Monday, November 29, 2010


Despite decades spent playing sober commanders and serious captains, Leslie Nielsen insisted that he was always made for comedy. He proved it in his career's second act.

"Surely you can't be serious," an airline passenger says to Nielsen in "Airplane!" the 1980 hit that turned the actor from dramatic leading man to comic star.

"I am serious," Nielsen replies. "And don't call me Shirley."

The line was probably his most famous — and a perfect distillation of his career.

Nielsen, the dramatic lead in "Forbidden Planet" and "The Poseidon Adventure" and the bumbling detective Frank Drebin in "The Naked Gun" comedies, died on Sunday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 84.

The Canada native died from complications from pneumonia at a hospital near his home, surrounded by his wife, Barbaree, and friends, his agent John S. Kelly said in a statement.

Critics argued that when Nielsen went into comedy he was being cast against type, but Nielsen disagreed, saying comedy was what he intended to do all along.

"I've finally found my home — as Lt. Frank Drebin," he told The Associated Press in a 1988 interview.

Comic actor Russell Brand took to Twitter to pay tribute to Nielsen, playing off his famous line: "RIP Leslie Nielsen. Shirley, he will be missed."

Nielsen came to Hollywood in the mid-1950s after performing in 150 live television dramas in New York. With a craggily handsome face, blond hair and 6-foot-2 height, he seemed ideal for a movie leading man.

Nielsen first performed as the king of France in the Paramount operetta "The Vagabond King" with Kathryn Grayson.

The film — he called it "The Vagabond Turkey" — flopped, but MGM signed him to a seven-year contract.

His first film for that studio was auspicious — as the space ship commander in the science fiction classic "Forbidden Planet." He found his best dramatic role as the captain of an overturned ocean liner in the 1972 disaster movie, "The Poseidon Adventure."

Behind the camera, the serious actor was a well-known prankster. That was an aspect of his personality never exploited, however, until "Airplane!" was released in 1980 and became a huge hit.

As the doctor aboard a plane in which the pilots, and some of the passengers, become violently ill, Nielsen says they must get to a hospital right away.

"A hospital? What is it?" a flight attendant asks, inquiring about the illness.

"It's a big building with patients, but that's not important right now," Nielsen deadpans.

It was the beginning of a whole new career in comedy. Nielsen would go on to appear in such comedies as "Repossessed" — a takeoff on "The Exorcist" — and "Mr. Magoo," in which he played the title role of the good-natured bumbler.

But it took years before he got there.

He played Debbie Reynolds' sweetheart in 1957's popular "Tammy and the Bachelor," and he became well known to baby boomers for his role as the Revolutionary War fighter Francis Marion in the Disney TV adventure series "The Swamp Fox."

He asked to be released from his contract at MGM, and as a freelancer, he appeared in a series of undistinguished movies.

"I played a lot of leaders, autocratic sorts; perhaps it was my Canadian accent," he said.

Meanwhile, he remained active in television in guest roles. He also starred in his own series, "The New Breed," "The Protectors" and "Bracken's World," but all were short-lived.

Then "Airplane!" captivated audiences and changed everything.

Producers-directors-writers Jim Abrahams, David and Jerry Zucker had hired Robert Stack, Peter Graves, Lloyd Bridges and Nielsen to spoof their heroic TV images in a satire of flight-in-jeopardy movies.

After the movie's success, the filmmaking trio cast their newfound comic star as Detective Drebin in a TV series, "Police Squad," which trashed the cliches of "Dragnet" and other cop shows. Despite good reviews, ABC quickly canceled it. Only six episodes were made.

"It didn't belong on TV," Nielsen later said. "It had the kind of humor you had to pay attention to."

The Zuckers and Abraham converted the series into a feature film, "The Naked Gun," with George Kennedy, O.J. Simpson and Priscilla Presley as Nielsen's co-stars. Its huge success led to sequels "The Naked Gun 2 1/2" and "The Naked Gun 33 1/3."

His later movies included "All I Want for Christmas," "Dracula: Dead and Loving It" and "Spy Hard."

Between films he often turned serious, touring with his one-man show on the life of the great defense lawyer, Clarence Darrow.

Nielsen was born Feb. 11, 1926 in Regina, Saskatchewan.

He grew up 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle at Fort Norman, where his father was an officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The parents had three sons, and Nielsen once recalled, "There were 15 people in the village, including five of us. If my father arrested somebody in the winter, he'd have to wait until the thaw to turn him in."

The elder Nielsen was a troubled man who beat his wife and sons, and Leslie longed to escape. As soon as he graduated from high school at 17, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, even though he was legally deaf (he wore hearing aids most of his life.)

After the war, Nielsen worked as a disc jockey at a Calgary radio station, then studied at a Toronto radio school operated by Lorne Greene, who would go on to star on the hit TV series "Bonanza." A scholarship to the Neighborhood Playhouse brought him to New York, where he immersed himself in live television...

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Many people will not remember who Louise Tobin is, but she not only was a great vocalist but was also the first Mrs. Harry James. She sang in the 1930s with Benny Goodman and Bobby Hackett. She also appeared with Will Bradley and Jack Jenney. Louise Tobin introduced “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” with Benny Goodman’s band in 1939. Her biggest hit with Goodman was “There’ll Be Some Changes Made” which was number two on the Hit Parade in 1941 for 15 weeks. Tobin was married to trumpeter and bandleader Harry James with whom she had two children.

When she heard a singing waiter at the Rustic Cabin on the radio in 1939 she brought him to Harry's attention, as the band needed a boy singer. Her husband visited the Cabin and hired Frank Sinatra on a one year contract of $75 a week.

Louise and Harry were divorced in 1943. They had two sons together.

In 1967 Tobin married clarinetist Peanuts Hucko, with whom she sang and recorded with various groups through the 1990s. Hucko died in 2003 in Fort Worth, Texas.

A very healthy Louise Tobin recently celebrated her 92nd birthday, and the video shows what a great lady she is...


Dolores Hope, as many of you know, is the widow of comedian Bob Hope. They were married for many years from 1934 until Bob's death in 2003. She was born as Dolores DeFina in New York City of Italian and Irish descent in 1909 and was raised in the Bronx. After the death of her father, her mother, Theresa, raised her.

During the 1930s, she began her professional singing career under the name Dolores Reade on the advice of her agent. In 1933, after appearing at the Vogue Club, a Manhattan nightclub, Reade was introduced to Bob Hope. The couple were married on February 19, 1934 in Erie, Pennsylvania. They later adopted four children from The Cradle in Evanston, Illinois.

On May 29, 2003, Dolores was at her husband's side as he celebrated his 100th birthday; he died two months later on July 27, 2003. The following year their son, Anthony J. Hope, died at the age of 63 on June 28, 2004.

On May 27, 2009, Dolores Hope became a centenarian herself, and her birthday was featured on The Today Show. On May 29, 2010, Mrs. Hope was quoted as saying to local press, of her 101st birthday, "I’m still recovering from my 100th birthday bash, so I’m going to keep this year’s celebration much quieter.”


Monday, November 22, 2010


One brand of musical towers head and shoulders above every other: the MGM musical. The mere phrase conjures up a string of iconic images – Gene Kelly ecstatically splashing about in puddles, a be-ginghamed Judy Garland skipping off down the Yellow Brick Road, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby singing while supping at the bar, Fred Astaire and Judy Garland slumming it as tramps, Maurice Chevalier crooning his way through a park packed with pretty Parisiennes ...

Between 1939 and 1959, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer took the musical genre to a new level – well, several new levels, actually. They gave us the first musical with black stars in the leading roles, in the shape of 1943’s Cabin in the Sky, and six years later, they took the musical out of the studio and on location with the groundbreaking, New York-set classic On the Town.

And whereas the musicals up to that point had been very self-conscious about the use of song’n’dance routines – they invariably featured in “let’s put on the show right here” style plots – The Wizard of Oz blended them seamlessly into the story, just as the songs, by Harold Arlen and EY Harburg, rose organically out of Arlen’s score.

Requiring 29 sound stages, 65 sets, hundreds of costumes, 150 singing and dancing midgets and breathtaking special effects, The Wizard of Oz was typical of MGM’s opulent, no-expense-spared house style – but it was their most ambitious musical to date, and the first in colour. As a result of its success, studio chief Louis B Mayer decided to set up a musical unit at MGM with Oz producer Arthur Freed (the man who ensured Over the Rainbow was reinstated to the film, after it had been cut) at the helm.

And it is to Arthur Freed, that much of the credit for these glorious musicals is due. He puts the unrivalled greatness and splendour of the MGM musicals down to the fact that “MGM had a sort of repertory company, in the shape of the Freed Unit. Their musicals were the best ever made because Freed had this extraordinary gift of assembling talent, and he had a very loyal group of craftsmen that he used time and time again – directors Vincente Minnelli and Charles Walters, composer/arrangers Conrad Salinger, Johnny Green and Andre Previn, choreographers Gene Kelly and Hermes Pan and costume designer Helen Rose. He had the same people doing the same job year in, year out – they really knew what they were doing.” As a result, every aspect of films such as Meet Me In St Louis, Singin’ in the Rain, The Band Wagon and Gigi was absolutely first class.

Of course the perfect example of that – and much else besides – is Singin’ in the Rain (1952), the ultimate Freed Unit production (not least because he also co-wrote the title song). As Gene Kelly later pointed out, “You could watch that and enjoy it even without the music.”

But, oh, what music. Pick any legend of American popular songwriting and you’ll find he worked for MGM during the glory years. Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers, Harry Warren – they all wrote songs for MGM – and in some cases, the songs outlived or outshone the films. And it wasn’t just the songwriters whose music enchants.

The MGM movies endure because they are meticulously crafted works of art which offer pure unadulterated escapism and complete and utter joy. As Gene Kelly sang in the 1951 MGM extravaganza An American in Paris, “who could ask for anything more?”



Here is a duet I never thought I would see. It is one of my favorite crooners Dean Martin swinging with 1960s pop idol Fabian. Even though Fabian was popular, Dean shows the kid how its done. This was taken from one of Dino's shows...

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Here is an interview with the great Greer Garson (1904-1996). Garson was very popular during the War years.She was one of the top box office draws in 1942, 1943, 1944, and 1945. As one of MGM's major stars of the 1940s, Garson received seven Academy Award nominations, winning the Best Actress award for Mrs. Miniver (1942). This great interview is from 1985...

Saturday, November 20, 2010


The 1927 expressionistic masterpiece Metropolis has been re-released in a new 147 minute version, called “The Complete Metropolis”. The film premiered in February 2010at the Berlin Film at Friederichstrasse Palast, accompanied by a 60-piece orchestra playing the original 1927 score by Gottfried Huppertz. The response was overwhelming from both the German press and public. It has now been announced that there will be a North American release of the new restoration, including Blu-ray and DVD versions. A total of 35 minutes of lost footage has been added, as well as the original Huppertz score. This movie is a timeless classic, far ahead of its time...

Thursday, November 18, 2010


SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. – Silent film child star Marie Osborne Yeats, who was known as Baby Marie Osborne in films such as "Little Mary Sunshine," has died in California. She was 99.

Daughter Joan Young tells the Los Angeles Times that Yeats died Nov. 11 at her San Clemente home. The cause of death wasn't disclosed, but Yeats had suffered three strokes in her later years.

Director Henry King launched Baby Marie to stardom in 1916 with "Little Mary Sunshine," a film written for her.

"Little Mary Sunshine" was the first in a series of Baby Marie Osborne films that captivated audiences worldwide and led to Baby Marie dolls and paper dolls.

Her film career ended after the 1919 comedy "Miss Gingersnap," and she later worked as a studio costume supervisor.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Even to people that watch old movies, dancer Vera-Ellen is mostly known to the world as the younger sister of Rosemary Clooney in the movie WHITE CHRISTMAS(1954). However, she was a great dancer who had many demons that 1940s and 1950s audiences never knew.

She was born Vera Ellen Westmeier Rohe on February 16, 1921 in Norwood, Ohio , an enclave within Cincinnati, to Martin Rohe and Alma Catherine Westmeier, both descended from German immigrants. She began dancing at age 10 and quickly became very proficient. At 16 she was a winner on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour, and embarked upon a professional careerIn 1939, Vera-Ellen made her Broadway theatre debut in the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein musical Very Warm for May at the age of 18. She became one of the youngest Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, although she was not tall. This led to roles on Broadway in Panama Hattie, By Jupiter, and A Connecticut Yankee, where she was spotted by Samuel Goldwyn, who cast her opposite Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo in the film WONDER MAN(1945).

She danced with Gene Kelly in the Hollywood musicals WORDS AND MUSIC(1948)and ON THE TOWN(1949), while also appearing in the last Marx Brothers film, LOVE HAPPY(1950). She received top billing alongside Fred Astaire in Three Little Words and The Belle of New York (1952). Then came co-starring roles with Bing Crosby in the blockbuster hit WHITE CHRISTMAS(1954). During the 1950s, she was reputed to have the "smallest waist in Hollywood", and is believed to have suffered from anorexia nervosa. She retired from the screen in 1957. Guest appearances on the television variety shows of Dinah Shore and Perry Como in 1958 and 1959 were among the last of her entertainment career.

Vera-Ellen was married twice. Her first husband was fellow dancer Robert Hightower (from 1941 to 1946).Her second husband, from 1954 to 1966, was millionaire Victor Rothschild. Both marriages ended in divorce. While married to Rothschild, she gave birth to a daughter, Victoria Ellen Rothschild, who died at three months old of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in 1963. Following the death of her child, Vera-Ellen withdrew from public life and never recovered from it. She died of cancer in Los Angeles, California in 1981...

For more on Vera-Ellen's later years go to this article:

Monday, November 15, 2010


Susan Hayward was another one of those wonderful actresses who died painfully too young in 1975 at the age of 57. After working as a fashion model in New York, Hayward travelled to Hollywood in 1937 when open auditions were held for the leading role in Gone With the Wind (1939). Although she was not selected, she secured a film contract, and played several small supporting roles over the next few years. By the late 1940s the quality of her film roles had improved, and she achieved recognition for her dramatic abilities with the first of five Academy Award nominations for Best Actress for her performance as an alcoholic in SMASH UP, THE STORY OF A WOMAN(1947). Her career continued successfully through the 1950s and she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of death row inmate Barbara Graham in I WANT TO LIVE(1958). Susan Hayward is truly one of the great actresses of our times...

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Jimmy Durante never had a great voice, but I think his version of "September Song" is my favorite version of the song. Countless other singers have sung this sad song, but Jimmy Durante made it his own. Jimmy recorded it commercially in 1963, but here is a version from his television show...

Thursday, November 11, 2010


John Wayne made a lot of movies in his career - well over 100 - and I think HELLFIGHTERS(1968) is my all-time favorite John Wayne movie. I feel it was different than his usual cowboy or soldier role. Chance Buckman (John Wayne) is the head of a Houston, Texas–based oil-fire fighting outfit. With a team that includes Joe Horn (Bruce Cabot), Greg Parker (Jim Hutton), and George Harris (Edward Faulkner), Chance travels around the world putting out blazes at well heads from industrial accident, explosion or terrorist attack. Chance enjoys the thrills, but longs for ex-wife Madelyn (Vera Miles), who left him 20 years earlier, taking their daughter Tish (Katharine Ross) with her, because Madelyn could not bear to see her husband risk his life.

While extinguishing a burning wellhead, Chance suffers a near-fatal accident when he is nearly crushed by a bulldozer blade. Against his wishes, his daughter visits. He discovers that his assistant Greg has married his daughter five days after meeting her. Greg has a notorious reputation for using fires to pick up women. Generally, any woman he takes to a fire ends up in bed with him; in the case of Buckman's daughter, he apparently fell in love and they married instead. In spite of Greg's reputation, Buckman comes to trust his daughter's choice. He accepts Greg into the family.

Greg suspects that his new father-in-law is growing increasingly protective after the marriage, in an effort to protect his daughter from heartbreak should her new husband be harmed or killed. Tish wishes to see the fires that her husband and father fight, something that neither man has encouraged. Her father relents and allows her to accompany Greg into the field.

Chance, trying to re-unite with his ex-wife, resigns to take a safer job at Lomax's oil company as a way to win her back. Chance gives his company to his son-in-law as a "wedding present", although Greg's pride forces him to tell Buckman he "doesn't want any gifts" and that he will "pay double for it." Greg and Tish begin traveling the world to put out oil-well fires. Soon the older couple announce that they will re-marry, to the delight of Tish. Chance accepts an executive position from his old friend Jack Lomax (Jay C. Flippen) to serve on the board of directors for Lomax Oil. Madelyn is happy to see her husband in a safe job; but in time Chance begins to grow bored with the corporate environment and longs to be back in the field.

Greg encounters problems with an oil well fire in Venezuela, further compounded by guerrillas who are trying to undermine the operation. He asks Chance to return and help fight the fire. He does so without hesitation. Chance goes to Venezuela, unaware that Madelyn and Tish are going as well. Madelyn declares "This is it for me," in the sense that it will either make or break her ability to deal with the fires once and for all. The team puts out the fires with the help of the Venezuelan army while under attack by rebel aircraft that strafe the oilfield. Madelyn explodes in anger at what she perceives as the Venezuelans' inability to protect the team from unexpected airplane attacks, at which point Chance pulls her away during her tirade. She snaps, "I'll be damned if I understand your attitude!", to which he replies, "It's very simple -- you'll do!"

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


In my opinion, I think Maureen O'Hara was one of the most beautiful actresses to ever come out of Hollywood. Maureen was born Maureen Fitzsimons in 1920 in Ireland. The famously red-headed O'Hara has been noted for playing fiercely passionate heroines with a highly sensible attitude. She often worked with director John Ford and longtime friend John Wayne. Her autobiography, 'Tis Herself , was published in 2004.

Her first major film was Jamaica Inn (1938) directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Charles Laughton was so pleased with O'Hara's performance that he cast her in the role of Esmeralda opposite him in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), which was to be filmed at RKO Studios in Hollywood that same year. After the successful completion of Hunchback, World War II began, and Laughton, realizing their studio could no longer film in London, sold O'Hara's contract to RKO. That studio cast her in low-budget films until she was rescued by director John Ford, who cast her as Angharad in How Green Was My Valley, which won the 1941 Academy Award for Best Picture.

Six years later, in 1947, she made what is perhaps her best-remembered film, starring as Doris Walker and the mother of a young Natalie Wood in 20th Century Fox's Miracle on 34th Street, which, despite being released in May, has become a perennial Christmas classic, with a traditional network television airing every Thanksgiving Day on NBC. The film also helped to further establish O'Hara's career after the film garnered several awards, including an Academy Award Nomination for Best Picture.

In 1939, at the age of 19, O'Hara secretly married Englishman George H. Brown, a film producer, production assistant and occasional scriptwriter whose best known work is the first of Margaret Rutherford's 1960s Miss Marple mysteries, Murder She Said. The marriage was annulled in 1941. Later that year, O'Hara married American film director William Houston Price (dialog director in The Hunchback of Notre Dame), but the union ended in 1953, reportedly as a result of his alcohol abuse. They had one child in 1944, a daughter named Bronwyn FitzSimons Price. Bronwyn has one son, Conor Beau FitzSimons, who was born on September 8, 1970. From 1953 until 1967 O'Hara had a relationship with Enrique Parra, a Mexican politician and banker. She wrote in her autobiography ; "Enrique saved me from the darkness of an abusive marriage and brought me back into the warm light of life again. Leaving him was one of the most painful things I have ever had to do."

She married her third husband, Charles F. Blair, Jr., on March 12,1968. Blair was a pioneer of transatlantic aviation, a former Brigadier General of the U.S. Air Force, and a former Chief Pilot at Pan Am. A few years after her marriage to Blair, O'Hara for the most part retired from acting. Blair died in 1978 when an engine of a Grumman Goose he was flying from St. Croix to St. Thomas exploded. She was elected CEO and President of Antilles Airboats with the added distinction of being the first woman president of a scheduled airline in the U.S. Later she sold the airline with the permission of the shareholders.

O'Hara remained retired from acting until 1991, when she starred in the film Only the Lonely, playing Rose Muldoon, the domineering mother of a Chicago cop played by John Candy. In the following years, she continued to work, starring in several made-for-TV movies, including The Christmas Box, Cab for Canada and The Last Dance, the latter her last film to date, released in 2000.

Now officially retired, she has homes in Arizona and the Virgin Islands but lives mainly in Glengarriff, County Cork.

UPDATE AUGUST 2012...Maureen O' Hara has made news again. She is enbroiled in a battle with her assistant, whom she fired. Allegations of elder abuse and mismanagement has come out. You can read more of the story HERE. The article also includes an updated picture of Ms. O'Hara from this year...

UPDATED JANUARY 2013...Maureen is now living in Idaho. You can read more of the update HERE. There is also a picture with her grandson and her two great grandchildren...

UPDATE JUNE 2013...Maureen is leaving the spotlight. Poor woman has had a hard couple of years. You can read the update HERE.

UPDATE OCTOBER 2015...Legendary actress Maureen O'Hara has passed away at the age of 95. You can read about it HERE.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Jill Clayburgh, an Oscar-nominated actress known for portraying strong, independent women, died on Friday at her home in Lakeville, Conn. She was 66. The cause was chronic leukemia, with which she had lived for 21 years, her husband, the playwright David Rabe, said.

Ms. Clayburgh, who began her career in films and on Broadway in the late 1960s, was among the first generation of young actresses — including Ellen Burstyn, Carrie Snodgress and Marsha Mason — who regularly portrayed characters sprung from the new feminist ethos: smart, capable and gritty, sometimes neurotic, but no less glamorous for all that. “I guess people look at me and they think I’m a ladylike character,” Ms. Clayburgh told The New York Times in 1982. “But it’s not what I do best. I do best with characters who are coming apart at the seams.”

She was known in particular for her starring role in “An Unmarried Woman” (1978), directed by Paul Mazursky. For her performance as Erica, a New Yorker who must right herself after her husband leaves her for another woman, Ms. Clayburgh was nominated for an Academy Award. (The best-actress Oscar that year went to Jane Fonda in “Coming Home.”) Ms. Clayburgh also received an Oscar nomination for “Starting Over” (1979), directed by Alan J. Pakula. She played Marilyn Holmberg, a teacher who embarks on a relationship with Phil, a newly divorced man played by Burt Reynolds.

Ms. Clayburgh’s other films include “Semi-Tough” (1977), opposite Mr. Reynolds; “It’s My Turn” (1980), opposite Michael Douglas; “First Monday in October” (1981), opposite Walter Matthau, in which she played the first woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court; and “I’m Dancing as Fast as I Can” (1982), based on the memoir by Barbara Gordon about a driven career woman’s addiction to valium.

Jill Clayburgh was born in Manhattan on April 30, 1944, the daughter of Albert, an industrial textile salesman, and Julie Clayburgh. She earned a bachelor’s degree in theater from Sarah Lawrence College in 1966. Ms. Clayburgh made her Broadway debut in 1968 in “The Sudden & Accidental Re-Education of Horse Johnson,” a play starring Jack Klugman that ran for five performances. Her other Broadway credits included far more successful shows, among them the Jerry Bock-Sheldon Harnick musical “The Rothschilds” (1970), opposite Hal Linden; the Stephen Schwartz musical “Pippin” (1972), opposite John Rubinstein; and a 1984 revival of Noël Coward’s “Design for Living” that also starred Frank Langella and Raul Julia.

Her last Broadway appearance, in 2006, was in a revival of “Barefoot in the Park” at the Cort Theater, with Tony Roberts and Amanda Peet.

Besides Mr. Rabe, whom she married in 1978, Ms. Clayburgh is survived by a daughter, the actress Lily Rabe, who is starring in the Broadway production of “The Merchant of Venice,” now in previews at the Broadhurst Theater; a son, Michael; a stepson, Jason; and a brother, James.

Her many television credits include guest appearances on “Law & Order,” “The Practice” and “Nip/Tuck,” and a recurring role on “Ally McBeal” as Ally’s mother, Jeannie. Most recently Ms. Clayburgh was a member of the regular cast of “Dirty Sexy Money,” broadcast from 2007 to 2009 on ABC.

Despite her acclaim, Ms. Clayburgh, by all appearances, had a healthy sense of herself. “People think about me, ‘This wonderful lucky woman, she’s got it all,’ ” she told The Times in 1982. “But gee, that’s how I feel about Meryl Streep.”

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


NEW YORK – Jerry Bock, who composed some of the most memorable shows in Broadway history, including "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Fiorello!" has died. He was 81.

Richard M. Ticktin, Bock's attorney and family friend, said the composer died Wednesday morning at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y., of heart failure.

Together with lyricist Sheldon Harnick, Bock wrote the powerful score to "Fiddler on the Roof," one of the most successful productions in the history of the American musical theater, having an initial run of eight years. It earned the two men Tony Awards in 1965.

Bock had recently spoken at a memorial service for "Fiddler" playwright Joseph Stein, who died Oct. 24. "So now two of the three creators of 'Fiddler on the Roof' have passed away within three weeks of each other," said Ticktin.

Bock and Harnick also took home Tonys and a Pulitzer Prize for the music and lyrics to "Fiorello!" in 1960. In addition, Bock was nominated for Tonys in 1967 for "The Apple Tree" and in 1971 for "The Rothschilds."

"The world will remember him as a gentle human being with great talent who was a collaborator in musical theater. Jerry believed that the essence of musical theater was the collaboration — working with your colleagues, trying to make a unified whole out of disparate parts," Ticktin said.

Bock's other works include "The Body Beautiful," "Mr. Wonderful" and "She Loves Me."

In 2004, Bock said his favorite moment in the creation of a song was playing it with his collaborator. "If it works, we say, 'Wow!'" Bock said. "There's no reward like it — to finish a song and celebrate it with your partner."

Survivors include his wife, Patti, daughter Portia Bock, son George Bock and granddaughter Edie Mae Shipler. Funeral services will be private, his lawyer said.


Here is an unusual pairing for Danny Kaye's movie debut. He is paired with the great songbird Dinah Shore in UP IN ARMS from 1944. Dinah never really made it as a movie star, although she had a very likable personality. The number, called "Tess' Torch Song" is very unique. Shore recorded a more subtle version that was a fairly big hit. Personally, I think the duet on film was better...

Monday, November 1, 2010


Hollywood legend Doris Day, born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff, turned 86 years old this past April. She's one of the few top-ranking female box office stars who is still alive to talk about what it was like to break into Hollywood in the 1940s, and she recently spent time talking about her life and career with WNYC Music Host Jonathan Schwartz. Day shares with Schwartz, among other anecdotes, how a car accident curtailed her stint as a dancer, why she turned down the lead in the movie "South Pacific" and the time Frank Sinatra came to her defense at a birthday party...


Bob Colonna is the son of comedian and entertainer Jerry Colonna. Jerry is best known as being a foil for Bob Hope on radio, television, and movies. However, Jerry Colonna was a gifted musician and family man as well. Bob Colonna, a gifted director and actor as well, has written a book about his father called: "Greetings, Gate!: The Story of Professor Jerry Colonna". I highly recommend the book, and you can buy it here.

Bob was gracious enough to take time out of his active and busy schedule to sit down with me and answer a few questions about his life and his famous father:

LOBOSCO: Growing up in a famous household, what do you remember most?

BOB COLONNA: Being treated differently at school -- not pleasantly, either. Also, showing up at interesting places, being photographed with Dad and Mom, etc.

LOBOSCO: Your father is best remembered as a comedian, but he was a well rounded talented entertainer as well, what facet of his career do he think he was most proud of?

BOB COLONNA: He was always first and foremost a jazz trombonist, and at one time was named one of the top five in the US. He was always happiest when he could play the horn.

LOBOSCO: Your father worked with Bob Hope for a good portion of his career. Since Bob's death, some true and untrue stories came out about him, what was your impression (and your father's impression) of Bob Hope?

BOB COLONNA: In some ways a distant man, and very self protective. Very witty, which will put paid to those who think he couldn't be funny without idiot cards. And very, very loyal to his friends, especially Jerry; even after Jerry passed, Hope made sure my Mom was looked after, but without it ever seeming like charity. I think Hope, in his way, was a great man, and like great men, had a few failings. He had only one drug, however, and that was the applause and laughter of servicemen and women, and he went, compulsively, to wherever he could find it.

LOBOSCO: After your father became ill in the 1960s, he withdrew from the limelight. During this time, did he keep up on the change in entertainment (the music, the "new" comedians) and what did he think of them?

BOB COLONNA: Actually, Jerry continued to perform after the stroke, but only on some Hope TV specials. Hope made sure he was sitting down, and edited the tape to account for any slowness in picking up cues. Otherwise, Jerry performed very well. It wasn't until his heart attack in the 70s that he was confined to the Motion Picture and TV Hospital for the rest of his life. As for the new comics, I don't know -- I moved to Providence in 1966, and wasn't there to get his reactions. I think he would have liked Robin Williams. His favorite had always been Sid Caesar, who set a very high bar for anybody following him. Of course, Jerry hated coarse language, and never used it himself, even privately, so most of the newbies would have turned him off.

LOBOSCO: How was life for you growing up the son of Jerry Colonna?

BOB COLONNA: I now realize what a break I got. I met most of the people I would like to have met, from Harpo to Robert Preston. I had access to some fabulous parties, and I got to perform with Dad in British Variety at fifteen and in clubs in my twenties. I decided from a very early age that the stage was my place. I never had stage fright -- it was always home to me. Dad taught me the basics of comedy, even though we always worked very differently. His best piece of advice: Know when to get off.

LOBOSCO: What would you like a young fan who knows little about your father come away from when he/she reads your book?

BOB COLONNA: I hope he/she wants to hear Dad's voice (which that person might have already if they watched the old Disney "Alice in Wonderland," in which Jerry does the voice of the March Hare. That fact gets me a lot of cred with my college students!) in his very funny recordings. You can hear a lot of them on Youtube, and there are compilations out there on the Web, for sale. And in the book the reader will pick up a lot about the USO in WWII, which was Hope and Colonna's finest hour.

LOBOSCO: What is something even a fan of Jerry Colonna's would be surprised to know about him?

BOB COLONNA: Unlike most comedians, Jerry was quiet and conservative, only occasionally kidding around in private. When he did, though, it was VERY funny, but for the most part he was soft spoken, and very sweet, especially to my mother, Flo, whom he adored.