Wednesday, July 1, 2020

GUEST REVIEW: FEEL MY PULSE

Our guest reviewer Bruce Kogan is back for his usual excellent review. This time around he reviews a silent film...

Feel My Pulse casts Bebe Daniels. as a rich girl who because of her parents' fear of germs has been raised like a hothouse geranium. Howard Hughes or television's Adrian Monk has nothing on her.

Because of some 'excitement; it's decided that Daniels needs a rest cure and the family has endowed a sanitarium located on an an offshore island. But the mental health field just ain't that lucrative and the one they put in charge of the place has turned it over to William Powell and a gang of rum runners. Remember this is the time of Prohibition.

One of Powell's gang is roughneck Richard Arlen and while Daniels may have led a sheltered life she sure knows what she likes in men. Though the two don't hit it off at first she comes around.


The film is directed by Gregory LaCava and he would go on to direct William Powell in one of his greatest films My Man Godfrey. When he decides to play along with Daniels and treat her like a patient in her own sanitarium notice his body language. It really does look like Godfrey Park in My Man Godfrey.

The climax is hysterical as Daniels shrugs off all the inhibitions her hot house upbringing has given her. Can't say any more, you have to see it.

Glad this silent film has not been lost...

BRUCE'S RATING: 6 OUT OF 10



Tuesday, June 30, 2020

RIP: CARL REINER

Carl Reiner, the writer, producer, director and actor who was part of Sid Caesar’s legendary team and went on to create “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and direct several hit films, has died. He was 98.

He died of natural causes on Monday night at his home in Beverly Hills, his assistant Judy Nagy confirmed to Variety.

Reiner, the father of filmmaker and activist Rob Reiner, was the winner of nine Emmy awards, including five for “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” His most popular films as a director included “Oh God,” starring George Burns, in 1977; “The Jerk,” with Steve Martin, in 1979; and “All of Me,” with Martin and Lily Tomlin, in 1984.


In his later years, Reiner was an elder statesman of comedy, revered and respected for his versatility as a performer and multi-hyphenate. He was also adept at social media. He maintained a lively presence on Twitter up until the last day of his life.

Reiner remained in the public eye well into his 80s and 90s with roles in the popular “Ocean’s Eleven” trio of films and on TV with recurring roles on sitcoms “Two and a Half Men” and “Hot in Cleveland.” He also did voice work for shows including “Family Guy,” “American Dad,” “King of the Hill,” and “Bob’s Burgers.”

In 2017, Carl Reiner, his longtime friend and frequent comedy partner Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, Kirk Douglas and other nonagenarian Hollywood legends were featured in the HBO documentary “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast,” examining the secrets to longevity in a fickle industry.


Reiner first came to prominence as a regular cast member of Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows,” for which he won two Emmys in 1956 and 1957 in the supporting category. He met Brooks during his time with Caesar. The two went on to have a long-running friendship and comedy partnership through the recurring “2000 Year Old Man” sketches.

Before creating CBS hit “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” on which he sometimes appeared, Reiner and “Show of Shows” writer Mel Brooks worked up an elongated skit in which Reiner played straight man-interviewer to Brooks’ “2000 Year Old Man”; a 1961 recording of the skit was an immediate hit and spawned several sequels, the last of which, 1998’s “The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000,” won the pair a Grammy.

In 1961 Reiner drew on his experiences with Caesar to create and produced “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” a ratings cornerstone for CBS for the next five years. Reiner made guest appearances as the irascible variety show host Alan Brady. The show won Emmys for writing its first three years and for producing its last two. In 1967, Reiner picked up another Emmy for his writing in a reunion variety show with Caesar, Coca and Morris.


Though the “Enter Laughing” movie was modestly received, Reiner continued to direct steadily over the next few decades. “Where’s Poppa?,” an offbeat comedy he directed in 1970, became a cult favorite. Similarly, two other Martin vehicles, the gumshoe spoof “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” and “The Man With Two Brains,” found bigger audiences after their release in theaters.

While the last film he directed was the 1997 romantic comedy “That Old Feeling,” starring Bette Midler and Dennis Farina, Reiner was an active presence in guest roles on television and in supporting roles in films during the 1990s and 2000s, even as he neared and then surpassed his 90th birthday.

He guested on “Frasier” in 1993; reprised the role of Alan Brady on an episode of “Mad About You” in 1995 and won an Emmy for it; and guested on “Ally McBeal,” “Boston Legal” and “House.”

Big screen appearances included 1990’s “The Spirit of ’76,” directed by his son Lucas; “Slums of Beverly Hills” (1998); and all three films in the “Ocean’s Eleven” series...




Saturday, June 27, 2020

PASS OBITS: ANNETTE HANSHAW

One of the greatest of the early female torch singers was Annette Hanshaw. She retired in the late 1930s, and is largely forgotten today but here is her obituary as it appeared in the NY Times of March 19,1985...

Annette Hanshaw, one of the most prolific recording singers in the late 1920's and early 30's, died of cancer on Wednesday at New York Hospital after a long illness. She was 74 years old and lived in Manhattan.

Between 1926 and 1934, Miss Hanshaw made more than 200 records under her own name and many more as a vocalist with the Original Memphis Five, Willard Robison's Deep River Orchestra, Sam Lanin's Orchestra and Lou Gold's Orchestra, often using the names Gay Ellis, Dot Dare and Patsy Young. Her accompanists included the jazz musicians Jack Teagarden, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, James P. Johnson, Red Nichols, Miff Mole and Charlie Spivak.

Miss Hanshaw, who was born in New York on Oct. 18, 1910, was 15 when she was heard singing at a party by Waldemar Rose, an executive of Pathe-Actuellel Records. He signed her to a recording contract and married her when she was 19. In addition to recording, she had her own show on radio and sang with the Cliquot Club Eskimos and with Glen Gray's Casa Loma Orchestra on the ''Camel Caravan.''

Miss Hanshaw retired from show business when she was 24. Mr. Rose died in 1954, and in 1970 she married Herbert Kurtin.

She is survived by her husband and two brothers, George Hanshaw of White Plains and Frank Hanshaw of Atlanta...

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

SUMMER STOCK: A 1950 REVIEW

Here is the original New York Times review of the 1950 musical Summer Stock, which would be the last movie Garland made for MGM.This was written by Bosley Crowther and would appear in the Times on September 1, 1950...

As a tardy salute to summer and to the troupes of ambitious young folk who hie themselves off to rural theatres and "thesp" for the bland vacationists, Metro has brought along a passel of its more amiable and talented kids to give out with merriment and music in a Technicolored lark called "Summer Stock." Headed by Judy Garland in high good spirits and health and Gene Kelly in a state of perfection that finds his legs as lithe as rustling corn, this gang is currently to be witnessed on the Capitol's screen, which is not exactly a cow-barn but serves to project the air of same.And we make that remark advisedly, for the locale and focus of most of the film is a nice big red barn on the verdant acres which Miss Garland, in overalls, presumably farms. 


Here it is that the talents of a troupe of Broadway aspirants are generously tried and here it is that Miss Garland, of course, has her big chance to shine. Naturally, the little farm girl, who has barely tolerated the venture, saves the show. No summer stock cow barn in New England could be more appropriately employed.As usual in Metro romances having to do with the enterprises Of kids, the activities in this instance are a good bit more fanciful than real. Scriptwriters George Wells and Sy Gomberg have hatched out a rather standard plot which Director Charles Walters has been patient and sometimes tedious in distributing on the screen. The book of a musical comedy should move a little faster than does this. However, that is an opinion which we will not too pugnaciously support.For whenever any of the youngsters in this venture give way to song or dance — and they are eagerly disposed in that direction—joy reigns and the barnyard jumps.


Miss Garland starts the proceedings right away with the cheerful advice to all within earshot of her shower bath that "If You Feel Like Singing, Sing," and then spreads the word among her rural neighbors that a "Happy Harvest" is in store for those who do. Miss Garland, we might state at this point, is in excellent musical form.Then, as soon as Mr. Kelly and his thespians arrive on the scene by the generous invitation of Gloria De Haven, who plays Miss Garland's stage-struck sis, that gentleman and his associates pitch in to do their share, by way of comedy with the farm work but by way of pleasure with the songs. "Dig, Dig, Dig for Your Dinner" is a dandy, gay ensemble piece in which Mr. Kelly and Phil Silvers expend the most energy. These two also do a howling hill-billy comedy skit to a brisk tune called "Heavenly Music," with the happy assistance of assorted dogs.Best spots in the show, however, are a solo dance which Mr. Kelly does to "You Wonderful You," and the finale, "Get Happy," in which all eventually join. Mr. Kelly's dance, accomplished with a newspaper and a squeaky board as props, is a memorable exhibition of his beautifully disciplined style. And "Get Happy" finds Miss Garland looking and performing her best.As Miss Garland's rustic fiancé, Eddie Bracken adds some humor to the plot, and Marjorie Main now and then kicks up a ruckus as a wary and skeptical farm maid. Hans Conried, Nita Bieber and Carleton Carpenter are most conspicuous among the happy gang of shapely and talented thespians who amiably fill out "Summer Stock."One the stage at the Capitol are Hal LeRoy, Phil Foster, Rosita Serrano and Noro Morales and his orchestra.



Saturday, June 20, 2020

CELEBRITY ADS: JANE FROMAN

One of the most gifted singers of the 1930s and 1940s was Jane Froman. During World War II she was in an airplane crash that left her in constant pain for the rest of her life. This advertisement is for Majestic Records from 1946...



Thursday, June 18, 2020

RIP: VERA LYNN

Dame Vera Lynn, the Forces' Sweetheart whose songs helped raise morale in World War Two, has died aged 103.

The singer was best known for performing hits such as We'll Meet Again to troops on the front line in countries including India and Egypt.

Her family said they were "deeply saddened to announce the passing of one of Britain's best-loved entertainers".

In a statement, they confirmed she died on Thursday morning surrounded by her close relatives.

Six weeks ago, ahead of the 75th anniversary of VE Day and during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Dame Vera said simple acts of bravery and sacrifice still define our nation.

A week later, she became the oldest artist to get a top 40 album in the UK, beating her own record when her greatest hits album re-entered the charts at number 30.


Dame Vera, who had sold more than a million records by the age of 22, was also remembered for singing The White Cliffs Of Dover, There'll Always Be An England, I'll Be Seeing You, Wishing and If Only I Had Wings.

Her wartime classic We'll Meet Again was referenced by the Queen in April during a speech to Britons who were separated from families and friends during the coronavirus lockdown.

The late singer's daughter, Virginia Lewis-Jones, said she was proud of the difference her mother made through her charity work.

She said the Dame Vera Lynn Children's Charity, which her mother founded to help young children with cerebral palsy, "always held a very special place in her heart".Image copyrightGETTY

Born in London's East Ham in 1917, Dame Vera's singing talent was discovered at a young age and by age 11 she had left school to pursue a full-time career as a dancer and singer.

In 1939, in poll by the Daily Express, she was voted by servicemen as their favourite entertainer - gaining her the Forces' Sweetheart nickname.

Paying tribute, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the singer's "charm and magical voice entranced and uplifted our country in some of our darkest hours".


"Her voice will live on to lift the hearts of generations to come," he said.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: "Her songs still speak to the nation in 2020 just as they did in 1940."

In 1940, at the height of the London Blitz, Vera Lynn would set off to the BBC's underground studios at the Criterion Theatre in central London.

The 15-minute show was called Starlight and was broadcast at 2:30am to soldiers around the world.

At the time, the BBC was being criticised in Parliament for broadcasting slushy, sentimental songs. A number of MPs felt there needed to be more upbeat songs to boost morale.

Her popularity even surprised the BBC, this was after all a little overseas show broadcast in the middle of the night.

Vera Lynn sang the songs that resonated emotionally with people who were separated from their loved ones and she sang them directly to you...



Wednesday, June 17, 2020

THE POLITICAL SIDE OF EDDIE CANTOR


I found this article online which takes a look at forgotten icon Eddie Cantor and his politics...

Eddie Cantor may be best known today as a character in the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire.” But the real Eddie Cantor entertained audiences in almost every medium available from the 1910s through the 1950s.

But if you don’t recognize his name, you’re not alone, and that’s a shame, local author David Weinstein argued recently at Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Potomac.

Cantor, a Jewish comedian born Edward Israel Itzkowitz in 1892, not only deserves more recognition for his work in vaudeville, movies, records, radio and TV, but also should be remembered for his involvement in Jewish causes at a time when most entertainers were trying to Americanize their identities, said Weinstein, author of “The Eddie Cantor Story: A Jewish Life in Performance and Politics,” which was published a couple of years ago, and a program officer at the National Endowment for the Humanities.

“That’s the big story of Jews in the 1930s and 40s — they assimilated and hid their Jewishness,” he said. “Eddie Cantor is a different story. He’s representing a different type of Jewish performer in a time when most stars were going one of two ways — totally hiding their Jewishness or going to the other extreme and portraying Jewish stereotypes.”

Cantor set himself apart by not hiding his Jewish identity and then fighting for it, Weinstein said. He incorporated Yiddish phrases and Jewish holidays into his act and talked about life on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, signaling his Jewish identity to any audience who could pick up this coded language.

He was Jewish, Weinstein said, “but not too Jewish” to be a mainstream success.

He became a household name primarily through his longtime radio shows and chart-topping recordings of songs that included “Makin’ Whoopee” and “Yes! We Have No Bananas.”


In the 1939 film “Whoopee!” Cantor portrays a Native American who begins to bargain with a white man at a trading post. Cantor moves into the Jewish salesman mode, Weinstein said, including telling the white man he had “chutzpah.”

Far less remembered is his outspoken response to the rising Nazi threat and anti-Semitism.

“Cantor was very savvy about how he used his fame,” Weinstein said. “He didn’t just sell products on his radio show, but advocated for social and political causes.”


Cantor started working with Hadassah, then a small Zionist organization, in the 1930s to build support for Jews fleeing Europe to Palestine, Weinstein said. Cantor made several major speeches condemning anti-Semitism and spoke out about the dangers of fascism and Nazism before the United States’ entered World War II in 1941.

He sparked a backlash and received death threats for telling the press that Henry Ford should not have accepted the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, the highest honor for a non-German, which the Nazi government bestowed on the auto pioneer in 1939.

The same year, Cantor gave a speech at the New York World’s Fair, in which he denounced anti-Semitism and Father Charles Coughlin, the anti-Semitic radio broadcaster. This was one political stand too many, Weinstein said, and Camel cigarettes dropped its sponsorship of Cantor’s radio show, and he lost the show.


Cantor, who died in 1964, was no stranger to Weinstein’s audience. Many grew up seeing him on “The Colgate Comedy Hour” or listening to his radio shows.

“The family would all gather around the radio on Sunday to listen to him,” said Jack Kranton of North Bethesda, a B’nai Tzedek member, who sang a bit of one of Cantor’s signature songs, “If You Knew Susie:”

Today, Cantor’s legacy is less enduring than it deserves to be, according to Weinstein. And integral to that legacy is Cantor’s Jewish identity.

Or, perhaps better put in song, “If you knew Eddie, like I know Eddie … what a guy!”

Saturday, June 13, 2020

COOKING WITH THE STARS: INGER STEVENS

With summer just about here, I thought this recipe by the beautiful Inger Stevens (1934-1970) would be a perfect summer dish...


Inger Stevens' Bean Salad

1 pound string beans
Boiling salted water
2 cups canned kidney beans, drained
1 cup diced celery
1/2 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 cup vegetable oil (half safflower oil, half olive oil)
3 tbsps. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tbsps. fresh dill
2 tbsps. fresh parsley
1 small red onion, cut in thin rings

1. Cook string beans in boiling salted water until barely tender. Drain, cut in 2 or 3-inch pieces. Place cut cooked string beans in large salad bowl with kidney beans and celery.

2. Prepare marinade by mixing together crushed garlic, vegetable oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in small screw-top jar. Cover, shake well.

3. Pour marinade over vegetables in salad bowl. Toss lightly adding fresh herbs. Cover bowl tightly. Refrigerate overnight (or at least 6 hours). Garnish with red onion rings. Serve as relish or side dish for meat dish or as a salad garnishing with crisp iceberg lettuce. Serves 4-6.


Wednesday, June 10, 2020

THE LAST DAYS OF BABE RUTH

It is a bold thing to declare but I think that Babe Ruth is one of the greatest athletes that this country has ever seen. From 1912 to 1935, Ruth was one the true greats of baseball. Sadly though a life of rough living cause his final years to be marred with health concerns. As early as the war years, doctors had cautioned Ruth to take better care of his health, and he grudgingly followed their advice, limiting his drinking and not going on a proposed trip to support the troops in the South Pacific. In 1946, Ruth began experiencing severe pain over his left eye and had difficulty swallowing. In November 1946, Ruth entered French Hospital in New York for tests, which revealed that he had an inoperable malignant tumor at the base of his skull and in his neck. The malady was a lesion known as nasopharyngeal carcinoma ] His name and fame gave him access to experimental treatments, and he was one of the first cancer patients to receive both drugs and radiation treatment simultaneously. Having lost 80 pounds , he was discharged from the hospital in February and went to Florida to recuperate. He returned to New York and Yankee Stadium after the season started. The new commissioner, Happy Chandler (Judge Landis had died in 1944), proclaimed April 27, 1947, Babe Ruth Day around the major leagues, with the most significant observance to be at Yankee Stadium. A number of teammates and others spoke in honor of Ruth, who briefly addressed the crowd of almost 60,000. By then, his voice was a soft whisper with a very low, raspy tone.


Around this time, developments in chemotherapy offered some hope for Ruth. The doctors had not told Ruth he had cancer because of his family's fear that he might do himself harm. They treated him with teropterin, a folic acid derivative; he may have been the first human subject. Ruth showed dramatic improvement during the summer of 1947, so much so that his case was presented by his doctors at a scientific meeting, without using his name. He was able to travel around the country, doing promotional work for the Ford Motor Company on American Legion Baseball. He appeared again at another day in his honor at Yankee Stadium in September, but was not well enough to pitch in an old-timers game as he had hoped.

The improvement was only a temporary remission, and by late 1947, Ruth was unable to help with the writing of his autobiography, The Babe Ruth Story, which was almost entirely ghostwritten. In and out of the hospital in Manhattan, he left for Florida in February 1948, doing what activities he could. After six weeks he returned to New York to appear at a book-signing party. He also traveled to California to witness the filming of the movie based on the book.

last known photo of Babe Ruth - July 28, 1948

Ruth made one final trip on behalf of American Legion Baseball, then entered Memorial Hospital, where he would die. He was never told he had cancer, but before his death, had surmised it. He was able to leave the hospital for a few short trips, including a final visit to Baltimore. On July 26, 1948, Ruth left the hospital to attend the premiere of the film The Babe Ruth Story. Shortly thereafter, Ruth returned to the hospital for the final time. He was barely able to speak. Ruth's condition gradually grew worse; only a few visitors were allowed to see him, one of whom was National League president and future Commissioner of Baseball Ford Frick. "Ruth was so thin it was unbelievable. He had been such a big man and his arms were just skinny little bones, and his face was so haggard", Frick said years later.

Thousands of New Yorkers, including many children, stood vigil outside the hospital during Ruth's final days. On August 16, 1948, at 8:01 p.m., Ruth died in his sleep at the age of 53. His open casket was placed on display in the rotunda of Yankee Stadium, where it remained for two days; 77,000 people filed past to pay him tribute. His funeral Mass took place at St. Patrick's Cathedral; a crowd estimated at 75,000 waited outside. Ruth was buried on a hillside in Section 25 at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York. An epitaph by Cardinal Spellman appears on his headstone. His second wife, Claire Merritt Ruth, would be interred with him 28 years later in 1976...


Saturday, June 6, 2020

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: BEHIND THE SCENES OF HOLIDAY INN

Holiday Inn (1942) is remembered today as the ultimate holiday movie, so yes it is strange that I spotlight it in June. It starred Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Marjorie Reynolds, and Virginia Dale. However, the movie did have its premiere on August 4, 1942. So to cool off this summer, here are some behind the scenes photos of Holiday Inn...












Sunday, May 31, 2020

HISTORY OF A SONG: RHAPSODY IN BLUE

I have a lot of favorite songs since music plays such an important part in my life. Currently, the instrumental song Rhapsody In Blue is my favorite song. I have had a lot of favorite songs like Pennies From Heaven, Someone To Watch Over Me, and Smile, but this is the first time I have picked a strictly instrumental song as one of my favorites. Rhapsody in Blue is a 1924 musical composition by American composer George Gershwin for solo piano and jazz band, which combines elements of classical music with jazz-influenced effects.

The composition was commissioned by bandleader Paul Whiteman. It was orchestrated by Ferde Grofé several times, including the original 1924 scoring, the 1926 "theater orchestra" setting, and the 1942 symphony orchestra scoring, though completed earlier. The piece received its premiere in the concert, An Experiment in Modern Music, which was held on February 12, 1924, in Aeolian Hall, New York, by Whiteman and his band with Gershwin playing the piano.

The editors of the Cambridge Music Handbooks opined that "The Rhapsody in Blue (1924) established Gershwin's reputation as a serious composer and has since become one of the most popular of all American concert works."

Rhapsody in Blue premiered in an afternoon concert on Tuesday, February 12, 1924, held by Paul Whiteman and his band, the Palais Royal Orchestra, titled An Experiment in Modern Music, which took place in Aeolian Hall in New York City. Many important and influential musicians of the time were present, including Sergei Rachmaninoff, Igor Stravinsky, Fritz Kreisler, Leopold Stokowski, John Philip Sousa, and Willie "The Lion" Smith. The event has since become historic specifically because of its premiere of the Rhapsody.


The purpose of the experiment, as told by Whiteman in a pre-concert lecture in front of many classical music critics and highbrows, was "to be purely educational". It would "at least provide a stepping stone which will make it very simple for the masses to understand, and therefore, enjoy symphony and opera". The program was long, including 26 separate musical movements, divided into 2 parts and 11 sections, bearing titles such as "True form of jazz" and "Contrast: legitimate scoring vs. jazzing". Gershwin's latest composition was the second to last piece (before Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1). Many of the numbers sounded similar and the ventilation system in the concert hall was broken. People in the audience were losing their patience, until the clarinet glissando that opened Rhapsody in Blue was heard.

The Rhapsody was performed by Whiteman's band, with an added section of string players, and George Gershwin on piano. Gershwin decided to keep his options open as to when Whiteman would bring in the orchestra and he did not write down one of the pages for solo piano, with only the words "Wait for nod" scrawled by Grofé on the band score. Gershwin improvised some of what he was playing, and he did not write out the piano part until after the performance, so it is unknown exactly how the original Rhapsody sounded.


The opening clarinet glissando came into being during rehearsal when; "... as a joke on Gershwin, [Ross] Gorman (Whiteman's virtuoso clarinettist) played the opening measure with a noticeable glissando, adding what he considered a humorous touch to the passage. Reacting favourably to Gorman's whimsy, Gershwin asked him to perform the opening measure that way at the concert and to add as much of a 'wail' as possible.

One of my favorite versions of this masterpiece is by Leonard Bernstein, but nothing captures the emotion of 1920s America more than Rhapsody In Blue...



Saturday, May 23, 2020

BORN ON THIS DAY: ARTIE SHAW

I love big band music, and one of the giants of that era was Artie Shaw. Shaw was such a tortured soul in his life, and he sabotaged a lot of his career. He was like the Marlon Brando of jazz. Artie was born on this day in 1910. Born in New York City, Arthur Jacob Arshawsky was the son of Sarah (née Strauss) and Harry Arshawsky, a dressmaker and photographer. The family was Jewish; his father was from Russia, his mother from Austria. Shaw grew up in New Haven, Connecticut where his natural introversion was deepened by local antisemitism. Shaw bought a saxophone by working in a grocery store and began learning the saxophone at 13. At 16, he switched to the clarinet and left home to tour with a band.

Returning to New York, he became a session musician through the early 1930s. From 1925–36, Shaw performed with many bands and orchestras; from 1926 to 1929, he worked in Cleveland and established a lasting reputation as music director and arranger for an orchestra led by the violinist Austin Wylie. In 1929 and 1930, he played with Irving Aaronson's Commanders, where he was exposed to symphonic music, which he would later incorporate in his arrangements. In 1932, Shaw joined the Roger Wolfe Kahn Orchestra and made several recordings with the outfit including "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" and "Fit as a Fiddle".


In 1935, he first gained attention with his "Interlude in B-flat" at a swing concert at the Imperial Theater in New York. During the swing era, his big bands were popular with hits like "Begin the Beguine" (1938), "Stardust" (with a trumpet solo by Billy Butterfield), "Back Bay Shuffle", "Moonglow", "Rosalie" and "Frenesi". The show was well received, but forced to dissolve in 1937 because his band's sound was not commercial. Shaw valued experimental and innovative music rather over dancing and love songs.

He was an innovator in the big band idiom, using unusual instrumentation; "Interlude in B-flat", where he was backed with only a rhythm section and a string quartet, was one of the earliest examples of what would be later dubbed Third Stream. His incorporation of stringed instruments could be attributed to the influence of classical composer Igor Stravinsky.

In addition to hiring Buddy Rich, he signed Billie Holiday as his band's vocalist in 1938, becoming the first white band leader to hire a full-time black female singer to tour the segregated Southern U.S. However, after recording "Any Old Time", Holiday left the band due to hostility from audiences in the South, as well as from music company executives who wanted a more "mainstream" singer.

After creating and disbanding many orchestras in the 1940s and 1950s, Shaw quit performing in 1954. He recreated his band in 1983, but he did not perform. He would just make appearances with the orchestra. Artie Shaw died in 2004 at the advanced age of 94...



Sunday, May 17, 2020

FORGOTTEN ONES: MAIDIE NORMAN

Maidie Norman is not an name that many people remember. However, at a time when African American actors and actresses were used to just playing servants in movies, Maidie fought for a better portrayal of her race in the entertainment industry. Born in Georgia in 1912 to Louis and Lila Gamble, she appeared in more than 200 Hollywood films. Her father was an engineer and her mother was a homemaker. Norman received a B.A. in Literature and Theatre Arts from Bennett College in North Carolina and later obtained an M.A. in Theater Arts from Columbia University in New York. While in New York, she met and married real estate broker McHenry Norman and the couple relocated to Los Angeles, where Norman began training at the Actors Laboratory in Hollywood.

Early in a career that spanned more than four decades, Norman appeared on several radio shows, including The Jack Benny Show and Amos n’ Andy, before gaining a bit role in the film The Burning Cross (1948). Shortly after her debut, Norman was regularly cast as a domestic in several film roles, but refused to deliver her lines using stereotypical speech patterns. Instead, she brought her background in theatricality to the studios where directors often empowered her to rewrite her film lines, infusing the character with more dignity and less broken English.


During the era of the 1950s when black women were subjected to portraying maids, Norman transitioned into more pivotal roles in films such as the psychological drama The Well (1951) and the 1962 cult classic Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Ms. Norman refused to play the maid as a doltish, stereotypical character.

''I'd say, 'You know, this is not the way we talk these days. This is old slavery-time talk,' '' Ms. Norman recalled in 1995.

She eventually maneuvered into sitcoms, television movies, and daytime soap operas. She also focused on her theatrical interests, performing in plays by William Shakespeare and Jean-Paul Sartre.


After semi-retiring from acting, Norman taught drama at Texas College in Tyler, Texas during the summers of 1955 and 1956. In 1963 and 1964, Norman joined fellow actresses Joan Caulfield, Ruth Hussey, Yvonne De Carlo, Marie Windsor, Laraine Day, and Virginia Mayo, in making appearances on behalf of U.S. Senator Barry M. Goldwater, the Republican nominee in the campaign against U.S. President Lyndon Johnson. From 1968 to 1969, she served as artist-in-residence at Stanford University where she became a pioneer of directing plays by black authors. She also became instrumental in establishing one of the first courses on the history of blacks in American theater at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She taught at UCLA until retiring in 1977, though she continued to promote Afro-American arts and education at universities across the country.

Maidie retired from movies and television in 1988 after an appearance on the television series :"Simon & Simon". Norman succumbed to lung cancer on May 2, 1998 at the age of 85 in San Jose, California...


Saturday, May 16, 2020

RIP: FRED WILLARD

Beloved film star Fred Willard has died. He was 86.

The comedic star, whose numerous credits include Best in Show, This Is Spinal Tap, Everybody Loves Raymond and Modern Family, died of natural causes.

"My father passed away very peacefully last night at the fantastic age of 86 years old. He kept moving, working and making us happy until the very end," his daughter Hope tells the Associated Press in a statement. "We loved him so very much!"

His death comes less than two years after his wife Mary died at 71. The pair had been married since 1968 and had one daughter.

Willard's death also came months after the character he played on Modern Family, Phil Dunphy's father Frank, died of old age.


Willard played Frank for 14 episodes across all 11 seasons. In 2010, the role garnered Willard an Emmy nomination for outstanding guest actor in a comedy series.

Born in Ohio, the four-time Emmy nominee started off his career in sketch comedy, and began working for the Second City in 1965.

After several years of bit roles, his big break came in 1977, when he joined the cast of Fernwood 2 Night a parody talk show that was a summer replacement for Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. The following summer, he also repressed his role playing talk show sidekick Jerry Hubbard in America 2-Night.

Another life-changing career moment came when he started working with Guest, starting with the filmmaker’s directorial debut, Waiting for Guffman.

"That started to change everything," Willard told The Hollywood Reporter last year. "I was thrilled to be working with people I worked with — Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy — I was such a fan of theirs, and Christopher Guest. I'd see him on Saturday Night Live, and I'd met him socially a few times, but it was just so much fun. It was like a party every day, or a picnic, doing those scenes. You never think it’s going to be seen in a theater audience. You were just doing it to try and get this story told, get in a joke or two, and when it came out, it did quite well."


Since then, Willard has gone on to star in many of Guest’s films, including Best in Show, For Your Consideration and A Mighty Wind. He also made scene-stealing performances in This Is Spinal Tap (1984), Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) and Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004).

He was nominated for outstanding guest actor in a comedy series for three consecutive years from 2003-2005 for his work on Everybody Loves Raymond, playing Hank MacDougall. His fourth and final nomination came for Modern Family in 2010.

He will also star alongside Steve Carell in the upcoming Netflix series Space Force, which will begin streaming on May 29...