Thursday, January 14, 2021

MUSIC BREAK: MARY MARTIN - I'M A STRANGER HERE MYSELF

Sunday, January 10, 2021

NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS: BETTY HUTTON

Betty Hutton's visit to Britain, and her first ever appearance at the London Palladium in 1948, corresponded with the premiere of her film, Dream Girl. Upon appearing at the Palladium, critics described Betty as "a big strong, lively girl, always eager to please" but complained that her voice was so loud "she deafened the first two rows of the auditorium".

The Palladium show contained much of the "lively horseplay" of her American appearances. The London Orchestra, however, was less enthusiastic about Hutton's clowning. One critic described how, after Hutton had leapt on to the back of the conductor, kissing him and sweeping him off his feet, "a look of alarm swept across the faces of the more accessible bandsmen".   

                                               

The newspaper article is from August 22, 1948...

Thursday, January 7, 2021

THE LAST DAYS OF IDA LUPINO


Mary Ann Anderson was a new sub agent for The Lund Agency in California when she was ordered to deliver flowers to movie star Ida Lupino's home on her birthday. The woman was stunned by what she saw.

Anderson, who would go on to serve as Lupino’s conservator and business manager, collaborated with the Hollywood beauty on a book published posthumously in 2011 titled “Ida Lupino: Beyond the Camera.”

The London-born entertainer came from an acting dynasty and made her film debut at age 15. Her career spanned almost five decades, with acting appearances in 59 films alongside Humphrey Bogart, Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn, among others. She passed away in 1995 at age 77.

But it was 1983 when Anderson met the then-64-year-old with flowers on hand. And despite her glamorous past, Anderson said she looked nothing like a screen siren on that fateful day.

“The house was very overgrown,” she recalled. “I walked to the other end of the property and she came walking down a pathway dressed like a bag lady with a lot of keys.”

While Lupino appeared to be a recluse, she was alert and cheerful with her new surprise guest.

“I said, ‘Ida, I have some flowers for you,’” Anderson recalled. “She said, ‘From the florist?’ I said no. She said, ‘Is there a bomb in them?’ I said, ‘No, the flowers are for you.’ And she started laughing. … She was very sweet, very funny, imitating me. She shook my hand and said, ‘You really do have flowers for me.’ She had a little tear coming down on her eye.”


The next day, Lupino called Anderson and asked her to come over for tea. Anderson stayed with Lupino for eight hours.

“She talked about everything,” said Anderson. “She didn’t think I was the agent type. She thought I would be better as a manager. She wanted me to come work for her.”

Anderson noticed cards with cats and dogs — which all had names — taped to Lupino’s walls. And while Anderson suspected Lupino was lonely at the time, the star had faith someone would come into her life.

“[Ida] told me she prayed to God that somebody would come,” said Anderson. “She was very spiritual.”

But the veteran femme fatale who famously starred opposite Humphrey Bogart in the 1941 film noir “High Sierra” didn’t seem to feel sorry for herself. In fact, Anderson said one of the things that quickly surprised her was Lupino’s sense of humor.

“She was really funny,” said Anderson. “A lot of people have no idea how funny she was. And I have so many memories. Like some of her mishaps with the neighbors. I remember I was once taking her to lunch. I came through the wrong side, where the neighbors she didn’t like were located. She thought I was a neighbor and got me with a garden hose. She looked at me and said, ‘Well, you’re all wet!’ We just sat outside for a long time and laughed about it.”


And Lupino was aware of her status in Hollywood. She’s still recognized as a successful woman who worked within the ‘50s Hollywood studio system all while directing, producing, acting and singing. At the time of her death, The New York Times added she was celebrated for directing “eight provocative and socially relevant feature films and scores of episodes of many long-running television series.”

The Los Angeles Times reported Lupino famously walked out on a $1,700-a-week contract in 1937 because she was fed up with “lightweight ingenue parts.” The newspaper added she would later abandon another acting contract in the early 1950s to produce, write and direct.

But despite her significant contributions to film, Lupino never saw herself as a feminist.

“She felt more women should work in the film, but she didn’t think there was anything special to it,” said Anderson. “She was just doing her job.”

But at the point Anderson first encountered Lupino, the actress had stopped working altogether. Her last credited role was 1978’s “My Boys Are Good Boys.” Lupino preferred it that way.

“When I met her, she was kind of a recluse,” explained Anderson. “She just didn’t seem like she wanted to work anymore. She could have. She had offers. But she just didn’t want to do. She was offered ‘Murder, She Wrote,’ which she considered, but then she got sick with cancer.

“And remember, Ida had been working since she was 14 years old. She was 64 by then. She spent many years in front of the camera, behind the camera and above it.”


Lupino did have one daughter named Bridget whom she shared with her third husband, actor Howard Duff. That union lasted from 1951 until 1984. He died in 1990.

According to reports, Lupino and Bridget allegedly had a strained relationship, but the two reconciled before the matriarch’s death.

“Ida wanted Bridget to pursue the movie industry,” said Anderson. “The Lupinos go back several hundred years. Bridget did not want to be a part of the film industry.”

And when it came to her own legacy, Lupino was determined to tell her story.

“When I met Ida, she wanted to do a book,” said Anderson. “She wanted two books on herself. She had the covers designed. … She had notes and I started taping her. She was aware of the first book and had participated in a great amount of it, like 80 percent. I, of course, wrote the ending … She was quite aware at the end of her life in terms of what was going on.”

When asked what Lupino would have thought of today’s Hollywood, Anderson said the star would have been “very happy” there are more women directing films. And while she appeared as a great beauty who was no-nonsense, Lupino was eager to share stories on her own terms.

“She was a very sensitive person,” said Anderson. “She was very gentle. If she liked you, she would be very protective. And if she wanted to do something, she would find a way to do it.”


Sunday, January 3, 2021

PHOTOS OF DAY: THE VARIOUS DOLLY LEVIS

Probably one of the greatest roles ever on Broadway was that of Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! Since the show debuted in 1964, countless actresses have taken on the role. Carol Channing originated the role, while Barbra Streisand was in the movie version. In recent years, Bette Midler and Bernadette Peters were in the revivals of the show. However, here are some of the other classic actresses the played Dolly in the past...

Betty Grable

Ginger Rogers

Martha Raye

Pearl Bailey

Phyllis Diller

Ethel Merman

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

RIP: PHYLLIS MCGUIRE

Phyllis McGuire, the last surviving sister of the McGuire Sisters fame has died today at the age of 89 in her Las Vegas home. The McGuire sisters were born to Asa and Lillie McGuire in Middletown, Ohio, and grew up in Miamisburg near Dayton. The McGuire Sisters signed with Coral Records in 1952. 

In the same year, they appeared on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, and Godfrey hired them for his other shows, where they remained for seven years. The November 1953 issue of Cosmopolitan called them "Godfrey's Merry McGuires". The sisters often were compared to the Andrews Sisters. Maxene Andrews said in an interview with Joe Franklin on WOR (AM) radio in 1979, "The McGuire Sisters were fine once they stopped imitating the Andrews Sisters." While working on the Godfrey show, the McGuires befriended the singer Lu Ann Simms and attended her wedding to the music publisher Loring Buzzell in July 1956. Buzzell's publishing firm, Hecht-Lancaster & Buzzell Music (co-owned by Harold Hecht and Burt Lancaster) provided two songs for the McGuire Sisters, "May You Always" and "Theme from The Unforgiven (The Need for Love)".


During the 60s the sisters maintained a busy television schedule, making frequent appearances on popular variety programs hosted by Ed Sullivan, Dean Martin, Danny Kaye, Milton Berle, Andy Williams, Perry Como, and Red Skelton. The trio was dressed and coiffed identically and performed synchronized body movements and hand gestures with military precision. Their recordings of "Sincerely", "Picnic", and "Sugartime" all sold more than one million copies.

They retired from public appearances in 1968, giving their last performance that year on The Ed Sullivan Show. Phyllis McGuire continued to perform solo for a time. The demise of the group is often attributed to Phyllis' long-standing personal relationship with mobster Sam Giancana (although for years she claimed that their friendship was strictly platonic), which reportedly led to the group's blacklisting.



In November 1952, Phyllis married Cornelius (Neal) Anthony Burke Van Ells. They divorced in 1956. She has no children. On September 7, 2012, Dorothy McGuire died at her son's home in Paradise Valley, Arizona, after suffering from Parkinson's disease and age-related dementia; she was 84. Dorothy's husband of 54 years, Lowell Williamson, died six months later on February 25, 2013, after sustaining a fractured back from a fall; he was 89. Christine McGuire died in Las Vegas, Nevada, on December 28, 2018, at the age of 92.

They last performed together in an appearance on a PBS special in 2004. Their recordings on the Coral label made them one of the most popular sister acts of the 1950s and 1960s...



THE PASSING SCENE OF 2020

As time goes by we come to the end of another year, and we come to a list of great entertainers and memorable people that have died in 2020. This is just a partial list of who we lost this year...

Vera Lynn

Singer, DAME VERA LYNN died on June 18th at the age of 103. She was a British singer, songwriter and entertainer whose musical recordings and performances were largely popular during the Second World War. She was widely known as "the Forces' Sweetheart" and gave outdoor concerts for the troops in during the war . The songs most associated with her are "We'll Meet Again", "(There'll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover", "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" and "There'll Always Be an England". She remained popular after the war, appearing on radio and television in the United Kingdom and the United States, and recording such hits as "Auf Wiederseh'n, Sweetheart" and her UK number one single "My Son, My Son". Her last single, "I Love This Land", was released to mark the end of the Falklands War. In 2009, at the age of 92, she became the oldest living artist to top the UK Albums Chart with the compilation album We'll Meet Again: The Very Best of Vera Lynn. In 2014, she released the collection Vera Lynn: National Treasure and in 2017, she released Vera Lynn 100, a compilation album of hits to commemorate her centenary year—it was a No. 3 hit, making her the first centenarian performer to have a Top 10 album in the charts.

Actor KIRK DOUGLAS died at the age of 103 on Feburary 5th. Making his film debut in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946), Douglas became an international star through positive reception for his leading role as an unscrupulous boxing hero in Champion (1949), which brought him his first nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor. His other early film include Young Man with a Horn (1950), playing opposite Lauren Bacall and Doris Day, and he received a second Oscar nomination for his dramatic role in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), opposite Lana Turner. He survived a helicopter crash in 1991, and he recovered from a stroke in 1996. He retired from acting in 2008.

Screenwriter and actor BUCK HENRY died on January 8th at the age of 89 of a heart attack. He was twice nominated for an Academy Award, in 1968 for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Graduate and in 1979 for Best Director for Heaven Can Wait alongside Warren Beatty. His long career began on television with work on shows with Steve Allen in The New Steve Allen Show (1961). He went on to co-create Get Smart (1965-1970) with Mel Brooks, and hosted Saturday Night Live 10 times from 1976 to 1980. He made his last movie in 2015.

Singer LYNN EVANS died at the age of 95 on February 6th. She was the last surviving member of the original The Chordettes. The group performed from 1946 to 1963 and have huge hits like "Mr. Sandman" and "Lollipop". Lynn came out of retirement in 2004 to appear and sing at a PBS nostalgia special.

Actor EDD "KOOKIE" BYRNES died on January 8th at the age of 87.He was best known for his starring role in the television series 77 Sunset Strip. He also was featured in the 1978 film Grease as television teen-dance show host Vince Fontaine, and was a charting recording artist with "Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)" (with Connie Stevens). He retired from acting in 1999.

Jerry Stiller

Actor JERRY STILLER died at the age of 92 on May 11th. He spent many years as part of the comedy duo Stiller and Meara with his wife, Anne Meara, to whom he was married for over 60 years until her death in 2015. Stiller saw a late-career resurgence starting in 1993, playing George Costanza's father Frank in the sitcom Seinfeld, a part which earned him an Emmy nomination. The year Seinfeld went off the air, Stiller began his role as the eccentric Arthur Spooner on the CBS comedy series The King of Queens, another role which garnered him widespread acclaim. He retired in 2016. Jerry was also the father of actor Ben Stiller.

Actor SEAN CONNERY died at the age of 90 on October 31st. He is best known as the first actor to portray the character James Bond in film, starring in seven Bond films (every film from Dr. No to You Only Live Twice, plus Diamonds Are Forever and Never Say Never Again) between 1962 and 1983. Connery began acting in smaller theatre and television productions until his breakout role as British secret agent James Bond garnered him international recognition. Other great films included Marnie (1964), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Man Who Would Be King (1975), Highlander (1986), The Untouchables (1987), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), The Hunt for Red October (1990), Dragonheart (1996), The Rock (1996), and Finding Forrester (2000). Connery retired from acting in 2006.

Comedian TERRY JONES died on January 21st at the age of 77 from dementia. He was a Welsh actor, writer, comedian, screenwriter, film director and historian. He was a member of the Monty Python comedy team. He created Monty Python's Flying Circus with  fellow Cambridge graduates Eric Idle, John Cleese, and Graham Chapman, and American animator/filmmaker Terry Gilliam. Jones was largely responsible for the programme's innovative, surreal structure, in which sketches flowed from one to the next without the use of punchlines. He was diagnosed with dementia in 2015.

Comedian FRED WILLARD died on May 15th at the age of 86. He was an American actor, comedian and writer. He was best known for his roles in the Rob Reiner mockumentary film This Is Spinal Tap; the Christopher Guest mockumentaries Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, For Your Consideration, and Mascots; and the Anchorman films. He had important supporting roles on television from Everybody Loves Raymond to Modern Family. His last role was on the Netflix series Space Force, playing Steve Carell's father. It debuted shortly after Fred's death.

Actress RHONDA FLEMING died on October 14th at the age of 97. She was considered one of the great beauties of Hollywood, and she appeared in over 40 movies during her career mostly in the 1940s and 1950s. She starred with Bing Crosby in A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court (1949), with Bob Hope in The Great Lover (also 1949), and Cry Danger (1951) with Dick Powell among others. She made her last movie in 1990, but she was active in her charities through the 2000s.

Regis Philbin

Television host REGIS PHILBIN died on July 24th of heart failure at the age of 88. Once called "the hardest working man in show business", he holds the Guinness World Record for the most hours on U.S. television. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame, Philbin served in the U.S. Navy and got his television start serving as a page for The Tonight Show in the 1950s. He got his first network TV exposure in 1967 as Joey Bishop's sidekick on The Joey Bishop Show. He is most widely known as the co-host of the New York City-based nationally syndicated talk show Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee, starting in 1988, which became Live! with Regis and Kelly in 2001, and continued as Live! with Kelly after Philbin's departure in 2011.

Singer BETTY BENNETT died at the age of 98 on April 7th. Her first major signing was with the Claude Thornhill band in 1946, the band in which her husband, bassist Iggy Shevak, was playing. Shortly after her husband left to join Alvino Rey, Bennett followed him there. In 1949, she joined Charlie Ventura's band before going on to join Benny Goodman in 1959.Her second album featured arrangements by Shorty Rogers and her second husband, AndrĂ© Previn. Bennett later married guitarist Mundell Lowe. 

Actor ROBERT CONRAD died of heart failure on February 8th at the age of 84. Robert was a television actor, singer, and stuntman. He is best known for his role in the 1965–1969 television series The Wild Wild West, playing the sophisticated Secret Service agent James T. West. He portrayed World War II ace Pappy Boyington in the television series Baa Baa Black Sheep (later syndicated as Black Sheep Squadron). In addition to acting, he was a singer, and recorded several pop/rock songs in the late 1950s and early 1960s as Bob Conrad. He retired from hosting a radio show in 2019.

Singer FREDDY COLE died at the age of 88 on June 27th. He was an American jazz singer and pianist whose recording career spanned almost 70 years. He was the brother of singer Nat King Cole. During the 1970s, Cole recorded several albums for European and English based labels. He went on to work with Grover Washington, Jr. and to record jingles for various companies, including Turner Classic Movies. He was the subject of the 2006 documentary The Cole Nobody Knows.

Dancer TOMMY RALL died of heart failure on October 6th at the age of 90. He was a gifted ballet dancer who played supporting roles in such MGM musicals as Kiss Me Kate (1953) and Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954). Later on he appeared in movie musicals like Funny Girl (1968) with Barbra Streisand. He recent years he became a gifted painter as well.

Ann Reinking

Dancer and choreographer ANN REINKING died on December 12th at the age of 71. Her extensive work in musical theater included starring in Broadway productions of Coco (1969), Over Here! (1974), Goodtime Charley (1975), Chicago (1977), Dancin' (1978) and Sweet Charity (1986). In the 1996 revival of Chicago, she reprised the role of Roxie Hart and was also the choreographer, winning the Tony Award for Best Choreography. For the 2000 West End production of Fosse, she won the Olivier Award for Best Theatre Choreographer. She also appeared in the films All That Jazz (1979), Annie (1982), and Micki & Maude (1984).

Actor DANIEL GOLDMAN died on April 12th at the age of 80 from a stroke. He is most widely recognized as the voice of Brainy Smurf in Hanna-Barbera's The Smurfs (1981–1989) and as the inquisitive medical student in the opening scene of Young Frankenstein (1974). He remained active as a casting director through 2012.

Actress OLIVIA DEHAVILLAND died on July 26th at the age of 104. The major works of her cinematic career spanned from 1935 to 1988. She appeared in 49 feature films and was one of the leading actresses of her time. She was the last major surviving star from the Golden Age of Hollywood Cinema and the oldest living and earliest surviving Academy Award winner until her death in July 2020. Her younger sister was the actress Joan Fontaine. De Havilland first came to prominence with Errol Flynn as a screen couple in adventure films such as Captain Blood (1935) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). One of her best-known roles is that of Melanie Hamilton in Gone with the Wind (1939), for which she received her first of five Oscar nominations.

Singer LITTLE RICHARD died on May 9th at the age of 87. He was an influential figure in popular music and culture for seven decades. Nicknamed "The Innovator, The Originator, and The Architect of Rock and Roll", Little Richard's most celebrated work dates from the mid-1950s, when his charismatic showmanship and dynamic music, characterized by frenetic piano playing, pounding back beat and raspy shouted vocals, laid the foundation for rock and roll.

Actor and screenwriter NED WYNN died on December 21st at the age of 79 from Parkinson's Disease. He was the son of actor Keenan Wynn and the grandson of comedian Ed Wynn. Ned Wynn appeared in small roles in just a handful of films. He, his father and grandfather worked together in The Absent Minded Professor (1961), Son of Flubber (1963) and The Patsy (1964); he also acted with his dad in Bikini Beach (1964) and Stagecoach (1966). He also wrote an autobiography on his life as a Hollywood child in 1990.

Carl Reiner

Comedian CARL REINER died on June 29th at the age of 98. During the early years of television comedy from 1950 to 1957, he co-wrote and acted on Caesar's Hour and Your Show of Shows, starring Sid Caesar. In the 1960s, Reiner was best known as the creator, producer, writer, and actor on The Dick Van Dyke Show. He also had great success as a film director and writer and in the 1970s and 1980s. He co-wrote and directed some of Steve Martin's most successful films, including The Jerk (1979). He also directed notable comedies such as Where's Poppa? (1970), Oh, God! (1977), and All of Me (1984). Over his long and distinguished career, Reiner won many awards and honors including, nine Emmy Awards, one Grammy Award, and The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

Actress DIANA RIGG died of cancer at the age of 82 on September 10th. Some of her notable roles were as Emma Peel in the TV series The Avengers (1965–1968); Countess Teresa di Vicenzo, wife of James Bond, in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969); and Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones (2013–2017).Rigg had a successful career and life in theatre, making her professional stage debut in 1957 in The Caucasian Chalk Circle, and joining the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1959, she made her Broadway debut in Abelard & Heloise in 1971. She performed the title role in Medea, both in London and New York, for which she won the 1994 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play. She continued working through 2020.

Singer PHYLLIS MCGUIRE died on December 29th at the age of 89. She was the last surviving member of the McGuire Sisters singing groups, which also consisted of her older sisters - Christine (1926-2018) and Dorothy (1928-2012). Among their most popular songs were "Sincerely" and "Sugartime", both number-one hits. Phyllis was the long time girlfriend of mobster Sam Gianciana, and as a result the sister broke up the act in 1968. They reunited to perform in the 1980s, and they last performed together in 2004 on a PBS special. 

They wonderful stars and icons left us in 2020 but they will never be forgotten...

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

HISTORY OF A SONG: HE WAS TOO GOOD TO ME


My favorite song writing team was the team of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. From 1919 to 1943 they wrote some of the most beautiful songs that America has ever had the pleasure of listening to. Even their forgotten melodies are an example of near perfect music. Their songs are always intelligent, thought provoking, and memorable. One of their forgotten songs that became a standard was the song "He Was Too Good To Me".

"He Was Too Good for Me" was too good to be forgotten after it was cut from the show it was written for. It is one of those songs that became a standard without the aid of exposure in a show or movie. Intended for Lee Morse in Simple Simon, "He Was Too Good for Me" was dropped before the New York opening of the show. There was then talk of using it in the ill-fated Nine-Fifteen Revue (also from 1930) but again it was cut. Rodgers and Hart must have had faith in it because they published it independently, and after being found and recorded by artists such as Helen Merrill, Jeri Southern, Nina Simone, Doris Day, Carmen McRae, and others, it became clear it was headed to become a songbook standard. My favorite version is by the versatile Jeri Southern.



Lyrics

There goes my young intended
The thing has ended
Regrets are vain
I'll never find another half so sweet
And we'll never meet again
I got impatient
Told him goodbye
Sad eyes out in the rain
He was too good to me
How can I get along now
So close he stood to me
Everything seems all wrong now
He would have brought me the sun
Making me smile, that was his fun
When I was mean to him
He'd never say go away now
I was a Queen to him
Who's gonna make me gay now
It's only natural that I'm blue
He was too good to be true

Songwriters: Lorenz Hart / Richard Rodgers
He Was Too Good to Me lyrics © Concord Music Publishing LLC