Thursday, June 30, 2011


Child actress Edith Fellows had made about 30 films when she starred at 13 in a heart-wrenching high-profile, 1936 custody case driven, she later said, by "my money - past, present and future."

Abandoned as an infant by her mother, she was being raised by her paternal grandmother, who brought Edith, then 4, to Hollywood from South Carolina after a "talent scout" guaranteed her a screen test for a $50 fee.

The address they were given led to a vacant lot, and her grandmother responded to the con man's ruse by cleaning houses so that they could afford to stay. Within two years, Edith was cast in her first film, the 1929 short "Movie Night." She had appeared in such movies as "The Rider of the Death Valley" (1932) with Tom Mix and "Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch" (1934) with W.C. Fields when the mother she had not seen for most of a decade came knocking on the door.

When her mother sued her grandmother for custody, Edith testified, "I might be willing to be friends with her if she'd leave me alone, but I'm not used to loving strangers."

Once the two sides agreed that Edith would remain in her grandmother's care, her mother sought an allowance from her daughter. The judge advised taking it up with probate court.

Fellows died of natural causes Sunday at the Motion Picture and Television Fund's retirement home in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley, said her only child, Kathy Fields Lander. She was 88.

Yet not everything was as it appeared to be during Edith's courtroom testimony, which ended months before the release of "Pennies From Heaven," a film featuring Edith as an orphan who is befriended by Bing Crosby.

Her off-screen life was tightly controlled by her domineering grandmother, Elizabeth Fellows, who once had stage ambitions and essentially forced her into show business, the actress later recalled.

When Edith was signed by Columbia Pictures in the mid-1930s, studio chief Harry Cohn strongly suggested that her grandmother buy the teen actress some decent clothes.

Forced to choose in court between her grandmother and her mother, Edith had "mixed emotions," she told People magazine in 1984.

Her mother seemed "cold and a little tough," Fellows said in the article, so she chose to stay with the stern hand she already knew.

As a result of the court case, Edith's earnings was placed in a trust. In 1939, the Los Angeles Times reported that her estate might end up worth $150,000 - the equivalent of about $2.3 million today - when she turned 21 and could claim the money.

Instead, her tale took another cinematic turn when she returned from acting in New York theater to collect her childhood income.

When the California bankers handed her a check for $900.60, Fellows thought it was a joke and later recalled asking, "OK, now where's the rest of it?"

Her grandmother wasn't around to ask; she had been dead for several years.

Fellows always blamed the missing thousands on her mother, who said of Edith during the court case: "I saw her in a picture once, but I didn't know she was my daughter."

Edith Marilyn Fellows was born May 20, 1923, in Boston and by 2 months old was under her grandmother's care.

Repeatedly cast as a spoiled brat and a street urchin in the movies, Edith especially enjoyed playing oldest sibling Polly Pepper in the "Little Peppers" film series released in 1939 and 1940, her daughter said.

At 17, Edith was dropped by Columbia and made a handful of films before turning to stage roles that included Broadway.

While performing with the USO, she met talent agent and future studio executive Freddie Fields. They married in 1946, had a daughter and divorced in the mid-1950s.

"She was 4-foot-10, a feisty kind of pixie with a bubbly personality," her daughter said, "and she could sing."

During a 1958 benefit performance in New York, Fellows suffered a physical breakdown that a psychiatrist attributed to "acute stage fright," partly due to being forced into a life of performing, she recounted in 1984 in People.

Her second marriage, to a management consultant, ended after several years when he tried to push her back into show business, she told the magazine.

Penniless and depressed, Fellows spent several years as an operator for answering services, dependent on alcohol and tranquilizers, she later recalled.

After she returned to Los Angeles around 1970, a friend wrote a play, "Dreams Deferred," based on Fellows life and asked her to star in it. It helped her return to acting, onstage and in television and film.

Opening in it "was like going through a doorway," she told People in 1984. "I just knew that I was home."

Fellows is survived by a family of actors - her daughter Kathy, who is married to David Lander, who played Squiggy on TV's "Laverne & Shirley"; and her granddaughter, Natalie Lander.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


"Do you know how many times I am asked to play somebody's mother or grandmother who pours the coffee?" Rita Moreno said in a recent interview. "I call it pouring the Bustelo. That is Puerto Rican coffee. I am not going to do that. Not at 79."

So she especially loves her latest role as Fran Drescher's wisecracking mother in the new TV Land sitcom "Happily Divorced," which premiered two weeks ago. The comedy is based on Drescher's own life. Her now-ex-husband, Peter Marc Jacobson, who is producing the series, came out of the closet after they had been married for several years.

"The show we did last week, the laughs were so extended they had to start editing the show to accommodate the laughs. That is what I call a first-class dilemma," said Moreno, relaxing in her dressing room at CBS/Radford Studios during a break in the rehearsal. "I am playing a New York Jewish woman. I am as happy as an uneaten clam."

Moreno, a widow with a grown daughter and two grandsons, had worked with Drescher when she guest-starred on the comic actress' previous series, "The Nanny." "We did pursue her to play this role," said Drescher. Added Jacobson: "The second she came in to read, we knew she was the right choice. And she fits perfectly as Fran's mom."

Despite her career ups and downs, Moreno still loves performing as much as when she started doing bar mitzvahs in New York when she was 5. "There are parts of show business that I hate," she noted, "But we all do. But here I am at 79, kicking and bopping. I am doing my one-woman show about my life in September at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. It's called 'Life Without Makeup.' We are hoping to take it to New York. It's been quite a life."

Moreno was 13 when she made her Broadway debut in the drama "Skydrift." A few years later, a talent scout from MGM saw her at a dance school recital. "He came backstage and talked to my mom," Moreno recalled. "It was the studio of my dreams -- Gene Kelly, Ann Miller, Judy Garland."

But she wasn't immediately whisked to Hollywood. "He [the scout] said, 'I don't think the time is right yet.' " But about eight months later he called to arrange a meeting with studio head Louis B. Mayer at the Waldorf-Astoria. "I had never been in a hotel in my life," Moreno said. "We lived in a ghetto."

Moreno showed up looking like her idol, Elizabeth Taylor. "I was doing my hair like her, my eyebrows," she said. The Taylor reference wasn't lost on Mayer, who signed her because she looked like the MGM star.

But once she got to Hollywood, the studio didn't know what to do with Moreno. "I started to play all of those native girls," she said with a sigh. "Thus started what I call 'the struggle.' "

The "anomaly" was when Kelly cast her as the flapper actress Zelda Zanders in the 1952 classic "Singin' in the Rain." "It was a little part, but I was not playing Lolita Conchita. Sadly enough, I thought 'This will be the beginning of my new career; now I can play other nationalities,' but that didn't happen." Moreno quickly pointed out that she has nothing against playing Latina characters, "but I want to play Hispanics that exist and are real."

She got her opportunity with 1961's "West Side Story," in which she played Anita, the hot-tempered sister of naive Maria (Natalie Wood). She triumphed in the Oscar-winning film directed by Robert Wise and choreographer Jerome Robbins with her sizzling number "America."

"Everyone had trouble with Jerome Robbins," she admitted, describing the late choreographer-director as "extremely difficult and mean." Still, said Moreno, "he was a genius, and right now I would drop everything to work with him again"...


Monday, June 27, 2011


As he head into July, here are some important events that happened in movie history this week:

June 30, 1929: Alfred Hitchcock's Blackmail, which nearly saw completion as a silent film, was re-shot with sound, becoming Britain's first "talkie."

June 29, 1933: Unable to overcome the scandal that plagued him 12 years earlier, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, 46, dies penniless of a heart attack.

June 30, 1933: The Screen Actors Guild is founded in Hollywood, presided over by actor Ralph Morgan.

June 29, 1934: The Thin Man, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, launches a series of six films MGM will make featuring Dashiell Hammett's characters.

June 27, 1944: Esther Williams makes a splash in her first "all-singing, all-dancing, all-swimming" musical for MGM, Bathing Beauty.

June 27, 1961: Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour come home to rest with the release of the seventh and final "road" flick, The Road to Hong Kong.

June 28, 1961: The search is on for the perfect James Bond, after United Artists announces it will produce seven films based on Ian Fleming's superspy.

June 27, 1964: Ernest Borgnine marries Ethel Merman (during a spell of "temporary insanity," she'll claim later). The union lasts less than some of her high notes: 32 days.

June 29, 1967: Screen sex kitten Jayne Mansfield, 44, is killed in a car accident on a Louisiana highway. The sight of her wig nearby will stir up "beheading" rumors.

June 27, 1973: The tuxedo is passed on, as Roger Moore plays superspy James Bond for the first time in Live and Let Die.

July 2, 1973: Betty Grable, the favorite actress and pin-up of many American G.I.s during World War II, dies of lung cancer at the age of 56.

June 30, 1983: Spanish-born director and master of cinematic surrealism Luis Buñuel dies in Mexico at 83.

June 30, 1989: Spike Lee's controversial look at race relations in a Brooklyn pizza parlor, Do the Right Thing, opens.

July 1, 1997: Robert Mitchum, sleepy-eyed tough guy and leading man from the '40s through the '90s, dies at age 79.

July 2, 1997: James Stewart, affable leading man and father figure from the '30s through the '90s, dies at age 89.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Every comedian wants to do drama. In classic Hollywood, funny men like Jackie Gleason, Bob Hope, and even George Burns were trying to be the next Spencer Tracy, and legendary comedian Jerry Lewis was no different. When Lewis went solo in the late 50s, he had big success writing, directing and acting in a number of classic comedies, peaking in 1963 with the original Nutty Professor.

As hilarious and groundbreaking as Lewis has been at his best, he's also been equally unfunny, schmaltzy, heavy-handed and tasteless at his worst, and it's hard to think of a better example of this than The Day The Clown Cried.

In the annals of bad movies, there is one film that still stands as the crown jewel of the realm. More than three decades after it was made, the urban legend of Jerry Lewis' The Day The Clown Cried still continues to grow, which is pretty amazing considering very few people have actually seen it (hence it turning up in our list of high profile films that never had a proper release recently).

The storyline alone is enough to make your jaw drop. Lewis plays Helmut Doork, a German gentile clown who's hauled off to the concentration camps for making fun of Hitler, and he's forced to entertain the children he's imprisoned with before they're marched off to the gas chambers.

Clown, which went into production in early 1972, was going to be Lewis' first serious role, and the film that would prove his mettle as an auteur to the critics. But the film has never been released because the rights to the screenplay expired, but Lewis went ahead with the production, and when he showed the finished film to its screenwriter, Joan O'Brien, she was appalled with the end result and refused to renew the rights again.

Throughout the years, Clown has been the butt of many jokes. In 1980, it was nominated for a Golden Turkey Award, which was the original Razzies that celebrated the worst movies in history (Ed Wood became a household name when he got the bird in their Worst Director category). Clown was nominated for The Worst Movie You Never Saw, and adding insult to injury, it couldn't even win that award (the prize went to Billy Jack Goes To Washington, which after many years finally got a DVD release).

In 1992, it got a big write-up in Spy Magazine, and Harry Shearer, one of the chosen few who've actually seen the film, said, "The closest I can come to describing the effect is if you flew down to Tijuana and suddenly saw a painting on black velvet of Auschwitz." (Actually, this would make a great pull quote for the DVD cover).

Shawn Levy, who wrote King Of Comedy, the essential Jerry Lewis biography, certainly understands why there's still fascination with this film. "Jerry Lewis is still such a strange and singular bird that I think the very concept is intriguing," he says. "And the people who've seen the film and spoken about it - Harry Shearer, say - are so vivid in their description that they've made it a holy grail. I think the interest in it is the inconceivable oddness of it."

As for how many people have actually seen the film to date, it's difficult to say. According to one guesstimate, it's as low as eleven, but Levy says, "There's apparently a mostly-complete copy in the vaults of the studio where it was shot (they held on to it for legal reasons, as they were never paid entirely for use of their facilities). So it could be ten or twenty or two hundred folks. But Jerry is said to have the only complete version, so access would have been very limited."

Personally I think that my goal in life before I leave this world is to see The Day The Clown Cried before I die. I have a copy of the script, and it is amazing. With Jerry Lewis now aging and in poor health I think seeing this movie monster is a possibility in my lifetime. However, there is more than Jerry Lewis holding the movie back. The legal and financial issues have got to be a major hurdle to overcome. Still one day though I hope we see this movie, which is by far one of the most famous movies people have never seen...

Friday, June 24, 2011


LOS ANGELES – Peter Falk, the stage and movie actor who became identified as the squinty, rumpled detective in "Columbo," which spanned 30 years in primetime television and established one of the most iconic characters in police work, has died. He was 83.

Falk died Thursday in his Beverly Hills home, according to a statement released Friday by family friend Larry Larson.

In a court document filed in December 2008, Falk's daughter Catherine Falk said he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

"Columbo" began its history in 1971 as part of the NBC Sunday Mystery Movie series, appearing every third week. The show became by far the most popular of the three mysteries, the others being "McCloud" and "McMillan and Wife."

Falk was reportedly paid $250,000 a movie and could have made much more if he had accepted an offer to convert "Columbo" into a weekly series. He declined, reasoning that carrying a weekly detective series would be too great a burden.

Columbo — he never had a first name — presented a contrast to other TV detectives. "He looks like a flood victim," Falk once said. "You feel sorry for him. He appears to be seeing nothing, but he's seeing everything. Underneath his dishevelment, a good mind is at work."

NBC canceled the three series in 1977. In 1989 ABC offered "Columbo" in a two-hour format usually appearing once or twice a season. The movies continued into the 21st century. "Columbo" appeared in 26 foreign countries and was a particular favorite in France and Iran.

Columbo's trademark was an ancient raincoat Falk had once bought for himself. After 25 years on television, the coat became so tattered it had to be replaced.

Peter Michael Falk was born Sept. 16, 1927, in New York City and grew up in Ossining, N.Y., where his parents ran a clothing store. At 3 he had one eye removed because of cancer. "When something like that happens early," he said in a 1963 Associated Press interview, "you learn to live with it. It became the joke of the neighborhood. If the umpire ruled me out on a bad call, I'd take the fake eye out and hand it to him."

When Falk was starting as an actor in New York, an agent told him, "Of course, you won't be able to work in movies or TV because of your eye." Falk would later win two Oscar nominations ("Murder, Inc.," 1960; "Pocketful of Miracles," 1961) and collect five Emmys.

After serving as a cook in the merchant marine and receiving a master's degree in public administration from Syracuse University, he worked as an efficiency expert for the budget bureau of the state of Connecticut. He also acted in amateur theater and was encouraged to become a professional by actress-teacher Eva La Gallienne.

An appearance in "The Iceman Cometh" off-Broadway led to other classical parts, notably as Joseph Stalin in "The Passion of Joseph D." In 1971 Falk scored a hit in Neil Simon's "The Prisoner of Second Avenue."

Falk made his film debut in 1958 with "Wind Across the Everglades" and established himself as a talented character actor with his performance as the vicious killer Abe Reles in "Murder, Inc." Among his other movies: "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," "Robin and the Seven Hoods," "The Great Race," "Luv," "Castle Keep," "The Cheap Detective," "The Brinks Job," "The In-Laws," "The Princess Bride."

Falk also appeared in a number of art house favorites, including the semi-improvisational films "Husbands" and "A Woman Under the Influence," directed by his friend John Cassavetes, and Wim Wenders' "Wings of Desire," in which he played himself. Falk became prominent in television movies, beginning with his first Emmy for "The Price of Tomatoes" in 1961. His four other Emmys were for "Columbo."

He was married to pianist Alyce Mayo in 1960; they had two daughters, Jackie and Catherine, and divorced in 1976. The following year he married actress Shera Danese. They filed for divorce twice and reconciled each time.

Falk is survived by his wife Shera and his two daughters

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Last week it was amazingly 25 years since the death of Kate Smith. Kate was more than just a singer - she was a voice of America during the 1930s. I remember Eddie Cantor making a comment about Kate Smith and her weight. He said "Kate Smith is so large because she has to hold a heart that is so big." She never married or had any children, but from her debut in the 1920s to her death in 1986 she had millions of fans. Fans that never met her, but they still thought of her as part of their family. Here is an obituary from the day she passed away - June 17, 1986:

Kate Smith, whose vibrant voice made ''God Bless America'' an unofficial national anthem and was one of the most popular singers of the century, died yesterday afternoon at Raleigh (N.C.) Community Hospital. She was 79 years old and lived in Raleigh.

President Reagan expressed sorrow over her death, saying: ''Kate Smith was a patriot in every sense of the word. She thrilled us all with her stirring rendition of 'God Bless America' and sang with a passion which left few eyes dry.''

Miss Smith had been in poor health since 1976, when she suffered brain damage as a result of a diabetic coma. In January, her right leg was amputated because of circulatory problems associated with her diabetes, and on May 9, she underwent a mastectomy.

But it was the robust and joyful young singer who never took a formal music lesson whose voice became one of the most listened-to by a nation struggling through the Great Depression and World War, still holding fast to an optimism for the future.

Everything about Kate Smith was outsized, including Miss Smith herself. She recorded almost 3,000 songs -more than any other popular performer. She introduced more songs than any other performer - over a thousand, of which 600 or so made the hit parade.

She made more than 15,000 radio broadcasts and, over the years, received more than 25 million fan letters. At the height of her career, during World War II, she repeatedly was named one of the three or four most popular women in America. No single show-business figure even approached her as a seller of War Bonds during World War II. In one 18-hour stint on the CBS radio network, Miss Smith sold $107 million worth of War Bonds, which were issued by the United States Government to finance the war effort. Her total for a series of marathon broadcasts was over $600 million.

President Roosevelt once introduced her to King George VI of England, saying: ''This is Kate Smith. Miss Smith is America.''

Kate Smith had been a national singing star almost from the outset of her broadcasting career in 1931. But her identification with patriotism and patriotic themes dates from the night of Nov. 11, 1938, when, on her regular radio program, she sang "God Bless America" -- an Irving Berlin song originally written for Berlin's 1918 musical "Yip, Yip, Yaphank."

In a short time, the song supplanted ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' as the nation's most popular patriotic song. There were attempts - all unsuccessful - to adopt it formally as the national anthem.

For a time, Kate Smith had exclusive rights to perform ''God Bless America'' in public. She relinquished that right when it became apparent the song had achieved a significance beyond that of just another new pop tune.

Mr. Berlin and Miss Smith waived all royalties from performances of ''God Bless America.'' The royalties continue to be turned over to the Boy and Girl Scouts of America.

''God Bless America'' became a standard in the repertory but both the song and Miss Smith experienced a curious resurgence of popularity beginning in 1969 when the Philadelphia Flyers professional hockey team began to substitute her recording of the song for ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' before games.

The team began to win on nights the song was played. As the team improved, the record was reserved for Mrucial games and, at the end of the 1975-76 playing season the Flyers' record was 41 wins, 5 losses and 1 tie on nights Kate Smith sang ''God Bless America,'' either on record or in person. The first three of the five or so times she appeared in person, the Flyers' opponents were scoreless. Sang for Troops During World War I Kathryn Elizabeth Smith was born May 1, 1909, in Greenville, Va., and grew up in Washington, D.C. Her father was a wholesale magazine distributor. As a baby, she failed to talk until she was 4 years old. But a year later she was singing in church socials and by the time she was 8 she was singing for the troops at Army camps in the Washington area during World War I. Alarmed by his daughter's evident penchant for the stage, William Smith made her take up nursing at George Washington University Hospital. She stuck it out a few months, quit and got herself on the bill at Keith's Theater as a singer.

Heading the bill was the actor and producer Eddie Dowling who signed up the young singer for a revue he was preparing. It was called ''Honeymoon Lane,'' and it opened in Atlantic City on Aug. 29, 1926. A month later it moved to Broadway.

A review in The New York Times on Oct. 31, 1926, under the heading ''A Sophie Tucker Rival,'' said:

''A 19-year-old girl, weighing in the immediate neighborhood of 200 pounds, is one of the discoveries of the season for those whose interests run to syncopators and singers of what in the varieties and nightclubs are known as 'hot' songs. Kate Smith is the newcomer's not uncommon name.'' She was actually only 17 at the time.

From ''Honeymoon Lane,'' Miss Smith went into the road company of Vincent Youmans's ''Hit the Deck,'' where she won acclaim singing ''Hallelujah!'' Back in New York she took the company lead in George White's ''Flying High,'' which opened at the Apollo Theater on March 3, 1930, and ran for 122 performances.

As Pansy Sparks, Miss Smith's role was to be the butt of Bert Lahr's often cruel jibes about her girth. She said later that she often wept with humiliation in her dressing room after the show.

One evening, Ted Collins, a representative for Columbia Records, saw the show and heard Kate Smith sing for the first time. He sent a note backstage and asked her to see him in his office. When she appeared a few days later, it marked the beginning of a show-business association that lasted 34 years, ending with Mr. Collins's death in 1964.

Mr. Collins advised the successful but unhappy girl to take advantage of her good voice and to forget about comedy. The first booking he got for her was the Palace, where she lasted 11 weeks, setting a new record for a single performer.

In 1931, radio had overcome its early self-consciousness and was coming into its own as an entertainment medium. Mr. Collins arranged for a 15-minute nightly show for his client and she made her radio debut on May 1, her 22d birthday. The young singer, billed as Kate Smith and her Swanee Music, made her debut one week after another singer, the coloratura soprano Lily Pons, began her radio career.

For her first show, Miss Smith chose as her theme the song that was to become her trademark, ''When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain.'' She also used for the first time her opening, ''Hello, everybody!'' and her closing, ''Thanks for listening.'' Within six months, the young star had a sponsor, La Palina cigars, a long-term contract and a four-figure salary.

In 1938, the year she introduced ''God Bless America,'' Miss Smith began a daytime radio program of down-home philosophy, comments on current events and women's affairs. The show was an immediate success, but it did prompt some of the harshest criticism Miss Smith ever received.

The barbs came from The Daily Worker, the newspaper of the American Communist Party, in 1949. After noting that most of the program was devoted to inconsequential pap, The Daily Worker said Miss Smith and Mr. Collins devoted a few minutes to the problems of the Roman Catholic Church under a repressive Government in Czechoslovakia. The Worker went on to call Miss Smith ''Kate, the red-baiter, Kate the distorter of Communist policy, Kate the apologist for interventionists in Eastern Europe.'' The article concluded: ''This is the real Kate.''

The Worker's criticism had no noticeable effect on her career, which branched into television the following year, 1950, with ''The Kate Smith Variety Hour.''

The show lasted five years. When it was dropped in May 1955, the network received 400,000 protest letters. Later that year, she returned as a guest on the Ed Sullivan show. The public response led to a contract for five more appearances, but Mr. Collins suffered a heart attack and Miss Smith canceled all her activities until he had recovered.

In January, 1960, she returned with a new television variety show on CBS. It received high critical acclaim but low ratings and was dropped after six months. The death of her mother, Charlotte Yarnell Smith, in 1962, followed by the death of Mr. Collins two years later, threw Miss Smith into a period of depression that ended in July 1965, when she announced she would return to television that fall. Over the next decade she performed regularly on variety shows hosted by Ed Sullivan, Dean Martin, Andy Williams and others.

During her long career, Miss Smith rented various apartments in New York, most recently a three-bedroom suite in the Sheraton Motor Inn at 42nd Street and the Hudson River. She once told an interviewer that she had no interest in traveling abroad but loved to watch the ocean liners coming in and out from the motel roof.

For 40 years, she kept a summer home on a small island in Lake Placid, N.Y. She also had a home in Arlington, Va. She lived modestly but was estimated at one time to have amassed some $35 million during her working life.

Two autobiographical books were published under her name: ''Living in a Great Big Way'' in 1938, and ''Upon My Lips a Song'' in 1960. She also wrote the ''Company's Coming Cookbook,'' in 1958. Miss Smith was, not surprisingly, a prodigious eater and a good cook. She gave her weight variously as 215, 225 or 235 pounds, but usually with a wink or a booming laugh because it obviously was higher. Under Mr. Collins' tutelage she had come to terms with her figure.

At one point in the 1960's, she shed 90 pounds over a four-year period, bleached her hair, and discarded the dignified dark dresses she had worn for years. But, she later declared, she was uncomfortable that way and went back happily to ''real chocolate fudge sundaes.''

Because of their long and close business relationship, Miss Smith and Mr. Collins were thought to be married. They were not, and a form letter was sent to anyone who inquired. It read: ''Miss Smith is not married. Mr. Collins is married, has one daughter and two grandchildren.''

In 1965, after attending Roman Catholic services for 25 years, Miss Smith was baptized into that religion at the local church in Lake Placid. She was baptized by the same priest who had administered the last rites to Mr. Collins.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011


During World War II, Betty Grable was the top box office leading lady. She herself said she was not very talented, but she had that star quality that the public adored. By the late 1940s, her films were not as popular as they had been. However, one of my favorite Betty Grable musicals from the later era was MY BLUE HEAVEN (1950).

MY BLUE HEAVEN starred Dan Dailey and Betty Grable as a happy show business couple who started in vaudeville and now are going into that happy new medium television. This was one of the first films that dealt with the phenomenon of television. It also was the third film that Grable and Dailey made together.

Dailey and Grable are a happy couple, but they'd even be happier with a child, in fact Betty loses a baby almost at the beginning of the film. Friends and sponsors, David Wayne and Jane Wyatt suggest adopting because three of their six are adopted. The rest of the film is a lighter treatment of the themes from A Penny Serenade. Things go a lot happier for Dailey and Grable than they did for Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.

Because they are a musical performing couple Grable and Dailey get a whole lot of numbers and there's even a few tossed in for Mitzi Gaynor who was doing her second film. What a pity she came along as late as she did, she would have been a Grade A star in the Thirties. Gaynor plays an eager young understudy who'd just as soon Grable stay out on maternity leave.

This is not the typical "Betty Grable Extravaganza" that she may have starred in 10 years prior. Instead it is comedy/soap opera/musical chronicling Grable and Dailey's struggle to become parents. Grable has matured here and this film highlights a more confident Grable on all fronts. This might have been a great melodrama/musical. What actually wieghs down the proceedings are the musical numbers attached to their "televsion appearances". While these numbers are by and large terrific, the songs border on "poverty row" quality. Take a listen to "It's Deductible" and you'll see what I mean.

Thankfully Grable and Dailey make the best of the songs given to them to sing and they make it all seem much more fabulous than it would have been in less capable hands. The constant melodrama of "couple loses baby, gets baby, loses baby" gets tiresome and the inherent sexism does not hold up well today (i.e. Grable's response to her husband's indiscretion with Mitzi Gaynor). Aside from these detractors, "My Blue Heaven" boasts a delightful supporting cast including Mitzi Gaynor, Jane Wyatt and the wonderful Una Merkel.

The film is now out on DVD, but like many musicals of that era, it is not well remembered today. It should be for Betty Grable's performance alone...

Monday, June 20, 2011


While watching the movie MOMMIE DEAREST (1981) last night, a movie so bad that it was good, I started wondering what happened to the children of Joan Crawford. She adopted a total of four children, and whether or not there was any truth to MOMMIE DEAREST, Crawford did do a lot for the plight of orphans in this country in the 1940s or so it appeared.

Christina Crawford was born in Los Angeles California on June 1, 1939 out of wedlock to a teenage mother and a father who was in the Navy. Joan adopted Christina, in early 1940, before she was one-year-old. Joan at the time was a single woman and she had originally named Christina - Joan Crawford Jr. Thankfully Joan changed her daughter's name to Christina - there was only one Joan Crawford, and Joan wanted the whole world to know that

Many people observed the abusive and obessive side of Joan Crawford. However, several witnessed the demanding, bratty, rotten nature of Christina as a child. She was a spoiled brat who demanded more and more out of Joan Crawford and when Christina didn't get her way she acted out against Joan. Christina was sent to boarding school at a young age - this was a common thing with Hollywood stars to do with their children - Christina was probably sent earlier due to her unfavorable attitude as a young child. Many children of child stars were sent to boarding school because of the demands of the celebrities' career. Once Christina was sent to boarding school she only saw Joan Crawford on school breaks, holidays and other special occasions.

Christina and Joan Crawford never had a warm relationship but in the later part of 1968, they appeared on television for a fund raiser and seemed to have patched up their differences and were seen together laughing and enjoying each other's company. It was the last time Christina would see her mother Joan Crawford alive.

In 1977, Joan Crawford died on May 10th of what was reported as "acute coronary occlusion," but the actual cause of her death was liver cancer. After Joan's death her will - which was last revised on October 28th 1976 -was read and a harsh reality was dealt to Christina Crawford. Joan's will stated... "It is my intention to make no provision herein for my son Christopher or my daughter Christina for reasons which are well known to them." Christina contested the will and received $27,500. This naturally sparked retaliation from Christina and the book "Mommie Dearest" was born soon after Joan's death in 1978. The book was a best seller and raised awareness about child abuse across the nation. When Christina initiated a movie with her second husband David Koontz (married 1976-divorced 1982) Christina's credibility was challenged. The movie "Mommie Dearest" was released in 1981 and was so over the top and exaggerated that many questioned the "truth" about Christina's allegations. The movie went on to be voted the worst movie of 1981 and was awarded a Razzie Award in 1982 for the worst movie of 1981. "Mommie Dearest" also won a Razzie Award for Worst Film of the 1980s.

In 1981, Christina suffered a near fatal stroke that took her five years to recover from. After her recovery from her stroke and her divorce, she moved to the Northwest and ran a bed and breakfast called Seven Springs Farms in Sanders, Idaho with her third husband Michael Brazzel, from 1994- 1999.

Currently, Christina Crawford, who is single, works as a Special Events Manager at the Coeur d'Alene Casino in Idaho. Christina never had any children of her own. Christina recently has appeared on several Joan Crawford documentaries over the past several years.

While it is not known if Joan Crawford was as abusive as Christina said, it is also not known that she was not that abusive. The public just does not know either way.

Phillip Terry Jr. was born on October 15, 1943 and was adopted by both Joan Crawford and her then husband Phillip Terry in 1943. After Joan divorced Terry in 1946, Crawford changed her sons name to Christopher Crawford. Christopher Crawford was a quiet child, but became defiant at home when he found out he was adopted. Christopher became difficult and defiant at home, he was labeled as a "problem child" by many schools that he was kicked out of. Christopher ran away from home on many occasions, searching for his "real" mother and father. Christopher admitted later in life he was a "brat" as a child and "difficult."

At the young age of 16 he stole a car, Crawford could not control his wild behavior and Christopher left home before he was 18 years old. Christopher married a waitress and had his first child with her by the time he was 19 years old. In 1962, Christopher was living in Miami and working as a lifeguard. In 1962, Christopher visited his mother with his wife and baby. Crawford said, "It doesn't look like you. It's probably a bastard." That was the last time Christopher ever saw his mother, Joan Crawford.

Christopher had a rough life. He divorced his first wife, with whom he had three children with and entered the Vietnam War in the late 1960's. He did not have a close relationship with his three grown children and in a 1981 interview he was asked about his three grown children and their whereabouts, all he said was "no idea."

Christopher waived any rights to the book and movie, "Mommie Dearest" for $10,000. Christopher was also left out of Joan Crawford's will. Christopher contested the will and received $27,500. Christopher Crawford did visit his sister Christina in the 1990s at her bed and breakfast in Idaho on a few occasions.

Christopher Crawford died of cancer on September 22, 2006, at approximately 10:50 am, at the Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport, New York. Christopher was 62 years old when he died.

Cathy and Cynthia Crawford were born on January 13, 1947 in Dyersburg, Tennessee. Cathy and Cynthia's mother died a week after they were born from kidney failure and their skittish father abandoned the mother and children. Joan adopted the twin girls in June of 1947 from the Tennessee Children's Home Society. Cathy and Cynthia had an enjoyable childhood.

In 1960, both Cathy and Cynthia moved to New York City with Joan Crawford after Joan's fourth husband, Al Steele, died.

Cynthia Crawford was in boarding school from age eight and eventually attended Dubuque University. It was at Dubuque University where she met her husband and became pregnant with her first child. In 1967, at 20 years of age, married Mr. Jordan and moved into a trailer in Dubuque, Iowa. They had two children together - Jan and Joel. In 1976, Cynthia divorced her husband after nine years of marriage. After Joan's death in 1977, Cynthia worked in a show store earning $150.00 a week and living off of the $ 77,000 inheritance from Crawford's estate. Cynthia moved to Jackson, Miss., in 1984, but the work played out after six months, leaving her on welfare and without a place to live. She worked and saved until she had enough money for an apartment. In 1990 Cynthia, now living in Brandon, Miss., found her biological father in Friendship, Tennessee. Ironically, her father's last name was Jordan - the same last name as her ex-husband. In 1991, Cynthia moved to Memphis, Tennessee to be closer to her biological family and often visited her dad.

Sadly, Cynthia Crawford died on October 14, 2007 at the age of 60 in Tennessee. Cynthia had been dealing with a hepatitis infection and was in process for a liver transplant. She leaves a wonderful loving family, which consisted of her sons and several grandchildren. Cynthia never had contact with Christina or Christopher after Joan's death.

Cathy Crawford was in boarding school from age eight. Cathy also attended Vernon Court Junior College and eventually attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in the 1960s. Cathy Crawford and Jerome LaLonde married on August 10, 1968. They met in Alexandria Bay, New York. Jerome was in active duty in the Navy when they married. After the wedding and honeymoon, they moved to Norfolk, Virginia and stayed there until Jerome's enlistment was up. They moved back to Alexandria Bay, New York where Cathy had two children Carla and Casey. Shortly after their second child, Casey, was born the family moved to Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1972.

After Joan''s death in 1977, Cathy received $ 77,000 inheritance from Crawford's estate wand all inherited all of Joan Crawford's property including the 1946 Oscar for "Mildred Pierce." Jerome LaLonde and Cathy (Crawford) LaLonde separated in 1984. Cathy reconnected with her biological father via telephone in 1991. Cathy worked as a teacher's aide in Pennsylvania for most of the 1990s. In 1993, Cathy decided to sell Joan's Academy Award at auction.

Cathy currently resides in Pennsylvania. Cathy never had contact with Christopher after Joan's death and currently has not had any contact with Christina. Cathy's son, Casey, currently is involved with repairing his grandmother's image and answers letters from fans on this website under the "Ask Casey" page.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


It is never easy to be a parent. Even as your child grows up, you never stop worrying about them. I can imagine it is even harder for a celebrity father...harder for the parent as well as the child. In honor of Father's Day this weekend, here are some great pictures featuring celebrity fathers of classic Hollywood...







Friday, June 17, 2011


Last night not much was on television, so my go-to channel is always Turner Classic Movies. They had a movie I had never seen before, and it was so awful I could not turn away. It was amazingly bad. The movie was called Village Of The Giants.

Village of the Giants is a 1965 science-fiction/comedy movie with many elements of the beach party film genre. It was produced, directed and written by Bert I. Gordon, and based loosely on H.G. Wells's book The Food of the Gods. The story revolves mostly around a chemical substance called "Goo", which causes giant growth in living things, and what happens after a gang of rebellious youngsters get their hands on it. The cast was mostly teens, or young actors playing teens, and The Beau Brummels and Freddy Cannon make musical guest appearances.

The movie was a low-budget exploitation film and not a huge hit (released mostly to drive-ins as part of a double bill), but had some notable use of special effects and undoubted sex appeal, and went on to become a cult classic. The movie proved far more successful years later, when released on home video.

The movie's instrumental theme song, by composer and arranger Jack Nitzsche, was originally released as "The Last Race" on Reprise Records, months before the movie appeared.

The Beau Brummels, singers Freddy Cannon and Mike Clifford all make appearances. Cannon enjoyed a string of hits during the Sixties (including "Palisades Park" and "Tallahassee Lassie"), and performs "Little Bitty Corrine" in his signature style (wearing a cardigan sweater in the summertime!), while Mike Clifford (veteran of The Ed Sullivan Show, and later an actor) croons the movie's obligatory slow song, "Marianne". (Clifford is also credited with another song, "Nothing can Stand in my Way", but this does not appear in the film). There was no official soundtrack release for this movie.

Debi Storm completed her role as the Sheriff's daughter in just three days. Vicki London, who played Georgette, is absent from the screen for most of the giant scenes in the movie. Robert Random and Joy Harmon each also appeared in episodes of Gidget, which debuted in the fall of 1965. (Their height remained normal.) Other notable cast members include Beau Bridges (big brother of Jeff Bridges, son of "Seahunt" and "Airplane" Lloyd Bridges and an A-list actor in his own right), "Ronny" Howard, Academy Award winning director, actor and producer, Johnny Crawford (Chuck Connors son in "The Rifleman)and Toni Basil, choreographer (The Lockers), dancer, actress and one hit wonder ("Ricky").

The cat appearing in this film was named Orangey (later renamed Minerva), and Village of the Giants was the second time he played the role of a cat larger than a human, the first being Scott Carey's (actor Grant Williams) pet in The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). His most famous roles were as "Rhubarb" in the film Rhubarb (1951) and the cat in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961).

In January 1994, Village of the Giants was featured as an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (episode 523). The episode was dedicated in memoriam to the recently deceased Frank Zappa.

I can't believe I watched the whole movie, but I did. I actually recommend this movie to anyone who wants to say they saw one of the worst movies of all time...


Wednesday, June 15, 2011


To honor the great Dean Martin in June in celebration of his birthday, I sponsored a little contest to raise awareness for this crooning legend. While participation was not what as much as I thought it would be, thank for everyone who entered!

The winner is Mike Hannan! His favorite Dino song is "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone". He has won a privately made Dean Martin CD:

Dean Martin: The Television Years
25- L-O-V-E

Congrats again Mike!


Classic Hollywood: Film academy to screen Photoplay Magazine Medal of Honor winners
by Susan King

It may seem hard to believe now, but there were awards given out in Hollywood before the Oscars came along.

Nine years before the first Academy Awards were handed out in 1929, the movie fan publication Photoplay magazine created the first motion picture awards. Unlike the Oscars, which are voted on by the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Photoplay Magazine Medal of Honor winner was selected by readers.

All the surviving winners of the medal of honor from 1920 to 1928 will be screened Monday evenings during the academy's "Summer of Silents" at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. Besides the award-winner, the Monday-evening programs (there is no screening on July 4) will feature live music accompaniment, special guests and shorts from that year.

The series kicks off Monday evening with the 1920 melodrama "Humoresque," based on a Fannie Hurst story about a young violinist from the Jewish slums who becomes a success due to the help of his mother. (The 1946 remake turned the tale into an ill-fated love story.) Also screening is Buster Keaton's comedy classic, "One Week." Film historian Cari Beauchamp, the biographer of "Humoresque" screenwriter Frances Marion, will introduce the film and there will be live accompaniment by pianist Michael Mortilla and violinist Nicole Garcia.

Other films in the festival include the 1922 Douglas Fairbanks classic "Robin Hood"; the seminal 1923 western "The Covered Wagon"; King Vidor's World War I epic "The Big Parade," which will be presented by academy Honorary Award recipient Kevin Brownlow; the rarely seen 1926 adventure 'Beau Geste"; and the 1927 Frank Borzage romance "Seventh Heaven." Film historian and preservationist Brownlow will also introduce a bonus screening of Keaton's 1927 masterwork, "The General."

"There is a preservation element to the festival," said academy programmer Randy Haberkamp. "'The Covered Wagon's' full-length version doesn't exist anymore. And the 1924 winner, 'Abraham Lincoln,' only exists in fragments."


Monday, June 13, 2011


Debbie Reynolds to auction immense collection of Hollywood memorabilia
by Olivia Allin

Debbie Reynolds is holding an auction of her immense collection of Hollywood memorabilia on June 18.

Debbie Reynolds glad Elizabeth Taylor is no longer in pain. The actress spent 50 years accumulating and preserving her collection of costumes and items featured in classic films from Hollywood's golden age in hopes of one day opening a museum.

"That's kind of sad because for 40 years, Debbie has tried relentlessly to open up a museum, and you know what? No one ever came to her rescue," Joseph Maddalena, president of the auction company Profiles in History, told special correspondent George Pennacchio of KABC Television. "She is going on 80 and she says she is done."

Profiles in History will be holding the auction over 10 days, beginning on June 18. The items have already garnered interest from around the world. The auction catalog can be downloaded on the company's website.

Some of the items going up for auction include a test pair of Judy Garland's ruby slippers from "The Wizard of Oz," Charlie Chaplin's bowler hat and the iconic white dress Marilyn Monroe wore in "The Seven Year Itch," which is expected to fetch up to $2 million.

"This represents what's left of Hollywood," Maddalena said. "If it wasn't for Debbie saving these things, there would be nothing left of the history of Hollywood. She literally saved the past."

The collection will be on display for free through June 17 at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills, California.

Reynolds starred in classic films such as "Singin' in the Rain" in 1952 and "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" in 1964. She also played Bobbi Adler on the comedy series "Will & Grace" and voiced Nana Possible on the animated series "Kim Possible" several years ago.

The actress was married to actor Eddie Fisher until 1959, when he went on to marry her friend Elizabeth Taylor, who died in March.

She and Fisher, who died last year at age 82, have a son, Todd Fisher, and daughter, "Star Wars" actress Carrie Fisher.


Saturday, June 11, 2011


George Jessel. The name is buring among the ruins of 1920s vaudville, and many people will not even remember what George Jessel was famous for. Jessel, along with Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor, made up a trio of vaudville and broadway stars that not only made up a part of entertainment in those early years, but they were entertainment.

George Jessel, born on April 3, 1898 was an American illustrated song "model," actor, singer, songwriter, and Academy Award-winning movie producer. He was famous in his lifetime as a multitalented comedic entertainer, achieving a level of recognition that transcended his limited roles in movies. He was widely known by his nickname, the "Toastmaster General of the United States" for his frequent role as the master of ceremonies at political and entertainment gatherings.

His most famous comedy skit was called "Hello Mama" or "Phone Call from Mama", which portrayed a one-sided telephone conversation. In 1919 he produced his own solo show, "George Jessel's Troubles" and appeared in his first motion picture, the silent movie The Other Man's Wife. He co-wrote the lyrics for a hit tune, "Oh How I Laugh When I Think How I Cried About You", and performed in several successful comedy stage shows in the early 1920s. In 1921 he recorded a hit single, "The Toastmaster". He sometimes appeared in blackface in his vaudeville shows.

In 1925, he emerged as one of the most popular leading men on Broadway with the starring role in the stage production of The Jazz Singer. The success of the show prompted Warner Bros. -- after their success with Don Juan (1926) with music and sound effects only—to adapt the The Jazz Singer as the first "talkie" with dialogue and to cast Jessel in the lead role. However, when the studio refused his salary demands, Jessel turned down the movie role, which was eventually played by Al Jolson. According to Jessel during an interview around 1980, Warners still owed Jessel money for earlier roles and lacked enough funds to produce this movie with a leading star. Jolson, the biographical inspiration for the movie, became the movie's main financial backer.

His next movie role was in 1926 in Private Izzy Murphy. Whereas Jolson's film career skyrocketed after the 1927 release of The Jazz Singer, Jessel remained in smaller movie roles, often intended for audiences fond of Jewish and other "ethnic" humor.

In the middle 1940s, he began producing musicals for 20th Century Fox, producing 24 films in all in a career that lasted through the 1950s and 1960s. At the same time he became known as a host on the banquet circuit, famous for his good-natured wit aimed at his fellow celebrities. In 1946, he was one of the founding members of the California branch of the Friars Club. (A recording exists of an example of his "blue" work in front of a stag audience, although it was actually recorded at a roast hosted by the Friars' rival, the Masquers Club.) He also traveled widely overseas with the USO entertaining troops. As he grew older, he wrote eulogies for many of his contemporaries in Hollywood. He wrote three volumes of memoirs, So Help Me (1943), This Way, Miss (1955), and The World I Lived In (1975).

In the early 1950s he performed on the radio in The George Jessel Show, which became a television show of the same name from 1953 to 1954.

Jessel was the emcee on the short-lived The Comeback Story, a 1954 reality show on ABC in which mostly celebrities shared stories of having overcome adversities in their personal lives. He was replaced as emcee by Arlene Francis, but the program soon folded.

Thereafter, Jessel guest starred on NBC's The Jimmy Durante Show. In 1968 he starred in Here Come The Stars, a syndicated variety show. Jessel also appeared as himself in Valley of the Dolls in 1968. His attempt to extend his career was undermined, however, by a perception that his style of comedy was outdated, as well as by his outspoken support of the American entry into the Vietnam War and of conservative political causes.

On the other hand, he often crossed the era's stereotypical political lines with his support for the Civil Rights movement and criticism of racism and anti-Semitism.[citation needed] His outspokenness regarding his political opinions could sometimes get him into trouble. In 1971, while being interviewed by Edwin Newman on The Today Show on NBC, he repeatedly referred to The New York Times as "Pravda", the house organ of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, and was ejected from the show.

Famous in his youth for his affairs with starlets, he also became known for keeping company with a wide assortment of younger show girls, even into his old age. By the late 1960s he had gained a reputation as being overly self-indulgent in reminiscing about former companions who were little known by younger audiences. Walter Winchell once said of him, "That son of a bitch started to reminisce when he was eight years old." In response, Jessel stated that "I have a funeral speech ready for Winchell. I hope it starts in fifteen minutes." He had achieved a somewhat iconic status, representing a Hollywood of yore, such that he extended his career by playing himself, rather than characters, as in the camp movie version of Valley of the Dolls (1968).

His last movie role was in Diary of a Young Comic in 1979. He also appeared as himself as an interviewed witness in the 1981 movie Reds. He entertained American military forces in Europe in 1972.

Jessel died of a heart attack on May 23, 1981 at the age of 83 in Los Angeles and was interred in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California...

Friday, June 10, 2011


One of my happiest younger memories was on a lazy Sunday I would put in a long movie and just lay and get so sucked into a movie. One such movie that I remember watching is THE TOWERING INFERNO. THE TOWERING INFERNO was a 1974 American action disaster film produced by Irwin Allen featuring an all-star cast led by Steve McQueen and Paul Newman.

A co-production between Twentieth Century-Fox and Warner Bros. (this was the first film to be a joint venture from two major Hollywood studios), it was adapted by Stirling Silliphant from a pair of novels, The Tower by Richard Martin Stern and The Glass Inferno by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson, and was directed by John Guillermin, with Allen himself directing the action sequences.

After the success of The Poseidon Adventure, Warner Bros. bought the rights to The Tower for $390,000. Eight weeks later, Irwin Allen discovered another novel, The Glass Inferno, and bought the rights for $400,000 for 20th Century Fox. The productions were combined, with a budget of $14 million ($58 million adjusted for inflation 1974-2005). Each studio paid half the production costs. 20th Century Fox had the United States domestic box office receipts while Warner Bros. would distribute the film in all foreign territories around the world.

Stirling Silliphant, who won an Oscar for his adaptation of In the Heat of the Night, combined the novels into a single screenplay. Silliphant took seven characters from each and combined the plots. In The Tower, a bomb in the utility room of a 150-floor tower (the world's tallest) causes a power surge which sets a janitor's closet on fire; the escape from the top floor is by breeches buoy to the adjacent 110-story North Tower of the World Trade Center, and is only partially successful. More than a hundred partygoers die in the restaurant on the top floor. In The Glass Inferno, an electrical spark sets the janitor's closet in a 60-story tower on fire; the escape from the top floor is by helicopter, and everyone left in the restaurant escapes.

The 57 sets and four camera crews were records for a single film on the Twentieth Century Fox lot. At the end of filming of principal photography on September 11, 1974 only eight of those 57 sets were left standing. William Creber is credited as Production Designer of the film and under his direction, Dan Goozee from the Fox art department designed the final look of the Glass Tower itself.

Small parts played by actors who appeared in The Poseidon Adventure, which Irwin Allen also produced, include John Crawford, Erik Nelson, Elizabeth Rogers, Ernie Orsatti, and Sheila Matthews, who played the mayor's wife 'Paula Ramsay'. She would later become Irwin Allen's wife and remained so until his death in 1991. Jennifer Jones' role of 'Lisolette Mueller', her last before retiring from acting, was originally offered to Olivia de Havilland. The fireman in the scenic elevator was played by Paul Newman's son, Scott.

In the initial stages of the film's development, the fire chief's role was relatively minor – the architect was the hero. Fire Chief Mario Infantino was to be played by Ernest Borgnine, and Steve McQueen was to play the leading role of architect Doug Roberts. However McQueen requested the fire chief's role, so it was suitably revised and augmented. Paul Newman was cast as the architect.

McQueen, Newman, and William Holden all wanted top billing. Holden was refused, no longer in the league of McQueen and Newman. To provide dual top billing, the credits were arranged diagonally, with McQueen lower left and Newman upper right. Thus, each appeared to have "first" billing. McQueen is mentioned first in the film's trailers. In the cast list rolling from top to bottom at the end of the film, McQueen and Newman's names were arranged diagonally as at the beginning. As a consequence Newman's name is fully visible first here. This was the first time "staggered but equal" billing was used. It had been discussed for the same actors when McQueen was to play the Sundance Kid in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. McQueen was eventually replaced by Robert Redford, who took second billing.

In the 2010 biography by AE Hotchner titled Paul and Me, reference is made to the commotion caused by Steve McQueen due to his apparent displeasure at having a lesser part. McQueen discovered that Paul Newman had twelve more lines than he did, something that was soon changed. According to the book, Newman's salary from the movie totalled $12 million.

The movie also marked the last acting role for the great Jennifer Jones. She is wooed in the film by the legendary Fred Astaire, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role. The film was nominated for a total of eight Oscars and it went on to win three. More importantly, THE TOWERING INFERNO would become the father of all future disaster movies, and as a young teenager I became engrossed with the actors in this all-star movie from Steve McQueen and Paul Newman to William Holden and Robert Wagner. Even though it is a tragic movie, as most disaster movies are, the film is good clean fun to watch on a lazy Sunday...