Friday, October 29, 2010


NEW YORK – Turner Classic Movies, that bastion of old films, is making its most dramatic foray yet into original programming.

TCM will broadcast a seven-part documentary series, "Moguls & Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood," beginning Monday. The series, narrated by Christopher Plummer, will run for seven weeks and cover Hollywood's history from 1890-1970.

For the movie-obsessed TCM, the series is an ambitious anomaly. The cable channel is also sponsoring a touring exhibit of Hollywood memorabilia that will travel through Atlanta, New York, Denver, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

"We haven't done anything this big before," says Robert Osborne, host and face of the 16-year-old, commercial-free Turner Classic. "I think it's very appropriate because we are all about movies."

The project was the brainchild of executive producer Bill Haber, who turned to documentary filmmaker Jon Wilkman to write and direct it. He spent 2 1/2 years on the film, which he says is about "how Hollywood became Hollywood."

"There have been other histories, which are sort of highlights, scenes from the great films," says Wilkman. "The underlying theme of this series is essentially Hollywood power: Who had it, how did they get it, what did they do with it, and how did they lose it."

While the series covers the history of the movie business through evolving technology, artistic progress and commercial drive, the dominant feeling one gets is that the engine of Hollywood was its ambitious moguls: Men, mostly immigrants, who built an empire of celluloid.

At the end of the second episode, "The Birth of Hollywood," Plummer intones: "In hardly more than 20 years, the American motion picture business had evolved from a cheap novelty to the country's fifth largest industry, after agriculture, transportation, oil and steel. And it seemed to happen in less than the flicker of a frame of film."

It's very much a rags-to-riches story, from the invention of moving images to the industry's early foothold in New York and Fort Greene, N.J., and finally to its California home. Especially vibrant are the early moguls: Louis B. Mayer, Carl Laemmle, Samuel Goldwyn, William Fox and others.

Where possible, Wilkman turns to descendants of those founders, interviewing producer Samuel Goldwyn Jr., the son of Samuel Goldwyn; Daniel Selznick, the son of David O. Selznick; actor Bob Balaban, whose father, Elmer Balaban, was an early movie theater owner; and, who Wilkman calls his "great find," Carla Laemmle, the 101-year-old actress and daughter to Carl Laemmle.

"We wanted as direct a connection to the people, the main characters, the environment that we're looking at," says Wilkman, who compares the founders of Hollywood to the characters of a Dickens novel. "In some cases, the American dream as we know it is a creation of these immigrant moviemakers."

In examining how the movie business was forged, "Moguls & Movie Stars" reflects many of the issues of today's Hollywood, where questions brought on by the Internet and technology — digital distribution, 3-D filmmaking — are causing many to reconsider basic questions of moviemaking.

"In many ways, today we are back in 1890," says Wilkman. "This whole world of the movies is being rethought and rebuilt: How are movies made? Who makes them? How are they distributed? What's the subject matter?"

Osborne is quick to caution that the series doesn't represent a change in programming philosophy for Turner Classic.

"I don't think we're a channel that should do a lot of original programming just for its own sake because I think people come to us because they really want to see movies," says Osborne, who adds "Moguls & Movie Stars" is a worthy exception.

Aring along with the series will be panel discussions with Osborne, Wilkman and others. Films discussed in the series will also be broadcast after each episode. The conversation — as it always does at Turner Classic — will lead back to the movies...


When I was little I hated scary movies, and after seeing one I would look until my bed for months then, but now I love the genre. I don't really like the gory movies, because I believe sometimes what you don't see can be the most scariest.Here are my five personal favorites. Any comments are welcomed...if you dare!

5. WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE (1962) - Yes, this is a campy movie that teamed up Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, but when Davis serves her invalid sister a rat for dinner, that is enough for me!

4. THE HOUSE OF USHER (1960) - The film was directed by Roger Corman and starred the great Vincent Price. It was a low budget adaptation of the Edgar Allen Poe story. Any movie with Vincent Price is instantly a classic.

3. KING KONG (1933) - Movies did not have sophisticated CGI in 1933, but King Kong remains a marvel of technology. Fay Wray as the heroine and the giant ape make the movie a classic. This story has also been adapted many times, but the original remains the best.

2. FRANKENSTEIN (1931) - Boris Karloff did not speak a word in this classic adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel. Colin Clive is overshadowed by Karloff, but Clive turned in a memorable role as Dr. Frankenstein. The story was adapted many times, but it is still my favorite version.

1. JAWS (1975) - This is not only my favorite scary movie, but it is also my favorite movie of all-time. Not seeing the shark is the scariest part of the movie. The film made the careers of director Steven Spielberg and actor Roy Scheider, and Jaws was the first summer block buster movie. I'm still afraid to go back in the water!

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Even though the much hyped remake of THE WOLF MAN recently came out, there is no movie that compares to the 1941 version starring Lon Chaney Jr. The movie is not the greatest when it comes to special effects, but it was just a good horror movie. It deserves to be remembered alongside the original Dracula and Frankenstein movies. Rounding out the cast of THE WOLF MAN was Claude Rains and Bela Lugosi...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Glenn Strange is not well remembered today, but he is the actor that took over the Frankenstein role after Boris Karloff retired from it. Glenn Strange was an American actor who appeared mostly in Western films. He is best known for playing the Frankenstein Monster in three Universal films during the 1940s and for his role as Sam Noonan, the bartender on CBS's Gunsmoke television series. Strange was of Irish and Cherokee Indian descent and was a cousin of the Western film star and narrator Rex Allen.

Strange procured his first motion picture role in 1932 and literally appeared in hundreds of films during his lifetime. In 1949, he portrayed Butch Cavendish, who wiped out all of the Texas Rangers, except one, the role of Clayton Moore in The Lone Ranger.

Strange appeared twice as Jim Wade on Bill Williams's syndicated western series geared to juvenile audience's The Adventures of Kit Carson. He also appeared twice as "Blake" in the syndicated western The Cisco Kid. In 1954, he played Sheriff Billy Rowland in Jim Davis's syndicated western series Stories of the Century. Strange appeared six times in 1956 in multiple roles on Edgar Buchanan's syndicated Judge Roy Bean. In 1959, he appeared in another western syndicated series, Mackenzie's Raiders, in the episode entitled "Apache Boy". Strange first appeared on Gunsmoke in 1959 and assumed several roles on the long-running program before he was cast as the bartender.

In 1942, he appeared in The Mad Monster for Producers Releasing Corporation. In 1944, while Glenn was being made up for an action film at Universal, make-up artist Jack Pierce noticed Strange's face and size would be appropriate for the role of the Monster. Strange was cast in House of Frankenstein in the role created by Boris Karloff in the 1931 version of Frankenstein, coached by Karloff personally after hours.

Strange played the Monster a third time in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), with Chaney and Bela Lugosi. Strange also appeared in character with Lou Costello in a haunted house skit on The Colgate Comedy Hour as well as making a gag publicity appearance as a masked flagpole-sitter for a local Los Angeles TV show in the 1950s. After weeks of the station teasing the public about the sitter's identity, Strange removed his mask and revealed himself as the Frankenstein Monster (actually, yet another mask.) Notably, Strange also played an ape-like monster in The Bowery Boys horror-comedy Master Minds in 1949, mimicking Huntz Hall's frantic comedy movements, with Hall providing his own dubbed voice.

Strange died of lung cancer in Los Angeles, California, just after declining health had compelled him to leave his role on Gunsmoke. Strange had from time to time collaborated on various tunes with western actor Eddie Dean, including the opening title song for Dean's Tumbleweed Trail (1942). Dean sang at Strange's funeral service as a final tribute to the actor. Strange was interred at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery...

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Many younger people will just remember Boris Karloff as the voice on the animated special "The Grinch That Stole Christmas", but he was a truly brillant actor. Like Vincent Price, his main bread and butter were horror films, but in real life he was a thoughtful and gentle man. Karloff brought the Monster in FRANKENSTEIN to life in 1931. He acted in more than 100 films, specializing in horror pictures such as THE MUMMY (1932), THE MASK OF FU MANCHU (1932), BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), and SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939), and his name became synonymous with the horror genre. He returned to the stage for highly acclaimed performances on Broadway in Arsenic and Old Lace (1941) and as Captain Hook in Peter Pan (1950).

Although he played many sinister characters on screen, Karloff was known in real life as a very kind gentleman who gave generously, especially to children's charities. Beginning in 1940, Karloff dressed up as Father Christmas every Christmas to hand out presents to physically disabled children in a Baltimore hospital.

Karloff was a charter member of the Screen Actors Guild, and was especially outspoken regarding working conditions on sets that actors were expected to deal with in the mid-1930s, some of which were extremely hazardous. In 1931, Boris Karloff took out insurance against premature aging that might be caused by his fright make-up. Boris Karloff lived out his final years in England at his cottage, 'Roundabout,' in the Hampshire village of Bramshott. After a long battle with arthritis and emphysema, he contracted pneumonia, succumbing to it in King Edward VII Hospital, Midhurst, Sussex on 2 February 1969. He was cremated, following a requested low-key service, at Guildford Crematorium, Godalming, Surrey, where he is commemorated by a plaque in the Garden of Remembrance. A memorial service was held at St Paul's, Covent Garden (the Actors' Church), London, where there is also a plaque.

However, even death could not put an immediate halt to Karloff's media career. Four Mexican films for which Karloff shot his scenes in Los Angeles were released over a two-year period after he had died. They were dismissed, by critics and fans alike, as undistinguished efforts. Also, during the run of Thriller, Karloff lent his name and likeness to a comic book for Gold Key Comics based upon the series. After Thriller was cancelled, the comic was retitled Boris Karloff's Tales of Mystery. An illustrated likeness of Karloff continued to introduce each issue of this publication for nearly a decade after the real Karloff died; the comic lasted until the early 1980s.

His most famous television performance was in the animated special How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966), for which he provided the voices of both the Grinch and the narrator. Karloff made countless contributions with his many differing roles throughout a long career...

Friday, October 22, 2010


Hard to believe that Al Jolson died 60 years ago on October 23, 1950...

Al Jolson, Harry Akst and Martin Fried arrived in San Francisco on October 23, 1950, taking an afternoon flight from Los Angeles. Jolson was scheduled to appear as a guest on the Bing Crosby Radio Show and after booking into St. Francis Hotel they had a seafood dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf.

The card game he never finished. Cards in gin rummy game are just as Jolson left them when the fatal attack came.

On returning to their hotel, they played cards for a while before Jolson said: “I’m feeling a bit tired. Think I’ll just have a lie down . . . Do Jolie a favour, Marty, willya? Call room service and get me some bicarbonate of soda - I have a little indigestion.”

Harry decided to call for the house doctor. There were two, but both were on call. Remembering a name his physician had given him, Al told Harry: “Look up Dr. Kerr and ask him to come over.”

Dr. Kerr answered the call: “It’ll take some time to get there.”

“You don’t understand, doctor. This is Al Jolson and it’s an emergency,” said Harry.

Jolson waved his hands: “You crazy bastard! You wanteverybody to read in the papers tomorrow morning that Al Jolson had to get a doctor for indigestion?” The doctor heard and assured him: “Don’t worry, I’ll be there in half an hour.”

Al turned to his friend, “Harry, I’m not going to last.” Harry recalled, “My heart jumped. I looked down and saw he had been taking his pulse. I said: ‘Al, don’t talk that way. It’ll pass. It’s nothing but indigestion.’”

The hotel nurse arrived first. “Don’t tell me this is the patient . . .” she started cheerfully - Al was still tanned from Palm Springs.

“Nurse,” said Al, “I’ve got no pulse.”

She took his wrist: “You’ve got a pulse like a baby.”

The house physician also arrived about the same time as Dr. Kerr. “I’m a little embarrassed about this, gentlemen,” Jolson said as the two doctors got ready to examine him.

First they asked him what he had done that day and what he had eaten. “Pull up a couple of chairs and let’s talk,” Jolson told them. Two chairs were brought and Dr. Kerr told him how much he admired him: “I saw you in London in 1929.”

Al joked: “You know, President Truman only had one hour with General MacArthur. I had two.”

Suddenly Al reached for his pulse. “Oh, I’m going,” he said sadly, before sinking back on his pillow, his eyes closed. The World's Greatest Entertainer, Al Jolson, born Asa Yoelson only 64 years before, was gone...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Freaks is a 1932 American horror film about sideshow performers, directed and produced by Tod Browning and released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, with a cast mostly composed of actual carnival (funfair) performers. The film was based on Tod Robbins' short story "Spurs". Director Browning took the exceptional step of casting real people with deformities as the eponymous sideshow "freaks," rather than using costumes and makeup.

Browning had been a member of a traveling circus in his early years, and much of the film was drawn from his personal experiences. In the film, the physically deformed "freaks" are inherently trusting and honorable people, while the real monsters are two of the "normal" members of the circus who conspire to murder one of the performers to obtain his large inheritance.

Despite the extensive cuts, the film was still negatively received by audiences, and remained an object of extreme controversy. Today, the parts that were removed are considered lost. Browning, famed at the time for his collaborations with Lon Chaney and for directing Bela Lugosi in Dracula (1931), had trouble finding work afterward, and this effectually brought his career to an early close. Because its deformed cast was shocking to moviegoers of the time, the film was banned in the United Kingdom for 30 years.

Beginning in the early 1960s, Freaks was rediscovered as a counter culture cult film, and throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the film was regularly shown at midnight movie screenings at several movie theaters in the United States. In 1994, Freaks was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". It was ranked 15th on Bravo TV's list of the 100 Scariest Movie Moments...


Johnny Sheffield, who played the character Boy in the Tarzan movies of the 1930s and '40s, has died at age 79.

His wife, Patty Sheffield, told the Los Angeles Times that he died Friday of a heart attack at his home in the San Diego suburb of Chula Vista. She says he fell off a ladder while pruning a palm tree four hours earlier.

Johnny Sheffield beat out more than 300 other youngsters for the role of Boy in the 1939 movie "Tarzan Finds a Son!" and went on to co-star with Johnny Wiessmuller in seven more Tarzan films.

He later played another jungle boy, Bomba, in a dozen movies but quit the business after the last one 1955.

Johnny Sheffield went on to earn a business degree and worked for various companies and in contracting and real estate...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Tom Bosley, whose long acting career was highlighted by his hugely popular role as the understanding father on television's nostalgic, top-rated 1970s comedy series "Happy Days," died Tuesday. He was 83. Bosley died of heart failure at a hospital near his Palm Springs home. Bosley's agent, Sheryl Abrams, said he was also battling lung cancer.

TV Guide ranked Bosley's Happy Days character No. 9 on its list of the "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time" in 2004. The show debuted in 1974 and ran for 11 seasons. After "Happy Days" ended, Bosley went on to a recurring role in "Murder, She Wrote" as Sheriff Amos Tucker. He also was the crime-solving priest in television's "The Father Dowling Mysteries," which ran from 1989 to 1991.

When he was first offered the costarring role in "Happy Days," a series about teenage life in the 1950s, he turned it down."After rereading the pilot script," he recalled in a 1986 interview, "I changed my mind because of a scene between Howard Cunningham and Richie. The father/son situation was written so movingly, I fell in love with the project." Propelled by the nation's nostalgia for the simple pleasures of the 1950s, "Happy Days," which debuted in 1974, slowly built to hit status, becoming television's top-rated series by its third season.

It made a star of Henry Winkler, who played hip-talking, motorcycle-riding hoodlum Arthur "Fonzi" Fonzarelli. His image initially clashed with that of Richie and his "straight" friends. But over the show's 11-season run Fonzarelli would transform himself from high school dropout to successful businessman.

After "Happy Days" ended, Bosley went on to a recurring role in "Murder, She Wrote" as Sheriff Amos Tucker, who was often outsmarted by Angela Lansbury's mystery writer, Jessica Fletcher.

His own series, "The Father Dowling Mysteries," ran from 1989 to 1991. The avuncular Father Frank Dowling was assisted in his detective work by nun Sister Steve, played by Tracy Nelson.

Although "Happy Days" brought him his widest fame, Bosley had made his mark on Broadway 15 years before when he turned in a Tony Award-winning performance in the title role in "Fiorello!" He also was the crime-solving priest in television's "The Father Dowling Mysteries."


NEW YORK – Elaine Stritch wants to tell an embarrassing story. And when Elaine Stritch wants to tell a story, you listen."I have no secrets," the 85-year-old Broadway legend says by way of introduction as she sits at a makeup table getting her eyes done a few hours before a performance of "A Little Night Music."

A few days ago, Stritch begins, she was at her Midtown hairdressers for a three-hour appointment before a show when she realized she'd forgotten her teeth. Stritch, who calls herself "a brittle diabetic," has two sets of dentures, one for the stage and one for regular life. She didn't have the ones for the theater. Stritch had no time to waste: She called over to the Carlyle Hotel, where she lives these days, to ask an assistant to find the stage teeth — they'd be in a little white container in the bathroom. She wanted them brought down to the front desk.

Then she tried to call her hired limo driver, who was idling outside the salon. But she didn't have his number, and there was no time to find the car service's number. So Stritch, in a bit of a panic by now, went out to find him."I run downstairs. I've got on the robe from the hairdressers," she says. And she leans into the window of the limo and bellows: "You've got to drive up to the Carlyle and pick up my teeth!"

"Suddenly, I'm standing in the middle of 57th Street. And there's about 20 people laughing," recalls Stritch with a sly smile. "Publicity stunt? No way! No way. You don't do publicity stunts like that. Not even I could do that unless it was really happening."

Spend an hour with Stritch and you'll get a lot of stories like that — funny, self-effacing and revealing. The woman seems to have an iron core: brassy and exacting and salty, but also accommodating and full of wit."I like anything I don't know about," she says at one point. "And I don't like most of the things I do." At another point, she offers this: "The most horrible line in the English language for me is, 'God, you haven't changed a bit.' It's the worst thing you can say to anybody."

Stritch has become a sort of shorthand for acting longevity since she made her Broadway debut in "Loco" in 1946. Since then, she's performed in both musicals and dramas, from Edward Albee to Noel Coward to Stephen Sondheim. She's also been in films such as "Monster-in-Law" and "Out to Sea," and on TV as the Emmy-winning mother of Alec Baldwin in "30 Rock." Her one-woman show "Elaine Stritch at Liberty" won her a Tony in 2002, and her cabaret shows at the Carlyle Hotel are legendary.

Each generation finds her relevant and hip. She was recently parodied on an episode of "The Simpsons" in which Lisa Simpson attends a fancy performing arts camp. One class was on making wallets with Elaine Stritch and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Stritch lately has been getting standing ovations for her turn as Madame Armfeldt in a revival of Sondheim's musical, "A Little Night Music." She and Bernadette Peters replaced Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta-Jones, respectively, over the summer and have agreed to stay on until Jan. 9. Stritch plays a wheelchair-bound aristocrat who offers dry and hysterical pronouncements in her half-dozen scenes, and mourns the loss of standards in her big song "Liaisons," in which she looks back on her profitable sexual conquests of dukes and barons. "Where is skill?" she asks. "Where's passion in the art, where's craft?"

Stritch is at an age — and with such goodwill built up — that simply appearing on stage will earn her bursts of applause. But she still tries to earn it every time with a heart-tugging take on Madame Armfeldt. "It's a very hard part for me. Don't ask me why. I don't know why. Some parts just don't blow me away. This one did. There's a lot of new kind of emotions," she says. "You don't want to go into that because an actor talking about how they do their stuff is more boring than anything I can ever think of."

Stritch has one issue she'd love to leave as her legacy: reducing the standard eight-shows-a-week contract that performers sign. "I wish I could leave the building with that having been accomplished — seven shows a week. Eight shows gets to be too much," she says.

When producers of "A Little Night Music" asked her and the cast to do nine performances a week, Stritch had a fit. She gleefully displays a letter she wrote demanding a change: "Try to understand our physical, emotional, physiological desperation," it read. Producers soon backed down.

Stritch is already planning her future when this musical ends. She's considering doing an evening of just Elton John songs: "You don't know what I can do with those songs," she says. "It might be fun and unusual."

Monday, October 18, 2010


You may not know the name Charles Lane, but you definitely know the face. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s he was in hundreds of movies and in the 1960s and 1970s he moved on to television. Despite have mostly small roles, he had a great prescence. One of the roles I remember him most in was his appearance on "The Andy Griffith Show".

Lane appeared in many Frank Capra films, including You Can't Take It With You(1938), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) and It's a Wonderful Life (1946). He was a favored supporting actor of Lucille Ball, who often used him as a no-nonsense authority figure and comedic foe of her scatterbrained TV character on her TV series I Love Lucy, The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour and The Lucy Show.

Lane was born Charles Gerstle Levison in San Francisco, California, to Alice G. and Jacob B. Levison and was, prior to his death, one of the last remaining survivors of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. In 1932 Lane married Ruth Covell and they remained together for 70 years until her death in 2002. They had a son named Tom and a daughter named Alice.

In 1990, Lane at age 85, was rushed to hospital after having difficulty breathing. A doctor asked if he was still smoking, and Lane replied that he had kicked the habit 45 minutes earlier. He never smoked again.

Despite his stern, hard-hearted demeanor in films and television, friends and acquaintances seem to unanimously describe Lane as a warm, funny and kind person. On January 26, 2007, Lane celebrated his 102nd birthday. A documentary about his life and career, entitled You Know the Face, is currently in production. He continued to live in the Brentwood home he bought with Ruth for $46,000 in 1964 until his death. In the end, his son Tom Lane, said he was talking with his father at 9 p.m. on the evening of Monday, July 9, 2007,"He was lying in bed with his eyes real wide open. Then he closed his eyes and stopped breathing." Charles Lane was 102. Lane was not the only person in his family to have a long life - his mother Alice died in her San Francisco home in 1973 aged 100...

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Barbara Billingsley, who wore a classy pearl necklace and dispensed pearls of wisdom as America's quintessential mom on "Leave it to Beaver," has died at age 94, a family spokeswoman said Saturday.

The actress passed away at 2 a.m. (5 a.m. ET) Saturday at her home in Santa Monica, California, after a long illness, spokeswoman Judy Twersky said. A private memorial is being planned.

The actress won a new legion of fans in a brief, but memorable, scene in the 1980 send-up movie "Airplane."

"Oh, stewardess. I speak jive," Billingsley said in her role -- much different from her June Cleaver persona -- as an elderly passenger comforting an ill man on the flight. She, the sick man and his seat companion engaged in street-slang banter.

From the moment its catchy theme song sounded in black-and-white TV sets of the 1950s, "Leave it to Beaver" enthralled Americans during a time of relative prosperity and world peace. Its characters represented middle-class white America.

June Cleaver dutifully pecked the cheek of her husband, Ward (played by the late Hugh Beaumont), when he came home to learn about the latest foibles -- nothing serious -- committed by Beaver and Wally.

The parents would dispense moralistic advice to their sons. The boys' friends included Lumpy and the obsequious Eddie Haskell, who avoided trouble and often buttered up Ward and June. Perhaps fittingly, "Leave it to Beaver" was canceled in 1963 on the eve of the JFK assassination, the Vietnam War and the tumult of the 1960s.

Born December 22, 1915, in Los Angeles, Billingsley began her career as a model in New York City in 1936. She was under contract to MGM in 1945 before becoming a household name with the launch of "Leave it to Beaver" in 1957. Billingsley also voiced the role of Nanny in Nickelodeon's "Muppet Babies" from 1984 to 1991.

Billingsley, whose second and third husbands predeceased her, is survived by her two sons, Drew Billingsley of Granada Hills, California, and Glenn Billingsley of Phillips Ranch, California...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


The year 1977 began poorly for Bing. In March 1977, during a televised concert to celebrate his fifty years in show business, he fell backwards into an orchestra pit headfirst. He ruptured a disc in his back, and was hospitalized for a month. After recovering, he made appearances all over the world, from Norway to England to tape a Christmas special, which featured David Bowie the famous Christmas duet. After taping the special, he recorded his final album, Seasons.

Bing’s next stop was the London Palladium for a two-week engagement. Then he and his band went to Brighton where they performed their final performance on October 10. The next day Bing was a guest on the Alan Dell radio show, where he sang eight songs with the Gordon Rose Orchestra. Later that day he posed for photos for the Seasons album. The next day Bing headed for Spain to play golf and die.

On the afternoon of October 14, 1977, Bing was playing at the La Morajela golf course near Madrid, Spain. He finished 18 holes with a score of 85, and with a partner, defeated two Spanish golf pros. After his last putt, Bing bowed to applause and said, "It was a great game." He was about 20 yards from the clubhouse, when he collapsed from a massive heart attack. His three golfing companions remarked that he did not look tired and was even singing around the course, though he seemed to be favoring his left arm near the end of the game. They thought he had slipped. They carried him to the clubhouse, where a physician attempted to revive him, to no avail. Bing Crosby was dead on arrival, at the Red Cross hospital. He was 74.

A few hours after learning of her husband’s death, Kathryn issued a statement, "I can’t think of any better way for a golfer who sings for a living to finish the round." Their son Harry, 19, and the family’s former butler, Alan Fisher, flew to Spain to accompany Bing’s body back to LA.

The most widely heard voice of the 20th Century and maybe all time was silenced on that fateful day on October 14, 1977...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


It is hard to believe that the classic Universal horror film FRANKENSTEIN came out in 1931. Nearly eighty years old, the film is still a masterpiece. Boris Karloff simply played "The Monster" and Colin Clive as "Dr. Frankenstein" were two of the greatest roles ever played in horror films. With Halloween right around the corner, this is a great classic film to watch...

Monday, October 11, 2010


Now I profiled Betty Hutton before on this blog, but when she passed away in 2007 she was and is largely forgotten. Hutton made 19 films from 1942 to 1952 including a hugely popular The Perils of Pauline in 1947. She was billed over Fred Astaire in the 1950 musical Let's Dance. Hutton's greatest screen triumph came in Annie Get Your Gun (1950) for MGM, which hired her to replace an exhausted Judy Garland in the role of Annie Oakley. The film and the leading role, retooled for Hutton, was a smash hit, with the biggest critical praise going to Hutton. (Her obituary in The New York Times described her as "a brassy, energetic performer with a voice that could sound like a fire alarm.")Hutton, however, like Garland, was earning a reputation for being extremely difficult.

In 1944, she signed with Capitol Records, one of the earliest artists to do so, but became unhappy with its management and later signed with RCA Victor. Among her many films was an unbilled cameo in Sailor Beware (1952) with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, in which she portrayed Dean's girlfriend, Hetty Button.

Her time as a Hollywood star came to an end due to contract disagreements with Paramount following the Oscar-winning The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) and Somebody Loves Me (1952), a biopic of singer Blossom Seeley. The New York Times indicated that her film career ended because of her insistence that her husband at the time, Charles O'Curran, direct her next film; when the studio declined, Hutton broke her contract. Hutton's last completed film was a small one, 1957's Spring Reunion. She gave an understated, sensitive performance in the drama, but box office receipts seemed to show that the public didn't accept a subdued Hutton...

Friday, October 8, 2010

ROY SCHEIDER (1932-2008)

Roy Scheider was an one of the most durable character actors. He was best known for his role as police chief Martin Brody in JAWS, as choreographer and film director Joe Gideon in ALL THAT JAZZ, detective Buddy Russo in THE FRENCH CONNECTION and his role as Captain Nathan Bridger in science fiction television series SeaQuest DSV. Scheider's final performance was released posthumously in the 2010 thriller IRON CROSS...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Here is a great video of Dean Martin. I think if the music industry was better, Dino would have been perfect for the medium of music television. Here is the only music video that Dean did. It was a video for his song "Since I Met You Baby". It was from his last album "The Nashville Sessions". The video was from the mid 1980s. The video was different, and Dino pulled it off...


Here is one of the last appearances Judy Garland made on television. Six months before her death on June 22, 1969, a frail Judy Garland made an appearances on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson. The original broadcast was December 17,1968. It was a far cry from Dorothy and the land of Oz...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


LOS ANGELES – Michael Feinstein knows that "Love Is Here to Stay" is an enchanting song with a sad story, its lyrics a tribute from Ira Gershwin to his brother and musical partner, George, who died at age 38.

It's the sort of tidbit that Feinstein tosses off as deftly as he performs the tunes of the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and other composers whose work collectively is known as the "Great American Songbook."

That makes him an ideal tour guide to the music, as demonstrated in PBS' three-part series, "Michael Feinstein's American Songbook," which debuts this week and airs on consecutive Wednesdays (check local listings for times).

The program documents Feinstein's role as an artist as well as historian and protector, searching out and preserving rare recordings, sheet music and anything else he can get his hands on related to the classic music he loves and those who performed it.

Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Nat "King" Cole, Ethel Waters and Margaret Whiting are among the vocalists celebrated in the series, even as singer-pianist Feinstein (a five-time Grammy nominee) demonstrates his own impeccable grasp of why the songs endure.

Feinstein is the "perfect conduit for a series about popular American music. You just hitch a ride with him as he goes through his life," said producer and director Amber Edwards. "He really does spend every waking moment of his life involved in music in some way."

The series' focus is on "what we call the golden age," Feinstein said, roughly from the early to the mid-20th century. But his definition of the American songbook is elastic enough to include relatively recent composers or those from abroad, and he cites such respective examples as Burt Bacharach and the Beatles.

"Anything that resonated with the American populace and affected and changed our lives is part of the fabric" of the songbook, said Feinstein.

The series' first episode, "Putting on the Tailfins," explores the 1950s and 1960s conflict between classic songs and the rock 'n' roll newcomers. Feinstein, shown in performance with a big band, orchestra and jazz combo, explains how Sinatra and others reinvented pop standards for changing tastes.

"Best Band in the Land," the second chapter, focuses on the morale-building role of music during World War II and the 1940s big bands that played it. "A New Step Every Day," about the jazz age and the rise of movies, radio and the recording industry in the 1920s and 1930s, concludes the series.

Feinstein's soul mates — the other passionate collectors and musicians keeping the era's spirit alive — are featured in the episode. The series also provides a view of Feinstein's borderline frenetic life, which his New York City cabaret as well as a busy tour schedule and unending search for memorabilia.

His personal life is briefly sketched in scenes with his parents, Ed and Mazie Feinstein, and his partner, Terrence Flannery.

There isn't much in today's popular music that he admires, said Feinstein, who saw genius firsthand when he worked for Ira Gershwin in the final years of the lyricist's life.

But good music is being created and someday may be appreciated widely, Feinstein said.

"There's a lot of people who are working in New York and on Broadway and writing songs that are heard in clubs that are not being heard mainstream," he said. "And the thing that's amazing about a song is that you never know how or when it's going to get picked up. Something may be created where suddenly it has a life years after it's written."

That's reason for hope, which for Feinstein, 54, is buoyed by the Internet.

"Kids today can discover things that they never could have discovered before. You can hear the name Ethel Waters, and you can go online, and you can read about her and hear her recordings — stuff that I couldn't have possibly done when I was a kid," he said...

Friday, October 1, 2010


Here is an unsual but very enjoyable duet. Two great voices are combined with Perry Como and Karen Carpenter singing together. They would have made a great album together. This clip is from one of Perry Como's specials in the 1970s...