Sunday, August 25, 2019

THE WIZARD OF OZ: 80 YEARS LATER

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

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


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


Thursday, August 22, 2019

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

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




Tuesday, August 20, 2019

ON THIS DAY: AUGUST 20

On this day in entertainment history...



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

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


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


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


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


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


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


Saturday, August 17, 2019

MY FAVORITE AMERICAN HORROR STORY SEASONS

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



1. SEASON TWO - ASYLUM

2. SEASON ONE - MURDER HOUSE

3. SEASON FOUR - FREAK SHOW

4. SEASON FIVE - HOTEL

5. SEASON SEVEN - CULT

6. SEASON THREE - COVEN

7. SEASON EIGHT -APOCALYPSE 

8. SEASON SIX - ROANOKE

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

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

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


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

ARTICLE ARCHIVES: BING CROSBY

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 11, 2019

A TRIBUTE TO ROBIN WILLIAMS - FIVE YEARS LATER

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


Thursday, August 8, 2019

RIP: BOB WILBER

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

HEALTHWATCH: OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN

Olivia Newton-John has revealed she doesn’t want to know how long she has left to live after being diagnosed with cancer for a third time. The Grease star, who was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer in 2017, said she has no plans to find out her life expectancy in a new interview with 60 Minutes Australia.

Instead, the multi-talented star is focusing her attention on fundraising for research into the disease.

“When you’re given a cancer diagnosis or a scary illness diagnosis, you are suddenly given a possibility of a time limit,” she said.

Olivia Newton-John says ‘every day is a gift’ after cancer diagnosis

“If you believe the statistics, you’re going to make them happen,” she continued. “If somebody tells you, ‘you have six months to live’, very possibly you will – because you believe that.”

The actor, 70, is in the process of selling some her movie memorabilia – including an outfit from the 1978 musical – a bid to raise money for research into the effects of cannabis as a cancer treatment.

Newton-John has previously spoken out about using cannabis to help her cope with pain she experiences as a result of her cancer.

The actor was first treated for breast cancer in 1992 and underwent a second round of treatment when the disease returned in 2015...





Monday, August 5, 2019

COMING SOON: THE NEW JUDY GARLAND FILM

It's admittedly pretty early to start making Oscar predictions for 2020, but if you feel so inclined, Renée Zellweger is looking solidly like a Best Actress contender for her performance in the biopic Judy. Chronicling the final year in the tumultuous life of Judy Garland, the film will depict Garland's struggles with addiction, depression, and stage fright, as well as her relationship with her fifth husband Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock). It'll also be released in late September, a.k.a. right in the thick of For Your Consideration season.

The film is slated for release in U.S. theaters on September 27, 2019 with Zellweger is, of course, the star of the show as Judy, and her remarkable transformation is clear in the photos and trailer that have been released so far. 17-year-old British actress Darci Shaw plays the younger Judy. Rufus Sewell plays her second husband Sidney Luft, while Finn Wittrock plays her fifth husband Mickey Deans, and Michael Gambon plays manager Bernard Delfont, who managed the London nightclub where Judy performed her last concerts.


In case you're not familiar with the extraordinary real story of Garland's life, she started acting as a child, and became famous practically overnight at the age of 20, after starring as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. She subsequently struggled throughout her life with depression and drug addiction, and died at the age of 47 from an accidental drug overdose.

Judy takes place in 1968, the year before Garland's death, and focuses on her final series of concerts in London. Here's the full synopsis as reported by Deadline:

Set in winter 1968, the story takes place 30 years after Garland played the iconic role of Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz. When she arrives in Swinging London to prepare for a sell-out run at The Talk of the Town, she battles with management, charms musicians and reminisces with friends and adoring fans. Even her dreams of romance seem undimmed as she embarks on a courtship with Mickey Deans, her soon to be fifth husband. And yet Garland is fragile. After working for 45 of her 47 years, she is exhausted; haunted by memories of a childhood lost to Hollywood and gripped by a desire to be back home with her kids.


In other words, it sounds like this movie is going to break your heart.

“When there’s a better understanding of what it takes for a person to continue under certain circumstances there is a level of empathy and respect that you can’t help but feel,” Zellweger told People about the role. "What she had to overcome in a time when women didn’t necessarily feel that they had power over their own lives in the way that we do today. That stayed with me and I hope folks will be moved by that as well.”



Saturday, August 3, 2019

FORGOTTEN ONES: BERT PARKS

Every year my Grandfather would watch the Miss America pageant religiously, and even in my early teen years I thought the show was cheesy. However, the emcee of the contest in those older days made it at least watchable. That emcee was Bert Parks, who is largely forgotten now. Parks was born in 1914 in Atlanta, Georgia, to Aaron Jacobson, a Jewish merchant who had immigrated to the United States in 1900 from Latvia (then part of the Russian Empire), and his wife Hattie (Spiegel) Jacobson, the daughter of immigrants from Austria-Hungary.He had one older brother, Allen Jacobson.

Parks' had his first experience in amateur theatre when he was four years old. Parks entered radio broadcasting at age 16, for Atlanta's WGST. Three years later, he moved to New York City and was hired as a singer and straight man on The Eddie Cantor Show, then becoming a CBS Radio staff announcer. Parks was the host of Break the Bank, which premiered on radio in 1945 and was telecast from 1948 to 1957, as well as Stop the Music on radio in 1948 and television from 1949 to 1952. The success of Stop the Music took a toll on the ratings of the popular radio show hosted by satirist Fred Allen, who began spoofing Parks's program with skits mocking the premise of the show, one called Cease The Melody.


Parks' first game show was Party Line on NBC (broadcast from New York City NBC flagship station WNBT), which involved viewers calling in to answer questions and win $5 prizes; Party Line ran from June 8 to August 31, 1947, making its one surviving episode the oldest known game show and one of the oldest surviving television shows to have been recorded. Commercial kinescopes did not come out until fall 1947 (co-sponsored by NBC, DuMont, and Kodak), and the only kinescopes known to predate Party Line are a few episodes of Kraft Television Theater from February and June 1947.

Other games that Parks hosted in early television include Stop the Music (1949-52/1954-56), Double or Nothing (1952–54), Balance Your Budget (1952–53), Two in Love (1954), Giant Step (1956–57), Hold That Note (1957), Bid 'n' Buy (1958), County Fair (1958–59), Masquerade Party (1958–60), The Big Payoff (1959), Yours for a Song (1961–63), and the pilot for The Hollywood Squares (April 21, 1965). His last game show hosting job was in 1968, on the pilot for a revival of Heatter-Quigley's The Celebrity Game; the show did not sell.

He also helmed a daytime variety show in 1950, simply called The Bert Parks Show, as well as appearing in an episode of the comedy WKRP in Cincinnati. In addition, he also starred in a syndicated series called Circus! (featuring various circus acts from around the world) in the early 1970s. Parks also appeared in a 1976 episode of The Bionic Woman as the nefarious host of the "Miss United States" beauty pageant, involved in a plot to sell national security technology.


Parks is most famous, however, for hosting the Miss America telecast from 1955–79, after which he was unceremoniously fired by the Organization in an attempt to attract a more youthful audience. Tonight Show host Johnny Carson led an on-air campaign to get Parks rehired, but was unsuccessful. In 1990, for the 70th anniversary of the Miss America pageant (during which Miss America 1991 was crowned), Parks was brought on by host Gary Collins to sing "There She Is" to the new Miss America, Marjorie Judith Vincent. It was the last time Parks performed the song live.

Parks' last known TV appearance, a Pepsi commercial, first aired in June 1991.Parks did a take-off of his hosting role in The Freshman (1990), starring Marlon Brando, Matthew Broderick, and Bruno Kirby. He played the emcee of a Gourmet Club dinner where guests supposedly eat a Komodo dragon, singing a spoof of "There She Is" in a salute to the soon-to-be-deceased dragon. Bert Parks died on February 2, 1992...


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED

One of the holy grail of movies is Jerry Lewis' The Day The Clown Cried. The 1972 film has never been released, but now that Jerry Lewis has passed away the film may be shown eventually. Here are some stills from that doomed production...












Friday, July 26, 2019

JOE BESSER: THE WORST STOOGE

Actor Joe Besser had a long career as a character actor in Hollywood. He was known for his impish humor and wimpy characters. He is best known for his brief stint as a member of the Three Stooges in movie short subjects of 1957–59. He is also remembered for his television roles: Stinky, the bratty man-child in The Abbott and Costello Show, and Jillson, the maintenance man in The Joey Bishop Show. Even though it is just my opinion. Joe Besser never really fit in as a Stooge, and I believe he was the worst Stooge of all of them.

The zany comedy team of Olsen and Johnson, whose Broadway revues were fast-paced collections of songs and blackouts, hired Joe Besser to join their company. Besser's noisy intrusions were perfect for their anything-can-happen format. Besser's work caught the attention of the Shubert brothers, who signed Besser to a theatrical contract. Columbia Pictures hired Besser away from the Shuberts, and Besser relocated to Hollywood in 1944, where he brought his unique comic character to feature-length musical comedies like Hey, Rookie and Eadie Was a Lady (1945). On May 9, 1946 Besser appeared on the pioneer NBC television program Hour Glass, performing his "Army Drill" routine with stage partner Jimmy Little. According to an article in the May 27, 1946 issue of Life magazine, the show was seen by about 20,000 people on about 3,500 television sets, mostly in the New York City area. During this period, he appeared on the Jack Benny radio program in the episode entitled "Jack Prepares For Carnegie Hall" in June, 1943. Besser also starred in short-subject comedies for Columbia from 1949 to 1956. By this point, his persona was sufficiently well known that he was frequently caricatured in Looney Tunes animated shorts of the era. He appeared in the action film The Desert Hawk (1950).


Besser had substituted for Lou Costello on radio, opposite Bud Abbott, and by the 1950s he was firmly established as one of the Abbott and Costello regulars. When the duo filmed The Abbott and Costello Show for television, they hired Joe Besser to play Oswald "Stinky" Davis, a bratty, loudmouthed child dressed in an oversized Little Lord Fauntleroy outfit, shorts, and a flat top hat with overhanging brim. He appeared during the first season of The Abbott and Costello Show. Besser was cast for the role of Yonkel, a chariot man in the low-budget biblical film Sins of Jezebel (1953) which starred Paulette Goddard as the titular wicked queen.

After Shemp Howard died of a heart attack on November 22, 1955 at age 60, his brother Moe suggested that he and teammate Larry Fine continue working as "The Two Stooges". Studio chief Harry Cohn rejected the proposal. Although Moe had legal approval to allow new members into the act, Columbia executives had the final say about any actor who would appear in the studio's films, and insisted on a performer already under contract to Columbia: Joe Besser. At the time, Besser was one of a few comedians still making comedy shorts at the studio. He successfully renegotiated his contract, and was paid his former feature-film salary, which was more than the other Stooges earned.


Besser refrained from imitating Curly or Shemp. He continued to play the same whiny character he had developed over his long career. He had a clause in his contract prohibiting being hit excessively. Besser recalled, "I usually played the kind of character who would hit others back".  As a result of his whiny persona and lack of true slapstick punishment against him (the cornerstone of Stooge humor), Joe has been less popular with contemporary Stooge aficionados, so much so, that "Stooge-a-Polooza" TV host Rich Koz has even apologized on the air before showing Besser shorts; during the show's tenure he received more than a few letters from viewers expressing their outrage over his airing them. Besser does have his defenders, however: Columbia historians Edward Watz and Ted Okuda have written appreciatively of Besser bringing new energy to what was by then a flagging theatrical series.


The Stooges shorts with Besser were filmed from the spring of 1956 to the end of 1957. His Stooge tenure ended when Columbia shut down the two-reel-comedy department on December 20, 1957. Producer-director Jules White had shot enough film for 16 comedies, which were released a few months apart until June 1959, with Sappy Bull Fighters being the final release. Moe Howard and Larry Fine discussed plans to tour with a live act, but Besser declined. His wife had suffered a heart attack in November 1957, and he was unwilling to leave without her. In later life, Besser praised Moe and Larry.

While Joe Besser was a great character actor, his stint as a Stooge was largely forgettable. He died on March 1. 1988 - a forgotten footnote in Stooge history...



Wednesday, July 24, 2019

HISTORY OF A SONG: ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE

The song "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life" is one of the best songs to ever come out of a comedy! "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" is a comedy song written by Monty Python member Eric Idle that was first featured in the film Monty Python's Life of Brian and has gone on to become a common singalong at public events such as football matches as well as funerals.

The song touches on the British trait of stoicism with the "stiff upper lip" spirit in the face of adversity, and became immensely popular. It reached No.3 on the UK Singles Charts in 1991, and the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony in London featured a live performance of the song by Idle.

Whilst trying to come up with a way of ending the film Monty Python's Life of Brian, Eric Idle wrote an original version of the song which was sung in a more straight fashion, which the other Python members eventually agreed would be good enough for the end of the film. However, Michael Palin noted in his diary for 16 June 1978 that during a script meeting, "Eric's two songs — 'Otto' and the 'Look on the Bright Side' crucifixion song — are rather coolly received before lunch." Despite being initially underwhelmed, the group warmed to Idle's efforts and the song was retained. While practicing during a break in filming, Idle found that it worked better if sung in a more cheeky manner. This new version was used in the film and became one of Monty Python's most famous compositions.


The song appears at the end of the film. The film's lead character Brian Cohen (played by Graham Chapman) has been sentenced to death by crucifixion for his part in a kidnap plot. After a succession of apparent rescue opportunities all come to nothing, a character on a nearby cross (played by Eric Idle) attempts to cheer him up by singing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life". As the song progresses, many of the other crucifixion victims (140 in all, according to the script, though twenty-three crosses are actually seen on screen) begin to dance in a very restricted way and join in with the song's whistled hook. The song continues as the scene changes to a long-shot of the crosses and the credits begin to roll. An instrumental version plays over the second half of the credits. Its appearance at the end of the film, when the central character seems certain to die, is deliberately ironic.


"Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" was arranged and conducted by John Altman and recorded at Chappell's Studio with a full orchestra and the Fred Tomlinson Singers. The song appeared on the film soundtrack album, listed as "Look on the Bright Side of Life (All Things Dull and Ugly)". The subtitle does not appear in the actual song, and is only used on the soundtrack album. "All Things Dull and Ugly" was also the title of an unrelated track on Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album (released only a few months later), which is a parody of the popular hymn "All Things Bright and Beautiful". The song was also released as a Double A side single with "Brian", the film's opening theme (performed by Sonia Jones).

When Chapman died on 4 October 1989, the five remaining Pythons, as well as Chapman's close friends and family, came together at his public memorial service to sing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" as part of Idle's eulogy...


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

UPDATE: GRAVE MARKER FOR HELEN FORREST

Congratulations and a thank you are in order for Don Romano. He organized a campaign to raise money for a tombstone for big band singer in Helen Forrest. His campaign was successful and became a reality finally!

Helen Forrest was one of the most popular female singers in the United States in the 1940's. She was known as "the voice of the name bands" and was the girl singer for the bands of Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, and Harry James. She is regarded by some as the best female vocalist of the swing era.

July 11, 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of her passing. She is interred at Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery, Hollywood Hills, in Los Angeles. Her only surviving son, Michael, passed away on May 1, 2014. At her plot right now is this pitiful twenty-year-old temporary marker.

Here is what Don Ramano had to say:

"Friends, I have some great news. Earlier this year, I started a GoFundMe campaign to put a marker at Helen Forrest's burial site at Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery in Hollywood Hills, California. A temporary marker had been placed at the site since her passing in 1999. Today, on the twentieth anniversary of her passing, I am happy to report she has been memorialized with a beautiful granite marker. The marker was just set on Monday July 8, 2019. None of this would have been possible without your donations, shares, and support. The sentiment on Helen's marker was not only a #1 hit for her and Artie Shaw's band in 1939 (written by Harry Revel and Mack Gordon) but also reflects our gratitude for Helen's work. And to all of you who supported me in this mission, I say, 'Thanks for Ev'rything'!"

Thanks for everything Don Ramano! And thank you for helping Helen Forrest get the memorial that she deserves...




Saturday, July 20, 2019

RECENTLY VIEWED: HALLOWEEN

I am not a big fan of the Halloween or Friday The 13th genre of horror movies. I was too young and scared to get into them the first time around. However, I was bored on a Saturday night and watched the latest remake of Halloween on HBO. It really was not too bad, but boy has Jamie Lee Curtis aged! Halloween is a 2018 American slasher film directed by David Gordon Green, written by Green, Jeff Fradley, and Danny McBride, and starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle who reprise their respective roles as Laurie Strode and Michael Myers, with stuntman James Jude Courtney also portraying Myers. It is the eleventh installment in the Halloween film series and a direct sequel to Halloween (1978) while effecting a retcon of all previous sequels. The plot follows a post-traumatic Laurie Strode who prepares to face Michael Myers in a final showdown on Halloween night, forty years after she survived his killing spree.

After failing to develop a new Halloween film in time, Dimension Films lost the production rights for a sequel, which reverted to Miramax, which then joined with Blumhouse Productions. In May 2016, a new installment was officially announced, with original co-creator John Carpenter's involvement as a composer, executive producer, and creative consultant.


Halloween premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2018, and was theatrically released in the United States on October 19, 2018, by Universal Pictures, the distributor's first involvement with the series since Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982). The film received generally positive reviews from critics, with many considering it to be both the best Halloween sequel and a return to form for the series. It has grossed over $255 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing film in the franchise and the highest-grossing slasher film in unadjusted dollars, breaking a record that Scream had previously set, as well as breaking several other box office records. A sequel is in early development (of course!)

Jamie Lee Curtis never impressed me as an actress, but this was the role that made her. If you forget about all of the pointless sequels in between the 1st film and this film, then this is a great movie. Curtis does a good job playing a withdrawn and alcoholic slasher victim. Throughout the film, people try to get Michael Myers to talk, and he never does - I wish he would have said something, even a word. Perhaps in the sequel! I'm glad I did not go see the film in the movies, but it was a great film on a rainy Saturday night on television. The theme music alone is worth it!

MY RATING: 7 OUT OF 10







Wednesday, July 17, 2019

A TRIBUTE TO GARY BEACH - ONE YEAR LATER

Gary Beach was one of  the true greats of Broadway that the world sadly lost a year ago today. His memory will always live on...









Friday, July 12, 2019

WHERE ARE THEY NOW: THE CAST OF THE MUSIC MAN

One of my all-time favorite movie musicals was 1962's The Music Man. The musical originated on Broadway and became a huge movie hit. Everyone who is a fan of the movie know the cast such as Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, and a young Ron Howard, but I wanted to spotlight some of the supporting cast and where they are now.


PERT KELTON (Mrs. Paroo) played the mother of Shirley Jones and Ron Howard. I always thought she was too old to be Ron Howard's mom. She originated her role on Broadway with Robert Preston. Her first movie was 1929's Sally. Kelton was the original Alice Kramden in The Honeymooners comedy sketches on the DuMont Television Network's Cavalcade of Stars. Due to being blacklisted in the 1950s, she did not have as successfule career as she could have. A resident of Washington Township, Bergen County, New Jersey, Kelton died of a heart attack on October 30, 1968, at age 61 while swimming at the YMCA in Ridgewood, New Jersey.


SUSAN LUCKEY (Zaneeta Shinn) played the daughter of the town's mayor (Paul Ford). Throughout the movie she was explaim "Eeeee gads!".  Luckey was best known for her roles in Carousel and The Music Man. She co-starred as the daughter of Billy Bigelow's character, played by Gordon MacRae, in Carousel. he 'iconic scene' of Susan Luckey and Timmy Everett kissing on the jungle gym may have taken place on-stage, but was not in the film version of The Music Man. Her last film was the 1966 small movie, Step Out of Your Mind. She left Hollywood and died of liver failure at the age of 74 on November 29, 2012.


TIMMY EVERETT (Tommy Djilas) played the town trouble maker who falls for the mayor's daughter. Timmy did not have much luck in Hollywood. His major role was The Music Man and an appearance on TV's "Ben Casey". He began performing at the age of 14, and was a popular Broadway actor by the late 1950s.  He became an actor teacher but was a heavy smoker and drinker. He died in a fleabag hotel he was renting in New York on March 4. 1977. He was only 39.


THE BUFFALO BILLS (nameless) appeared as members of the school board that try to investigate Robert Preston. In 1956, composer Meredith Willson was looking for a quartet to appear in his new musical "The Music Man". The Bills won the audition and were cast in the play, which was to open on Broadway. The only surviving member of the Buffalo Bills is Jim Jones, who lives in Orlando, Florida. Only Reed and Shea were with the Bills throughout their entire existence. Internal issues and some health problems caused the quartet to be disbanded. Shea died in 1968, Ward in 1988, Reed in 1992, Smith in 2007, and Grapes in 2015.