Monday, November 18, 2019

COMING SOON: BUTTONS - A CHRISTMAS TALE

It is amazing and terrific that well into their 90s that entertainment icons Dick Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury are still make great movies - and a new musical at that! The two legends play guardian angels.

Buttons is a Christmas Tale is the magical, musical story that shows believing can be the greatest gift of all. Follow the heartwarming journey of two orphan girls whose only wish is to find a home for Christmas. With a little help from their guardian angels (screen legends Dick Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury), they discover that miracles really can happen when you find the power to believe. From director Tim Janis, this inspiring holiday film for the whole family features an all-star cast including Jane Seymour, Roma Downey and Abigail Spencer, and is narrated by Kate Winslet and Robert Redford.

The release date of the DVD is December 3, 2019, but you may pre-order at https://paramnt.us/Get.Buttons now! Digital copies of the film will be available, starting November 19, 2019. The digital copy may also be purchased at the same link.




Saturday, November 16, 2019

HOLLYWOOD URBAN LEGEND: STAN LAUREL & OLIVER HARDY

URBAN LEGEND: Did Stan Laurel refuse to work in anything after the death of his comedy partner Oliver Hardy?

STATUS: Yes, it is 100% true!


As much as they were inseparable friends and “partners in crime” in all of their mischiefs on the big screen, they were just as close in real life. In 1957, when Oliver Hardy passed away, Laurel, devastated by his best friend’s death, never fully recovered and so, retired from acting, refusing to perform on stage or act in another film without his best pal. Stan Laurel was courted by every movie director in the business to come out of retirement, including Stanley Kramer who wanted Laurel for his comedy epic It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World in 1963, but Laurel said no to all offers. Stan Laurel would die eight years after his partner on February 23, 1965...


Thursday, November 14, 2019

BORN ON THIS DAY: VERONICA LAKE

One of the tragic stars of Hollywood was Veronica Lake. However, she was one of the beautiful in her day.  Lake was born Constance Frances Marie Ockelman in the New York City borough of Brooklyn in 1922. Her father, Harry Eugene Ockelman, was of German and Irish descent,, and worked for an oil company aboard a ship. He died in an industrial explosion in Philadelphia in 1932. Lake's mother, Constance Frances Charlotta (née Trimble; 1902–1992), of Irish descent, married Anthony Keane, a newspaper staff artist, also of Irish descent, in 1933, and Lake began using his surname.

The Keanes lived in Saranac Lake, New York, where young Lake attended St. Bernard's School. She was then sent to Villa Maria, an all-girls Catholic boarding school in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, from which she was expelled. Lake later claimed she attended McGill University and took a premed course for a year, intending to become a surgeon. This claim was included in several press biographies, although Lake later declared it was bogus. Lake subsequently apologized to the president of McGill, who was simply amused when she explained her habit of self-dramatizing. When her stepfather fell ill during her second year, the Keane family later moved to Miami, Florida. Lake attended Miami High School, where she was known for her beauty. She had a troubled childhood and was diagnosed with schizophrenia, according to her mother.


In 1938, the Keanes moved to Beverly Hills, California. While briefly under contract to MGM, Lake enrolled in that studio's acting farm, the Bliss-Hayden School of Acting (now the Beverly Hills Playhouse). She made friends with a girl named Gwen Horn and accompanied her when Horn went to audition at RKO. She appeared in the play Thought for Food in January 1939. A theatre critic from the Los Angeles Times called her "a fetching little trick" for her appearance in She Made Her Bed.

She also appeared as an extra in a number of movies. Keane's first appearance on screen was for RKO, playing a small role among several coeds in the film Sorority House (1939). The part wound up being cut from the film, but she was encouraged to continue. Similar roles followed, including All Women Have Secrets (1939), Dancing Co-Ed (also 1939), Young as Your Feel (1940), and Forty Little Mothers (also 1940). Forty Little Mothers was the first time she let her hair down on screen.

Lake attracted the interest of Fred Wilcox, an assistant director, who shot a test scene of her performing from a play and showed it to an agent. The agent, in turn, showed it to producer Arthur Hornblow Jr., who was looking for a new girl to play the part of a nightclub singer in a military drama, I Wanted Wings (1940). The role would make Lake, still in her teens, a star. Hornblow changed the actress's name to Veronica Lake. According to him, her eyes, "calm and clear like a blue lake", were the inspiration for her new name. The rest is movie noir history, and it is sad that her last years were spent in illness and forgotten memories. Today, as always, we can celebrate the life of Veronica Lake...



Sunday, November 10, 2019

HOLLYWOOD BEAUTY: JUDY GARLAND

Hollywood and the studio system was very cruel to Judy Garland. They never considered her a beauty, but Judy Garland was one of the most beauty women in Hollywood. Here is six photos that prove this...


















Wednesday, November 6, 2019

BOB HOPE: THE EARLY YEARS

Bob Hope was born Leslie Townes Hope, the son of stonemason William Henry Hope and Avis Townes Hope. The family emigrated from England to Cleveland, Ohio in 1908, when Leslie, the fifth of seven children, was not yet five years old. In Cleveland the family struggled financially, as they had in England, and Avis took in boarders to supplement William's erratic income. Avis, an amateur musician, taught singing to Leslie, an outgoing boy who entertained his family with singing, impersonations, and dancing. After dropping out of school at the age of sixteen, Leslie worked at a number of part-time jobs. He boxed for a short time under the name of “Packy East” but changed his name officially to Lester Hope. Lester's interest in entertainment and show business, cultivated by his mother, led him to take dancing lessons and seek employment as a variety stage entertainer. Not until he had achieved considerable success on the stage did he begin using the name, “Bob Hope.”


Bob Hope was born in a suburb of London on May 29, 1903. The family of William and Avis Hope lived in many places in England, wherever stonecutter William Hope could find work. In 1906, William followed two of his brothers to Cleveland, Ohio, and the rest of his family came in 1908.

The neighborhood of Cleveland where Bob Hope's family settled, Doan's Corner, included several vaudeville houses, including this theater. Hope's mother, Avis, took her sons to see vaudeville shows often. In the building of this theater is the billiard parlor where Bob Hope hustled pool as a young boy. Bob Hope spent many hours at this Cleveland amusement park. He often earned money singing on the trolley on the way to the park and won more money at the park by winning footraces. Hope recalled in 1967, “We'd have been called juvenile delinquents only our neighborhood couldn't afford a sociologist.”



When Charles Chaplin's “Little Tramp” was a popular motion picture character in the 1910s, Chaplin imitation contests were common. Bob Hope won one in Luna Park in the summer of 1915. Hope purchased a stove for his beloved mother with his winnings. Dancing was the work Bob Hope found most interesting after he dropped out of school at the age of sixteen. He studied dancing with two professional entertainers in Cleveland and began teaching dancing himself in the early 1920s.

In the early 1920s, Bob Hope dreamed that he and his Cleveland girlfriend, Mildred Rosequist, would achieve the success of the dancing sensations of the 1910s, Vernon and Irene Castle.Bob Hope's first tours in vaudeville were as half of a two-man dancing team. The act appeared in “small time” vaudeville houses where ticket prices were as low as ten cents, and performances were “continuous,” with as many as six shows each day. Bob Hope, like most vaudeville performers, gained his professional training in these small time theaters.

Within five years of his start in vaudeville Bob Hope was in the “big time,” playing the expensive houses where the most popular acts played. In big time vaudeville there were only two shows performed each day—the theaters were called “two-a-days”—and tickets cost as much as $2.00 each. The pinnacle of the big time was New York City's Palace Theatre, where every vaudevillian aspired to perform. Bob Hope played the Palace in 1931 and in 1932. And the rest was comedy history...


Saturday, November 2, 2019

THE SOLO SIDE OF CONNEE BOSWELL

The Boswell Sisters were one of the most popular singer groups in the 1930s. They had a sound that was like liquid gold. Only sister Connee had great ambition to stay in the group. Connee and manager Harry Leedy were married in New York on December 14th 1935. Since all three sisters married that year, new brides Martha and Vet decided to retire, leaving Connie to embark on a solo career. It was a move that would raise her to new heights of popularity and musical innovation, prompting no less than Irving Berlin to call her "the best ballad singer in the business." As a highly sought after radio personality, Connie continued to appear with Bing Crosby and was regularly featured on such popular shows as Camel Caravan, Good News and The Ken Murray Show. Film work included Artists & Models in 1937.

During the peak years of her career, Connee hired (then) unknown musicians such as Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman and Jimmy Dorsey, to provide instrumentation for her recordings. During one session, all three added a clarinet background. Connie also gave Glenn Miller his first opportunity to arrange. The onset of WW II meant touring and signing autographs for troops. The loss of dexterity from the lingering affect of polio made it difficult to dot the "i" in her name, making Connee a more practical alternative; by 1942, she legally changed the spelling. She volunteered to perform overseas, but she remained stateside due to her handicap, which restricted travel. Her V-Disc recordings and song dedications on Command Performance were favorites with the troops.


Connee's live performances had an innate power to make people take a closer look at their own lives. The sight of a cheerful young woman being wheeled on stage, propped atop an elevated platform with a long gown covering her crippled legs, was sometimes too much for an audience to handle. But Connee, with her pleasant temperament, "which was as breezy as the beat of her music" weathered well her own personal storm.

Connee appeared in the 1941 film, Kiss the Boys Goodbye. On radio, she hosted her own Connee Boswell Show in 1944. In 1946, she appeared in the film Swing Parade and sang "Stormy Weather," which had become one of her signature songs. Syndicated author Elsie Robinson described Connee singing Stormy Weather in a Listen World column: "A roar greeted her. Here was valiant Connie Boswell, beloved by the radio world; tears on her face, hands trembling; singing Stormy Weather; and in that song was the hurt of humanity; in every heart that heard her."


Television emerged in the early 1950s and Connee made regular appearances with Ed Sullivan and Perry Como. In 1955, she was a guest on Person to Person, hosted by Edward R. Murrow. What did Connee think of rock 'n' roll? "Believe it or not, I like Elvis Presley - So sue me. The basic beat of rock 'n' roll isn't too far from the jazz of the old days." A sapient Connee added: "Nothing will ever destroy jazz. It will be around for a long time."

In 1959, a television version of Pete Kelly's Blues premiered and Connee signed on to play lounge singer Savannah Brown. The drama, set in the 1920s, was originally a radio entry in 1951. UPI Hollywood interviewed Connee before production and she remarked: "There's a lot of nostalgia for me about the '20s. My sisters and I were just getting our start as the old Boswell Sisters act." Connee continued: "I'll be singing the way I always have. It's natural for me to belt out songs as they come to my mind, and I never sing a song the same way twice."

Connee worked tirelessly on behalf of the March of Dimes and regularly visited hospitalized children during her travels around the country; the visits were always unannounced and never publicized. Despite her handicap, Connie believed regular exercise was essential to good health and maintaining her throaty contralto voice. A stationary bike and rowing machine were standard equipment on road trips. She enjoyed baseball, football, horse racing and hockey.

In March of 1955, Connee was one of 66 passengers aboard a flight from Los Angeles to New York. The DC-7 developed engine trouble and was forced to make an emergency landing in Chicago. Connee noting the tension among nervous passengers impetuously started singing "Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer" to comfort frazzled nerves; she was later praised for her heroic action.


A planned visit to Chicago took place a couple of months later when Connee attended the 50th anniversary convention of Rotary International. A caption below the entertainer's photo in The Rotarian magazine stated: "Singer Connee Boswell stars too in the book of personal courage." The eradication of polio would later become Rotary's signature project.

A devoted couple, Connee and Harry Leedy were married almost 40 years, when Harry quietly passed away in his sleep on New Years Day 1975. Early in 1976, Connee became ill and was diagnosed with stomach cancer. She underwent surgery in February and started chemotherapy. By October, she requested that all treatment stop to "let me die in peace and dignity." She passed away at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York on October 11th 1976, with her sister Vet by her side.

News of her passing brought accolades from the world of entertainment. Bing Crosby called her "a great lady with boundless courage and divine talent." Patty Andrews added: "If it weren't for the Boswell Sisters, there would never have been the Andrews Sisters." Ella Fitzgerald stated: "When I was young I wanted to sing like Connie Boswell." Frank Sinatra called her "the most widely imitated singer of all time....

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

COMING SOON: CLASSIC CHRISTMAS ON PBS

With Halloween just about over, and Thanksgiving is mostly an eating holiday, let's focus on Christmas. Here's a new PBS special which will showcase Christmas music, just like the ones we used to know...



CLASSIC CHRISTMAS (MY MUSIC)
Premieres Beginning Saturday, November 16 on PBS Stations

Gavin MacLeod and Marion Ross Host A Nostalgic Celebration of Traditional Carols and Popular Holiday Standards Performed By Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Judy Garland, Nat King Cole, The Carpenters and Other Legends of Song.

There’s nothing more joyful and heartwarming than the familiar songs of the Yuletide season. Old-fashioned favorites celebrated through the generations performed by legendary artists are featured in A CLASSIC CHRISTMAS (MY MUSIC), part of special programming premiering on PBS stations beginning Saturday, November 16, 2019, 8:00-10:00 p.m. ET (check local listings).

Hosted by Gavin MacLeod (The Love Boat) and Marion Ross (Happy Days), this nostalgic special spotlights traditional carols (“Silent Night,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”) as well as popular standards (“White Christmas,” “Jingle Bells,” “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”), children’s tunes (“Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty The Snowman,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”) and romantic selections (“The Christmas Song,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Merry Christmas Darling”).

Among the great artists featured in rare, archival footage from the 1950s through the 1970s are Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Judy Garland, Nat King Cole, The Carpenters, Andy Williams, Rosemary Clooney, Johnny Mathis, Gene Autry, Brenda Lee, Burl Ives, Mitzi Gaynor, The Beach Boys, The Lennon Sisters, Eddy Arnold, Mahalia Jackson, The Harry Simeone Chorale, Jimmy Boyd, Jose Feliciano, The Drifters and, in an all-new performance, Ronnie Spector.

For the first-time ever, these iconic singers and timeless performances spanning the decades are brought together in a festive special for families of all ages to share and enjoy...