday, December 17, 2010

AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER CO-STAR DIES



An Affair To Remember star Neva Patterson has died at the age of 90.

The veteran actress, best known for playing Cary Grant's onscreen fiancee in the 1957movie classic, passed away at her home in Los Angeles on Tuesday after suffering complications from a broken hip.

Her daughter Megan Lee confirmed the sad news to the Los Angeles Times.

Patterson began her career on the New York stage, notably appearing in a 1952 production of The Seven Year Itch on Broadway and scoring her first movie role a year later (53) in Taxi.

She remains best remembered for her role in An Affair to Remember, but gained legions of sci-fi fans when she appeared in 1980s TV series V, which was brought back to life for a new generation in 2009.

She also enjoyed roles in 1978's The Buddy Holly Story, as well as TV classics including Ironside, The Dukes of Hazzard and St. Elsewhere.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

RIP: BLAKE EDWARDS



Blake Edwards, a writer and director who became a Hollywood master of screwball farces and rude comedies like “Victor/Victoria” and the “Pink Panther” movies, died Wednesday night in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 88.

His publicist, Gene Schwam, said the cause was complications of pneumonia. Mr. Edwards’s wife, the actress Julie Andrews, and other family members were at his side at St. John’s Health Center, Mr. Schwam said.

What the critic Pauline Kael once described as Mr. Edwards’s “love of free-for-all lunacy” was flaunted in good movies and bad ones: in commercial successes like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961) and “The Pink Panther” (1963) — the first of a series of films starring Peter Sellers as a bumbling French policeman — and in box-office disasters like the musical spy extravaganza “Darling Lili” (1970), starring Ms. Andrews.

Mr. Edwards’s last major success, “Victor/Victoria” (1982), was a farce about a starving singer (Ms. Andrews) who pretends to be a homosexual Polish count who performs as a female impersonator. Mr. Edwards received an Academy Award nomination for his “Victor/Victoria” screenplay, which was adapted from a 1933 German film written and directed by Reinhold Schünzel. It was his only Oscar nomination. But he was given an honorary award by the Motion Picture Academy in 2004 for his “extraordinary body of work.” That work spanned more than four decades.

After writing several zany comic soufflés, including “Operation Mad Ball” (1957), for the director Richard Quine, Mr. Edwards began directing his own light and buoyant comedies, including “This Happy Feeling” (1958), “The Perfect Furlough” (1958) and “Operation Petticoat” (1959). He later turned his comedy to the dark side in films in which middle-aged male protagonists — unlucky womanizers, artists at the end of their creative tethers — are just one banana peel away from disaster.

The critic Andrew Sarris wrote in 1968 that Mr. Edwards had gotten “some of his biggest laughs out of jokes that are too gruesome for most horror films.”

Those jokes include a long sequence in which Tony Curtis embarks on a slapstick three-continent car marathon in “The Great Race” (1965); a desperate Peter Sellers is unable to find a bathroom in “The Party” (1968); Burt Reynolds’s death while staring at the legs of a nurse in “The Man Who Loved Women” (1983); and nearly every incident in “S.O.B.” (1981), a movie in which Mr. Edwards takes an ax dipped in cyanide to the movie industry, which alternately embraced and spurned him.

After a series of critical and box-office failures in the late 1960s and early ’70s, Mr. Edwards spent several years in self-imposed exile in London and Switzerland. He returned to write and direct three “Pink Panther” movies between 1975 and 1978, followed by the unexpected critical and commercial success of “10” (1979). One of his most personal films, “10,” starred Dudley Moore as a composer whose 42nd birthday causes a whopping midlife crisis and an obsession with a beautiful young woman, played by Bo Derek, whom he considers a perfect 10.

Although Mr. Edwards is known for his comedies, one of his most successful films was “Days of Wine and Roses,” a harrowing drama about an alcoholic couple. According to Mr. Edwards’s commentary on the DVD of the movie — which was based on a “Playhouse 90” television play by J. P. Miller and starred Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick — Mr. Lemmon, whom Mr. Edwards often said was his favorite actor, felt that the material was so bleak, it needed a director who could inject some humor.

Both men were drinking hard in 1962. When he stopped drinking about a year later, “the film had as much to do with it as anything did,” he told The Times in 2001.

Mr. Edwards’s string of successful movies ended in the late 1960s, as did his first marriage, to the actress Patricia Walker. His marriage to Ms. Andrews, the Academy Award-winning musical comedy star, sprouted a year after his divorce. At the time, Ms. Andrews’s public image was of the endlessly cheerful governess she had played in “The Sound of Music.” According to a joint interview the couple gave Playboy in 1982, Mr. Edwards, who had never met Ms. Andrews, wowed a party crowd that was speculating on the reason for her phenomenal success. “I can tell you exactly what it is,” he said. “She has lilacs for pubic hair.” Ms. Andrews sent Mr. Edwards a lilac bush shortly after they started dating, and their marriage lasted 41 years.

His survivors include a daughter, Jennifer, and a son, Geoffrey, from his first marriage; two Vietnamese daughters, Amy and Joanna, whom he and Ms. Andrews adopted; and a stepdaughter, Emma — Ms. Andrews’s daughter from her marriage to the Broadway designer Tony Walton.

“My entire life has been a search for a funny side to that very tough life out there,” Mr. Edwards once said. “I developed a kind of eye for scenes that made me laugh to take the pain away.”

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

WHERE ARE THEY NOW: PATRICK CRANSHAW



Who is Patrick Cranshaw you may ask? The name you may not remember, but the face you definitely will. Joseph Patrick Cranshaw was born on June 17, 1919 ,and he was known for his distinctive look and deadpan humor.

He is best known for one of his last roles, that of Joseph "Blue" Pulaski, a fraternity brother in the 2003 hit comedy Old School. Cranshaw also starred as Sheriff Bob in the Air Bud movies and he played the same role in Air Buddies the final time.

Despite an acting span of more than 40 years and some 102 appearances, Cranshaw's first credited film role came at the age of 41, in The Amazing Transparent Man(1960). Cranshaw's mild-mannered and gentlemanly demeanor led him to a number of roles as bank tellers, store managers, and grandfathers. His major credits include Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978), Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985), The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), Everyone Says I Love You (1996), Nothing to Lose (1997), Broken Vessels (1998), Best in Show (2000), Bubble Boy (2001). He also appeared in over 50 television shows, including a recurring role as Mel's Diner regular Andy on the sitcom Alice.

Sadly, he died of natural causes on December 28, 2005 at the age of 86. He is survived by three children, Jan Ragland, Joe Cranshaw and Beverly Trautschold; his sister, Billie Vi Gillespie; six grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

BORN ON THIS DAY: FRANK SINATRA



One of the most famous crooners of all-time, Frank Sinatra, was born on this day in 1915. Born on December 12th, Sinatra was the only child of Italian immigrants Natalie Della Garaventa and Antonino Martino Sinatra. Sinatra was raised Catholic. He left high school without graduating,having attended only 47 days before being expelled because of his rowdy conduct. His mother, known as Dolly, was influential in the neighborhood and in local Democratic Party circles, but also ran an illegal abortion business from her home; she was arrested several times and convicted twice for this offense. Sinatra was arrested for carrying on with a married woman, a criminal offense at the time. Sinatra's father, often referred to as Tony, served with the Hoboken Fire Department as a Fire Captain. During the tough years of the 1930s, when the Great Depression hit North America, Dolly nevertheless provided ready pocket money to their son for outings with friends and fancy clothes.Sinatra then worked for some time as a delivery boy at the Jersey Observer newspaper, and as a riveter at the Tietjan and Lang shipyard. Sinatra began singing for tips at the age of eight, standing on top of the bar at a local nightclub in Hoboken. He began singing professionally as a teenager in the 1930s.

Beginning his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra became a successful solo artist in the early to mid-1940s, being the idol of the "bobby soxers." His professional career had stalled by the 1950s, but it was reborn in 1954 after he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (for his performance in From Here to Eternity).

He signed with Capitol Records and released several critically lauded albums (such as In the Wee Small Hours, Songs for Swingin' Lovers, Come Fly with Me, Only the Lonely and Nice 'n' Easy). Sinatra left Capitol to found his own record label, Reprise Records (finding success with albums such as Ring-A-Ding-Ding, Sinatra at the Sands and Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim), toured internationally, was a founding member of the Rat Pack and fraternized with celebrities and statesmen, including John F. Kennedy. Sinatra turned 50 in 1965, recorded the retrospective September of My Years, starred in the Emmy-winning television special Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music, and scored hits with "Strangers in the Night" and "My Way".

With sales of his music dwindling and after appearing in several poorly received films, Sinatra retired for the first time in 1971. Two years later, however, he came out of retirement and in 1973 recorded several albums, scored a Top 40 hit with "(Theme From) New York, New York" in 1980, and toured both within the United States and internationally, using his Las Vegas shows as a home base, until a short time before his death in 1998...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

AUDIO ASPIRIN: DINAH SHORE

Here is a yuletide audio aspirin for this time around. It is a Christmas recording by Dinah Shore from 1960. It is a forgotten song called "You Meet The Nicest People". I had this song on a 45rpm, but unfortunately I got rid of all of those records! It's a great song for the holidays...

Friday, December 10, 2010

SPOTLIGHT ON ELAINE STRITCH



I never knew too much about Elaine Stritch until her role on the television show 30 ROCK, playing Alec Baldwin's mother. I caught up on the talented actress, and I never realized what a wonderful career she has had. Stritch was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1926, the daughter of Mildred (née Jobe), a homemaker, and George Joseph Stritch, an executive with B.F. Goodrich.Her family was wealthy and devoutly Roman Catholic. Stritch's father was of Irish descent and her mother was of Welsh descent.Stritch was a niece of Samuel Stritch, a former Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago.

Stritch trained at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York City under Erwin Piscator;other students at the Dramatic Workshop at this time included Marlon Brando and Bea Arthur. She has appeared in numerous stage plays and musicals, feature films, and many television programs. She is known for her performance of "The Ladies Who Lunch" in Stephen Sondheim's 1970 musical Company, her 2001 one-woman show Elaine Stritch at Liberty, and recently for her role as Jack Donaghy's mother Colleen on NBC's 30 Rock. She has been nominated for the Tony Award four times in various categories, and won for Elaine Stritch at Liberty.

Her late husband, John Bay was part of the family that owns Bay's English Muffins, and Stritch sends English muffins as gifts to friends. Every Christmas, she still sends friends and family English muffins...





Thursday, December 9, 2010

UNUSUAL DUETS: BING CROSBY AND DAVID BOWIE

I was saving this unusual duet for the holiday season. Here is Bing singing with David Bowie from Bing's last Christmas special in 1977. Bing died before the show aired. Their record would be issued on a record in 1983 and became a huge hit. I am sure that when Bing and David Bowie filmed this back in 1977, they never knew it would become a holiday standard...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

INTERVIEW: GINGER ROGERS

Here is an interview that the talented Ginger Rogers(1911-1995) gave in 1989. During her long career, she made a total of 73 films, and is noted for her role as Fred Astaire's romantic interest and dancing partner, in a series of ten Hollywood musical films that revolutionized the genre. She also achieved great success in a variety of film roles, and won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Kitty Foyle (1940). She ranks #14 on the AFI's 100 Years…100 Stars list of actress screen legends.

It is a longer interview than I usually post, but it is very interesting...

Monday, December 6, 2010

BORN ON THIS DAY: AGNES MOOREHEAD



Agnes Robertson Moorehead (born December 6, 1900) began with the Mercury Theatre, appeared in more than seventy films beginning with Citizen Kane and on dozens of television shows during a career that spanned more than thirty years, Moorehead is most widely known to modern audiences for her role as the witch Endora in the series Bewitched.

While rarely playing leads in films, Moorehead's skill at character development and range earned her one Emmy Award and two Golden Globe awards in addition to four Academy Award and six Emmy Award nominations. Moorehead's transition to television won acclaim for drama and comedy. She could play many different types, but often portrayed haughty, arrogant characters.

During the 1940s and 1950s, Moorehead was one of the most in demand actresses for radio dramas, especially on the CBS show Suspense. During the 946 episodes run of Suspense, Moorehead was cast in more episodes than any other actor or actress. She was often introduced on the show as the "first lady of Suspense". Moorehead's most successful appearance on Suspense was in the legendary play Sorry, Wrong Number, written by Lucille Fletcher, broadcast on May 18, 1943. Moorehead played a selfish, neurotic woman who overhears a murder being plotted via crossed phone wires who eventually realizes she is the intended victim. She recreated the performance six times for Suspense and several times on other radio shows, always using her original, dog-eared script. In 1952, she recorded an album of the drama, and performed scenes from the story in her one-woman show in the 1950s. (Barbara Stanwyck played the role in the 1948 film version.)

Moorehead died of uterine cancer at the age of seventy-three in Rochester, Minnesota in 1974. She appeared in the 1956 movie The Conqueror, which was shot downwind from a nuclear test site and was one of over 90 cast and crew members to contract cancer out of the 220 who worked on the picture. She is entombed at Dayton Memorial Park in Dayton, Ohio.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

FORGOTTEN ONES: EDDIE CANTOR



Now on this blog, entertainer Eddie Cantor is definitely not forgotten. I have featured him numerous times. However, to the general public Eddie Cantor's name means little. Like Al Jolson, Cantor performed in the outdated medium of blackface, but if you can move past that, Eddie Cantor was a gifted entertainer that deserves to be remembered more than he is now. Cantor was also responsible for "discovering" such stars as Dinah Shore, Eddie Fisher, and Joel Grey among others.

Cantor was born Israel Iskowitz in New York City, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, Meta and Mechel Iskowitz. His mother died in childbirth one year after his birth, and his father died of pneumonia when Eddie was two, leaving him to be raised by his beloved grandmother, Esther Kantrowitz.As a child, he attended Surprise Lake Camp. A misunderstanding when signing her grandson for school gave him her last name of Kantrowitz (shortened by the clerk to Kanter). Esther died on January 29, 1917, two days before he signed a long-term contract with Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. to appear in his Follies.

He had adopted the first name "Eddie" when he met his future wife Ida Tobias in 1903, because she felt that "Izzy" wasn't the right name for an actor. Cantor married Ida in 1914. They (famously) had five daughters, Marjorie, Natalie, Edna, Marilyn and Janet, who provided comic fodder for Cantor's longtime running gag, especially on radio, about his five unmarriageable daughters. Several radio historians, including Gerald Nachman (Raised on Radio), have said that this gag did not always sit well with the girls.

He was the second president of the Screen Actors Guild, serving from 1933-1935. He invented the title "The March of Dimes" for the donation campaigns of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, which was organized to combat polio. It was a play on the March of Time newsreels popular at the time. He began the first campaign on his own radio show in January 1938, asking people to mail a dime to the nation's most famous polio victim, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Other entertainers joined in the appeal via their own shows, and the White House mail room was deluged with 2,680,000 dimes.

Following the death of daughter Marjorie at the age of 44, both Eddie's and Ida's health declined rapidly. Ida died in August 1962 of "cardiac insufficiency". On October 10, 1964 in Beverly Hills, California, Eddie Cantor suffered another heart attack and died, aged 72. He is buried in Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery. Cantor was awarded an honorary Academy Award the year of his death, for distinguished service to the film industry...





Learn more about the great Eddie Cantor at:The Eddie Cantor Appreciation Society

Thursday, December 2, 2010

CHRISTMAS MOMENTS: PERRY COMO

With the snow and colder weather here, it is definitely beginning to look a lot like Christmas. This is also the wonderful time of the year when you hear more music everywhere by singers like Bing Crosby and Perry Como. Here is Perry Como singing a great Christmas carol from 1958...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

MOVIE SHOWCASE: LIMELIGHT



I am a huge fan of Charles Chaplin. Despite his personal demons he had, he was a wonderful comedian and gifted actor. I managed to catch his film LIMELIGHT the other week on TCM, and I was reminded what a great film it was. LIMELIGHT is a 1952 comedy-drama film written, directed by and starring Charlie Chaplin, co-starring Claire Bloom, with an appearance by Buster Keaton. In dance scenes, Bloom is doubled by Melissa Hayden. The film score is composed by Chaplin and arranged by Ray Rasch.

The film was released amidst scandal, since it was during touring to support the film that Chaplin was refused re-admittance to the United States. The film was subsequently passed over by many theaters. In 1972, the film was given a wide U.S. release and honored at the Academy Awards.

The movie is set in London in 1914, on the eve of World War I. 1914 was the year Chaplin made his first movie. Calvero (Charles Chaplin), once a famous stage clown but now a washed-up drunk, saves a young dancer, Thereza Ambrose, alias Terry (Claire Bloom), from suicide. Nursing her back to health, Calvero helps Terry regain her self-esteem and resume her dancing career. In doing so he regains his own self-confidence, but his attempts to make a comeback are less successful. Terry says she wants to marry Calvero despite their age difference, although she has befriended Neville, a young composer Calvero believes would be better suited to her. In order to give them a chance Calvero leaves home and becomes a street entertainer. Terry, now starring in her own show, eventually finds Calvero and persuades him to return to the stage for a benefit concert. Reunited with an old partner (Keaton), Calvero gives a triumphant comeback performance but immediately suffers a heart attack and dies in the wings while just a few feet away Terry, the second act on the bill, dances on stage...