Monday, March 30, 2015

WHAT A CHARACTER: PETER LORRE

I am always announcing who may favorites are, but without a doubt my favorite character actor all time was Peter Lorre. His style and accent made him popular with his fans. Born Laszlo Loewenstein in Rosenberg, Austria-Hungary (now Ruzomberok, Slovakia) on June 26, 1904, his parents were Alois and Elvira Lorre. He was educated in Vienna, but at age 17, he ran away from home, working as a bank clerk in Vienna, and then making his acting debut in Zurich, Switzerland.

He was a virtual unknown for seven years, playing bit parts in numerous films in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, until 1931, when German director Fritz Lang cast him as a psychopathic child killer in "M" (1931). After several more German films, the Nazis came to power, and in 1933, he left for Paris, and in 1935, for Hollywood. He was able to find work immediately, and played Raskolnikov in "Crime and Punishment" (1935).

In the late 1930s, he played Japanese sleuth, Mr. Moto, in a series of eight Mr. Moto B films, and became a Hollywood icon after roles in "The Maltese Falcon" (1941) and "Casablanca" (1942). In 1938, the Nazis used images of Peter Lorre from "M" in their propaganda film "Der Ewige Jude" ("The Eternal Jew"), to portray Jews in a negative light.

After the war, he went to Germany, where he wrote, directed and starred in "Der Verlorene" ("The Lost One") (1951), paying homage to his former homeland. After that movie, his roles declined, and his last movie was with Jerry Lewis, in "The Patsy" (1964). He was actually the first James Bond villain, playing the role of Le Chiffre, in "Casino Royale" (1954), long before Sean Connery made 007 a hit star in the 1962 film, "Dr. No." He also was in the original "Voyage To The Bottom of The Sea," where he played Commodore Lucius Emory.

He was married three times, first to Celia Lovsky (1934 to March 1945, divorced), then to Karen Verne (25 May 1945 to 1949), and last to Anne Marie Brenning (21 July 1950 until his death). He had one child, a daughter, Catharine, born in 1950. Catharine was almost abducted by the Hillside Stranglers, Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono, who let her go when they found out she was Peter Lorre's daughter; she discovered this when they were finally caught.


Sadly his daughter died very young. Catharine suffered from juvenile diabetes- As she grew older, complications from her diabetes took a greater toll until in her final year she was hospitalized at Harbor General. At that point, she was suffering vision and circulation problems. She spent upwards of a year there and died shortly after. She died of sepsis and encephalomalacia, complications from diabetes, on May 7, 1985, at age 32. Sadly, unbeknownst to family and friends, she sat in the morgue for nearly a month before funeral arrangements were made.

Peter's voice style was often imitated in films and cartoons, and he was easily one of the most mimicked and caricatured of the Hollywood stars. Once, while he and Vincent Price went to view Bela Lugosi at Bela's funeral, and upon seeing Bela dressed in his famous Dracula cape, quipped "Do you think we should drive a stake through his heart just in case?". Peter Lorre died in failing health after having a stroke on March 23, 1964...

Saturday, March 28, 2015

FORGOTTEN ONES: DEE KEATING

There were so many big band singers in the 1930s and 1940s. Some made it like Jo Stafford and Peggy Lee. However, for all the stars that made it there were many vocalists that were forgotten after the big band era ended in 1945. One of those singers was the great Dee Keating. She was born in Malverne, NY about 1920  and passed away in Bellmore, NY in the year 1965 of an accidental overdose.

In the late 30s, the goal of many young women was to be the girl vocalist in a name dance band. Al Donahue's band recorded and toured and was successful but Al was not a great instrumentalist or singer. In fact he was basically a corny society violin player that changed his band's style to swing in the 30s. So, although Al didn't have the most famous band in the land, it was definitely a competent swing band with good musicians and good charts. Dee got lucky in 1939. Paula Kelly (of future Modernaire fame) the girl vocalist in Al's band got pregnant 

Dee then married the lead trumpet player in the band, Hank Madelina.  This didn't stop Hank from quitting the band abruptly in 1939 and leaving them in Cincinnati OH.  Well they managed to find a 16 year old trumpet prodigy named Ray Anthony to take over the lead chair. He got very friendly with Dee but she was a woman and he was a teenager. Plus she was still married to Hank. Fast forward to 1942. Ray had left to play with Glenn Miller, Jimmy Dorsey and then form his own band in the Navy.  Hank was back with Al Donahue and Dee gave birth to a girl named Patty. After a short maternity leave, Dee stayed with Al Donahue until 1945. (Her relatives took care of Patty) This is when Ray got out of the service, formed a great dance band, got a contract with Capital Records and kept his band going, in one form or another, until just a few years ago. (at 91, Ray is still in good shape and is Hugh Hefner's best friend) 

Dee went with Ray's band, her name at this point, being Dee Anthony.  In 1952, Ray Anthony divorced Dee to marry blonde bombshell starlet, Mamie Van Doren. Dee then became a lady of leisure in Manhattan. (Ray paid her lots of alimony and Patty was kept conveniently out of the picture by being sent off to boarding school) One of her boyfriends being Artie Shaw..  She ended her life in an accidental overdose while living with a CBS cameraman on Long Island in 1965...




I want to thank Dee's nephew Jim Coleman for all the information he provided in this article...

If anyone knows the whereabouts of Dee Keating's daughter Patty, please contact me...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

MY GRANDFATHER WAS FRED ASTAIRE

If you ask Tyler McKenzie about his grandfather, he might dance around the topic. That's because his grandfather was Fred Astaire, and he is shy about discussing it. But he did, with the West Seattle Herald, and seemed to develop a bounce in his step recalling hanging out with perhaps the greatest dancer in the world.

Full disclosure, they were related through marriage, but Fred and Tyler were as close as any grandfather and grandson, he said. Tyler's father, Richard, married Fred Astaire's daughter, Ava, (pronounced AH-vah) who raised him.

"My parents divorced when I was very young, and my mother passed away when I was seven, so my brother and I then lived with my father in West Hollywood and that's when he married Ava," said McKenzie, 50, a real estate broker with Windermere, formerly at their Alaska Junction office and now manager at their Green Lake office. He lives in West Seattle and serves as Delridge Neighborhood Development Association Board Chairman.

Richard's McKenzie Gallery was very successful. He painted realistic portraits of stars including Barbara Stanwyck, Tyler recalled, adding that they moved into a relatively modest home in Beverly Hills.

"I'd see Fred frequently when we were living in Beverly Hills." he said.

"In 1972 when I was 11 my parents went on a trip to Europe, came back, and said, 'Kids, we're moving' and just packed us up and we went to London where we lived for three years," said Tyler. "They found a home in Ireland. We moved there from London. I finished my high school in Ireland. My parents still live there, in County Cork.

"He actually came to Ireland to do a film, Purple Taxi," said Tyler of his famous grandfather. "We spent a significant amount of time together traveling around there then.That was in 1977. My mother was his closest confidant, especially after his sister Adele died." (in 1981)


Long before Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire began his career performing with his sister Adele when he was just four and she was six. They were born in Omaha. They toured the country with their mother, Ann and Ann's sister.

"They were a performing dancing dual," Tyler said. "Many people don't realize that until Adele retired she was the bigger star.

"I knew him well," Tyler said of Fred. "We played pool together and talked about stuff. He was a lovely, considerate, interesting man. But I was very cognizant of the fact that despite the fact that he was my grandfather, he was something else that was very meaningful to everybody," said Tyler.

"We'd be walking down the street on our way to dinner and the world would stop because people would stop on the street and gasp when they recognized him. It was a bizarre feeling to be moving with the spotlight, and to be just outside the shadow of it.

"I think Fred Astaire embodies elegance," Tyler continued. "He had gravitas in that he was gifted, a physical genius. My mother would tell me he didn't work out, didn't adhere to any physical regimen to be any stronger or more nimble. But he rehearsed constantly and with absolute deliberation over and over again so that by the time a number was on the big screen it was indeed perfect.

"It was a product of excruciating difficult work and very long hours," he said. "And so that grace is the embodiment of hard work. He was a hardworking man who was able to manifest that in absolute elegance. But he did have a gift. He was imbued with a natural precision that was his genius. Where his craft came into play was his ability to tap it, to release it. He performed since age four. That's all he knew."



SOURCE

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

PAST OBITS: GENE NELSON

I can not believe I have never featured an article on dancer Gene Nelson. In my opinion he was a slightly wooden actor - but boy could he dance! Here is his obituary fron the New York Times on September 18, 1996...


Gene Nelson Is Dead at 76; Athletic Hollywood Dancer
By DINITIA SMITH
              
Gene Nelson, who played Will Parker, the blond, boyish, high-stepping lasso dancer in the 1955 film version of ''Oklahoma!,'' died on Monday at a hospital in Calabasas, Calif. He was 76 and lived in Los Angeles.
He had been suffering from cancer, said his daughter, Victoria Gordon.

Mr. Nelson, who was also a choreographer, performed as second lead in numerous Broadway and Hollywood musicals. He was an athletic dancer who in the course of his career danced on ships, up a banister and over a Volkswagen.

In ''So, This Is Paris'' with Tony Curtis, he leaped high in the air while a bicycle zipped under his jack-knifed legs. Clive Barnes of The New York Times praised his ''flashily effective 30's-style acrobatic dance solo'' in the 1971 Broadway production of ''Follies,'' for which he won a Tony.

Though Mr. Nelson was considered to have a good, light singing voice, he was frequently overshadowed by Gordon MacRae, with whom he appeared in ''Oklahoma!,'' ''Tea for Two,'' and ''Three Sailors and a Girl.'' Mr. Nelson rarely got the girl; that honor usually went to MacRae.

Mr. Nelson, whose original name was Eugene Berg, was born in Seattle. His family moved to Los Angeles, where he was a gymnast and ice skater in high school. He once said that a Saturday afternoon spent at the movies as a teen-ager watching Fred Astaire dance in ''Flying Down to Rio'' changed his life and made him want to become a performer.

In 1937, he joined the Sonja Henie Hollywood Ice Revue and made his first appearance at the Center Theater on Broadway in ''It Happens on Ice.''

During World War II, Mr. Nelson toured with Irving Berlin's all-male ''This Is the Army,'' entertaining American troops in Europe. Then he moved back to Los Angeles, where he won a two-year contract with 20th Century Fox playing roles in ''I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now'' and ''Gentleman's Agreement.''


In 1948 he appeared in Gower Champion's production of ''Lend an Ear,'' which got him a three-year contract with Warner Brothers. There he appeared with Doris Day in ''Lullaby of Broadway'' and ''Tea for Two,'' which also starred MacRae. He appeared with James Cagney in ''The West Point Story.''

As Mr. Nelson aged -- at least in the terms of the dance world -- he tried his hand at serious dramatic roles. Failing to find success, he began directing films, including two with Elvis Presley, ''Kissin' Cousins'' and ''Harum Scarum.'' Mr. Nelson also directed episodes of numerous television series. He liked to tick them off on his fingers. ''Eight 'Riflemans,' '' he told The San Francisco Chronicle in an interview in 1992, ''32 'Donna Reeds' '' and ''24 'Mod Squads,' '' to name but a few.

He was married three times, to Miriam Franklin, Marilyn M. Fields and Jean Martin. All of the marriages ended in divorce.

In addition to his daughter, of Manhattan, he is survived by two sons, Christopher, of Burbank, Calif., and Douglas, of Los Angeles, and three grandchildren, all of Los Angeles...


SOURCE

Saturday, March 21, 2015

ROSE OF WASHINGTON SQUARE: A 1939 REVIEW

Buried in a year of releases with Gone With The Wind and The Wizard Of Oz, Rose Of Washington Square has always been a favorite musical of mine. Here is the New York Times review as it appeared on May 6, 1939...


Twentieth Century-Fox Strolls Down Melody Lane in 'Rose of Washington Square,' at the Roxy

Twentieth Century-Fox's latest tour down Melody Lane has come to the Roxy under the blushing title "Rose of Washington Square," the Rose being neither Al Jolson nor Tyrone Power (as we had feared), but Alice Faye, who flowers lushly in the cabarets and flounces of the post-war years.

Obviously designed as a thematic sequel to "Alexander's Ragtime Band," the picture makes much the same capital of its sentimentally evocative score, its nostalgic reminders of the speakeasy era, its delicate reminder that the Nineteen Twenties already have become a "costume period."


Bearing the usual prefatory denial of any factual basis, the film tells the story of the loyal Ziegfeld star who married a thief and confidence man, stuck by him through his disgrace and poured all her love and faith into the song "My Man," which she sobbed out each night from the Ziegfeld stage. Miss Faye doesn't resemble Fannie Brice; she doesn't sing "My Man" as well, either. If she did, of course, it would have been just too coincidental.

Nunnally Johnson, who wrote the script, has not succeeded in giving it appreciable dramatic power. Miss Faye's heartbreak never seems to be much deeper than her make-up. Mr. Power's Bart Clinton, an almost equally superficial study in weak criminality, is not afforded a single scene by which his ultimate romantic regeneration can satisfactorily be explained. Mr. Jolson, playing himself and doing it extremely well, is the only member of the starring trio whose performance has warmth and vitality.
Atmospherically, however, the picture has interest. Mr. Jolson's singing of "Mammy," "California, Here I Come" and others is something for the memory book. So is Miss Faye's full-mouthed chanting of "The Vamp," "Rose of Washington Square," "I'm Just Wild About Harry" and a few others. Mr. Johnson would have been wiser, we believe, to have built his tale about Mr. Jolson's career. The picture was at its best when the Mammy specialist held the spotlight...



SOURCE

Thursday, March 19, 2015

MY FIVE FAVORITE CHILDREN MOVIES

I always liked cartoons like the old ones from Warner Brothers. I could take or leave Mickey Mouse at Disney, but there was nothing like a Bugs Bunny cartoon. I never thought though that I would watch as many cartoons as I do now that I have young children. Amazingly some of them are quite good, and some have a lot of elements that appeal to adults and parents as well. Here are my five favorite children movies that I have seen in recent years:


5. HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS (2000)
It is hard to believe that this movie is nearly 15 years old, so I guess it it hardly considered a recent children's movie. In actuality, I saw this movie in the theater even before I was married or had children. I saw it with two other friends. Jim Carrey was the perfect grinch, and although I am not a huge Carrey fan, he made you forget he was Jim Carrey. Directed by Ron Howard, there is a lot of adult comedy in the movie, and I remember in the movie theater laughing more than the children there did. I thought my son would be afraid of the movie, but he loved it.

4. FINDING NEMO (2003)
This was another movie I saw with my children well after the movie came out. My son wasn't into the film as much as my wife and I were. The story of a father and son always tugs at my heartstrings. Not only are my happiest moments now spent in doing things with my son, but I also reminds me of my childhood and everything my father never did with me. I will admit many moments in the movie were tear jerkers for me, but it was a great movie.


3. HAPPY FEET (2006)
This is another movie that my wife and I like more than my son does. It is a little long for my son's attention span, but there is just something so cute about cartoon Penguins. I loved the voices that the late Robin Williams provided for the film. I haven't watched the movie since Williams' death and Brittany Murphy also is gone, but the movie is fun to watch. The topics in film - saving the habitat for the Penguins is a very adult issue, but the film was done in a way that it appeals to both adults and children.

2. THE CAT IN THE HAT (2003)
Here is another live action version of a Dr. Seuss book. The movie was not as successful as the Grinch  movie, but lately this movie is all my son wants to watch. The Cat is played by Mike Myers, whose schtick gets a little old sometimes. A lot of times, it feels like The Cat is just Austin Powers in disguise, but the movie is well done. There are some really surprising adult jokes in the movie that thankfully pass over the heads of our children. The movie is short so it holds my son's interest, and I actually really love Alec Baldwin's role as the sleazy boyfriend of the Mom. Unlike the Grinch again, you don't get the backstory for the Cat, but it's just a fun movie.


1. FROZEN (2013)
This movie had to be on this list, I can not see how I could avoid it. I was laughing because the cartoon won an Oscar. My son went to see it in the movie theater with his grandmother, and I told my wife that our son saw an Oscar winning movie before we did. The film has everything for children, from peppy musical numbers to cute unsual second banana (like the talking snowman). There are some surprising adult themes when the princesses parents were killed when their ship was lost at sea, but luckily my son always seems to be doing something when that part comes on. Disney set the bar pretty high with this film, and although I have seen the film countless times now I never seem to get tired of the movie and neither does my children. I guess that is the most important thing!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

PEGGY LEE: THE EARLY YEARS

One of my favorite vocalists to come out of the big band era was the great songbird Peggy Lee. Her voice was as audio aspirin to anyone who had the pleasure of hearing. She was one of the biggest recording artists at Capitol Records in the 1940s and Decca Records in the 1950s, but I wanted to profil some of her earlier and formative years.

Lee was born Norma Deloris Egstrom in Jamestown, North Dakota on May 26, 1920, the seventh of eight children of Marvin Olof Egstrom, a station agent for the Midland Continental Railroad, and his wife Selma Amelia (Anderson) Egstrom. She and her family were Lutherans.[Her father was Swedish American and her mother was Norwegian American.  Her mother died when Lee was just four years old. Afterward, her father married Min Schaumber, who treated her with great cruelty while her alcoholic father did little to stop it. Later, she developed her musical talent and took several part-time jobs so that she could be away from home.

Lee first sang professionally over KOVC radio in Valley City, North Dakota in the mid 1930s. . She later had her own series on a radio show sponsored by a local restaurant that paid her a salary in food. Both during and after her high school years, Lee sang for small sums on local radio stations. Radio personality Ken Kennedy, of WDAY in Fargo, North Dakota (the most widely heard station in North Dakota), changed her name from Norma to Peggy Lee.  Miss Lee left home and traveled to Los Angeles at the age of 17.

She returned to North Dakota for a tonsillectomy, and was noticed by hotel owner Frank Beringin while working at the Doll House in Palm Springs, California. It was here that she developed her trademark sultry purr – having decided to compete with the noisy crowd with subtlety rather than volume. Beringin offered her a gig at The Buttery Room, a nightclub in the Ambassador Hotel East in Chicago. There, she was noticed by bandleader Benny Goodman. According to Lee, "Benny's then-fiancée, Lady Alice Duckworth, came into The Buttery, and she was very impressed. So the next evening she brought Benny in, because they were looking for a replacement for Helen Forrest. And although I didn't know, I was it. He was looking at me strangely, I thought, but it was just his preoccupied way of looking. I thought that he didn't like me at first, but it just was that he was preoccupied with what he was hearing." She joined his band in 1941 and stayed for two years.


In 1942 Lee had her first No. 1 hit, "Somebody Else Is Taking My Place", followed by 1943's "Why Don't You Do Right?" (originally sung by Lil Green), which sold over a million copies and made her famous. She sang with Goodman's orchestra in two 1943 films, Stage Door Canteen and The Powers Girl.

In March 1943 Lee married Dave Barbour, a guitarist in Goodman's band. Peggy said, "David joined Benny's band and there was a ruling that no one should fraternize with the girl singer. But I fell in love with David the first time I heard him play, and so I married him. Benny then fired David, so I quit, too. Benny and I made up, although David didn't play with him anymore. Benny stuck to his rule. I think that's not too bad a rule, but you can't help falling in love with somebody."When Lee and Barbour left the band, the idea was that he would work in the studios and she would keep house and raise their daughter, Nicki. But she drifted back to songwriting and occasional recording sessions for the fledgling Capitol Records in 1947, for whom she produced a long string of hits, many of them with lyrics and music by Lee and Barbour, including "I Don't Know Enough About You" (1946) and "It's a Good Day" (1947). With the release of the US No. 1-selling record of 1948, "Mañana", her "retirement" was over.

Thankfully Peggy did not stick to her retirement. Her time with the big bands was relatively short, but her tenure with the Benny Goodman Orchestra saw her emerging as a formidable vocalist. Her early years performing showed that she definitely had the talent, and it paved the way for her super stardom as a singer and jazz vocalists for decades to come...

Saturday, March 14, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: GHOST BOY


Recently I became a fan of NPR, the national public radio station. I'm not in my car to listen to the radio long, but NPR has showcased some wonderful authors, and their stories have inspired me to buy their books. One such story was "Ghost Boy". It was a heartbreaking and inspiring tale at the same time.

In January 1988 Martin Pistorius, aged twelve, fell inexplicably sick. First he lost his voice and stopped eating. Then he slept constantly and shunned human contact. Doctors were mystified. Within eighteen months he was mute and wheelchair-bound. Martin's parents were told an unknown degenerative disease left him with the mind of a baby and less than two years to live.

Martin was moved to care centers for severely disabled children. The stress and heartache shook his parents’ marriage and their family to the core. Their boy was gone. Or so they thought.

Ghost Boy is the heart-wrenching story of one boy’s return to life through the power of love and faith. In these pages, readers see a parent’s resilience, the consequences of misdiagnosis, abuse at the hands of cruel caretakers, and the unthinkable duration of Martin’s mental alertness betrayed by his lifeless body.


It wasn't until one of his kind caretakers looked into his eyes, and believed that Martin could really understand the world around him, he just couldn't communicate it. She urged his family to get him tested, and Martin finally had a sliver of hope for a normal life. After a series of tests, they found out what Martin already knew for years, he had a fully functioning brain. His parents got him a keyboard and eventually a computer that allowed him to communicate. Against all odds, Martin's life starting becoming better and better. He got a job, he "spoke" at lectures, and he attended a class at university. His body was getting stronger too, he was gaining more control over his hands, and he was starting to finally be able to do small things like dressing himself, and pushing a manual wheelchair.

The best day of his life, and perhaps the most amazing, is when he met Joanna, a woman who loved him for who he is. They met online, and lived in different continents, but that didn't stop them from pursuing a relationship with each other. After 6 months, they met in person, and not too long afterward they got married and moved in together.

I cry easily when I hear a sentimental song or watch a touching movie. I have never shed a tear reading a book until I read "Ghost Boy". Being a father of two little children, I felt saddness and pain for not only this young boy but his mother and father as well. The book was well written, easy to read and unable to put down. If you want a book to read that will inspire you, I recommend this book...



MY RATING: 8 OUT OF 10

Thursday, March 12, 2015

FIVE YEARS OF MY BLOG

 
It is hard to believe that this blog, which was originally called The Great Entertainers Media Archive, is now five years old! After countless posts about old Hollywood, celebrities, and remembrances from my childhood - I have not even scratched the surface or run out of ideas.

I wanted to thank every reader to my blog, whether you enjoy the articles or not - I continue to love to share my love of classic Hollywood, and I hope to do it for another five years. (Even though I wish the time would not keep flying so quick!)

If you ever have any requests or suggests for articles, please feel free to contact me! Thanks for a great five years...

Friday, March 12, 2010

BING CROSBY (1903-1977)


For the first blog entry on this site, I have to dedicate it to my favorite singer and entertainer of all time...BING CROSBY!



Wednesday, March 11, 2015

RIP: ALBERT JOLSON - SON OF JOLSON

Albert Jolson, a Nashville recording studio owner and the son of legendary entertainer Al Jolson and Erle Galbraith Jolson, died March 4 in Nashville following a two-month battle with pneumonia. He was 67.

Jolson, known to family and close friends as “Jolie,” created Al Jolson Enterprises and shortly thereafter opened a recording studio and music publishing business. In 1988, he purchased a large recording studio from Monument Records. The studio, named Masterlink Studio, was a staple on Music Row for decades. Moreover, Jolson expanded his recording business duplicating audio cassettes and later compact discs. After he retired, he sold his company in 2012.

Upon his mother’s death in 2004, Jolson gained the rights to Al Jolson’s legendary Decca Records recordings, which are now housed at MCA.

Asa Albert Jolson, was born in California and lived with his mother and father in Encino until Al Jolson’s sudden death in 1950 following a strenuous tour of Korea and Japan entertaining U.N. troops. Two months later, President Harry Truman posthumously awarded Al Jolson the Medal for Merit. On behalf of President Truman, Secretary of Defense George C. Marshall, awarded Erle Jolson and their son, Asa Albert, the Medal for Merit in a small ceremony in Marshall’s Washington, D.C., office.

In 1951 Jolson’s mother, Erle, married playwright, Oscar-winning screenwriter and co-studio head of RKO Pictures Norman Krasna. In 1959, Norman and Erle and their children moved to Switzerland. While Krasna busied himself writing the screenplay to Fox’s 1960 Marilyn Monroe starrer “Let’s Make Love,” Jolson was schooled at Ecole Nouvelle in Lausanne followed by the College de Leman in Versoix. He later attended the American College of Switzerland in Leysin where he studied business.

In 1969 Jolson was involved in a car accident in the Swiss Alps that nearly cost him his life. He remained in a coma for six months. Following a decade of painstaking therapy, Jolson relocated to Nashville, where he studied sound engineering at Belmont University.

Jolson donated all of Al Jolson’s memorabilia to the Tennessee State Museum. In 2013 they opened a small exhibit at the War Memorial titled “You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet. Al Jolson Entertains American Troops.”

Jolson is survived by a daughter, Katharine; a granddaughter; two sisters; and a brother.


Monday, March 9, 2015

BORN ON THIS DAY: WILL GEER

I have to admit I was born too late to appreciate the television show The Waltons as much of America still does. I was never much of a western fan either, but Will Geer was an important part of both. He was born today - March 9th in 1902. Geer was born in Frankfort, Indiana, the son of Katherine (née Aughe), a teacher, and Roy Aaron Ghere, a postal worker. He was deeply influenced by his grandfather, who taught him the botanical names of the plants in his native state. Geer started out to become a botanist, studying the subject and obtaining a master's degree at the University of Chicago. While at Chicago he also became a member of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity.

Geer made his Broadway debut as Pistol in a 1928 production of Much Ado About Nothing, created the role of Mr. Mister in Marc Blitzstein's The Cradle Will Rock, played Candy in John Steinbeck's theatrical adaptation of his novella Of Mice and Men, and appeared in numerous plays and revues throughout the 1940s. From 1948 to 1951, he appeared in more than a dozen movies, including Winchester '73, Broken Arrow, Comanche Territory (1950) and Bright Victory.

Geer became a member of the Communist Party of the United States in 1934. Geer was also influential in introducing Harry Hay to organizing in the Communist Party. In 1934, Geer and Hay gave support to a labor strike of the port of San Francisco; the 1934 West Coast waterfront strike lasted 83 days. Though marred by violence, it was an organizing triumph, one that became a model for future union strikes. Geer became a reader of the West Coast Communist newspaper, the People's World.


In 1950, Geer played Wyatt Earp in the James Stewart film Winchester 73. However, Geer was blacklisted in the early 1950s for refusing to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. As a result, Geer appeared in very few films over the following decade.

In 1972, he was cast as Zebulon Walton, the family patriarch on The Waltons, a role he took over from Edgar Bergen, who played the character in the pilot. He won an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for The Waltons in 1975. When Geer died, shortly after completing the sixth season of The Waltons, the death of his character was written into the show's script as well. His final episode, the last episode of the 1977–78 season, depicted his being reunited with his onscreen wife Esther (Ellen Corby, who played the character, had been absent for the entire season, due to a stroke). Geer's character was mourned onscreen during the first episode of the 1978–79 season. As Will Geer was dying on April 22, 1978, of respiratory failure at the age of 76, his family sang Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" and recited poems by Robert Frost at his deathbed. Geer's remains were cremated; his ashes are buried at the Theatricum Botanicum in the "Shakespeare Garden" in Topanga Canyon, near Santa Monica, California....

Saturday, March 7, 2015

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: JOAN LESLIE

Joan Leslie was never known as a great actress like Better Davis or Katherine Hepburn, which is unfortunate because she was a very capable actress. Leslie was a high point in many movies, especially Warner Brothers movies, throughout the 1940s. Personally, I think she was one of the most beautiful women of that era. Here are six reasons why I think so...


























Thursday, March 5, 2015

HEALTHWATCH: CHEVY CHASE

Chevy Chase’s health is being questioned by fans after the legendary comedian and movie star made an appearance at the SNL 40 event, which celebrated Saturday Night Live‘s 40th anniversary.

According to the Associated Press, fans first began to question Chevy Chase’s health during his appearance on the red carpet before the event. Chase, who was a part of the original Saturday Night Live cast, stopped to do a quick interview with Carson Daly when viewers immediately took notice of his very much altered voice.

Chevy’s voice was once one of the most recognizable in Hollywood, and yet on Sunday night at the live event in New York City to commemorate SNL‘s long history, he sounded nothing like his former self, but that wasn’t all. The report claims that Chase also rambled on during the red carpet interview and made little sense when he was asked about his time on the show:

“I left after the first year because I thought this isn’t going anywhere… I liked [hosting]. I liked it. But I missed it more for not being a part of the cast because I left after one year, I had reasons to leave. I’m sorry if I’m perspiring, but I just had to run through a gauntlet. But I liked it a lot, and I still like it. I love Lorne. We’re like brothers now.”

The Internet Business Times reports that Twitter began to blow up with tweets about Chevy Chase’s possible health problems after his red carpet appearance and then again when he was front and center during the show’s life anniversary special. Most fans seemed worried for Chase’s health and well being.

The 71-year-old Hollywood legend appeared nervous and confused when interviewed by SNL host Carson Daly. While answering questions, Chevy wiped sweat from his brow as he apologised for sweating.

Chase was previously regarded as one of Hollywood’s finest comic talents, commanding a fee of €8 million per film in the 1980s.

There have been former rumors that Chase’s health has been failing, but after Sunday’s SNL 40 special, it seems more and more fans may believe the stories...


Monday, March 2, 2015

RIP: DANIEL VON BARGEN

Character actor Daniel Von Bargen has sadly passed away after a lengthy illness. Best known for his roles as Mr. Kruger on Seinfeld (1997–98) and Commandant Edwin Spangler on the TV comedy Malcolm in the Middle (2000–01), the actor died on March 1st at the age of 64.

Von Bargen's film credits include London Betty, RoboCop 3,Basic Instinct, Broken Arrow, Universal Soldier: The Return, Truman, The Majestic, Philadelphia, A Civil Action, Thinner, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Snow Falling on Cedars, Disney's The Kid, and Super Troopers. He played the maniacal sorcerer Nix in Clive Barker's Lord of Illusions, and the Sheriff in The Postman. He played a terrorist in a season 5 episode of The X-Files.

His distinguished stage career included a long residency with Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, Rhode Island; he made his Off-Broadway debut in 1981 in Missing Persons. He also appeared in the premiere of Larry Gelbart's Mastergate and other plays at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and made his Broadway debut when the show went to New York.

Fellow actor and friend Bob Colonna had this to say about Daniel: "I feel a huge wave of sorrow and relief at the passing of this remarkable man, Dan Von Bargen. I treasure the years when I worked with him at Trinity Rep and in a couple of TV films. I admire his excellent body of work in the movies. And I mourn for the darkness and pain that were his final years. God bless him. He was a hell of a guy."


Daniel von Bargen was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on June 5, 1950, to Juanita (Bustle) and Donald L. von Bargen, of German and English descent. He grew up in Cincinnati for most of his childhood before moving with his family to Southern California. He attended Purdue University, majoring in drama.

His role in The Postman (1997) as the Pineview sheriff who suspects 'Kevin Costner''s character of being a fraud, was a stand-out as von Bargen infused the role with the pathos of a man caught between just trying to survive and wanting to believe in the hope the Postman represents. His performance, which was an amalgam of characters from the Novel, contained just the perfect blend of world-weary skepticism and desperate hope.

Suffering from diabetes in recent years, the actor attempted to commit suicide on February 22, 2012. He was scheduled to have some toe amputated due to the diabetes. Despite shooting himself in the temple with a gun, he survived although his health continued to worsen. The immediate cause of death is not known at this time...




OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND AT 98

At 98, Olivia de Havilland is the last great star of Hollywood’s golden age, a woman who began her career during the rise of Technicolor in 1935, formed one of the most indelible screen couples of all time with Errol Flynn, and went on to work with James Cagney, Rita Hayworth, Montgomery Clift, Bette Davis, Richard Burton, Clark Gable, and Vivien Leigh. With her deep brown doe eyes and apple-cheeked smile, the two-time Best Actress winner excelled at playing heroines whose demure bearing belied a feisty core. The most famous of these great ladies was Melanie Hamilton, the tenderhearted foil to Leigh’s scheming Scarlett O’Hara in 1939’s Gone With the Wind. Based on Margaret Mitchell’s best-seller, the beloved epic has sold more tickets in its lifetime than any other film. And 75 years ago it cleaned up at the Academy Awards, winning eight of its 13 nominations.

Having outlived all of her costars (as well as the movie’s mad-genius producer, David O. Selznick, and the three directors he hired to steer the massive ship), de Havilland has been GWTW’s principal spokesperson for almost five decades, the sole bearer of the Tara torch. It’s a privilege she calls “rather wonderful,” as her affection for the film is genuine and deep. She’s seen GWTW “about 30 times,” she says, and still enjoys watching it for the emotional jolt it brings as she reconnects with those costars—Gable, Leigh, Hattie McDaniel, and Leslie Howard—who have long since passed on.

Her memory is enviable: She vividly recalls lying in her crib as a baby and hearing the clink-clink of her nanny preparing her bottle. And she is delightfully open about her age. While discussing her day-to-day life at the hotel, for instance, she gets a mischievous twinkle in her eye as she describes the handsome fellows from room service. “How many women in this world are served breakfast in bed every morning by a gorgeous young man? I am,” she says. “So how do I feel about older age? Crazy about it! Wouldn’t trade it for anything!”


When de Havilland moved to France in 1953 to marry her second husband, a Frenchman, she was all too happy to bid adieu to Hollywood, where television had begun to eclipse film. “The Golden Era…was dying and I knew that whatever replaced it would not be its equal,” she writes. So she focused on her children, Benjamin and Gisèle, took the occasional job by “commuting to Hollywood,” as her son once put it, and earned an Emmy nomination in 1987 for her role as a Russian empress in the NBC miniseries Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna. Even after her second divorce in 1979, living abroad afforded her a life of great privacy, which she continues to cherish. Tabloids frothed for years over her relationship with her sister, the actress Joan Fontaine, which was famously strained, at least according to Fontaine, who wrote about it in her 1978 autobiography. De Havilland, however, does not discuss it. (Fontaine died in 2013.)

Though she lives alone, de Havilland is far from lonely. She regularly speaks on the phone with Gisèle, who lives in California. (Benjamin passed away in 1991 from over-radiation following his treatment for cancer.) Depending on her energy level, she entertains about once a week. She is still a dues-paying member of the Academy and follows nomination season “with extreme interest,” but because of her declining eyesight, she no longer watches many films and does not vote. She can still do crossword puzzles, though, and in the coming months she hopes to make progress on the autobiography she began a few years ago. She’s written five chapters in the same buoyant style that she used in her charming 1962 book of essays, Every Frenchman Has One. A lover of words, she is enjoying mining her rich, long life for remembrances.

And if she has anything to do with it, she will collect many, many more. Because this formidable woman has every intention of celebrating her 100th birthday come July 1, 2016. “Oh, I can’t wait for it,” she says. “I’m certainly relishing the idea of living a century. Can you imagine that? What an achievement.”