Saturday, July 30, 2011


Growing up watching reruns of The Three Stooges, Moe Howard actually used to scare me. I felt bad how he treated his counterparts Larry and Curly. As I have aged though, I can now appreciate Moe Howard more. He was by far the king of The Stooges. Other Stooges came and went, but it was Moe that held the classic comedy team together. For nearly 40 years he presided over those knuckleheads, and he helped to make the Stooges a household name.

Moses Horwitz (aka Moe Howard)was born in Brooklyn, New York, neighborhood of Bensonhurst, to Solomon Horwitz and Jennie Gorovitz on June 19, 1897. He was the fourth of the five Horwitz brothers of Lithuanian Jewish ancestry. In his younger years, he got the nickname Moe and later adopted the name Harry. Although his parents were not involved in show business, Moe, his older brother Samuel and younger brother Jerome all eventually became world-famous as members of the Three Stooges.

Although his "bowl cut" hairstyle is now widely recognized, when he was a child his mother refused to cut his hair, letting it grow to shoulder length. One day, he could not take his classmates' years of teasing any longer, sneaked off to a shed in his parents' back yard, and with the help of a friend and a mixing bowl, cut his hair. Moe was so afraid his mother would be upset (she enjoyed curling his hair) that he hid under the house for several hours, causing a panic. He finally came out and his mother was so glad to see him that she did not even mention the hair.

Moe began to develop an interest in acting and, as a result, his schoolwork suffered. He began playing hooky from school in order to attend theater shows. Moe said, "I used to stand outside the theater knowing the truant officer was looking for me. I would stand there 'til someone came along and then ask them to buy my ticket. It was necessary for an adult to accompany a juvenile into the theater. When I succeeded I'd give him my ten cents — that's all it cost — and I'd go up to the top of the balcony where I'd put my chin on the rail and watch, spellbound, from the first act to the last. I would usually select the actor I liked the most and follow his performance throughout the play."

Despite his decreasing attendance, Moe graduated from P.S. 163 in Brooklyn, but he dropped out of Erasmus Hall High School after only two months. This was the end of his formal education. To mollify his parents he took a class in electric shop, but quit after a few months to pursue a career in show business.

Moe continued his attempts at gaining show business experience by singing in a bar with his older brother Shemp until their father put a stop to it, and in 1914 joining a performing troupe on a Mississippi River showboat for the next two summers. In 1921, he joined Lee Nash, who was now firmly established in show business as Ted Healy, in a vaudeville routine. In 1923, Moe spotted Shemp watching the show and yelled at him from the stage. Shemp and Moe heckled each other to a large positive response from the audience and Healy hired Shemp as a permanent part of the act. Next, Healy recruited a vaudeville violinist, Larry Fine, in 1925, to join the comedy troupe, which was billed as "Ted Healy and His Racketeers" (later changed to Ted Healy and His Stooges).

By 1930, Ted Healy and his Stooges were on the verge of "the big time," and made their first movie, Soup to Nuts — featuring Ted Healy, and his four Stooges (Moe (billed as "Harry Howard"), Shemp, Larry, and one-shot Stooge Fred Sanborn) — for Fox Films (later 20th Century Fox). Shemp had never seen eye-to-eye with the hard-drinking and sometimes belligerent Healy, and left the group shortly after filming in order to pursue a solo film career. After a short search for a replacement, Moe suggested his youngest brother, Jerome ("Jerry" to his friends, "Babe" to Moe and Shemp). Healy originally passed on Jerry (whom he disliked), but Jerry was so eager to join the act that he shaved off his luxuriant auburn mustache and hair and ran on stage during Healy's routine. Healy hired Jerry, who took the stage name of "Curly."

Healy and the Stooges were hired by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as "nut" comics, to liven up feature films and short subjects with their antics. After a number of appearances in MGM films, Healy was being groomed as a solo character comedian. With Healy pursuing his own career, his Stooges (now renamed The Three Stooges) signed with Columbia Pictures where they stayed until December 1959, making 190 short films.

With Healy's departure, Moe's character assumed Healy's previous role of the aggressive, take-charge leader of the Three Stooges: a short-tempered bully, prone to slapstick violence against the other two Stooges. However, despite his rather cruel demeanor towards his pals, Moe's character was also very loyal and protective of the other Stooges, keeping them from harm and, should it befall them, doing whatever it took to save them. In many ways, Moe's on-screen persona was the antithesis of his real personality; he was quiet, loving, and generous to his family. He was also a shrewd businessman, and invested the money made from his film career wisely. However, the Stooges got no subsequent royalties from any of their many shorts: they were paid a flat amount for each one and Columbia owned the rights (and profits) thereafter.

Moe sold real estate when his show-business life slowed down, although he still did minor roles and walk-on bits in movies (Don't Worry, We'll Think of a Title, Dr. Death: Seeker of Souls) and television appearances (Here's Hollywood, Toast of the Town, Masquerade Party, Truth or Consequences and several appearances on The Mike Douglas Show). In one episode of The Mike Douglas Show, Howard, his hair in a style popular at the time, made a surprise appearance during an interview of the writer of a "where-are-they-now" book. When the audience was given the chance to ask the writer about famous people, Howard asked "What ever happened to the Three Stooges?" Finally recognized by Douglas, he then combed his hair into his trademark style. The Stooges also made several appearances on late night television, particularly The Tonight Show.

The Stooges attempted to make a final film in 1969, Kook's Tour, which was essentially an early "reality TV" show of Moe, Larry and Curly-Joe, out of character, touring the country and interacting with fans. But production abruptly halted when on January 8, 1970, Larry suffered a major stroke during filming, paralyzing the left side of his body; he died on January 24, 1975 at age 72. Moe asked long-time Three Stooges supporting actor Emil Sitka to replace Larry, but this final lineup never recorded any material.

Moe was working on his autobiography, tentatively titled I Stooged to Conquer when he died of lung cancer on May 4, 1975, a month and a half shy of his 78th birthday. He was entombed in Culver City's Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery. His wife died of a heart attack in October 1975 and was entombed next to him. Moe's autobiography was released in 1977 as Moe Howard and the Three Stooges.

Despite being constantly rereun on television now, The Three Stooges never got a dime from the syndication. While Moe was alive he was asked about this and he said "When we were making the films we never thought about television or syndication. We were making the movies for the audiences that loved us. That was our payment." Now some 80 years after the Three Stooges first took the stage, they are still remembered fondly, and even though their slapstick could be violent at times, it is timeless as well...

Thursday, July 28, 2011


During his career, Al Jolson was often called "The World's Greatest Entertainer", and often he would be the first person to tell you. Jolson also was one of the busiest men in show business too - from his broadway debut in 1911 until his death in 1950. He had time to get married four times, but only one of the marriages worked. It was surprising that Jolson had time for anything personal, but in addition to his marriages, he adopted three children.

In 1935, Al Jolson and his third wife, Ruby Keeler, adopted a baby boy. This seven week old boy, of Jewish and Irish extraction, was named Al Jolson, Jr., although Al called him "Sonny Boy," and Ruby shortened that into "Sonny." According to Jolson biographers, Al Jr. seemed more attracted to Ruby than Al, as many children seem to prefer one parent over another. Jolson resented this and never really got close to the boy. After divorcing Al Jolson, Ruby Keeler married John Lowe, and at age 14 Sonny Boy became Albert Peter Lowe. After the divorce, Al Jr. never talked to Jolson again. He remained extremely close to his mother Ruby Keeler who died in 1993. Albert Peter Lowe passed away at age 72, in November, 2007.

With Erle Galbraith, Al Jolson's fourth wife, a six month old baby boy was adopted in late 1947. A proud father again, Al told reporters: “We’ll send him to a good school - and a hard one. Want no spoiling of the boy.” They hired a nurse though Erle enjoyed taking care of the baby herself. Naming him Asa Albert Jolson, Jr., Al and Erle became doting parents for the toddler. It was after Asa's adoption that Al bought the perfect home for his new family, buying the home he had built for Ruby and himself back from Don Ameche, it's current owner, at a loss.

In 1950, the Jolsons adopted a second baby, a girl they named Alicia. Not known at the time of adoption, she was later diagnosed as being mentally challenged. Jolson died before this was discovered, and Alicia eventually required institutional placement. Alicia died in 1982, at the age of about 32. She is buried in Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills along with Erle, Norman Krasna, and members of the Galbraith family.

Known to his family as "Jolie," Albert Jolson is alive and well, living in Nashville, and pulled the cord to reveal the "Al Jolson Way" sign at the ceremony in New York in August, 2006. Albert Jolson also has owned a music studio for a number of years in Nashville. Albert and his wife Victoria had a daughter in 1983 that they named Kate. Kate Jolson was an all-star athlete in high school and college. UPDATE: Albert died in 2015.

With Al Jolson's huge personality, it is hard to believe he ever had children. As is often the case, none of his children rose to the heights that Jolson did during his career. I also would be interested in knowing if Jolson was the greatest father as much as he was the greatest entertainer. That story is yet to be fully told...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


On Big Screen and Small, a Star Is Reborn

Judy Garland (1922-69) led a life of extremes: Her music contrasted of the exuberant joy of her happy songs with the depressive depths of her torch tunes. Likewise, her life was marked by pinnacles, valleys and triumphant comebacks.

To do justice to Garland, a film series would similarly have to go to extremes, and that is exactly what the Film Society of Lincoln Center is doing with "All Singin', All Dancin', All Judy," a two-week retrospective beginning Tuesday that includes all 31 of her starring roles in feature films. In addition, FLSC is partnering with the Paley Center for "Judy Garland: The Television Years," an equally comprehensive retrospective of her small-screen work.

Why Judy Garland? Why not Joan Crawford, Bing Crosby or Fred Astaire? For one thing, this years marks the 75th anniversary of Garland's feature-film debut, in 1936's "Pigskin Parade." According to Lincoln Center, no American theater has ever mounted a complete run of Hollywood's greatest musical leading lady. John Fricke, the author of six books on Garland and related subjects—including the new "Judy: A Legendary Film Career" (Running Press)—and a consultant for the combined retrospectives, answered with a question: "How many others can you name from her generation of film stars who still have her immediacy of impact? Whose work has proved to be timeless—even in films that were of their time? Whose legacy encompasses classic musical comedies, classic family films, classic musical dramas and standard dramas?"

Every show at both the Walter Reade Theater and the Paley Center is highly recommended. But if we had to pick four unmissable shining moments, we'd go with the following. (All are screening at the Walter Reade, with the exception of the first):

"The Judy Garland Show" (1962) and "Judy Garland and Her Guests, Phil Silvers and Robert Goulet" (1963) are the two "specials" that led directly to Garland's epochal 1963 CBS TV series, and represent her finest moments on television. Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin guest on the 1962 entry, and the romantic chemistry between Garland and Sinatra sizzles on the small screen.

"The Pirate" (1948) Under-appreciated in its day but since recognized as a classic, this zesty costume musical presents Garland, dancing leading-man Gene Kelly, songwriter Cole Porter and director Vincente Minnelli all at their creative peaks.

"A Star Is Born" (1954) The big-screen spectacle is Garland's personal epic, a major morality play of showbiz excess that seems more relevant than ever. It will be shown in a new, complete (three-hour) edition.

Short Films and Rarities Presented by John Fricke This one-shot presentation features rare early footage of Garland when she was still a member of the Gumm Sisters trio, as well as her "screen test," the 1936 "Every Sunday: A Tabloid Musical," in which she engages in a battle of "opera vs. jazz" (guess what side she's on?) against teen soprano Deanna Durbin...


Monday, July 25, 2011


Here are some more interesting events that happened in movie history during this week:

July 28, 1928: Encouraged by the response to the few minutes of sound in The Jazz Singer, Warner Bros. releases Lights of New York, the first all-talking picture.

July 28, 1948: Lon Chaney, Jr. and Bela Lugosi play the Wolf Man and Dracula, respectively, for the last time onscreen in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

July 27, 1950: George Pal's Destination Moon, one of the first films to offer a serious look at space exploration, opens.

July 25, 1952: High Noon, the western that would garner Gary Cooper an Oscar for his performance as the retired sheriff faced with a fateful showdown, opens.

July 28, 1954: Seen by many as an answer to critics of his 1952 HUAC testimony, director Elia Kazan's "informer" drama On the Waterfront opens.

July 29, 1957: James Whale, director of the horror staples Frankenstein and The Invisible Man, is found drowned in his swimming pool at age 67.

July 26, 1960: Art director Cedric Gibbons, who took home the Oscar statuette (which he designed) 11 times, dies at the age of 67.

July 30, 1966: With all of the "BIFF! POW! SOCK!" of the campy TV show, Batman, starring Adam West, makes his first film appearance since 1943.

July 28, 1978: National Lampoon's Animal House, starring John Belushi, opens and quickly finds a huge youth audience.

July 27, 1983: Tom Cruise teaches audiences the fine art of dancing in one's underwear in the hit comedy Risky Business.

July 28, 1991: Paul Reubens, aka Pee-wee Herman, is arrested in Sarasota, Fla., for indecent behavior in an adult movie theater.

July 28, 1995: Star Kevin Costner's aquatic sci-fi tale Waterworld, reportedly the first $200 million film, opens to less than a flood of ticketbuyers.

July 24, 1998: Director Steven Spielberg and star Tom Hanks acquaint a new generation with the drama and sacrifice of World War II in Saving Private Ryan.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


My childhood in the 1980s and 1990s were filled with the joy of audio cassettes. I loved making mix tapes of music, sharing them with friends, and bonding with my grandfather as we shared a mutual love of music. Like so much in this fast paced world of 2011, cassettes have been forgotten and thrown in the pile of such other mediums as 78rpms and 8 track tapes.

When I was at the height of my taping and exchanging music in the 1990s, I had about 25 people I would exchange cassettes to on a regular basis. There also was a club I belonged to called TRACC (short for Tape Recording and Conversation Club). Life events happened, and I dropped out of the club, but I was overjoyed to discover they still existed!

Here is a little further explanation about what the club is from their website:

TAPE RECORDING AND CONVERSATION CLUB’S (called TRACC for short) sole purpose is to enable members to communicate with other members by letter, digital disk, cassette, or reel-to-reel; and to include in their communication whatever is mutually agreeable. It could be music, conversation, programs, or replays of old time radio shows. In recent years, members have exchanged home videos and e-mail boxes. The subject matter will vary with each taper.

-Active participation by many of its members makes TRACC a unique international club. It is a vibrant club. It is not a laid-back organization. It is a club whose members get to know each other as acquaintances and then friends. Our motto is: “We care-We share.”

-Participation is what makes TRACC different. TRACC has much to offer in the form of entertainment or just casual conversation. There are a number of programs called Sections. Individual members create the sections to make the club the most interesting and worthwhile taping club of its kind. Sections are available to suit a number of different tastes ranging from big band, jazz, and country… to stories in the science fiction field. Subjects also include western music, easy listening, hit tunes, old time radio, gospel and others. These programs are free except for the postage cost to forward them to the next person on a circuit. A few programs do not circulate outside of the country of origin. A number of members using audio cassettes exchange voice letters on a regular basis with one member or on Round Robins with three or more members. Sometimes music is included. There are some who exchange music (one-on-one) with little or no voice comments and bare minimum of written communication. The music library has about 250 cassettes.

-Seek and Sell is published every other month. Ads are free for members wanting to find others with similar interest, something to buy, sell, give away or fill special needs. Dealer ads are not allowed. Ads are a good way to get off to a fast start as a new club member. Members furnish postage and envelopes if they want copies.

-All members receive an annual membership directory and a quarterly bulletin. The directory provides names, addresses, hobbies and interest of members.

-We have special services, free of charge, for visually impaired persons (VIP’s). Club publications are available on cassette. VIP’s mail “Free Matter for the Blind or Handicapped” within their country and to foreign countries.

If anyone is interested further please contact Barbara Wear at If you are one of the people in this world that still embraces the simple technology of the audio cassette, then this club is for you!


Friday, July 22, 2011


TCM, continuing their efforts to issue great classic collections has done it again with more DVD issues. A pair of TCM Classic Legends releases brings together two leading Hollywood actresses who have more in common than meets the eye. Fame, influence, tabloid fodder, they shared these by-products of Hollywood success. Elizabeth Taylor and Lucille Ball were sisters in arms in the battle for box office bucks but they were also much more.

Elizabeth Taylor was considered the most beautiful woman in the world at the height of her fame. Those cool violet eyes and blue black hair were the stuff of art directors’ dreams. Taylor seemed slightly dangerous to men, and an anathema to suddenly single women.

Taylor was a man-trap, married eight times and as crazy about love when she died as when she raised eyebrows making out with her married Cleopatra co-star Richard Burton. She stole Eddie Fisher from America’s Sweetheart Debbie Reynolds, and Richard Burton from his wife Sybill. Taylor’s personal life was far juicier than any role she played.
Always the romantic, Taylor left nearly a $1M to her last ex-husband, Larry Fortensky, a much younger man – a construction worker – romance always! Taylor’s appetites were big – men, food, clothes, jewels, and at times, drink. She doted on her three children, one of whom she adopted on the set of Cleopatra.

But her turbulent relationship with Richard Burton was her romantic legacy, as much as they married twice and vowed eternal love they were apart some years when he died. In their heyday, they were dynamite, behaving scandalously in various corners of the world, buying up treasures wherever they went including the 33 carat Krupp diamond and the 69 carat “Taylor-Burton” diamond and showing off their chemistry at every opportunity. The “paparazzi”, the new breed of invasive celebrity photographers of the sixties, tracked their every move.
Lucille Ball was beautiful, not Taylor beautiful but warm, funny, down to earth and wide eyed beautiful. Art directors went to great pains to create color palettes that complemented her marmalade red hair, which was often feature as a bit in her TV series and in her movies, representing her fiery nature and her expensive dye habit.

Lucy wasn’t afraid to get gritty, and physical and look the fool. In fact, she relished it. Lucy’s showbiz savvy was her secret weapon; she knew all aspects of Hollywood and had strong business acumen. But onscreen is the payoff – apparently rather dour off-screen, she was insanely, unforgettably funny on.

Ball too had a long, headline grabbing and turbulent relationship. Desi Arnaz was her husband and business partner at Desilu Studio, and the pioneering, inventive mind behind the success of their TV shows. She was timing, acting skill and appeal.

Together they became wealthy, Hollywood moguls whose TV shows and films were seen all around the world. Through their partnership, he emerged from the far fringes of Hollywood to become one of its biggest power players and Ball found her niche as a comedienne after a long string of ho hum dramatic and romantic films. Together they were dynamite. Separate, not so much.
The Taylor DVD collection features a variety of Taylor moods – sexy, hungry and clingy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, enamored of her husband who can’t bear her. Taylor is a hooker In Butterflied 8, desperate to change her ways and win her mother’s approval and the love of a married man for keeps.

Taylor is gorgeously young and adorable in Father of the Bride as she embarks on the adventure of first love and marriage; not quite innocent, she’s teetering on the brink of womanhood. And The Sandpiper reunites Taylor and Burton as a married man in love with Taylor’s Big Sur artist; this time they are lovers in the autumn of their lives, pondering life’s Big Questions. This is an extremely well chosen set.

Ball is featured in all her Technicolor glory in DuBarry Was a Lady, which pretty much stars her hair and clothes, with Lucy and Red Skelton in second billing. The film was made to enhance her coloring, or so it seems. It’s pretty eye-popping. Forever Darling is one of two “getaway” films Lucy and Desi made together as husbands and wives embark on a trip, like fish out of water, and they bicker and fight funny. Here they go camping to test his bug spray formula.

They play a married couple honeymooning In Rockies in a super big mobile home in The Long, Long, Trailer. Harrowing scenes navigating narrow mountain trails are hilariously unbearable, and of course her rock collection doesn’t help. Ball’s long-time friendship with the Marx Brothers began in Room Service, a classic comedy in which she’s the straight girl. In 1938, she hadn’t quite found her way to comedy but it’s clear she had the greatest teachers available to any young aspiring actress...


Wednesday, July 20, 2011


It has been awhile since I started watching old movies. When I started my love of classic Hollywood, there was no TCM buy luckily I had a dinosaur called the video tape recorder. Before TCM entered the airwaves, its sister channel TNT used to show old movies. It was there that I saw a mediocre musical called Radio City Revels.

The movie deals with two out-of-work songwriters in New York City, Harry Miller (Jack Oakie) and Teddy (Milton Berle), who live next door to sisters Billie (Ann Miller) and Gertie (Helen Broderick) Shaw, who used to tour in vaudeville and have been left stranded and income-less by its demise. Miller’s and Teddy’s only source of income is a correspondence course in songwriting that they’ve sold to exactly one student, Arkansas hillbilly Lester Robin (played by rustic comedian Bob Burns, who had enough of a reputation in 1938 he’s actually given top billing).

Robin is frustrated because while he’s awake he can only come up with songs other people already wrote (like an hilariously fractured version of “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean”) but when he’s asleep he dreams the most beautiful — and original — melodies and lyrics, only to forget them when he wakes up. Miller and Teddy realize this unique talent and start transcribing Lester’s nocturnal emissions, peddling them as their own and becoming star songwriters for the company owned by Paul Plummer (Victor Moore, even more annoyingly whiny than usual). The premise is so weird that at least one critic summed it up by saying it seemed as if the film’s writers had been asleep when they came up with it.

The draw of the movie for me was the appearance of singer Jane Froman in a minor role. She played the vocalist for Hal Kemp's band. It is infortunate that she did not have a bigger role, it might have helped the movie. Froman never had much of a movie career, but her voice was wonderful. Kenny Baker was the male vocalist in this opus. Baker got his start as the comic foil for Jack Benny on his radio show, and he left the Benny organization to make his way in film. Like Froman, Baker did not have much of a movie career either.

RKO spent some serious money on this movie — at least two of the numbers, including “There’s a New Moon Over the Old Mill,” are staged on splendiferous sets (the “Old Mill” number takes place on a beautiful white, stylized art deco mill and features four mill maids desperately waiting for male mates. Great comic actors like Victor Moore and Helen Broderick were features as second bananas in the film, but with no major stars it was hard to see who they would be second banana to.

It is utterly baffling who they thought the audience for it would be, and as it turned out there wasn’t one: RKO spent $810,000 making Radio City Revels and lost $300,000 on it. The movie was not great, and it is mostly forgotten today, but the film is worth watching if it is just for the 1930s stars that the movie spotlighted...

Monday, July 18, 2011


Remembering Ginger Rogers on Her Centennial
by Whitney Hopler

On-screen, Ginger Rogers dances with Fred Astaire, gliding and swirling and leaping in joyful motion across their 10 films like Swing Time (1936) and Carefree (1938). She elicits laughs in the many comedies she made, inviting audiences to share her joy in adventures like disguising herself as a child aboard a train (The Major and the Minor, 1942), and cavorting with monkeys alongside Cary Grant (Monkey Business, 1952). And Rogers’ joy even shone through her dramatic films—such as her Oscar-winning role in Kitty Foyle (1940)—in the form of a serene sort of grace mixed with a flinty sense of confidence that she could do what’s right, no matter what.In 73 classic movies spanning Hollywood’s entire golden age, Ginger Rogers became known for her joyful spirit.

Rogers, who died in 1995, once said: “The most important thing in anyone’s life is to be giving something. The quality I can give is joy. This is my gift.” Now, as fans celebrate Rogers’ centennial (her 100th birthday would have been July 16, 2011), it’s a good time to remember the source of all that joy: her relationship to God.

“Her faith was what was most important to her,” said Rogers’ former personal secretary and close friend Roberta Olden in an interview with “It taught her the truth with a capital T. As long as you know the truth about yourself and about God, you can do just about anything, because you reflect what he gives you. She knew that it was God’s gift of goodness that shone through [her performances].”
Offscreen, as well, Rogers became known as a clean-living movie star. She attended church regularly, modeled a strong work ethic, took care of her mother, refused to drink alcohol, and spent far more time on tennis courts than at Hollywood parties. She tried to set a good example of a healthy lifestyle while surrounded by many others who were caught in destructive lifestyles, Olden recalled. “If someone wanted to follow her example, she would be glad for that.”

However, Rogers’ joy in the midst of the Hollywood scene didn’t come easily. While her image lit up movie screens in darkened theaters for audiences, she sometimes struggled to fight the darkness of Hollywood’s pressures with the light of Christ in her own life.

“Although she had a glamorous Hollywood life, she also went through some struggles,” said Olden.

Hollywood fame ushered many pressures into Rogers’ life. She had to sacrifice privacy. Fame and fortune hunters tried to use her to achieve their own desires. People who were hostile to faith mocked her Christian beliefs. After her marriage to true love Lew Ayres (star of the popular Dr. Kildare movies) broke apart under the stress of their career demands, she endured several marriages to husbands who were unfaithful to her. She never had the children she’d hoped to have, since her work was so consuming.
The pressures got to be so intense that Rogers even had to fight off suicidal thoughts. “She said to me that if it hadn’t been for her faith, she probably would have jumped off the Hollywood sign because of the pressures,” Olden said. “She was very genuine; a straight-talker. She didn’t sugarcoat things.”

However, Rogers drew the strength she needed to overcome Hollywood’s pressures by asking God to renew her mind so she could think about each challenge from the right perspective, said Marcia Castle Durham, who attends the Christian Science church Rogers attended in Medford, Oregon, near where Rogers owned a ranch she escaped to for respite between movies and other work.

Rogers saw her churches in both Oregon and California as safe places to honestly express her struggles and seek Christ’s healing through prayer, Durham said, and Rogers often told people in the congregation how grateful she was for the freedom to do so in church. Rogers made going to church a high priority, seeking out a church to worship in even when she was traveling. “She went to church faithfully, wherever she was,” Durham said.
The movie characters Rogers played often struggled with discouragement or the temptation to sin, yet emerged from those struggles with the determination to move forward to do what’s right and enjoy the process. Rogers did the same herself in Hollywood, said Olden. “A lot of the ladies who she played onscreen struggled but were able to come out on the right side of those struggles. In her own life, Ginger relied heavily upon her faith and it saw her through a lot of hard times.”

Over the years, Rogers turned down a lot of roles in films that didn’t reflect the biblical values she wanted to portray onscreen. She looked for redemptive stories in scripts whenever possible. “She was not one to see something false portrayed,” Olden recalled. “She didn’t compromise herself. She understood that she did not want to portray any ugliness that she might have seen. She wanted to show goodness at work.”

By the 1960s, she had become so disillusioned with the types of roles she was being offered that she left Hollywood to focus mainly on stage roles, such as Hello, Dolly! on Broadway and Mame on the London stage. Rogers was outspoken about her concerns that Hollywood was making more and more movies that depicted unhealthy values. In a 1976 United Press International interview, she said: “I was privileged to have been a part of the Hollywood scene when it was understood that audiences wanted to know beauty and hope exist. There’s a sadness, a darkness today in entertainment.” However, she also praised films that did portray good values. In a 1982 Toledo Blade interview, she said the popularity of the movie E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial “proves that audiences want to see clean, healthy movies.”
Though she made her last film in 1965, Rogers continued to give audiences the gift of joy through wholesome, positive entertainment on stage and sometimes on television until several years before her death. “It was very gratifying for her to know that what she was doing was pleasing to audiences,” said Olden.


Sunday, July 17, 2011


Not many people will deny that Eddie Lang is the father of the modern jazz guitar, and it is great to know that almost eighty years after his untimely death, he is still well remembered. Unfortunately that untimely death on March 26, 1933 is remembered as well.

Eddie Lang, the son of Italian immigrants and the youngest of 10 children, was born Salvatore Massaro in South Philadelphia on October 25, 1902. Before he was old enough to attend school, Salvatore was playing a homemade miniature guitar crafted from a cigar box by his father, a stringed-instrument maker. The stage name “Eddie Lang” was adopted from that of a basketball player Salvatore admired. Lang was a busy sideman in the 1920s and he participated in many of the top bands of the day including the popular band of Paul Whiteman. While with the Whiteman orchestra, Eddie met a young vocalist by the name of Bing Crosby, and they became fast friends. When Crosby left the Whiteman band in 1930, he brought Eddie Lang with him so they both could make their mark on Hollywood.

By 1931, Lang was working full time as Crosby’s personal accompanist on Crosby’s theater shows, nightly radio broadcasts, and recordings. When Crosby signed a $300,000 five-picture deal with Paramount Studios, he insisted Lang share the experience with him. Lang, playing guitar accompaniment, appeared with Crosby in their only Hollywood feature film together, The Big Broadcast in 1932.

For his next movie, College Humor, Crosby not only wanted Lang in the film, but also wanted him to have a speaking part. Lang, however, had been suffering with a chronically “low and hoarse” voice. 8 Despite Lang’s general mistrust of medicine and aversion to doctors (characteristics that Crosby attributed to Lang’s relative lack of education and immigrant background), Crosby finally talked Lang into seeking medical advice. In interviews later in life, Bing still felt the guilt of urging Lang to get medical treatment.
A tonsillectomy was performed the morning of Sunday, March 26, 1933, at Park West Hospital at 170 West 76th Street in Manhattan. Presumably,general anesthesia was used. Lang’s wife Kitty (a former Ziegfeld Follies dancer) was present in the hospital at the time of the operation. 8,9 In the immediate postoperative period, the operation appeared to have been a success. The surgeon reportedly left, stating that everything had gone well. Kitty Lang recalls being told by the doctor that Eddie had been given a sedative and would sleep for a while.

According to one published reference, Kitty left to get something to eat, and on her return found that Eddie Lang had died. However, in another source, Kitty claims that, despite the doctor telling her to go home and come back later, she remained at Eddie Lang’s bedside throughout the entire postoperative period, waiting for him to awaken and see her. Eddie Lang never woke up. According to Kitty, after a nurse checked Lang’s pulse around 5:00 pm, a doctor was rapidly called, and Kitty was escorted out of the room, being told soon thereafter that Eddie had died. Bing Crosby, who reportedly had been at the nearby Friar’s Club, rushed to the hospital after being notified of Lang’s death. According to Kitty, “when Bing found out, he cried in my arms like a baby.”
The mechanism of death is uncertain. In a 1992 interview of some of Eddie Lang’s living relatives by Italian jazz critic Adriano Mazzoletti, it was stated that Lang had “suffocated on his own blood.” One relative suggested that Lang was allowed to bleed to death because of inattention by the nursing staff. Yet another theory as to the cause of death centers around Kitty Lang’s claim that she had been told that Eddie had developed “a blood clot that formed in the lung.” However, the accuracy of such a diagnosis cannot be confirmed, as an autopsy was never performed. According to Kitty, “I didn’t want them to cut him up anymore. Whatever had gone wrong, I felt I didn’t want to know.”

Lang’s body was transported to his hometown of Philadelphia, where the funeral was held on Thursday, March 30,1933. The event, which drew more than 2000 guests, including many members of the jazz community, was documented by a small obituary in the Philadelphia Record. 10 Eddie Lang’s death drifted into distant memory as rapidly as Bing Crosby’s career rocketed toward uncharted heights. Because of Eddie Lang's death at such a young age, his full genuis has never been realized, but with his recordings at least we can sample at least a piece of it.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Steven McQueen was one of the great icons of the movie industry in the 1960s and 1970s. While the generation before McQueen had more polished actors like Cary Grant and James Stewart, Steve McQueen's roughness made him a superstar with the younger audience. Not only was he captivating on the screen, but through these pictures you can tell the camera loved him...

Thursday, July 14, 2011


The name of Annette Hanshaw may be pretty much forgotten in the world of popular music, but to classic jazz music fans Annette Hanshaw is still a great icon. Although her counterpart in singing, Ruth Etting, was more famous and recorded more, Hanshaw has a down home quality in her voice that showcased an optimistic note which listeners desperately needed during the Great Depression.

For many years it was believed that Annette had been born in 1910 and began her recording career shortly before her 16th birthday. However, it has recently come to light that she was in fact born nine years earlier, making her 24 at the time of her first commercial recording in September 1926. Her nephew, Frank W. Hanshaw III, has confirmed 1901 as the date on her birth certificate.

Her singing style was relaxed and suited to the new jazz-influenced pop music of the late 1920s. Although she had a low opinion of her own singing, she continued to have fans because she combined the voice of an ingenue with the spirit of a flapper. Hanshaw was known as "The Personality Girl," and her trademark was saying "That's all," in a cheery voice at the end of many of her records.

Between September 1926 and February 1934, she recorded prolifically. From 1926–28 she recorded for Pathe (her sides were released on both the Pathe and Perfect labels). Starting in June 1928, she recorded for Columbia; most of these were issued on their dime store labels Harmony, Diva, Clarion and Velvet Tone. A handful were also released on their regular price Columbia and OKeh. Although most were released under her own name, she was renamed Gay Ellis (for sentimental numbers) and Dot Dare or Patsy Young (for her Helen Kane impersonations). She recorded under a number of other pseudonyms which included Ethel Bingham, Marion Lee, Janet Shaw, and Lelia Sandford. Starting in August 1932, she began recording for the ARC with her recordings issued on their Melotone, Perfect, Conqueror, Oriole and Romeo. Her final session, February 3, 1934 was placed on ARC's Vocalion label.

At an age when women did not have much of a voice anywhere, let alone in the music industry, Hanshaw was very vocal in her opinions of recording operations and band orchestrations. One of her most famous recordings was "Happy Days Are Here Again" recorded on February 11, 1930. Reportedly, Annette was not happy with a crack she heard on her voice. She marched right up to bandleader Ben Selvin during the recording signaling him that she wanted a retake. As it was already take 3 he said 'no'. The result was, she walked out while the recording was still in progress.

Hanshaw made her one and only appearance on film in the 1933 Paramount short Captain Henry's Radio Show, "a picturization" of the popular Thursday evening radio program Maxwell House Show Boat, in which she starred from 1932 to 1934.

Having grown tired of show business, in the late 1930s Hanshaw retired and settled into married life with her husband, Pathé Records executive Herman "Wally" Rose. Later in life, in a would-be comeback, she recorded two demo records, but they were never released. In the mid 1970s, she gave a few radio interviews where she admitted that she hated the recordings she made for the most part. She died of cancer in 1985 at New York Hospital after a long illness; she was living in Manhattan at that time...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


For over two decades, Bing Crosby was the number one star at Paramount. He successfully rescued the studio from bankruptcy in the early 1930s. Despite that, Paramount rarely put Bing in a technicolor movie. However, when the studio did put Bing in a big budget musical, the result was always out of this world. That was the result of 1946's Blue Skies.

As in Holiday Inn (1942), Blue Skies is designed to showcase the songs of Irving Berlin. The plot, which is presented in a series of flashbacks with Astaire as narrator, follows a similar formula of Crosby beating Astaire for the affections of a leading lady. Comedy is principally provided by Billy De Wolfe.

Joan Caulfield was the protege of Mark Sandrich - who directed many of the Astaire-Rogers musicals - and who was originally slated to direct this film. He died of a heart attack during pre-production and Stuart Heisler was drafted in to replace him. Heisler wanted Caulfield replaced, but Crosby - who was reportedly having an affair with Caulfield - protected her.

Tap dancer Paul Draper was the initial choice to partner Bing Crosby, however, during the first week of production Draper's speech impediment and his trenchant criticism of Caulfield's dance ability led Crosby to insist on his replacement by Astaire who, then forty-seven, had already decided that this would be his final film and that he would retire, having spent over forty years performing before the public. The film was billed as "Astaire's last picture" and its very strong performance at the box office pleased him greatly, as he had dearly wanted to go out on a high note.

The reasons for Astaire's (temporary) retirement remain a source of debate: his own view that he was "tired and running out of gas", the sudden collapse in 1945 of the market for Swing music which left many of his colleagues in jazz high and dry, a desire to devote time to establishing a chain of dancing schools, and a dissatisfaction with roles, as in this film, where he was relegated to playing second fiddle to the lead. Ironically, it is for his celebrated solo performance of "Puttin' On The Ritz," which featured Astaire leading an entire dance line of Astaires, that this film is most remembered today.

The story is told in a series of vignettes and musical numbers that serve to show events in flashback. Our narrative link is New York radio star Jed Potter, who once was a renowned Broadway hoofer. The conceit is that he is on the air, telling his life story... which does not yet have an ending. The tale starts just after World War I and centers around two men who became friends while serving in the Army: rising dancer Potter and the business-minded Johnny Adams. While young, hardworking Potter dreams of and works for stardom, the more laid-back and less disciplined Adams has hopes of becoming a successful nightclub owner.

In time, dancer Potter falls in love with a band singer, a "very pretty girl" named Mary O'Hara. He takes Mary to Adams' nightclub, and she takes a shine to Adams. Potter warns Mary that his old buddy is not the marrying kind. So, of course, she marries Adams. The union is not a happy one, despite the birth of a child. Adams' nightclub business is anything but a resounding success, and it turns out Potter was right: Adams is self-centered and unable to commit to his nightclubs, his marriage, or his daughter. The couple divorces, and Mary tries again with Potter. The two even become engaged. But Mary can't go through with the wedding and takes off. A devastated Potter turns to booze and subsequently suffers an accident that puts an end to his dancing career. He winds up behind a radio microphone, sharing his story with his audience, hoping that wherever Mary is, she can hear him.

Blue Skies was one of the biggest money makers of 1946. On a personal note, the film contains one of my favorite Bing songs "You Keep Coming Back Like A Song". The song was nominated for an Oscar for best song but lost. The movie also ranks as one of Bing Crosby's best movies for Paramount. If you are a Bing Crosby fan and/or a Fred Astaire fan, then this movie is for you. Blue Skies has got it all...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Fans of Turner Classic Movie marathons will soon be facing a three-month void as the channel’s long-time host, Robert Osborne,79, is planning a leave of absence. TCM said in a statement Monday that Osborne will undergo minor surgery, without specifying a particular ailment. Osborne has held his hosting tenure since 1994, and will take a vacation after his surgery.

Fans of the iconic host were reminded that Osborne recently renewed his contract with the channel, so he will definitely return when the three months are up. In the meantime, viewers can look forward to guest hosts like Tippi Hedren, Jane Powell, and Robert Wagner to fill the void. TCM will also air pre-recorded segments with Osborne, including his weekly showings of must-see films, The Essentials.

Osborne was a columnist for The Hollywood Reporter from 1982 to 2009. In 2008, Abbeville Press published his book 80 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards. Between 1986 and 1993, Osborne was an on-air host for The Movie Channel. In 1994, he moved to Turner Classic Movies, where he remains today.

For TCM, in addition to hosting four primetime movies seven days per week, he has also been the host of special one-on-one "Private Screening" interviews featuring many familiar actors and directors. Since 2006, he has also co-hosted TCM's The Essentials, with Molly Haskell from 2006 to 2007, with Carrie Fisher from 2007 to 2008, with Rose McGowan from 2008 to 2009, and currently with Alec Baldwin.

Osborne has also participated in events at the Paley Center for Media in New York City saluting the television careers of Lucille Ball and Cloris Leachman. He recently served as moderator at the Paley for an evening celebrating the 100th birthday of Academy Award-winning songwriter Johnny Mercer.
Osborne also hosts the annual Robert Osborne's Classic Film Festival in Athens, Georgia. It began in 2005. The non-profit event is held by the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. In 2010 he hosted the very first TCM Classic Film Festival...