Tuesday, January 31, 2012


It is amazing - but Eddie Cantor is now 120 years old. Many younger people do not appreciate the talent of Cantor and how popular he was in the 1930s. The lack of recognition for him could be because of the blackface routine he incorporated into many of his numbers, or it could be the songs and musical numbers themselves that may seem dated to audiences in 2012. Cantor, like Al Jolson, was a masterful entertainer that could truly capitivate crowds.

Cantor was born Edward Israel Iskowitz on January 31, 1892 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 assumed polio victim, President Franklin D. 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...

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Christopher Plummer: Talking Oscar and Aging in Hollywood
By Cindy Pearlman

Raindrops on roses. Whiskers on kittens.

Bah humbug, says Christopher Plummer.

Of course, he has the inside track on silver white winters that melt into springs – but Captain Von Trapp himself has always had "an issue" with the screen classic.

At age 82, he's tired of being stalked.

By a movie.

"I don't hate that film, but it follows me around. That's the problem," he confides.

On a sunny winter afternoon, the Oscar nominee for "Beginners" is talking about his screen classic "The Sound of Music" where he famously played Captain Von Trapp.

"There's nothing I detest about it," he says. "I mean, it's a very well made film.

"But a musical is not always my cup of tea. It always brings the house down when I say those words," he says. "Sure, I may say a few other off color remarks every now and then about 'Sound of Music,' too.

"When I went on Oprah, she said, 'There's got to be a naughty guy around to look at the bad side of things when it comes to that musical.' I said, 'You got him,'" he says with glee.

Plummer is determined, even at his age, to make sure there is alternatives to watching him harmonize across the alps.

He stars in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: where he plays Henrik Vanger.

Then there is the matter of awards season. He just won a Golden Globe for a movie you might have missed. In the must rent film "Beginners," he plays Hal, a man in his 70s who has harbored a lifelong secret that he tells once his wife of several decades passes away. Hal is gay.

A few years before dying of terminal cancer, Hal comes out to his grown son (Ewan McGregor) and enjoys his last moments with great gusto and truth.

"What drew me to this role was that the character was so present and real," Plummer says. "This is a man without any self pity. And there was no message about being gay or being straight.

"The message of the movie is that a person can become enthusiastic at the end of his or her life rather than regretful," Plummer says.

"I thought there is great hope in that way of thinking," he says.


Plummer says that his age means that most scripts sent his way have the inevitable wrenching death scene.

"They always want the old guy to die miserably," he whoops. "But in 'Beginners,' I found that it was such a hopeful way to die. The idea is that you can actually die happily and achieve what you're put on earth to do."

"I think that's a miracle," he says.

Ask him about his evergreen sex symbol status and he seems stunned. "Oh please, I don't know about that, but that's a very nice idea. I'll work on it. It will be a goal for my 90s."

Self-involved young stars? Don't run them by this screen legend.

"Dammit, I don't want the world to ever see me or know me as a star," he cries.

"What's so wonderful about me? That's what I tell younger actors. I say, 'Lose yourself in the role. Don't even show me anything about you. What's so wonderful about you?'"


Born in 1929, Plummer grew up in Toronto and Quebec. He is the great grandson of former Canadian Prime Minister Sir John Abbott.

As a young boy and teenager, he concentrated on being a concert pianist.

He was a contract player for 20th Century Fox and made his small screen debut in 1953 in the series "Studio One in Hollywood." He concentrated on TV work until making his screen debut in 1958 in "Stage Stuck" and then played Commodus in "The Fall of the Roman Empire" (1964).

Plummer starred opposite Julie Andrews in "The Sound of Music" (1965). Despite everything he has already said, he has a soft place for the movie.

"I'm grateful to the movie. It made me well known," he says.

As for Oscar nominations, he says, "I truly think being nominated as one of the best four or five performances of a year is the win," he says. "But it's not the reason most of us are in the business. If awards come, they come."

When he's not working, Plummer and his wife Elaine live with their dogs on a 30-acre estate in Weston, Connecticut.

He doesn't sit in his den fretting about aging.

"We're supposed to be a lot younger now than the number dictate," he says. "I hear that 80 is really the new 60. But many of my 60 year old friends look like they're 80."

"Why do I say these things?" he interjects with a hearty laugh.

As for keeping strong, he says, "I walk. I never run. I play tennis and workout about twice a week.

"That's about it," she says. "Doing the job is what really keeps me in shape."

He might work with a few of them because he plans to never retire.

In fact, that's a dirty word to him. "We don't do that in our business," he says

"I never want to stop acting. It keeps me feeling young and it certainly ain't a chore.

"I also need the money. We all need the money these days, dammit," he says, laughing.

But he has another reason why he will never leave acting. "I've always thought of acting as the most romantic of escapes," he says.


Friday, January 27, 2012


Only Charlie Chaplin could be bold enough to film a silent movie during the heyday of sound in the early 1930s. By 1931, audiences wanted to hear Al Jolson sing in a movie or hear Boris Karloff groan as Frankenstein's monster. Although "talking" pictures were on the rise since 1928, City Lights was immediately popular. Today, it is thought of as one of the highest accomplishments of Chaplin's prolific career. Although classified as a comedy, City Lights has an ending widely regarded as one of the most moving in cinema history.

As in other Chaplin movies, each scene has an element of slapstick in it, using the comic scenes in a symbolic way. The opening scene uses funny sounds to depict the important mayor and his wife who are smiling and talking emphatically before the crowd. The revelation of the monument before the acting crowd, is actually the revelation of the tramp, the well-known Charlie Chaplin, before the movie-going crowd.

The Tramp, in every scene, barely escapes disaster of which he is completely unaware. Via the comic scenes, the Tramp is shown to be short, dirty and sloppy. His life is contrasted with good food, clean clothing, a large house, and comfortable and clean chairs, couches and beds. He is shown to be fearful of looking at or even dreaming of a better life.

In each encounter with the blind girl, played superbly by Virginia Cherrill (1908-1996), she unknowingly manages to bash the Tramp, throwing water in his face, dropping a flower pot on his head etc. He also shows the hardships and many times unbearable conditions of the lower class, via comedy, when the Tramp chooses to sweep the streets or sets himself up in the boxing ring. In the final scene, he happens to look in to the flower store, in a clear analogy to part of the opening scene where he is afraid to peer at the model doll of a woman in a dress shop.

Slapstick is also used to show how the Tramp unknowingly insults and sometimes openly attacks various institutions and people, from mocking the mayor and police to bashing the stuck up butler or the snoopy neighbor.

Chaplin's feature The Circus, released in 1928, was his last film before the motion picture industry embraced sound recording and brought the silent movie era to a close. As his own producer and distributor (part owner of United Artists), Chaplin could still conceive City Lights as a silent film. Technically the film was a crossover, as its soundtrack had synchronized music, sound effects, and some unintelligible sounds that copied speech pattern films. The dialogue was presented on intertitles.

As a filmmaker, Chaplin was known for being a perfectionist; he was notable for doing many more "takes" than other directors at the time. At one point he fired Virginia Cherrill and began re-filming with Georgia Hale, Chaplin's co-star in The Gold Rush. This proved too expensive, so he re-hired Cherrill to finish City Lights. (Approximately seven minutes of test footage of Hale survives and is included on the DVD release; excerpts were first seen in the documentary Unknown Chaplin along with an unused opening sequence from the film.)

When Chaplin completed the film, silent films had become generally unpopular but City Lights was one of the great financial and artistic successes of Chaplin's career, and it was his personal favorite of his films. Especially fond of the final scene, he said, "[I]n City Lights just the last scene … I’m not acting …. Almost apologetic, standing outside myself and looking … It’s a beautiful scene, beautiful, and because it isn’t over-acted."

Some interesting trivia about the film: Charles Chaplin re-shot the scene in which the Little Tramp buys a flower from the blind flower-girl 342 times, as he could not find a satisfactory way of showing that the blind flower-girl thought that the mute tramp was wealthy. In terms of years, this film was Charles Chaplin's longest undertaking. It was in production from 31 December 1927 - 22 January 1931, over three years. It shot for only 180 days, though. At the beginning of the film, a town official and a woman dedicating the statue can be heard uttering nondescript words by way of a paper reed mouth instrument. The sounds were made by Charles Chaplin and this was the first time that his voice was heard on film.

On a personal note, it is one of my favorite Chaplin movies, and I recommend it to any young person wanting to experience a silent film. The key to a great silent movie is for it to draw the audience in to such an extent that one forgets they are watching a silent movie. City Lights is just that type of a movie...

my rating: 10 out of 10

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


25 Things You Didn't Know About The Katharine Hepburn And Spencer Tracy Movies
by Gary Susman

Fans of classic movies know that "Woman of the Year" marks the beginning of the 25-year partnership, on- and off-screen, between one of film's most beloved and enduring couples: Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.

Released 70 years ago this month, "Woman of the Year" came to define combustible romantic chemistry, thanks to the two fiery, evenly-matched leads. It launched a partnership that lasted until Tracy's death in 1967, a quarter-century union that resulted in nine films and an extramarital affair that was Hollywood's worst kept secret.

What fans may not know is how the partnership came to be, who the real-life inspirations were for Hepburn's high-minded columnist and Tracy's earthy sportswriter, or the forgotten screen pairing of the two stars that came four years earlier. Read on for the untold story of "Woman of the Year" and its long afterlife in the realms of Broadway, TV, and magazines.

1. "Woman of the Year" was not actually Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn's first on-screen pairing. That forgotten milestone occurred when they were both cartoon caricatures who were pictured together in the Silly Symphony cartoon "Mother Goose Goes Hollywood" in 1938.

2. The screenwriters had Clark Gable in mind for the male lead of "Woman of the Year," but then MGM player Spencer Tracy became available. He'd been committed to a production of "The Yearling" that suddenly fell through. (It would be made a few years later, with Gregory Peck in the lead.)

3. Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who was producing the movie, introduced the two stars on the MGM lot. In her memoir, Hepburn recalled that she was wearing high heels at the time and said, "I'm afraid I'm a bit too tall for you, Mr. Tracy." Mankiewicz replied, "Don't worry, Kate, he'll cut you down to size."

4. Hepburn had been a Hollywood star for a decade, yet "Woman of the Year" was one of the first movies to play up her sex appeal, thanks to the MGM team of Adrian (costumes), Sydney Guilaroff (hair) and Jack Dawn (makeup).

5. Actor/director/playwright Garson Kanin came up with the initial story idea, but in 1941, he was drafted into the Army, so he farmed out the screnwriting duties to his younger brother, Michael Kanin, and fellow screenwriter Ring Lardner, Jr.

6. The inspiration for foreign affairs columnist Tess Harding was real-life journalist Dorothy Thompson, well known to Americans as a columnist and radio pundit, and generally considered the second most-respected woman in America at the time -- after Eleanor Roosevelt.

7. The apparent inspiration for Sam Craig was Lardner's father, Ring Lardner Sr., who had been a nationally syndicated sportswriter, one who is still famous today for his short stories.

8. With the help of Hepburn (a friend of Garson Kanin's), Michael Kanin and Lardner sold their screenplay to MGM in a record-breaking deal, for $211,000. $100,000 of that was for the screenplay, another $100,000 was for Hepburn's services as star. Hepburn took another $10,000 for her agent and pocketed the last $1,000 for her expenses.

9. Much was made at the time of the screenwriters' relative youth. Lardner was just 26. Kanin was 31.

10. Hepburn suggested MGM borrow George Stevens from rival studio RKO to direct. He'd already directed her twice, in 1935's "Alice Adams" and 1937's "Quality Street."

11. The movie initially ended with the couple trying to reconcile by walking a mile in each other's shoes: she tries to cover a boxing match, while he tries to learn French and Spanish. The ending was scrapped after a test screening. There was a sense that Tess didn't get enough of a come-uppance, though whether that sense came from viewers or from MGM brass taken aback by such a strong proto-feminist character, Lardner never knew. The revised ending, in which Tess tries to cook Sam a breakfast but proves hopelessly inept in the kitchen, certainly seemed to put Tess in her place; Lardner grumbled that the new ending undid all the effort the rest of the movie had made in establishing Tess as a confident, competent, and independent woman.

12. The film marked the first major screen roles of frequent TV character actor Dan Tobin (Tess' annoying assistant, Gerald Howe) and "Life of Riley" star William Bendix (bartender Pinkie Peters).

13. MGM publicity materials for the movie called Hepburn "Kate the Great," a nickname that stuck for the rest of her career.

14. The movie was nominated for two Oscars. Hepburn earned a nod for Best Actress, while Lardner and Kanin won the Academy Award for their screenplay.

15. Tracy and Hepburn reprised their roles in a half-hour radio drama version in 1943, on "Screen Guild Theatre." It was their only joint radio appearance.

16. Michael Kanin went on to earn another Oscar nomination, along with wife Fay Kanin, for the original screenplay of 1958's "Teacher's Pet," in which Kanin finally got to write a part for Gable.

17. Garson Kanin had been in love with Hepburn when he came up with the story idea for "Woman of the Year" that he passed along to his brother. He had even wanted to marry the actress, though she seems not to have shared his feelings. A few months after the movie's release, Kanin married writer and future Oscar-winning actress Ruth Gordon. The couple went on to write two movies for Tracy and Hepburn: "Adam's Rib" (1949) and "Pat and Mike" (1952). In 1971, Kanin wrote a book about working with the couple, "Tracy and Hepburn: An Intimate Memoir." He and Gordon were married nearly 43 years, until her death in 1985.

18. Producer Mankiewicz, who introduced Tracy and Hepburn, became an acclaimed writer/director of such films as "A Letter to Three Wives" and "All About Eve." Two decades after serving as the catalyst for the long-running Tracy-Hepburn affair, he was responsible for pairing an even more notorious, adulterous Hollywood couple when he cast Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in his epic "Cleopatra."

19. Stevens remained one of Hollywood's A-list directors, peaking in the 1950s with such landmarks as "A Place in the Sun," "Shane," and "Giant." Curiously, despite their more than pleasant experience working with him on "Woman of the Year," neither Tracy nor Hepburn ever made another film with Stevens.

20. Lardner's career was derailed in the late 1940s by the Hollywood blacklist. He was one of the Hollywood 10, the best-known group of blacklistees; like the others in the group, he served a year in prison for refusing to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee's investigation of erstwhile Communists working in Hollywood. After his release, Lardner continued to write without credit, mostly for television. His name didn't appear in a movie's credits for 16 years, until 1965's Steve McQueen drama "The Cincinnati Kid." In 1970, he wrote the screenplay for Robert Altman's groundbreaking film version of "M*A*S*H." His work adapting Richard Hooker's novel earned him his second Oscar, 28 years after his first.

21. In the 1970s, McCall's magazine created a Woman of the Year award. Hepburn was its first winner.

22. A 1976 TV movie version of "Woman of the Year" starred real-life couple Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna

23. "Woman of the Year" was adapted into a 1981 Broadway musical, with songs by John Kander and Fred Ebb (of "Chicago" and "Cabaret" fame) and a book by Peter Stone ("1776," "Titanic"). It starred Harry Guardino and Lauren Bacall, who won a Best Actress Tony for her performance. The showran for two years, with Raquel Welch, then Debbie Reynolds taking over the lead.

24. The musical was filmed for TV in 1984, starring Barbara Eden and Don Chastain.

25. The first meeting of Tracy and Hepburn, as they began work on "Woman of the Year," was dramatized in Martin Scorsese's "The Aviator" in 2004. Kevin O'Rourke played Tracy, alongside Cate Blanchett's Oscar-winning turn as Hepburn.


Sunday, January 22, 2012


Sometimes it is hard to believe that movie stars do anything more than looking in the mirror and admiring themselves. However, most of the classic Hollywood stars were much deeper than the public ever knew. Here are some great pictures of classic Hollywood stars reading, whether it be a script or a good book, it is still interesting...







Friday, January 20, 2012


Etta James, whose assertive, earthy voice lit up such hits as "The Wallflower," "Something's Got a Hold on Me" and the wedding favorite "At Last," has died, according to her longtime friend and manager, Lupe De Leon. She was 73.

She died from complications from leukemia with her husband, Artis Mills, and her sons by her side, De Leon said. She was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010, and also suffered from dementia and hepatitis C. James died at a hospital in Riverside, California. She would have turned 74 Wednesday. " This is a tremendous loss for the family, her friends and fans around the world," De Leon said. "She was a true original who could sing it all -- her music defied category.

"I worked with Etta for over 30 years. She was my friend and I will miss her always."

The powerhouse singer, known as "Miss Peaches," lived an eventful life. She first hit the charts as a teenager, taking "The Wallflower (Roll With Me, Henry)" -- an "answer record" to Hank Ballard's "Work With Me, Annie" -- to No. 1 on the R&B charts in 1955. She joined Chess Records in 1960 and had a string of R&B and pop hits, many with lush string arrangements. After a mid-decade fade, she re-emerged in 1967 with a more hard-edged, soulful sound.

Throughout her career, James overcame a heroin addiction, opened for the Rolling Stones, won six Grammys and was voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Despite her ups and downs -- including a number of health problems -- she maintained an optimistic attitude.

"Most of the songs I sing, they have that blue feeling to it. They have that sorry feeling. And I don't know what I'm sorry about," she told CNN's Denise Quan in 2002. "I don't!"

Through it all, she was a spitfire beloved by contemporaries and young up-and-comers.

"Etta James is unmanageable, and I'm the closest thing she's ever had to a manager," Lupe DeLeon, her manager of 30-plus years, told CNN in admiration.

Etta James was born Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles to a teen mother and unknown father. (She suspected her father was the pool player Minnesota Fats.)Her birth mother initially took little responsibility and James was raised by a series of people, notably a pair of boardinghouse owners. But she was recognized from a young age for her booming voice, showcased in a South Central Los Angeles church.

In 1950, her mother took her to San Francisco, where James formed a group called the Peaches. Singer Johnny Otis, best known for "Willie and the Hand Jive," discovered her and had her sing a song he wrote using Ballard's tune as a model. "The Wallflower," with responses from "Louie Louie" songwriter Richard Berry, made James an R&B star.

Her signing to Chess introduced her to a broader audience, as the record label's co-owner, Leonard Chess, believed she should do pop hits. Among her recordings were "Stormy Weather," the Lena Horne classic originally from 1933; "A Sunday Kind of Love," which dates from 1946; and most notably, "At Last," a 1941 number that was originally a hit for Glenn Miller.

James' version of "At Last" starts out with swooning strings and the singer enters with confident gusto, dazzlingly maintaining a mood of joy and romance. Though the song failed to make the Top 40 upon its 1961 release -- though it did hit the R&B Top 10 -- its emotional punch has long made it a favorite at weddings.

James' career suffered in the mid-'60s when the British Invasion took over the pop charts and as she fought some personal demons. But she got a boost when she started recording at Rick Hall's FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Her hits included the brassy "Tell Mama" and the raw "I'd Rather Go Blind," the latter later notably covered by Rod Stewart.

She entered rehab in the 1970s for her drug problem but re-established herself with live performances and an album produced by noted R&B mastermind Jerry Wexler. After another stint in rehab -- this time at the Betty Ford Clinic -- she made a comeback album, "Seven Year Itch," in 1988.

James mastered a range of styles -- from R&B and soul to jazz and blues -- but she was always one step behind the popular genre of the day, said Michael Coyle, a Colgate University professor who has written about jazz and R&B and reviews records for Cadence Magazine.

"She never really got her moment in the sun," Coyle said.

But James soldiered on, and by the end of her life she had made so much meaningful music that she was considered a living legend. "By the mid-'90s, she's survived so long that people start to look up to her," Coyle said.

James was portrayed by pop star Beyonce in the 2008 film "Cadillac Records," about Chess. After Beyonce sang "At Last" at one of President Barack Obama's 2009 inaugural balls, James lashed out: "I can't stand Beyonce. She had no business up there singing my song that I've been singing forever." She later told the New York Daily News she was joking.

Earlier this year, news reports revealed that the singer's estate was being contested in a legal struggle between her husband, Artis Mills, and son Donto James. (Donto and her other son, Sametto, both played in her band.)

Over the years, James had her share of health problems. In the late 1990s she reportedly weighed more than 400 pounds and required a scooter to get around. In 2003 she had gastric bypass surgery and dropped more than half the weight, according to People magazine.

However, until her latest issues, James maintained a steady touring schedule and appeared full of energy even when sitting down -- as she sometimes did on stage, due to bad knees and her weight battles.

Even while sitting down, James gave it her all on stage, singing as though possessed, caressing every note like a long-lost love. If that seemed a little much to critics, well, the legendary singer had a show to put on, she told Quan.

"They said that Etta James is still vulgar," she said in the 2002 interview. "I said, 'Oh, how dare 'em say I'm still real vulgar! I'm vulgar because I dance in the chair?' What would they want me to do? Want me to just be still or something like that?

"I gotta do something."


Thursday, January 19, 2012


Silent Classic 'Wings' lands a restoration celebration
By Susan King

One of the favorites for a best picture Oscar nomination this year is the black-and-white silent French film "The Artist." And if the story about the infancy of talkies in Hollywood does earn the top Academy Award, "The Artist" will be the first silent to win the honor since the very first best picture winner, 1927's World War I epic "Wings," directed by William Wellman. In honor of the 85th anniversary of "Wings" and the centennial of Paramount Pictures, the studio that produced the classic, the film starring Buddy Rogers, Richard Arlen, Clara Bow and a young Gary Cooper has been digitally restored. It is making its long-awaited debut on DVD and Blu-ray on Jan. 24.

On Wednesday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be unveiling this new restoration, which includes the original color tints as well as sequences that used an early color process called Handschliegl. The process had been used in the black-and-white film to highlight gunfire and flames from the planes. Clark Wilson will provide live organ accompaniment.

Produced for what was then a staggering $2 million, "Wings" changed the landscape of filmmaking with its masterful aerial and battle sequences that featured thousands of real soldiers as extras. Rogers and Arlen play small town rivals who become fighter aces and friends during the Great War; Bow is the girl who loves Rogers. Though Cooper has a tiny part as a doomed pilot, he was so impressive that his appearance made him a star.

Academy programmer Randy Haberkamp said, " 'Wings' is a reminder of not only where we came from, but how visual storytelling is still the essence of great movies. 'Wings' was a blockbuster in the same sense of 'Avatar' and 'Star Wars.' It was screened with live sound effects and full orchestra in Magnascope, a precursor to Imax, and all of these amazingly photographed live stunts, pre-CGI, that had everybody in the seat of the cockpit."

"Wings" had been photochemically restored by preservationist/historian Kevin Brownlow, as well as by the Academy Film Archive. Andrea Kalas, vice president of archives at Paramount, worked closely with the academy and Brownlow on the restorations.

The original nitrate negative and early material had long disappeared, so Paramount searched the world for the best remaining elements, finally finding the most comprehensive print — a duplicate negative made from a nitrate print in the late 1950s — in its own vaults.

"Working with Technicolor, I think we brought the picture back to something that really honors the film," Kalas said.

The DVD will have sound effects created by Oscar-winning sound designer Ben Burtt and his team at Skywalker Sound, as well as the original orchestral score.

The director's actor/writer son William Wellman Jr. was very involved in the restoration and was a participant in the bonus features for the DVD. When he first saw the new restoration, "I could hardly speak when I came out of the theater," he said, adding that the color sequences "had a whole new look to the picture."

Paramount heads Adolph Zukor and Jesse Lasky had been in preproduction on the film for four months before Wellman was hired to direct. It was B.P. Schulberg, head of production, who recommended the 30-year-old Wellman because he was the only Paramount director under contract who had battle experience. Wellman had been a decorated fighter pilot during World War I.

"He had seen all the action that was going to be shown in 'Wings,'" his son said. "There had been plenty of films about World War I, but no one had ever made a movie about the Great War in the air."

After two months on location in San Antonio, William Wellman, whose feisty personality earned him the nickname "Wild Bill," rankled the Paramount brass when he threw out two months of flying sequences he had shot. "It looked terrible," his son said. So his father and the crew "had to invent and create the technology for the aerial effects in the movie. He wanted it to be so real, especially since he had lived it."


Tuesday, January 17, 2012


A child of the 1970s and 1980s, I grew up watching television. Luckily television then was much more different than it is now. I am more of a movie fan than a television fan, but through the years I have watched and loved many great televisions shows.

Here are my five favorite television shows of all-time:

5. THE OFFICE (2005-present)
The Office is a remake of an acclaimed but short lived British series created by comedian Ricky Gervais. While this American version is not as controversial and biting, it is one of the best comedies to air on television in recent years. For seven years, comedian Steve Carell was brilliant as the branch manager - and unfortunate for the show he life the series in 2011. Still, if you have ever worked in an office, you will understand a lot of the very funny comedy.

4. SOUTH PARK (1997-present)
I know the cartoon South Park is one of the most controversial shows ever to be on television. It is definitely not your parent's cartoon. However, despite the graphic nature of the show, no subject is off limits to South Park. From Barbara Streisand and Tom Cruise to the Catholic Church and Jersey Shore, everyone has been spoofed and made fun of on South Park. Yes, the show is not for children and can be very graphic but their social satire and poltical commentary is right on the money.

3. THE DEAN MARTIN SHOW (1965-1974)
Not every show on television needed to be deep or make you think. Dean Martin and his variety show was simply good and fun television. Dean would sing a song or two, perform a skit with the guest star, and basically just have a fun 60 minutes. Dean rarely rehearsed, and when he'd make a mistake the producers kept it in, so it added to the charm and off the cuff nature of the show. When Dean Martin broke up with Jerry Lewis in 1956, it was thought that Lewis would be the big star. However, this television show cemented Dean as the superstar he was. What is a crime is these shows are not available on DVD in their complete form - only clips of the show are available as of now.

2. SEINFELD (1990-1998)
This is a show about nothing and everything. What is funny is I never watched the show until its last episode in 1998. What is so charming about this sitcom is everyone's group of friends is like the characters on the show. Everyone knows a Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld) or a George (Jason Alexander). The topics are mundane like waiting in line at a Chinese restaurant or not remembering a date's name, but everyone has experienced a "Seinfeld" moment. Not only did the show know to end on a highnote, it always made NBC millions in the 1990s. NBC has not been able to match the success they had with "Seinfeld" since.

1. TWILIGHT ZONE (1959-1964)
I think the best type of television show is one that makes you think after you watch it. Rod Serling was a genius in how he for the most part wrote every script each week for each 30 minute episode. Many episodes have become interwoven into the fabric of society now. Everyone remembers the episode with a frantic William Shatner seeing a gremlin on his plane or the doll that has the vendetta against the angry step father played by Telly Savalas. The Syfy channel plays a marathon of Twlight Zone episodes over New Year's Eve, and it is my favorite ritual to try to watch every episode I can. The show is over 50 years old, but some of the episodes are as fresh as if they were written today. In my humble opinion, The Twilight Zone was the best show television ever created.

What are your favorite shows? I would love hear your favorites and comments about my list...

Sunday, January 15, 2012


After spotlighting June Lockhart a couple of months ago, I got a few requests to profile child actor Tommy Retig. He was born in 1941, and he sadly died in 1996. Rettig is best remembered for portraying the character "Jeff Miller" in the first three seasons of CBS's Lassie television series, from 1954–1957, later seen in syndicated re-runs as Jeff's Collie. He also co-starred with another former child actor, Tony Dow, in the mid-1960s television teen soap opera Never Too Young.

Before his famous role as Jeff Miller in the first Lassie television series, Rettig also appeared in about 18 feature films including So Big, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (written by Dr. Seuss) and River of No Return with Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum. It was his work with a dog in The 5000 Fingers Of Dr. T. that led animal trainer Rudd Weatherwax to urge him to audition for the Lassie role, for which Weatherwax supplied the famous collies.

Rettig later told interviewers that he longed for a life as a normal teenager, and after four seasons, was able to get out of his contract. He was also critical of the treatment and compensation of child actors of his day. He reportedly received no residual payments from his work in the Lassie series, even though it was syndicated and widely shown under the name Jeff's Collie.

As an adult, Rettig preferred to be called "Tom." He found the transition from child star difficult, and had several well-publicized legal entanglements relating to illegal recreational drugs (a conviction for growing marijuana on his farm, and a cocaine possession charge that he was exonerated of). Some years after he left acting, he became a motivational speaker, which—through work on computer mailing lists—led to involvement in the early days of personal computers.

Rettig made a guest appearance in an episode of the later television series The New Lassie, with Jon Provost, which aired on October 25, 1991. The series featured appearances from two other Lassie veterans, Roddy McDowall, who had starred in the first movie Lassie Come Home (1943) and June Lockhart, who had starred in the 1945 movie Son of Lassie, and the television series (as Timmy's mother in the years after Rettig left the show).

He died at fifty-four of a heart attack on February 15,1996...

Friday, January 13, 2012


The grandson of legendary actor Clark Gable was sentenced Thursday to 10 days in jail for pointing a laser gun at an LAPD helicopter.

L.A. County Superior Court Judge David Horwitz gave Clark James Gable of Canoga Park a one-day credit for time served and also placed him on three years' formal probation.

The 23-year-old pleaded guilty in December to one felony count of discharging a laser at an occupied aircraft. As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors will ask Horwitz to drop two other felony counts -- discharging a laser and assault likely to produce great bodily injury.

Gable admitted that while he was riding in a car traveling down La Brea Avenue at 10 p.m. July 28, he flashed a laser three times at an LAPD helicopter flying 800 feet above Hollywood Boulevard. He later told KCBS-TV that the incident was a "misunderstanding" and that "people make mistakes and you learn from them."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Holly Harpham said the 52-milliwatt laser light — which has a range of over 1,000 feet — temporarily blinded the two LAPD officers in the helicopter. The LAPD tracked the beam to a small red car that was traveling in the area off Franklin and Highland avenues.

The driver, Maximilian Anderson, was arrested at the scene but not charged because there was not enough evidence to prove he knew Gable was pointing a laser at the chopper.

Clark Gable died on March 20, 1961, Kay Williams (Gable) gave birth to Gable's only son, John Clark Gable, born four months after Clark's death of a heart attack at age 59. Judy Lewis, Gable's only child while he was still alive, died on November 25, 2011 of cancer...



The Sunday Conversation: Angela Lansbury
By Irene Lacher

Angela Lansbury, 86, returns to movie theaters on Friday as the lovable teapot Mrs. Potts in "Beauty and the Beast" as Disney Studios rereleases the popular 1991 animated film remastered in digital 3-D. The five-time Tony Award winner also returns to Broadway this spring in a revival of Gore Vidal's "The Best Man."

Was it challenging to imbue a teapot with charm?

I think the way you approach her is as a little fat woman who was the cook and who happened to be in the guise of a teapot for the purposes of an animated movie by the Disney Studios. Consequently you attack it purely as a whole person, not that she's made of china or that she's breakable but that she's a little busy, fat, overweight lady who's a bit of a charmer, who cares very much about her little boy and is a strong member of the workforce at the castle. You play a whole person.

Was this animated role your highest-profile one to date?

Absolutely. It's high on my list of credits, as they say. Funnily enough, I was looking at the Turner Classic Movies [site] this month as the star of the month, and I was looking at all the things that I've done, and you realize that this is the one and only time in which I was able to play a very warm, cuddly, little person who's a teapot, and it's not included in the group of movies, sadly. But nevertheless, it did strike me as I was reading through, and I thought to myself, "Thank goodness, I'm so grateful to Disney for letting me do this."

I guess this would be the anti-Mrs. Iselin, your ruthless "Manchurian Candidate" character.

Totally. [Children] don't know that I've done those other things. They know me by my voice because children hear me in a supermarket; sometimes I'll be chatting with a friend about lettuce, and suddenly a child will say, "Mrs. Potts!" It's enchanting.

So was the '90s a decade when the only film work you did was in animation?

In the '90s I was doing "Murder, She Wrote" through '96. Really up until 2000, I was involved with "Murder, She Wrote" two-hour movies, extension of the series.

I've read that while you were doing "Murder, She Wrote," you felt like you were trapped in your home in Brentwood.

Yes, I did.

Because shooting a TV series is a 24-hour job. You work Monday through Friday; you get up at 5:15, you get home at 7:15. You have no social life; you just have time, maybe if you're lucky, with your family over the weekend, your grandchildren and so on, and that's OK. But you have no other life whatsoever, and this went on for 12 years. After a while I was dying to get out of it and move on. But you get trapped by success sometimes.

Why couldn't you just leave the series?

Because there were too many people involved. You have to consider that my whole family was on board — my husband, my sons, my brother. We were Corymore Productions, and we produced the show for Universal. You feel an allegiance and a fondness for the workers, the gaffers, the electricians, everybody involved dependent on the show, a show that was as highly rated as we were for all the years that we played, except at the end where they moved us from Sunday night to Thursday night. We lost half of our audience and then we were replaced. So that was the end of that.

Why did you move to New York in 2006 after so many years in L.A.?

I love New York. My most happy, wonderful years were spent in New York with my husband, Peter [Shaw]. And after he died, I was here alone with some members of my family very much there for me but nonetheless involved in their own lives. I was left here, being in Los Angeles having had no life here, no social life. So I thought, 'Well, I think I'm going to get an apartment in New York and spend part of the year there. I'll go back and see lots of shows and go to concerts and opera and see lots of museums and live the New York life,' which I hadn't been able to do in the past because I was always in a hit show on Broadway.

So I find an apartment in New York, a very modest, small apartment, and buy it, and I'm not there for very long before I get a request from my friend, Terrence McNally, the playwright, who said, would you consider doing a play? ["Deuce."] So then I started back into the theater again, which I absolutely love. I come back for the holidays, do Christmas and cook the dinner and do all the good stuff that one enjoys as a family. And now I'm getting ready to put the house to sleep again and go back to New York and start rehearsals on the 10th of January for a play ["The Best Man"]...


Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Of all the genres of classic film, probably westerns are my least favorite. I was born after all of those television westerns like Bonanza and Gunsmoke, so I never really go an appreciation for the movie western. However, I have been trying to watch a few from time to time, and one western that has really caught my eye was the classic Rio Bravo. Made in 1959, Rio Bravo was directed by Howard Hawks. The script was written by Jules Furthman and Leigh Brackett, based on a short story by B.H. McCampbell. The film is considered one of the masterpieces of American Cinema. The movie stars John Wayne, Dean Martin, and Ricky Nelson, with Angie Dickinson, Walter Brennan, and Ward Bond. I have always been a huge John Wayne fan, but in this movie I think Dean Martin steals the movie as the alcoholic deputy.

In the town of Rio Bravo, Texas, sheriff's deputy Dude (Dean Martin), who has acquired the contemptuous nickname "Borrachón", enters a saloon to get a drink. Joe Burdette (Claude Akins), brother of rancher Nathan Burdette, tosses a silver dollar into a spittoon at Dude's feet. As Dude reaches for the spittoon, Presidio County, Texas Sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne) appears and kicks the spittoon away, looking at Dude with pity. Dude whacks Chance with a piece of wood, knocking the sheriff out cold. Joe begins punching Dude as two men hold Dude, then shoots an unarmed bystander dead when he tries to intervene.

Joe leaves the saloon and heads to his brother's saloon, where a bloody Chance arrests Joe for the murder of the bystander. When another patron draws his gun on Chance, causing a stalemate, Dude shoots the gun out of the patron's hand, Chance slugs Joe with his rifle, and the sheriff and his deputy drag Joe off to jail.

While the funeral for the unarmed man is being held, Chance's friend Pat Wheeler (Ward Bond) and his supply train arrive, with him is a young gunslinger, Colorado Ryan (Rick Nelson), riding guard. Wheeler informs Chance that Nathan Burdette's men stopped him before entering the town, meaning that the town is "bottled up" to prevent Chance from getting Joe to Presidio or any assistance in. Inside the jail, Stumpy (Walter Brennan), Chance's other deputy, keeps watch over the jail and Joe. Chance takes a package to the proprietor of the hotel, Carlos Robante (red lingerie for his wife, Consuelo (Estelita Rodriguez). A mysterious woman, Feathers (Angie Dickinson) arrives for a night. Chance tries to help her leave town the next day but the stage wheel is busted (possibly by Burdette men) and cannot leave.

Dude and Chance patrol the town, Dude trying to get off the bottle, when Carlos stops the sheriff, saying Wheeler was talking too much about Chance needing help. Chance implores Wheeler to stop, as it will draw attention from the wrong people. Wheeler and Chance discuss Dude; about three years earlier Dude was a top-notch gunman until he "met a girl on the stage", who was no good (Chance was nearly killed when he tried to tell Dude) and they left together. Six months later Dude came back without her, drunk (hence his name, "Borrachón"), but Dude has stopped drinking due to the crisis. Wheeler offers Colorado for assistance but Colorado politely declines, saying he wants to "mind his own business". Wheeler plans to leave town. Feathers leaves a poker game a winner, Chance follows her up to her room and confronts her as a card cheat, with his evidence four missing aces from the cards being used, and a handbill indicating she was wanted for card cheating. Feathers confesses she is the girl in the poster but denies cheating, and challenges Chance to search her for the missing cards. Colorado arrives saying another participant in the game is the real cheater and plans to confront him, with Chance's acquiesence. Colorado is proven right, and the real card cheat is sent out on the next stage. Chance admits he was wrong but refuses to apologize, saying Feathers is still wanted and wants her out of town. Wheeler is walking toward his room but is shot dead by a Burdette man hiding in the stable. Colorado offers to help but is angrily turned away by Chance, saying "you had a chance to get in this and you didn't want it".

Chance and Dude flush out the shooter, who escapes into Nathan's saloon. Dude noticed the man had muddy boots, but everyone in the bar had clean boots, making them think Dude's drinking had clouded his mind, prompting one patron to throw another silver dollar into a spittoon. Dude notices blood dripping into a drink on the bar and takes one shot into the loft, killing Wheeler's murderer. Dude then gets retribution on the patron who threw the dollar in the spittoon by making him go get it.

Chance goes to the hotel to sleep, insisting Carlos wake him up, unbeknown to him, Feathers stands guard at the door to keep him safe, then runs into her room when he awakens. Chance sees Feathers and asks why she did that but she wouldn't say, then Chance tries to get her on the stage. Meanwhile, Nathan (John Russell) arrives in town with his men, intent on seeing Joe. After one of his men tries to get past Dude, who was confiscating all guns before entering, Dude shoots one of his horses's reins and Nathan agrees to turn in their guns until they leave. Nathan sees Joe, and after a few angry words between the land baron and Chance, is told in no uncertain terms if he attempts to overrun the jail his brother would be shot before they reached him. Nathan then leaves to visit his bar, instructing the band there to play the Deguello (the "cut-throat" song) non-stop.

Carlos says Feathers still will not get on the stage, and when Chance goes to see her she tells the sheriff that she does not want to leave, then gives Chance a kiss. After Colorado visits the jail to tell Chance the meaning of the song Nathan is playing, Chance gives Dude his guns back (the ones he had before he left town, sold by Dude but bought by Chance) as well as some clothes he left behind. Dude gets a bath and a shave, then returns to the jail while Chance and Feathers get better acquainted. Suddenly a shot rings out and Chance races to the jail, only to find Stumpy had shot at a shadow (Dude) in front of the jail. Dude and Stumpy exchange angry words, then Chance tells Dude they've been "pampering him too much" and to get some sleep.

The next morning, Dude is standing guard when four Burdette men stick his head in a water trough, then tie him up in a stable. Approaching Chance on the street in front of the hotel with a fake injury, they draw guns and corner him (Chance's rifle is out of reach), and demand that he release Joe. Inside the hotel, acting on Colorado's instructions, Feathers throws a flowerpot through a window a moment after Colorado steps out on the porch, distracting the Burdette men. Colorado throws Chance's rifle to him and the two men shoot the four Burdette hands.

Chance races down the street, finds Dude tied up in the stable and frees him. Dude, frustrated by his performance and recovering from his extended drunkeness, resigns as deputy, then slaps Chance when he tells Dude he will have to get his own silver dollars out of the spittoon the next time. Colorado agrees to join Chance as deputy and then Dude reconsiders quitting after hearing the Deguello song, reminding him why he was there. The group decides to hole up in the jail, as it will take six days for the United States Marshal to arrive to take Joe to Presidio. Dude and Chance go to the hotel to round up the supplies, but Carlos and Consuelo are captured by Burdette men, and trick Chance into charging down the stairs, falling over a trip-wire, knocking out the sheriff. Dude and Feathers are also captured. Chance is given a choice--take the men to the jail to let Joe out, or the men will arrange a trade with Stumpy for Dude and Chance. Dude implores Chance to let Joe out, saying that Stumpy has no food or water to hold out very long. Chance agrees, and three men go to the jail. Dude's story was a ruse, as Colorado is with Stumpy and the three of them shoot the three Burdette men.

The remaining Burdette men at the hotel take Dude and offer to trade him for Joe. Chance agrees, and the trade is made at a warehouse. But Dude bum-rushes Joe and they fight while a gunfight erupts; Dude takes Joe out and Stumpy (who followed them over after being told to stay behind) finds some dynamite in one of Wheeler's wagons, and throws it at the building Burdette's men are in, eventually exploding the front of the building and forcing Burdette to surrender. With the Burdette men in jail, Chance goes to see Feathers, who is working at the hotel and wearing black tights. Chance objects to the tights, saying that only he should see her in them, and as they kiss Feathers throws the tights out the window, at the feet of Dude and Stumpy, who say nothing...

my rating: 8 out of 10

Monday, January 9, 2012


A Short Career in Lurid Hollywood

DOROTHY MACKAILL may be having her moment. When this British-born actress, a star in silent films and early talkies, died in 1990 at 87, she merited only a 153 word obituary in The New York Times. And the unsigned article didn’t even mention the movie most responsible for her current revival: “Safe in Hell,” a 1931 melodrama that seems remarkably lurid and sordid even by the loose standards that prevailed before Hollywood began enforcing the production code with vigor in 1934.

Playing a world-weary New Orleans “escort” with bags beginning to appear beneath her wide-set eyes, Mackaill’s Gilda reports to a hotel room for a job, only to find that her client is the married man (played by the professional heel Ralf Harolde) whose betrayal landed her in her current position. “You don’t think I’d drink with you, you son of a —— ” Gilda says, interrupting her epithet to knock a glass of hooch out of his hand. (“Hey, that cost 10 a quart!”) He puts the moves on her anyway, forcing Gilda to coldcock him with the heel of her shoe. As she flees the room, it catches on fire — and Gilda, assuming that she’s killed him, packs her bag and heads for a Caribbean island without an extradition treaty.

Gilda may be safe from prosecution in her island refuge, but she’s also the only available woman in a fleabag hotel otherwise populated by a collection of lecherous reprobates, who make a morning ritual of lining up their wicker chairs to watch her descend the stairs. It’s a situation that can’t end well, and it doesn’t under the blunt and forceful direction of William A. Wellman, who drives the film to its stunningly bleak conclusion in a thrifty 73 minutes.

A favorite in precode festivals around the country (including Film Forum in New York), “Safe in Hell” was released in a manufactured-on-demand edition by the Warner Archive Collection last November, and now Warner has released a Mackaill double bill consisting of Lloyd Bacon’s “Office Wife” (1930) and Clarence G. Badger’s “Party Husband” (1931). Coincidentally, a set of five Humphrey Bogart films recently released by the Turner Classic Movies Vault Collection includes Thornton Freeland’s “Love Affair,” a 1932 Mackaill vehicle that features Bogart in his first leading role.

None of these films is as striking as “Safe in Hell,” but all give evidence of an engaging performer with a strong, self-reliant attitude toughened by the rough pragmatism of the early Depression years. In “The Office Wife” Mackaill plays a secretary in a publishing firm who unhesitatingly allows her skirt to ride above her knees to attract the attention (and eventually affection) of Lewis Stone, as her stuffy, considerably older employer. (The film is based on a novel by Faith Baldwin, who specialized in workplace romance.) In “Party Husband” she’s a young married whose “modern marriage” (to the bland James Rennie) allows her to stay up all night drinking coffee with her employer (Donald Cook) — yet another publisher who values her strong story sense.

Mackaill seems to have had a strong independent streak of her own. Born in a drab port city in Yorkshire, she ran away at 13 to London, where she found work as a chorus girl. She soon rose to featured parts in revues in London and Paris — her hoofing skills and broad-shouldered, athletic body are on display in the 1930 Michael Curtiz musical “Bright Lights,” which occasionally surfaces on TCM — and by 1920 she was in New York City, where she appeared in Ziegfeld’s “Midnight Folly” and opposite the popular comedian Johnny Hines in a series of two-reel shorts, before going to Hollywood to work for First National Pictures.

It’s here that film history breaks down, as it so often does when dealing with silent movies, because of the vast amount of material that has been lost, a curse that particularly afflicts second-tier stars like Mackaill. By all accounts she soon found her niche as a light comedienne with a naturalistic style, specializing in that new breed of professional woman — shop girls and secretaries — that was emerging during the 1920s. She worked with some of the period’s leading directors of romantic comedies, including William A. Seiter and Alfred Santell, and was paired with the engaging (and unjustly forgotten) Jack Mulhall for a series of 10 films, urban romances like Santell’s “Subway Sadie” and “Just Another Blonde,” both from 1926.

But sound changed Mackaill’s career. Although she had managed to lose her Yorkshire accent, her voice recorded as raspy and hard in her part-talkie debut, “The Barker” (1928), in which she played a hard-bitten carnival girl. At 25, her ingénue days were over — just as well, as it turned out, because sound and the stock market crash had introduced a new element of embittered realism to the movies.

Mackaill’s talkie career seems, in a way, a long farewell to the optimistic career girl of the ’20s: now there were compromises to be made in the workplace, lecherous bosses to be dealt with and jealous fiancés to be left behind. In “The Office Wife” Mackaill has a younger sister, played by a voluptuous Joan Blondell in her feature debut, who feels no qualms about living off men, and can’t understand her sibling’s reluctance. “Safe in Hell” may be far more sensational in its details, but it seems almost prudish in its portrayal of its heroine’s moral degradation; in “The Office Wife,” as in so many films of the precode period, getting by means sleeping around.

When Warner Brothers took over First National, Mackaill became one of several stars whose contracts weren’t renewed. She freelanced for a while, slowly slipping down the list of independent studios, from Columbia (where she made “Love Affair,” playing a dissolute socialite who finds salvation with an idealistic young aviator played by a pre-Bogie Bogart), to the Poverty Row outfits Allied (“Picture Brides,” 1933) and Liberty (“Cheaters,” 1934). She returned to England for one last film, “Bulldog Drummond at Bay,” in 1937, and eventually settled in Hawaii, where, after divorcing the last of her three husbands in 1938, she lived out her years as a sort of celebrity in residence at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu...


Saturday, January 7, 2012


In the 1930s and 1940s musicals were the most popular movie genre. Audiences, longing for an escape from the Great Depression and World War II, loved the fantasy world of the movie musical. The most popular dancers of that era were Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, but we can not forget the other great dancers of that era. One such dancer was George Murphy.

George Murphy was born on July 4, 1902 in New Haven, Connecticut of Irish Catholic extraction, the son of Michael Charles "Mike" Murphy, athletic trainer and coach, and Nora Long. He was educated at Peddie School, Trinity-Pawling School, and Yale University. He worked as a tool maker for the Ford Motor Company, as a miner, a real estate agent, and a night club dancer.

In movies, Murphy was famous as a song-and-dance man, appearing in many big-budget musicals such as "Broadway Melody of 1938", "Broadway Melody of 1940" and "For Me and My Gal". Murphy starred along such great stars of the day as Eddie Cantor, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and Judy Garland. He made his movie debut shortly after talking pictures had replaced silent movies in 1930, and his career continued until he retired as an actor in 1952, at the age of 50.

In 1951, he was awarded an honorary Academy Award. He was never nominated for an Oscar in any competitive category.

He was the president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1944 to 1946. He was a vice president of Desilu Studios and of the Technicolor Corporation. He was director of entertainment for presidential inaugurations in 1952, 1956 and 1960.

Murphy entered politics in 1953 as chairman of the California Republican State Central Committee, having also directed the entertainment for the Eisenhower-Nixon Inauguration of 1952.

In 1964 he was elected to the United States Senate, defeating Pierre Salinger, former presidential press secretary in the Kennedy White House, who had been appointed several months earlier to serve the remainder of the late Clair Engle's unexpired term. Murphy served from January 1, 1965 to January 3, 1971, and is credited with beginning the United States Senate tradition of the Candy desk. Murphy assumed his seat two days early, when Salinger resigned from the seat in order to allow Murphy to gain an edge in seniority. Murphy was then appointed by Gov. Pat Brown to serve the remaining two days of Salinger's term.

After chairing the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 1968, the year Richard Nixon was elected President, Murphy ran unsuccessfully for reelection in 1970, being defeated by Democratic Congressman John V. Tunney, the son of famed heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney. During his Senate term, Murphy suffered from throat cancer, forcing him to have part of his larynx removed. For the rest of his life, he was unable to speak above a whisper.

He was defeated in his bid for re-election in 1970, winning 44.3% of the vote to Democrat John V. Tunney's 53.9%. Murphy was in his late 60s and his speaking voice was reduced to a gravelly whisper from throat cancer while Tunney was youthful and energetic, blatantly comparing himself with Robert F. Kennedy, largely through haircut and poses, on the campaign trail. Murphy's staunch support for the Vietnam War also hurt his support. As the general election approached, Tunney overtook Murphy in the polls. Tunney's successful Senate race in 1970 is reportedly the inspiration for the 1972 Robert Redford film The Candidate.

Murphy subsequently moved to Palm Beach, Florida, where he died at the age of 89 from leukemia.

Murphy's move from the screen to California politics paved the way for the successful transitions of actors such as Ronald Reagan and later Arnold Schwarzenegger. Reagan once famously referred to George Murphy as "my John the Baptist."

Murphy was married to his ballroom dancing partner, Juliette "Julie" Henkel-Johnson, from December 18, 1926 until her death in 1973. They had two children, Dennis Michael Murphy and Melissa Elaine Murphy. His daughter Melissa died in 2009. He was married to Betty Duhon Blandi from 1982 until his death in 1992.

George Murphy never rose to the acclaim that other musical stars did. However, each movie he was in he added a little something extra - and he never turned in a bad performance. Like so many of the old musical stars, Murphy should not be forgotten...

Friday, January 6, 2012


The actress who played tomboy Elly May Clampett on 1960s television show "The Beverly Hillbillies" has settled her lawsuit against Mattel over a Barbie doll based on her character.

Actress Donna Douglas, now 78, sued the toy company in May as well as the consumer products division of CBS Corp. seeking a minimum of $75,000 in damages.

Her complaint said Mattel was "engaging in the unauthorized use" of her name, likeness and image to promote and sell the "Elly May" Barbie.

Attorneys in the case filed court papers on Tuesday in Louisiana indicating the lawsuit had been settled. The financial terms were not revealed

Douglas starred in "The Beverly Hillbillies" which ran from 1962 to 1971 on CBS television. She played the beautiful but naive Elly May Clampett, in the show about a family that struck oil and ditched their backwoods home for life in California.

Philip Shaheen, an attorney for Douglas who now lives in Louisiana, said he could not comment on the details of the settlement. California-based Mattel could not be reached for comment.

CBS Consumer Products had argued in court papers that it had exclusive rights to use the Elly May character, and did not need Douglas' permission before entering into an agreement with Mattel for the doll...


Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Barbara Rush is one of those actreses where you recognize her beautiful face before you recognize the name. She was born on this day - January 4th in 1927. A student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Barbara Rush performed on stage at the Pasadena Playhouse before signing with Paramount Pictures.

She made her screen debut in the 1951 movie The Goldbergs and went on to star opposite the likes of James Mason, Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Richard Burton, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Kirk Douglas. In 1954 she won the Golden Globe Award for "Most Promising Newcomer - Female" for her performance in It Came from Outer Space.

Rush began her career on stage and it has always been a part of her professional life. In 1970, she earned the Sarah Siddons Award for dramatic achievement in Chicago theatre for her leading role in Forty Carats and brought her one-woman play A Woman of Independent Means to Broadway in 1984. She began working on television in the 1950s. She later became a regular performer in TV movies, miniseries, and a variety of other shows including Peyton Place and the soap opera All My Children.

In 1962, she guest starred as Linda Kinkcaid in the episode "Make Me a Place" on the NBC medical drama about psychiatry, The Eleventh Hour starring Wendell Corey and Jack Ging. In 1962-1963, she appeared three times as Lizzie Hogan on the short-lived NBC drama about newspapers, Saints and Sinners. In 1965, she appeared in a 2-part episode of The Fugitive entitled "Landscape with Running Figures" as Marie Gerard. In 1967, she guest starred on the ABC western series Custer starring Wayne Maunder.

She often played a willful woman of means or a polished, high-society doyenne. Rush also was cast in an occasional villainess role, as in the Rat Pack's gangster musical Robin and the Seven Hoods (1964) or in the Western drama Hombre (1967), as a rich, condescending wife of a thief who ends up taken hostage and tied to a stake.

She portrayed the devious Nora Clavicle in the TV series Batman. After appearing in the 1980 disco-themed Can't Stop the Music, Rush returned to television work. She was a regular cast member on the early 1980s soap opera Flamingo Road as Eudora Weldon. She also was a guest star character named Elizabeth Knight in the season 2 debut episode "Goliath" of the 80's TV series Knight Rider. In 1998 she was featured in an episode called "Balance of Nature" on the television series The Outer Limits. Rush continues to make guest appearances on television as recent as 2007 in the recurring role of Grandma Ruth Camden on the series, 7th Heaven...

Monday, January 2, 2012


Mickey Rooney: All Singing! All Dancing! All Terrific!!!

The skill and professionalism honed onstage since he could walk, combined with an inimitable exuberance, made this diminutive Brooklynite Hollywood's hottest draw over his adolescence, and a welcome screen presence throughout a career that continues to infinity. The son of vaudevillians who divorced when he was four, Joseph Yule Jr. was doggedly pushed by his mother, who brought him to Southern California in search of film opportunities for the boy. He was only seven when he received his name-making opportunity, cast as pugnacious Mickey McGuire in a series of shorts based on the then-popular Toonerville Trolley comic panel. Though his mother unsuccessfully lobbied to legally change his name to that of the character, he adopted his familiar stage name instead, and would make over four dozen Mickey McGuire comedies over the ensuing eight years, which added into his lifetime output, totaled his appearances before the cameras at more than 300 times.

As the series wound down, Mickey signed with MGM, and began receiving supporting roles in features for the studio like his role as young Blackie in Manhattan Melodrama (1934) with Clark Gable and William Powell.

On loan to other majors, notably as Puck in Warner's version of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, at an amazing weekly salary of $500, he rubbed shoulders with some of the studio's top players, James Cagney, Olivia deHavilland, Dick Powell and Joe E. Brown. That same year he continued in small parts: in Little Pal with Ralph Bellamy and his role got slightly bigger in Ah, Wilderness, Eugene O'Neill's sweet-natured comedy. In 1936, he started to carry his weight in roles that suited him such as Little Lord Fauntleroy and in The Devil Is a Sissy, both in support of MGM's popular child star, Freddie Bartholomew.

His star rose in 1937 when he was cast in the MGM B-movie, A Family Affair, as small-town teen Andy Hardy. The response to the gentle middle-American farce spurred a string of immensely popular (and immensely profitable) low-budgeters following the travails of Andy and his family. In 1938, he went Out West with the Hardys and had some man-to-man talks with his on-screen dad in Judge Hardy and Son (1939). The prominence of Mickey's roles in the studio's A output grew as a result, as evidenced by his appearance in major motion pictures like Captains Courageous, in which he played Lionel Barrymore's son along side of Spencer Tracy, Melvin Douglas, but again in Bartholomew's shadow; Hoosier Schoolboy, also in '37, offered him a better role albeit at a lesser studio, Monogram Pictures. Thoroughbreds Don't Cry was his first teaming with Judy Garland, and the two struck up a friendship that would last a lifetime.

He got his biggest break in Boys Town (1938) when he shared top billing with Tracy. It was truly a role tailor-made for Rooney as he showed his dramatic talent, holding his own as misunderstood kid Whitey Marsh. Tracy won the Best Actor Academy Award as Father Flanagan and MGM followed it up with a sequel, Men of Boy's Town in 1941; As the lead star of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1939) he got into one scrap after another as Mark Twain's young adventurer. When he was top-billed as Young Tom Edison in 1940, he convinced audiences he actually was the character.

MGM also re-teamed him with their other emerging adolescent star, Judy Garland, in a well-received series of black-and-white musicals kicked off by Busby Berkeley directing them in Babes in Arms, which garnered him his first Best Actor Oscar nomination, and became the first teenager in history to be nominated for that honor. Next, Mick and Judy's high school band was out to nab an award in Paul Whiteman's national radio contest, in Strike Up the Band (1940).

Rooney and Garland were together again in Babes on Broadway (1941), and this time they're out to put on a show on the Great White Way. And, Rooney is sent to a small private school to mend his Girl Crazy (1943) ways but once he sees Garland, it's love at first sight in this musical-comedy based on the Gershwin Broadway hit. As a telegram delivery boy during WWII, he matched wits with Frank Morgan and James Craig in The Human Comedy, recieving his second Academy Award nomination, and remaining a personal favorite of his films. Sprinkled between these major films, he put in his time into the Andy Hardy films as the public wanted more like: Andy Hardy Meets Debutante (1940); and Life Begins for Andy Hardy (1941).

National Velvet paired him with Elizabeth Taylor in 1944 and another lifelong friendship began. It was Rooney's final project before he put in for his WWII service; the 26-year-old Bronze Star winner returned to find his career transitioning all-too-quickly to character parts. His early itinerary included a final Hardy film, Love Laughs at Andy Hardy (1946); Killer McCoy (also in '46) finds Rooney giving a stunning performance as a feisty boxer in a knockout remake of MGM's 1938's The Crowd Roars; and a last pairing with Garland along with a host of MGM musical stars in Words and Music (1947), loosely based on the lives of songwriters Richard Rogers (Tom Drake) and Lorenz Hart (Rooney). He was comfortable with co-star Gloria DeHaven in Summer Holiday, the remake of O'Neill's comedy turned into a musical, also in '47.

Through the '50s, the work was always there to be had, although the quality fluctuated; notables included the high-torque drama The Big Wheel (1949), Mick is determined to follow in his racer dad's tracks leading to tragedy and hard lessons learned. In Quicksand (1950), Rooney is a young man who commits a minor criminal act that slowly, inexorably draws him into a quagmire of crime and self-destruction. Also in '50, with thanks to nationwide interest in a new sport seen on the early days of television during the late '40s and early '50s, he entered the world of roller derby quite convincingly in The Fireball, as a big-time skater-with an ego to match-until he's stricken with polio. Marilyn Monroe had an early role as a derby groupie attracted to Rooney, and Pat O'Brien plays, of all things, a caring priest.

My Outlaw Brother (1951) followed and brought Mick into the Western genre and in Off Limits (1953) Mick was back in the fighting game, this time strictly for laughs with Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell. Bridges At Toko-Ri (1954) found him in the Korean War listed as 4th billing after co-stars William Holden, Grace Kelly and Fredric March; as well as his eponymous NBC sitcom, also known as Hey, Mulligan (1954-1955). The Bold And The Brave (1956) and Baby Face Nelson (1957) followed and he found time to do the final movie in the Francis the Talking Mule series, Francis in the Haunted House at Universal when Donald O'Connor refused to do another one; Mick made himself available to TV, and his Emmy-nominated work on the Playhouse 90 episode The Comedian is a standout. In the upbeat wartime comedy, Operation Mad Ball (1957), he's a very resourceful supply sergeant co-starred with Jack Lemmon and Ernie Kovacs. And as it was inevitable, he made the final appearance as Andy Hardy in 1958's Andy Hardy Comes Home.

The '60s were notable for his copious TV work marked by Requiem for a Heavyweight, his well-received turn as Anthony Quinn's trainer. In 1961 he appeared in two movies: King of the Roaring 20s had him second billed as crooked Arnold Rothstein's equally crooked partner and caused a lot of talk when he got all the politically incorrect laughs as Audrey Hepburn's Japanese neighbor in Breakfast at Tiffany's, but it was mostly TV work that kept him going.

In 1963, he got a chance to work with Spencer Tracy again in Stanley Kramer's riotous comedy classic, It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, and was a demolitions expert in Roger Corman's The Secret Invasion in '64, along with Stewart Granger and Raf Vallone. He starred opposite Lex Barker and Walter Slezak in 24 Hours to Kill (1964), then ied his hand at another TV series simply called Mickey (1964-1965) and wanting to keep working, he found himself hamming it in a "guest" starring appearance in How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965). TV work became his most marketable commodity and he continued to be called upon for both live action and animated shows and was happy to lend his voice to the now classic family animated hit, Santa Claus Is Coming t Town (1970).

The '70s were marked by colorful character roles. In Pulp (1972), in which he managed to be second billed, he's a kooky agent helping Michael Caine write his memoirs. Also in '72, he starred in the hilarious Evil Roy Slade, along with some the era's most competent comedy performers, following with yet another animated movie to become a classic, The Year Without aSanta Claus. It might have been his sincere appearance as co-host in MGM's That's Entertainment (1974) that brought him to the public eye but he never lacked for work afterwards.

Continuing into the '80s with his Tony-nominated Best Actor run in the Broadway revue Sugar Babies with another lifelong friend from his days at MGM, Ann Miller. In 1981, he appeared as a mentally handicapped man in his Emmy-winning effort telefilm Bill, followed two years later with a sequel, Bill On His Own. And in 1983, he got a standing ovation when he received his 1983 Lifetime Achievement Oscar. Full of Rooneyisms, he once said, "There may be a little snow on the mountain, but there's a lot of fire in the furnace!"

The years that followed continued to be full with bountiful episode, TV movie and animation work, personal appearances and tours, and the occasional big-screen opportunity such as Babe: Pig in the Big City (1998); 2006's Night at the Museum, in which he plays one of the bad guys trying to foil Ben Stiller; and a cameo in 2011's The Muppets.

Being in the spotlight is never easy and Mick had his ups and downs but it's his honesty and great resilience that have endeared him to his legions of fans around the world. Mickey holds the record for being in the movie business longer than any other actor: as of 2011, he was still going strong at 85 years in films -- and is the only surviving movie star to have been in silent films and continued to perform into the 21st century...