Thursday, September 16, 2021

RIP: JANE POWELL

LOS ANGELES -- Jane Powell, the bright-eyed, operatic-voiced star of Hollywood's golden age musicals who sang with Howard Keel in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and danced with Fred Astaire in “Royal Wedding,” has died. She was 92.

Powell died Thursday at her Wilton, Connecticut, home, longtime friend Susan Granger said. Granger said Powell died of natural causes.

“Jane was the most wonderful friend," Granger said. ”She was candid, she was honest. You never asked Jane a question you didn’t want an absolutely honest answer to."

Granger was a youngster when she met the then-teenaged Powell, who was making her film debut in 1944's “Song of the Open Road,” directed by Granger's father, S. Sylvan Simon.

She performed virtually her whole life, starting about age 5 as a singing prodigy on radio in Portland, Oregon. On screen, she quickly graduated from teen roles to the lavish musical productions that were a 20th-century Hollywood staple.

Her 1950 casting in “Royal Wedding” came by default. June Allyson was first announced as Astaire’s co-star but withdrew when she became pregnant. Judy Garland was cast, but was withdrawn because of personal problems. Jane Powell was next in line.

“They had to give it to me,” she quipped at the time. “Everybody else is pregnant.” Also among the expectant MGM stars: Lana Turner, Esther Williams, Cyd Charisse and Jean Hagen.

Powell had just turned 21 when she got the role; Astaire was 50. She was nervous because she lacked dancing experience, but she found him “very patient and understanding. We got along fine from the start.”


“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” proved to be a 1954 “sleeper” hit.

“The studio didn’t think it was going to do anything,” she recalled in 2000. “MGM thought that `Brigadoon’ was going to be the big moneymaker that year. It didn’t turn out that way. We were the ones that went to the Radio City Music Hall, which was always such a coup.”

The famed New York venue was a movie theater then.

Audiences were overwhelmed by the lusty singing of Keel and Powell and especially by the gymnastic choreography of Michael Kidd. “Seven Brides” achieved classic status and resulted in a TV series and a Broadway musical.

“Blonde and small and pretty, Jane Powell had the required amount of grit and spunk that was needed to play the woman who could tame seven backwoodsmen,” John Kobal wrote in his book “Gotta Sing Gotta Dance: A Pictorial History of Film Musicals.”


After 13 years at MGM, though, Powell quit the studio, reasoning that she was going to be fired “because they weren’t going to be doing musicals anymore.”

“I thought I’d have a lot of studios to go to,” she said in 2000, “but I didn’t have any, because no one wanted to make musicals. It was very difficult, and quite a shock to me. There’s nothing worse than not being wanted.”

She found one musical at RKO, “The Girl Most Likely,” a 1958 remake of “Tom, Dick and Harry.” Aside from a couple of minor films, her movie career was over.

She was born Suzanne Lorraine Burce in Portland, Oregon, in 1928. She began singing on local radio as a small child, and as she grew, her voice developed into a clear, high-pitched soprano.


When the Burce family planned a trip to Los Angeles, the radio station asked if Suzanne would appear on a network talent show there. The tiny girl with a 2½-octave voice drew thunderous applause with an aria from “Carmen” and was quickly put under contract to MGM.

Her first movie was a loanout to an independent producer for “Song of the Open Road,” a 1944 mishmash with W.C. Fields (at the end of his career) and Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.

The character’s name in “Song of the Open Road” was Jane Powell, and MGM decided that that would be her movie name.

She played teens in such films as “Holiday in Mexico,” “Three Daring Daughters” and “A Date With Judy.” But she pleaded with the studio bosses to be given grown-up roles and finally succeeded in “Royal Wedding.”

Frothy romances and musicals continued to dominate her career, including “Young, Rich and Pretty,” “Small Town Girl” and “Three Sailors and a Girl.”

After her movie career ended, musical theater offered plenty of work for a star of her prominence and talent. She sang in supper clubs, toured in such shows as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” and “I Do! I Do!” and replaced Debbie Reynolds in the Broadway run of “Irene.”

She frequently appeared on television, notably in the Judy Garland role in a new version of “Meet Me in St. Louis.”


As she approached her 70s, Powell abandoned her singing career. “I can’t hit the high notes, and I won’t be second-rate,” she explained in 2000. She switched to drama, appearing in New York theater in such plays as “Avow,” portraying mother of an unmarried, pregnant daughter and a son who wanted to marry his male partner.

Powell’s first four marriages ended in divorce: to Geary Steffen (son Geary, daughter Suzanne), Patrick Nerney (daughter Lindsay), James Fitzgerald and David Parlour.

Powell met fifth husband Dick Moore when he interviewed her for his book about child actors. As Dickie Moore, he had been a well-known child actor in the 1930s and ’40s and gave Shirley Temple her first screen kiss in “Miss Annie Rooney” (1942). Moore, head of a New York public relations office, and Powell married in 1988. He died in 2015.

Jane Powell's survivors include her daughter, Lindsey Nerney, Granger said....





THE REBRANDING OF TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES

Turner Classic Movies is one of the only 24-hour curated film channels available today. Its celebration of movies from the past could easily make it obsolete and stagnant. However, in the past few years, the cable network and its brand have taken leaps and strides in introducing new and modern ways to view old films. The rebrand that TCM announced at the beginning of September may look purely aesthetic, but it hints at more progressive programming that will serve new viewers — and the old films — better than ever.

In 1994, TCM began broadcasting films from the Turner Entertainment vault, which includes Warner Bros., MGM, and RKO Pictures. The cable network offered commercial-free programming along with host-delivered intros, which has not changed in more than 20 years. Even when AMC (American Movie Classics) abandoned this similar model to show contemporary releases, TCM remained the one place for classic films without commercials or edits to the original films. For many, the channel has been as much of a source of education as it has been of entertainment.

However, media consumption has changed rapidly in the past 10 years. Cable television viewership among younger audiences has become a rarity thanks to streaming services that offer everything possible without much curation. TCM made an effort to respond to this need by partnering with Criterion for the beloved but short-lived streaming service Filmstruck. TCM now has a sizable and diverse catalog on HBO Max. But many of their films lack the hosted introductions that make the brand unique. Fortunately, those intros are available through TCM’s on-demand option, Watch TCM.

The new “brand refresh” follows Warner Media’s dissolution of Turner Broadcasting System, leaving the future of TCM up in the air. However, it also follows many successful efforts to modernize TCM programming in the past few years.

Balancing an interest in the past with updated perspectives is not always easy, but the channel has found a way to further incorporate contextualizing old content with incredibly knowledgeable hosts such as Jacqueline Stewart and Alicia Malone. Their programs, “Silent Sunday Nights” and “TCM Imports,” have brought in films from varying perspectives, places, and time periods, allowing a stretch beyond the typical “classic” canon.

Last year, the “Women Make Film” program was a multi-week series of documentaries and films made by women from around the world. There has been a very clear effort to include more people of color in regular programming, as well, like with Star of the Month, which is currently highlighting Paul Robeson for the first time.

This kind of evolution not only attracts younger or previously uninterested viewers, but it also challenges long-time fans as well. There can be quite a push by a large portion of TCM viewers to exclusively play the hits. While showing Singin’ in the Rain at least four times a year ensures that there are ample times for someone to experience it for the first or fiftieth time, showing “new” movies is what keeps viewers tuning in again and again.

Having the tough conversations about rampant racism in Hollywood, the queer-coded characters of early American film, and the stars whom people have forgotten about challenges the nostalgia that can keep many people away from classic movies. That nostalgia is also challenged when we connect themes and attitudes from the past to today, which can uncover systemic problems within America that many people choose to ignore or believe have faded in time. Overall, recent efforts from TCM have set out to make more well-rounded and critical audiences, which feels so rare in media today.

It would be foolish not to recognize the power of marketing and branding as a way of showing off this work to modernize the brand while continuing its original goal, showing classic films. The TCM team, along with Sibling Rivalry, came up with a sleeker and easily malleable look for the logo and graphics associated with the new and improved TCM. These aesthetics look similar to many film festival graphics, like those of the New York Film Festival and Sundance. These festivals are associated with the future of film, which the TCM rebrand seems to be going for as well.


Inspired by shades found in Technicolor films and modern color movies, the palette for the branding is bright and colorful. This is a direct antithesis to what people think of when they think of old movies. “We want classic films to live,” says Dexter Fedor, Vice-President, Brand Creative & Marketing.

With the new tagline for TCM, “Where then meets now,” this desire is clear. The imagery alone would be bland. But it becomes a pedestal that stills and clips from TCM movies can stand on and stand out. Old films are still alive in the conversations we have about them and their influence on modern movies.

The TCM logo now focuses on the “C,” which has many different forms depending on its use. The “C” now embodies the core of what TCM will continue to focus on in the future: curation, context, connection, culture, and of course, classics. These aspects have been a part of TCM all along, so what people love about the channel is not changing. There is just a larger emphasis on what will keep TCM growing and evolving with generations to come.

Branding and aesthetics feel like a secondary thought to people focused on the movies that TCM provides. But it is a sign of efforts being made to grow TCM and keep it from being a casualty of streaming services. There is so much value in recontextualizing films of the past. We can learn as much about ourselves as we can about history and art. That can only be appreciated and influential if TCM can reach a wide audience. Here’s to hoping this attractive refresh will do just that...



Tuesday, September 14, 2021

RIP: NORM MACDONALD

Norm Macdonald, the deadpan comedian, actor, writer and “Saturday Night Live” star, has died after a private battle with cancer, Variety has confirmed. He was 61.

Macdonald’s cancer diagnosis was kept secret from the public, but he battled it for nine years. “Norm was an original! He defined American humor with honesty and blunt force,” Jeff Danis, president of DPN Talent, told Variety in a statement. Dozens of comedians, like Seth Rogen, Jon Stewart, Ron Funches and Jim Gaffigan, paid tribute to Macdonald, “one of the greatest comedians to have ever lived,” on social media. The comedian got his start in showbiz as a writer on “Roseanne” in 1992 after making rounds at comedy clubs in Canada. He joined the cast of “Saturday Night Live” in 1993, and the next year he began his memorable stint as Weekend Update anchor until early 1998, when he was replaced by Colin Quinn. Macdonald was known for his dry humor, non-sequiturs and impressions of Burt Reynolds, David Letterman, Larry King, Quentin Tarantino and many more during his five-year run on the show.


Macdonald anchored Weekend Update during the O.J. Simpson trial, where he delivered one of his most memorable jokes at the top of the episode following Simpson’s acquittal: “Well, it is finally official: murder is legal in the state of California.” After his removal from Weekend Update, Macdonald accused NBC exec Don Ohlmeyer of firing him over his controversial Simpson jokes, though Ohlmeyer cited poor ratings.

After exiting “SNL,” Macdonald created “The Norm Show” with Bruce Helford on ABC, which ran from 1999 until 2001. The comedian starred as Norm Henderson, an NHL player who is banned for life because of gambling and tax evasion, so he must perform five years of community service as a social worker. The cast included Laurie Metcalf, Ian Gomez, Max Wright, Artie Lange and Faith Ford, and the show ran for three seasons.


In the 1990s, Macdonald appeared in films like “Billy Madison,” “The People vs. Larry Flynt” and Eddie Murphy’s “Dr. Dolittle” as the voice of Lucky the dog. In 1998, he starred in the film “Dirty Work,” directed by Bob Saget based on the Roald Dahl short story, about two friends who raise money to pay for heart surgery for one of their fathers by starting a revenge-for-hire business. The cast included Lange, Chris Farley, Jack Warden, Traylor Howard, Chevy Chase, Christopher McDonald and featured cameos by Don Rickles, Adam Sandler, John Goodman, and more.

Macdonald went on to provide voice work in the “Dr. Dolittle” sequels and other animated films and shows. He voiced Lieutenant Yaphit, a gelatinous, shape-shifting engineer on Fox’s sci-fi comedy “The Orville,” starring Seth MacFarlane. A third season of the show is set to release on Hulu...



Saturday, September 11, 2021

THE NICHOLAS BROTHERS: THE EARLY YEARS

Nicholas Brothers, tap-dancing duo whose suppleness, strength, and fearlessness made them one of the greatest tap dance acts of all time. Fayard Antonio Nicholas (1914-2006) and his brother Harold Lloyd Nicholas (1921-2000) developed a type of dance that has been dubbed “classical tap,” combining jazz dance, ballet, and dazzling acrobatics with tap dancing. Growing up in an era of “hoofers” and “board beaters,” the Nicholas Brothers elevated tap dancing with their singular elegance and sensational showmanship.

The brothers’ parents were both college-educated professional musicians. Their mother, Viola, was a classically trained pianist, and their father, Ulysses, was a drummer. They performed together in pit orchestras for black vaudeville shows throughout the 1910s to the early 1930s, forming their own group called the Nicholas Collegians in the 1920s.

From the time Fayard was an infant, his parents brought him to the theatre for their practices and performances. There he gained an early education in show business by watching great black entertainers such as the jazz musician Louis Armstrong, the dance team Buck and Bubbles, the singer Adelaide Hall, and the dance teams Leonard Reed and Willie Bryant and the Berry Brothers. The Nicholas family traveled from city to city to play with various orchestras, but, after the birth of two more children, Dorothy and Harold, they settled in Philadelphia in 1926 and continued working with the Nicholas Collegians. Their orchestra played at the Standard Theatre, one of the city’s largest and most prestigious black vaudeville houses.


Fayard taught himself how to dance, sing, and perform by watching the entertainers on stage. He then taught his younger siblings, first performing with Dorothy as the Nicholas Kids; they were later joined by Harold. When Dorothy opted out of the act, the Nicholas Kids became known as the Nicholas Brothers.

TO BE CONTINUED...


Friday, September 3, 2021

HOLLYWOOD MYSTERIES: THE SUICIDE OF DAN DAILEY'S SON


Entertainer Dan Dailey had his share of problems in Hollywood. He suffered from alcoholism and also reports of him being a closest cross dresser. None of the issues he had in Hollywood was as tragic is living through the suicide of his only son - Dan Dailey Jr. 

On July 1, 1975 - The younger Dailey walked outside of a hospital, pulled out a gun and shot himself in the side of the head. He died instantly. He was only 29.

Reportedly once his son died, actor Dan Dailey turned to drinking even more. He broke his hip in 1977, and died from complications on October 16, 1978.

Reportedly a note was found on the young Dailey when he died, but it has never been released. There is a rumor that he received bad health news at the hospital and decided to end it all. 

Even though it has been 47 years later, does anyone out there have any info what happened. As of now, it is still a mystery...



Monday, August 30, 2021

RIP: ED ASNER

Ed Asner, best-known for playing fictional TV newsman Lou Grant, has died aged 91.

The actor, whose roles also included voicing the lead in the Pixar film Up, passed away "peacefully" on Sunday morning, his family said.

"Words cannot express the sadness we feel. With a kiss on your head - goodnight dad. We love you."

The character Lou Grant was first introduced as Mary Richards's boss on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970s.

Star Wars actor Mark Hamill, who worked on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, was among those who paid tribute to Asner on Twitter.

"A great man...a great actor... a great life. Thank you Mr. Asner. #RIP," Hamill said.

Comedy actor Ben Stiller added: "Sending love to the great Ed Asner's family. An icon because he was such a beautiful, funny and totally honest actor. No one like him."

The character of Lou Grant, the irascible editor of the fictional Los Angeles Tribune, later became a character in a show in his own right from 1977 to 1982.



The role helped earn Asner seven Emmy awards across his career, a record for a male performer.

In 2009, he became known to a new generation of audiences by playing elderly widower Carl Fredricksen in the animated hit Up.

He also played Santa Claus in the 2003 Will Ferrell comedy Elf.

During his acting career, Asner was an outspoken supporter of a number of humanitarian and political causes, including trade unionism and animal rights.

He served as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1981 to 1985, and was honoured in 2000 with the union's prestigious Ralph Morgan Award.


Asner was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1929, and began acting at school.

After serving two years in France in the US Army Signal Corps, Asner returned to theatre work in Chicago.

In 1955 he made his Broadway debut with Jack Lemmon in Face of A Hero, then performed with the American and New York Shakespeare festivals and appeared in numerous off-Broadway shows.

Asner moved to Hollywood in 1961 and began his acclaimed career in television and film.

He was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame in 1996.


In 2018, Asner was cast in the Netflix dark comedy, Dead to Me, which premiered on May 3, 2019. The series also stars Christina Applegate, Linda Cardellini, and James Marsden. Also in 2018, Asner portrayed Johnny Lawrence's step-father, Sid Weinberg, in a guest role on the series Cobra Kai. In 2020 he guest starred in an episode of Modern Family and in 2021 played himself in a sketch on Let's Be Real.

Beginning in 2016, Asner took on the role of Holocaust survivor Milton Salesman in Jeff Cohen's acclaimed play The Soap Myth in a reading at Lincoln Center's Bruno Walter Theatre in New York City. He subsequently toured for the next three years in "concert readings" of the play in more than a dozen cities across the United States. In 2019, PBS flagship station WNET filmed the concert reading at New York's Center for Jewish History for their All Arts channel. The performance, which is available for free, world-wide live-streaming, co-stars Tovah Feldshuh, Ned Eisenberg, and Liba Vaynberg. In the week before his death, Asner told his frequent collaborators, Greg Palast and Leni Badpenny, that he soon would be doing three one-act plays....



Saturday, August 21, 2021

CELEBRITY SPOUSES: MIRIAM PAAR


Here is a new blog feature where we spotlight a celebrity spouse - because behind every famous person is a patient and supportive spouse!

This first profile is the spouse of talk show host Jack Paar. Miriam Paar was born Miriam Lucille Wagner, Jaunuary 30, 1919 in Derry Township, Hershey, Pennsylvania. She was the second daughter of dairy farmer Irvin U. Wagner and Bertha K. (Yordy) Wagner. Miriam and her older sister, Kathryn, grew up on their parents’ farm, and graduated from Hershey High School. In 1943, Miriam met a 26-year-old soldier at a dinner dance held by the Hershey Company.

He was on infantry training at Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, and his name was Jack Harold Paar- the future host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show”(1957-62), and “The Jack Paar Program”(1962-65). Jack and Miriam were married October 9, 1943, in what is now Salem U.C.C. Church, in Campbelltown, Pennsylvania. Rev. W. Wilson Carvell officiated, and Miriam’s Maid of Honor was Charlotte “Lucy” Horst Chryst. Jack’s Best Man and organist at the wedding was Army friend and musician, Jose Melis. He would be Jack’s musical director on his future shows. After the war, the Paars moved to Hollywood, California, where their daughter, Randy, was born on March 2, 1949. In 1953, the Paar family moved to Bronxville, New York, and later to Connecticut. 

Jack Paar died in 2004 nd Miriam was never the same. Miriam was a warm, gracious hostess with a sparkling smile. She was an excellent cook, avid tennis player, and cherished the time with their dogs, including Schnapps and Leica. Above all, Miriam was a loving and devoted wife, mother, grandmother, and sister. Miriam Paar passed away on May 16, 2006. She was 87. Sadly their only child Randy died in 2012...