Wednesday, November 30, 2011


The holiday season is here. TCM is the Santa Claus of classic movies, so here is what they have for viewers under the Christmas tree...

DECEMBER 4 - 8:00 PM
The Seven Little Foys (1955)

The famed vaudevillian puts his children in the act to keep the family together when his wife dies. Bob Hope strikes a more dramatic role in this movie. The highlight is James Cagney song and dance cameo as George M. Cohan. (Cast: Bob Hope, Milly Vitale, George Tobias)

DECEMBER 7 - 7:00 AM
George Washington Slept Here (1942)

A pair of New Yorkers face culture shock when they buy a dilapidated country house. Jack Benny was a much better actor than he got credit for, and he had great chemistry with his co-star Ann Sheridan. (Cast: Jack Benny, Ann Sheridan, Charles Coburn)

DECEMBER 8 - 2:30 AM
Ziegfeld Follies (1946)

Legendary showman Flo Ziegfeld imagines the kind of Follies he could produce with MGM's musical stars. William Powell recreates his role as Flo Ziegfeld for the last time. A ton of stars appear in this film. (Cast: William Powell,Fred Astaire, Lucille Bremer)

DECEMBER 14 - 9:15 PM
Huckleberry Finn (1920)

A young vagabond escapes with a runaway slave to sale a raft up the Mississippi. I have never seen this film, but I would like to. I imagine it is the earliest film version of the Mark Twain novel. (Cast:Lewis Sargent, Katherine Griffith, Martha Mattox)

DECEMBER 16 - 2:30 PM
The Cabin In The Cotton (1932)

A sharecropper fighting for better working conditions succumbs to the boss's seductive daughter. This is another film I have never seen, and it is one of Bette Davis' earliest movies.(Cast:Richard Barthelmess, Dorothy Jordan, Bette Davis)

DECEMBER 19 - 12:15 AM
I Could Go On Singing (1963)

An American singing star in London tries to reclaim the son she gave up for adoption. This film was as close to autobiographical as Judy Garland got during her lifetime. It is a surprisingly good movie that gets overlooked. (Cast: Judy Garland, Dirk Bogarde, Jack Klugman)

DECEMBER 20 - 2:00 AM
Bundle Of Joy (1956)

A shop girl is mistaken for the mother of a foundling. Eddie Fisher was no actor, but he was in great voice for this movie with his then wife Debbie Reynolds. (Cast:Eddie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Adolphe Menjou)

DECEMBER 28 - 4:30 AM
The Champ(1931)

A broken-down prizefighter battles to keep custody of his son. The late Jackie Cooper really made this film, and he was much more of an actor than he got credit for. (Cast: Wallace Beery, Jackie Cooper, Irene Rich)

DECEMBER 30 - 9:30 AM
The Great Train Robbery (1903)

In this silent short, bandits rob the passengers on a train in this pioneering western. I have always wanted to see this movie. It is short but it is amazing to see a movie film 108 years ago! (Cast: Broncho Billy Anderson, Marie Murray, George Barnes)

DECEMBER 30 - 1:15 PM

Singer Frank Sinatra explains the importance of racial tolerance to a group of tough kids. Another movie short, Sinatra won an special Oscar for this film. I am not a huge Sinatra fan, but I also like the song "The House I Live In".

Monday, November 28, 2011


Everyone remembers the old number "Sonny Boy". Al Jolson made it famous in the late 1920s when he made nearly every song famous. Forgotten child actor Davey Lee was the one that Al sang the vintage song to in the film "The Singing Fool" (1928).

Born in Hollywood, California, on December 29, 1924, David Lea became Davey Lee, the child star who was billed with Al Jolson in The Singing Fool, Al Jolson's second talking film, in 1928. He followed his brother, Frankie Lee, who was three years older, into show business, ultimately becoming a far greater star. Cast as Al Jolson's three year old son in the 1928 film, The Singing Fool, he was dubbed "Sonny Boy," an appellation that remained with him for the rest of his life. The song "Sonny Boy" was a solid hit, often credited as being the first million selling recording, and the film, The Singing Fool, the top grossing motion picture until Gone With The Wind.

Over the course of the following few years, young Davey Lee became quite the phenomenon in Hollywood, and beyond. He was quickly featured in a film of his own, titled Sonny Boy, with Edward Everett Horton and Betty Bronson, the film has a decidedly adult major theme of marital discord and infidelity. The climax of the film, which unfortunately did not survive the ravages of time, featured Davey Lee, himself, singing a full throated version of "Sonny Boy."

His next film was another first, the debut of canine star Rin Tin Tin in Frozen River. During the filming of this movie, Rinty reportedly did not recognize Davey as the star that he was, and tried to take a nip out of the child. Still, Davey was rescued in the scene, and Rin Tin Tin, and progeny, made it to television under the training of Lee Duncan.

Davey returned to Al Jolson's side in the 1929 film Say It With Songs. Reprising his role with a new name, Little Pal, he survives in this movie, providing a happy ending for a Jolson film most notable for its lack of blackface.

At about the same time, Davey entered the recording studio for a final take on a piece he had first recorded in June, 1929, in Chicago. The New York tracks were released on the Brunswick Label in 1929, as "Sonny Boy's Bear Story," a monologue with song accompanied by a small orchestra. It was told in two parts, on both sides of a 78 rpm record, and, reportedly, sold quite well. You can listen to the recording by clicking the advertisement for the record shown at left!

Also in 1929, Davey appeared in the movie Skin Deep, about which precious little is known other than it stared yeoman actor Monte Blue, and is said to somehow concern a mistaken identity. In 1930, his role of Bunny Hart played to Jack Holt, Dorothy Revier and Zasu Pitts in The Squealer, the story of a gang czar and his society wife. This is another film you are not likely to find at your local video store.

Davey also recorded another record that year, "I've Lost My Dog" and "Davey and His Tog Tatters," released on the Brunswick label. Unfortunately, no copies of this recording are known to exist.

Reportedly earning some $3000 per week in 1930, Davey Lee left show business at the ripe age of six. There are stories that his health was suffering, and others that his mother received an offer of $3500 for him to make appearances in vaudeville, but either way, this was the end of his short film career. Despite some of Al Jolson's stories to the contrary, there is no evidence that he and Davey every crossed paths in later life. There is a photo, however, from the era of the Jolson biopics, which shows Davey Lee again sitting on Al Jolson's knee. This may have been their last meeting, as Al Jolson died the next year. For those who are mathematically challenged, Davey would have been 24 years old in this photo.

Later in life, he enjoyed performing in local theatre, and was a guest at several annual conventions of the International Al Jolson Society, where his contribution to the early films of Al Jolson was richly appreciated.

Davey Lee suffered a stroke in his senior years, and was ultimately cared for in a nursing home for several year. He passed away on June 17, 2008.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


When you read about movie sex symbols you instantly think of bombshells like Marilyn Monroe or Rita Hayworth. Sex symbols in the movies though are pretty much as old as the film industry itself. During the silent screen era, the sex symbol really made its mark to film goers. The rise of the flapper and prohibition truly caused America to go through a sort of sexual revolution. Mixing jazz and illegal liquor into society caused a loosening of the sexual hang-ups that the morally uptight country had had since their independence in 1776.

With the silent movies, audiences had to use their imagination because there were no words. The actresses who became sex symbols during the 1920s did not have the advantage of seducing by whispering sweet nothings to the audience. These vamps had use their eyes, their body, and their every movement. It was not easy being a sex symbol in the 1920s, but these women were the favorites of movie audiences:

CLARA BOW (1905- 1965)
Rumor has it that this undisputed sex symbol of the 20s got into the Hollywood game when at age 18 she entered the office of a studio exec dressed in her high school uniform, landing on their payroll just a few days later. Bow was never a great film actress, but most of her movies made money. When sound came to the films, her career came to an end. During her lifetime, Bow was the subject of wild rumors regarding her sex life; most of them were untrue. A tabloid called The Coast Reporter published lurid allegations about her in 1931, accusing her of exhibitionism, lesbianism, drug addiction, alcoholism, and having contracted venereal disease. The publisher of the tabloid then tried to blackmail Bow, offering to cease printing the stories for $25,000, which led to his arrest by federal agents and, later, an eight-year prison sentence.

LOUISE BROOKS(1906-1986)
Louise Brooks made her screen debut in the silent The Street of Forgotten Men, in an uncredited role in 1925. Soon, however, she was playing the female lead in a number of silent light comedies and flapper films over the next few years, starring with Adolphe Menjou and W. C. Fields, among others. She was noticed in Europe for her pivotal vamp role in the Howard Hawks directed silent "buddy film", A Girl in Every Port in 1928.It has been said that her best American role was in one of the early sound film dramas, Beggars of Life (1928), as an abused country girl on the run with Richard Arlen and Wallace Beery playing hoboes she meets while riding the rails. Brooks had always been very self-directed, even difficult, and was notorious for her salty language, which she didn't hesitate to use whenever she felt like it. In addition, she had made a vow to herself never to smile on stage unless she felt compelled to, and although the majority of her publicity photos show her with a neutral expression, she had a dazzling smile. By her own admission, she was a sexually liberated woman, not afraid to experiment, even posing fully nude for art photography, and her liaisons with many film people were legendary, although much of it is speculation.

THEDA BARA(1885-1955)
Theda Bara has the honor to be one of the few people in history who actually helped create a new word in the English language. The story goes thusly: thanks to Bara’s roles of sexually provocative women, she quickly became known to movie audiences as “The Vampire” because same as female empowerment, vampires are terrifying monsters. Then, seeing as all of the country was too busy oppressing minorities to properly pronounce words, the nickname was shortened to “vamp” and a new word was born. But it’s not like Bara ever had anything against that. Actually she did everything to maintain her reputation as a lustful poison in female form, often showing as much as a 1 square foot of bare skin in each movie.

POLA NEGRI (1897-1987)
Pola Negri was the stage moniker of Polish actress Barbara Chalupiec, presumably adopted to honor the mighty polar bear, Poland’s deadliest natural predator. In accordance with the ferocious origin of her name Negri quickly became known for her femme fatale image, despite the fact that in real life she was an obnoxious, attention seeking brat if the word of her bitter rivals is to be believed. Sadly, Negri’s career went downhill when they put sound in movies and it turned out this foreign woman spoke English with an accent!!

When Al Jolson first sang about his Mammy in 1927 on film, it spelled the end to some of these first sex symbols like Pola Negri. Her accent was too think for audiences discovering these talkies. However, the same type of accent that destroyed Negri's career in the 1920s, would be same type of accent that would rocket actresses Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich to super stardom in the 1930s...

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Laurel and Hardy fan group keeps laughs alive
by Susan King

They meet every Tuesday afternoon at the famous Culver Hotel in Culver City, seated at a center table in the restaurant, engaged in lively, loud luncheon conversation. They are members of the Sons of the Desert, the international Laurel and Hardy appreciation society, and a more devoted group is hard to find.

The name derives from the 1933 comedy starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. They play friends with domineering wives who hope to attend a convention of their fraternal organization, called Sons of the Desert. The film society has "tents" all over the world, including several in California, with the Way Out West tent in Hollywood.

A recent Sons gathering was particularly ebullient. The group was thrilled about the recent release of "Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection" DVD set which contains 58 comedy shorts and features starring the gangly Englishman Laurel and the portly Hardy that they made for producer Hal Roach from 1929 through 1940. Among the highlights are "Sons of the Desert," 1937's "Way Out West," 1938's "Block-Heads" and 1932's Academy Award-winning short "The Music Box," in which the boys try to deliver a piano up a massive flight of stairs.

"The reason we meet here is that the Hal Roach Studios were right down the block," offered Richard W. Bann, author of such film history books as "The Little Rascals: The Life and Times of Our Gang," which he penned with Leonard Maltin. "We meet here because we can't meet there for lunch. They tore the studio down in 1963."

Bann hands over a copy of the menu from the studio's Our Gang Café — the Our Gang comedies were another Roach franchise — from the 1930s where one could get a caviar appetizer for 30 cents. "It was right in front of the studio," said Bann. "It was open to the public, and Our Gang and Laurel and Hardy would eat there with the public. It was a family studio — everyone was friendly."

Sitting across from Bann at the table is John Duff, who said he first fell in love with Laurel and Hardy as a boy of 5 when he would get up early on Saturday mornings to watch them on TV. "I made a promise to myself that one day I would have a library of their films. I started collecting 16mm films, and over the years I have got the DVDs."

Like Duff, Mike Nemeth's affection for the pair dates to TV in the 1950s. "They are the warmest, the best," he said.

"There is no question in my mind that Laurel and Hardy comes closet to representing the average American as he bumbles along in life," Nemeth said. "Despite all the messes they get into, they still stick up for one another and love each other. This warmth brings us close to them like no other comedians."

"I think that's one of the reasons why people took to them so much, because they were eternal optimists," said Randy Skretvedt, author of "Laurel and Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies."

"There is a scene in the Laurel and Hardy movie 'Block-Heads" where Ollie comes to visit Stan in the old soldiers home after not seeing him for 20 years," related Skretvedt. "They make small talk, but the undercurrent of the scene is basically 'I love you and miss you." What other comedy team would do a scene like that?"

Former child star Johnny Crawford of "The Rifleman" fame, who now has a big-band orchestra, actually met Laurel before his death in 1965. "I was doing an interview for some local TV show and also being interviewed was Babe London," recalled Crawford. London had appeared in the 1931 Laurel and Hardy short "Our Wife."

"She talked about her past with Laurel and Hardy. We became friends, and I was determined to get to meet Stan Laurel," Crawford said. "One day we arranged a time to go to his apartment in Santa Monica. My father, my mother and my younger brother and myself all drove there. He was a wonderful, gracious host, very sweet."

Veteran comic Jim MacGeorge not only knew Laurel, he also played him in a series of commercials more than 40 years ago with Chuck McCann as Hardy and also on the 1966 Laurel and Hardy cartoon series, which featured Larry Harmon as the voice of Hardy. Scratching his head like Laurel, MacGeorge gets a perplexed grin on his face and suddenly transforms into the comic actor.

MacGeorge recalled that he had gotten Laurel's phone number from his agent. Standing outside his apartment, MacGeorge wondered if he should call Laurel. "I said to myself, 'Do it.'"

Not only was Laurel pleased to hear from a fan, he asked him to come to lunch the following week. "So I used to go there and visit him. I would knock on the door, and he would open it. He would say, 'How are you, lad?' He called everyone lad. I said, 'How are you? He said, 'My life is over. Come on in. He said the same thing every time."


Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Cary Grant (1904-1986) in my humble opinion is the patron saint of all leading man. Sure, there were actors out there that might have had more of an acting range, but Cary could make any movie he was in seem great. It took a lot of work for him to get the scenes just right, but when the audience sees the finished work on the screen, he made it look so easy. That is a person who has a great understanding of his craft.

In my personal opinion, here is my five favorite Cary Grant films:

I never fully appreciated this comedy until I became a home owner, but Cary Grant expresses the frustration of building a dream house with great hilarity. He works well with Myrna Loy as his long suffering wife, and his character in the film is the kind of a neighbor I would want. I just would not want to live in his house!

4. SUSPICION (1941)
Cary Grant teamed with Alfred Hitchcock in this compelling tale of a secretive husband possibly trying to kill his wife (Joan Fontaine). Grant showed a different side of himself in this movie. The audience could not really tell if Cary is a good guy or a bad guy in this film. You don't really know what kind of person Grant is until the end of the film. The ending will surprise and maybe even upset some, but that is what Alfred Hitchcock films were all about.

If you want to watch a real tear jerker then watch this film. My grandfather got me into this movie as a teenager, and I am not embarrassed to say the film makes me cry every time. The movie is about the trouble a couple (Grant and Irene Dunne) are having trying to have a baby. Grant was robbed when he did not win an Oscar for this performance. Now that I am a proud parent the film means even more to me now.

This film marks the last time Cary Grant would work with Alfred Hitchcock, and what a movie it was! The movie is on the long side, but Grant plays a man who loses his identity to the point that it truly pulls you into the movie. The movie has everything from witty Grant dialogue to suspense that literally jumps out at you. One of the most memorable scenes is Grant running away from the crop duster. Grant literally takes the audience across country, and he tries to prove who he really is.

This film is not only my favorite Cary Grant movie, but it is my favorite comedy of all-time. Only Cary Grant, under the direction of Frank Capra can make two murdering aunts hilarious. Grant goes from a mild mannered author in the beginning of the movie to a manic and crazed person by the end of the film. Even though Cary is the focal point of the movie, the supporting cast of Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre, and Jack Carson add charm to the movie as well. This is a good film to watch at Halloween - it is not too spooky but good clean fun. You don't even have to be a classic movie fan to love this film, because the comedy is timeless like all of Cary Grant's movies...

Sunday, November 20, 2011


I am not an animal lover, but one of my favorite reruns I watched growing up was "Lassie". Actress June Lockhart was one of the best things about the corny black and white show. She came from a long acting family, and her mark she left on television should not be underestimated.

Born in New York City in 1925, Lockhart is the daughter of Canadian-born actor Gene Lockhart, who came to prominence on Broadway in 1933 in Ah, Wilderness!, and English-born actress Kathleen Arthur Lockhart. In 1948, Lockhart won a Tony Award for Outstanding Performance by a Newcomer (a category that no longer exists) for her role on Broadway in For Love or Money. In the late 1950s, she guest starred in several popular television Westerns including: Wagon Train and Cimarron City on NBC and Gunsmoke, Have Gun – Will Travel, and Rawhide on CBS.

Lockhart is best known for her roles as TV mothers, first as Ruth Martin, the wife of Paul Martin (portrayed by Hugh Reilly), and the mother of Timmy Martin (played by Jon Provost) in the 1954 CBS series, Lassie (a role that she played from 1958–64). She replaced actress Cloris Leachman. Lockhart then became Dr. Maureen Robinson, the wife of Professor John Robinson (portrayed by Zorro actor Guy Williams) in the Lost in Space (1965–68) series. The science fiction program on CBS was popular, remembered for the design of the sleek silver spacesuits, which Lockhart wore in many publicity photos.

Lockhart appeared as Dr. Janet Craig on the CBS sitcom Petticoat Junction, after Bea Benaderet died during the run of the show, and as a regular in the ABC soap opera General Hospital during the 1980s and 1990s. She provided the voice of Martha Day, the lead character in the Hanna-Barbara animated series These Are the Days. Lockhart was the only actor or actress to have starred in three hit series during the 1960s.

In 1986, she appeared in the fantasy film, Troll. The younger version of her character in that film was played by her daughter, Anne Lockhart. They had previously played the same woman at two different ages in an episode of the television series Magnum, P.I. (1981). In 1991, Lockhart appeared as Miss Wiltrout, Michelle Tanner's kindergarten teacher on the TV sitcom Full House. She also had a cameo in the 1998 film Lost in Space, based on the television series she had starred in thirty years earlier. In 2002, she appeared in two episodes of The Drew Carey Show as Lewis's mother, Misty Kiniski.

In 2004, she voiced the role of Grandma Emma Fowler in Focus on the Family's The Last Chance Detectives audio cases. Lockhart starred as James Caan's mother in an episode of Las Vegas in 2004. Lockhart has since guest starred on episodes of Cold Case and Grey's Anatomy, in the 2007 ABC Family television film Holiday in Handcuffs, and in the 2007 feature film Wesley. Now at the age of 86, June Lockhart is still a beauty that appears from time to time not only in television but films as well...

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Starting November 26th and continuing every Saturday through December, we will be spotlighting the sex symbols of the cinema! We will take a look at the popular sex symbols of a particular decade, and also look at what was going on in our society to make them so popular.

We will start with the silent movies of the 1920s and go all the way through the 1960s. Tell your friends about this new series - coming to this blog next Saturday!

Friday, November 18, 2011


Natalie Wood's Drowning Case Reopened by L.A. Homicide Division
by Associated Press

Thirty years after her drowning off the coast of California was ruled an accident, a homicide investigation has been opened in the death of actress Natalie Wood.

Los Angeles County sheriffs will speak to reporters Friday about the decision to take another look at Wood's nighttime demise on Nov. 29, 1981.

Wood drowned after spending several hours drinking on Catalina Island and a yacht with husband Robert Wagner, fellow actor Christopher Walken and the ship's captain.

The circumstances of Wood's drowning death nearly 30 years ago remain one of Hollywood's enduring mysteries and continue to create renewed intrigue, with homicide detectives unexpectedly reopening a case that had long been classified as a tragic accident.

Natalie Wood's sister, Lana, also told TMZ that she believes Wagner withheld information from authorities after the drowning. This seems to contradict earlier statements from Lana Wood that Wagner had nothing to do with her sister's death.

Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said Thursday the renewed inquiry was prompted by unspecified new information about Wood's case. The Los Angeles Times quoted Sheriff Lee Baca as saying recent comments by the captain, Dennis Davern, who was interviewed for a book project and whose comments from a 2000 article by Vanity Fair are being featured on a new print edition and a "48 Hours Mystery" episode that focus on Hollywood scandals.

In the book -- "Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour" -- authors Marti Rulli and Splendour Captain Dennis Davern say before Natalie disappeared from the boat, she was drinking and taking Quaaludes with Wagner and Walken.

In Vanity Fair, Davern is quoted as saying that Wood and Wagner fought in their cabin before the actress went missing. Coroner's officials ruled her death an accidental drowning, perhaps caused by her slipping off the boat while trying to tie down a dinghy.

But Wood's sister Lana told TMZ the actress was deathly afraid of water.

Coroner's officials said that Wood was "possibly attempting to board the dinghy and had fallen into the water, striking her face."

Investigators have returned to Catalina, as well as New Jersey to interview Rulli, TMZ reports. They've also gone to Augustine, Florida to interview the Captain, and they're going to Hawaii to look at the Splendour, according to TMZ.

It is not the first time Davern has contradicted statements he and others made to investigators after Woods' death, and the magazine notes that he has told his story through tabloids and has been shopping for a book deal for years. Attempts to reach Davern were unsuccessful Thursday night.

Sheriff's officials are also hoping for tips from the public that may shed new light on how Wood, who was afraid of being in the water, ended up drowning.

"Although no one in the Wagner family has heard from the LA County Sheriff's department about this matter, they fully support the efforts of the LA County Sheriff's Dept. and trust they will evaluate whether any new information relating to the death of Natalie Wood Wagner is valid, and that it comes from a credible source or sources other than those simply trying to profit from the 30 year anniversary of her tragic death," Wagner spokesman Alan Nierob wrote in a statement.

Wood, a three-time Oscar nominee famous for roles in "West Side Story," `'Rebel Without a Cause" and other Hollywood hits, was 43 when she died. She and Wagner, star of the TV series "Hart to Hart," were twice married, first in 1957 before divorcing six years later. They remarried in 1972.

Lana Wood wrote in a biography on her sister, "What happened is that Natalie drank too much that night." It is unclear why she is now telling TMZ that Wagner has withheld information.

Wagner wrote in a 2008 autobiography that he blamed himself for his wife's death.

He recounted the night of Wood's disappearance, during which the couple and Walken drank at a restaurant and on the boat. Wood went to the master cabin during an argument between her husband and Walken. The last time Wagner saw his wife, she was fixing her hair in a bathroom mirror and she shut the door.

Wagner wrote that despite various theories about what led Wood to the water, which she feared, it was impossible to know what exactly happened.

"Nobody knows," he wrote. "There are only two possibilities; either she was trying to get away from the argument, or she was trying to tie the dinghy. But the bottom line is that nobody knows exactly what happened."

Later in the book, Wagner wrote, "Did I blame myself? If I had been there, I could have done something. But I wasn't there. I didn't see her."

He wrote that he has never returned to Catalina Island.

Phone and email messages to Walken's publicist from the Associated Press were not returned Thursday. Walken and Wood were co-stars in "Brainstorm," which was the actress' final big screen role.



Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I love looking at pictures of Dean Martin. No matter what the picture were or whom he had a picture taken with, it looked like he was having fun. The friends he took the pictures with as well looked like they were having a blast. There will never be another Dean and that is such a shame...







Monday, November 14, 2011


The name of Nedra Sanders Broccoli is not known much to anyone. Nedra only made a couple of movies despite her great beauty. However, in her short life she was associated not only with famous men of Hollywood but horrible personal tragedy that no one, famous or not, should ever have to deal with.

Nedra Sanders was born on February 28, 1919 in Missouri. She was the daughter of Ethyl Reeves and William J. Sanders. A local beauty, she married young. The marriage was not working out but she was the mother of a beautiful son by the name of Douglas. In 1941, Nedra decided to divorce her husband William Evans, and this first marriage would end in tragedy. On the night before William was to sign the divorce papers, he murdered the two year old Douglas, and Nedra's mother Ethyl who tried to intervene and stop the tragedy. Nedra was stabbed many times and almost died from a loss of blood. William Evans got life in prison, but Nedra lost her beloved son and mother. Her father never recovered from the incident, and he died in 1946.

While Nedra was recovering in the hospital, an up and coming crooner was visiting a friend in the hospital. He saw Nedra as she was recovering from her wounds - both physically and mentally. That singer was Buddy Clark. Clark sang with numerous big bands in the 1930s, and he was currently becoming one of the top singers for Columbia Records. He did not have the looks of Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby, but Clark had a kind heart, and the two fell in love.

They were married in 1942, and although Buddy had two children from a previous married, the couple were anxious to start a family. In 1943, they had a daughter that they named Penny. Life was seemingly back on track for Nedra, and she put the horrors of her past behind her. However, new horror was around the corner. Buddy Clark was a huge college football fan - namely cheering on Stanford University. On October 1, 1949 he was a passenger on a small plane leaving the Stanford-Michigan game. After the game on the way back to Los Angeles, the plane developed a sputtering engine problem, due to lack of gas, and lost altitude and crashed on Beverly Boulevard, in California. Buddy was thrown from the plane. He did not survive the crash. At that time, he was 37 years old reaching new heights of popularity. Buddy died from his injuries at a hospital a few hours later.

The strange part of this freaky accident was that no one else on the plane was reported to have died, nor was there any one on Beverly Boulevard reported hurt. James L. Hayter, pilot of the chartered twin engine Cessnas plane who suffered chest injuries gave his explanation of the crash: He was attempting to land the plane at suburban Burbank, Ca., because of a low supply of fuel when it ran into overcast. When it emerged. He said, he didn’t know where he was. "I switched on the emergency fuel tank just before we got over Los Angeles." he said. "When she started sputtering I thought the fuel line might have been clogged, but later I figured we were out of gas. I just picked a spot and set her down."

The plane clipped branches from treetops and sheered off two power lines. Directly over Beverly Blvd., it lost its tail assembly and crashed. Four of the passengers were tossed clear of the wreckage by the impact. Despite the heavy traffic on the Beverly Blvd.,the California police regarded the crash a little short of a miracle that the plane landed on Beverly Blvd., without causing greater damage,and drivers below pulled to the curb upon seeing the plane over-head.

Nedra again had to pick up the pieces. Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, both rivals to Clark helped out the family financially, and Sinatra even served as a pall bearer at Clark's funeral. However tragedy would once again face Nedra in 1950. Seven year old Penny Clark, the beloved daughter of Nedra and Buddy was killed months after Buddy died. She was crossing the street with her mother when a car veered out of control and hit Penny. Penny died instantly on August 14, 1950. So in less than a decade, Nedra lost her parents, two children, and a husband.

In 1952, Nedra married for the third time to up and coming producer Albert Broccoli. Broccoli would go on to develop the James Bond series in the 1960s that made him nearly a billionaire. At the time he met Nedra, he was just trying to form his own production company. The couple were told they had fertility problems and would never have children. They adopted a son, Tony Broccoli in 1954, after which Nedra became pregnant. While Nedra was pregnant doctors discovered she had incurable bladder cancer. Their daughter Tina was born in 1956, but Nedra would only live a few years after the birth.

Nedra Sanders Broccoli died on September 12, 1958. She was only 39 but lived a lifetime of tragedy, heart ache, and pain...

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Grace Kelly, a true Hollywood princess, was born on this day - November 12, 1929. Grace Kelly was born in Philadelphia to John Brendan "Jack" Kelly, and his wife, Margaret Katherine Majer. The newborn was named after her father's sister, who had died at a young age. She was raised Catholic, and was of Irish and German descent. Before her marriage, Majer studied physical education at Temple University and later became the first woman to head the Physical Education Department at the University of Pennsylvania. Jack Kelly was a local hero as a triple Olympic-gold-medal-winning sculler, and became wealthy as his construction company became the largest such enterprise on the East Coast. Registering as a Democrat, he obtained the party's nomination for mayor in the 1935 election and lost by the closest margin for any Democrat in the city's history. In later years, he served on the Fairmount Park Commission and, during World War II, was appointed by President Roosevelt as National Director of Physical Fitness.

When Grace was born, the Kellys already had two children, Margaret Katherine, known as Peggy (June 13, 1925 – November 23, 1991) and John Brendan, Jr., known as Kell (May 24, 1927 – May 2, 1985). Another daughter, Elizabeth Anne, known as Lizanne (June 25, 1933 – November 24, 2009), was born three and a half years after Grace.

At Margaret's baptism in 1925, Jack Kelly's mother, Mary Costello Kelly, expressed her disappointment that the baby was not named Grace in memory of her last daughter, who had died young. Upon his mother's death the following year, Jack Kelly resolved that his next daughter would bear the name and, three years later, with the arrival of Grace Patricia in November 1929, his late mother's wish was honored.

Following in his father's athletic footsteps, John Jr. won in 1947 the James E. Sullivan Award as the country's top amateur athlete. Also, similar to his father's gold medals in rowing at the 1920 and 1924 Summer Olympics, he competed in the sport at the 1948, 1952 and the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne where, on November 27, seven months after his sister's Monaco wedding, he won a bronze medal, which he gave to her as a gift of the occasion. He also served as a city councilman, and Philadelphia's Kelly Drive is named for him.

Two of Grace Kelly's uncles were prominent in the arts; her father's eldest brother, Walter C. Kelly (1873–1939), was a vaudeville star whose nationally known act The Virginia Judge was filmed as a 1930 MGM short and a 1935 Paramount feature, and another older brother, George Kelly (1887–1974), estranged from the family due to his homosexuality, became renowned in the 1920s as a dramatist, screenwriter and director with a hit comedy-drama, The Show Off in 1924–25, and was awarded the 1926 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his next play, Craig's Wife.

Living in Manhattan's Barbizon Hotel for Women, a prestigious establishment which barred men from entering after 10 pm, and working as a model to support her studies, Kelly began her first term the following October. A diligent student, she would use a tape recorder to practice and perfect her speech. Her early acting pursuits led her to the stage, most notably a Broadway debut in Strindberg's The Father alongside Raymond Massey. At 19, her graduation performance was as Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story.

Television producer Delbert Mann cast Kelly as Bethel Merriday, an adaptation of the Sinclair Lewis novel of the same name, in her first of nearly sixty live television programs. Success on television eventually brought her a role in a major motion picture. Kelly made her film debut in a small role in the 1951 film Fourteen Hours. She was noticed during a visit to the set by Gary Cooper, who subsequently starred with her in High Noon. Cooper was charmed by Kelly and said that she was "different from all these actresses we've been seeing so much of." However, her performance in Fourteen Hours was not noticed by critics, and did not lead to her receiving other film acting roles. She continued her work in the theater and on television, although she lacked "vocal horsepower" and would likely not have had a lengthy stage career. Kelly was performing in Colorado’s Elitch Gardens when she received a telegram from Hollywood producer Stanley Kramer, offering her a co-starring role opposite Gary Cooper in High Noon.

And the rest they say is Hollywood history...

Thursday, November 10, 2011


The movie Some Like It Hot (1959) is one of the great classic comedies of all-time, so it almost pointless to write a review of the film. However, I recently watched it on TCM, and even though this film is over fifty years old it is still one of the finest comedies Hollywood ever produced. I watched the film as I was going to sleep in bed, and needless to say I stayed up to the very end of the movie. I just had to!

The film is a remake by Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond of a 1935 French movie, Fanfare d'Amour, from the story by Robert Thoeren and Michael Logan, which was itself remade in 1951 by German director Kurt Hoffmann as Fanfaren der Liebe. However, both the French and German films were without the gangsters that are an integral part of the plot of Some Like It Hot. Wilder's working title for his film was Fanfares of Love, then Not Tonight, Josephine before he decided on Some Like It Hot as its release title.

Two struggling musicians, Joe and Jerry (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon), witness what looks like the Saint Valentine's Day massacre of 1929. When the Chicago gangsters, led by "Spats" Colombo (George Raft), see them, the two flee for their lives. They escape and decide to leave town, taking a job that requires them to disguise themselves as women, playing in an all-girl musical band headed to Florida.

Calling themselves Josephine and Geraldine (later Jerry changes his pseudonym to Daphne), they join the band and board a train. Joe and Jerry both become enamored of "Sugar Kane" (Marilyn Monroe), the band's vocalist and ukulele player, and struggle for her affection while maintaining their disguises. In Florida, Joe woos Sugar by assuming a second disguise as a millionaire named "Junior", the heir to Shell Oil, while mimicking Cary Grant's voice. An actual millionaire, Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown), becomes enamored of Jerry in his Daphne guise. One night Osgood asks Daphne out to his yacht. Joe convinces Daphne to keep Osgood ashore while he goes on the yacht with Sugar. That night Osgood proposes to Daphne who, in a state of excitement, accepts, believing he can receive a large settlement from Osgood immediately following their wedding ceremony.

When the mobsters arrive at the same hotel for a conference honoring "Friends of Italian Opera", Spats and his gang see Joe and Jerry. After several humorous chases (and witnessing yet another mob murder, this time of Spats himself and his crew), Jerry, Joe, Sugar, and Osgood escape to the millionaire's yacht. Enroute, Joe reveals to Sugar his true identity and Sugar tells Joe that she's in love with him regardless. Joe tells her that he is not good enough for her, that she would be getting the "fuzzy end of the lollipop" yet again, but Sugar loves him anyway. Jerry, for his part, tries to explain to Osgood that he cannot marry him, launching into a range of objections from insisting that he can't get married in his mother's dress ("We are not built the same way,") to the tearful confession that he can "never have children." Osgood dismisses them all and remains determined to go through with the marriage. Finally, exasperated, Jerry removes his wig and shouts, "I'm a man!", only for Osgood to override this final revelation by uttering the film's memorable last line, "Well, nobody's perfect."

That last line not only makes the movie, but is one of the greatest lines in cinema history. The whole cast was out of this world. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon do look a lot like women, but you almost forget they are men when they are dressed in drag. Marilyn Monroe was a little heavier in this film, and sadly she would be dead three years later, but she was wonderful in it. The supporting cast of Pat O'Brien and George Raft also gives the movie an authentic feel of the 1930s to it. All in all there is nothing bad I can say about this film. Even though I have it on DVD, I am so happy I caught it again on television...

my rating: 10 out of 10

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Andy Williams had a a sad announcement to make at his Moon River Theater in Missouri on Saturday.

"I do have cancer of the bladder," the "Most Wonderful Time of the Year" singer said, according to the Branson Tri-Lakes News. "But that is no longer a death sentence. People with cancer are getting through this thing. They're kicking it, and they're winning more and more every year. And I'm going to be one of them."

Williams' announcement was met with a round of cheers and applause, and the singer thanked the audience for their support during his "time of need."

"I really had missed this an awful lot," said the singer, who will not perform at his theater during the holiday season.

Williams promised the crowd that he will recover quickly, as he plans to return to the stage in 2012, which marks his 75th year in the entertainment industry.

"I'll be coming back here next year, in September and October," he said. "I'm going to do the shows I've planned to do."

Williams has been married to Debbie Meyer since 1991. He has three children with his first wife, Claudine Longet; they divorced in 1975...


Sunday, November 6, 2011


Singers helped to add romance, glamour, and style to the big bands. But unless they also played an instrument, they usually received the least pay.

"Bob Eberly was a good friend of mine," trombonist Vincent Lopez Jr., son of the famous pianist - bandleader, said to me recently. "I remember we were talking onetime . . . about all these television stations were reproducing recordings of originals, saying, alright, 'Here's Tangerine with Bob Eberly," and so forth. And I said, 'Do you get any residuals for this?' He said, 'No! If we did, we'd be millionaires . . . we'd go off the road with the Jimmy Dorsey band, we'd go to New York, and we would record, literally, five or six cuts a day . . . I got $35 a record . . . that was a lot of money to me. So it was a one-shot deal, whether the record sold one or a million and one, I still got $35.'"

Of course, there was no retirement plan or health insurance for singers like Eberly.

"It's sad," Lopez Jr. observed, "because here's people of stature, that are recognizable names from 'the big band era,' from the heyday of that music, and they're penniless or terminally ill in the hospital, such as Bob was. I remember, his niece, Jan, and I were working with the band (I forget where-the-hell we were working at), and I said something about Bob being in the hospital and she said, 'Yeah, he's in Sloan-Kettering.' Of course, he was dying from lung cancer at the time. She said, 'He got a visitor the other night.' I said, 'really? Who was that?' She said, 'Frank Sinatra walked into the room after one of his shows, walked into Bob's room, and said, 'Bob, I know that you and I were both with different bands and we never really met up with each other through the business, but don't worry about the hospital bills. It's taken care of.' I thought that was a helluva thing, and I never really cared that much for Frank Sinatra [laughs] but I just thought it was a helluva thing. From what I understand . . . he had done a lot of things like that."

Witnessing the plight of Eberly, other singers began to worry about ending up in the same way, and wondered who would take care of them?

So in March 1984, a group of songbirds formally organized to help themselves, incorporating as The Society of Singers, to assist professional singers who face financial, medical, family or other crises. ("SOS," as the organization refers to itself, defines a singer as someone who has earned a living being a singer for at least five years.) Services are financial aid, case management and referrals, housing, scholarships, and community outreach.

Among the founding members were Gilda Maiken, one of The Skylarks, a vocal group which performed with Harry James' band in 1949, and Ginny Mancini, wife of composer - pianist Henry Mancini and once part of the Mello-Larks, a group that sang with the Tex Beneke/Glenn Miller Orchestra in 1946-47.

Bea Wain, featured vocalist with Larry Clinton during 1937-39, volunteered her time and talents with The Society from the start. She's still active, and when I spoke with her over the phone recently, I asked her about it.

"I'm now in Los Angeles," she said. "And a lot of the singers are around here, that I knew."

Many of them had settled down or retired to the West Coast. Sadly, a number have since died.

"There were a few singers that were down on their luck, they were hungry," she recalled.

Assistance from The Society is strictly confidential, though some gave permission for their plights to be told. One was Ella Mae Morse, who recorded Cow Cow Boogie with Freddie Slack's band in 1942. Although that hit disc was one of Capitol Records' first big money-makers, Ella Mae, years later, was having a tough time making ends meet.

"[She] was working in Sears, a Sears store," Wain said. "She had to get a job."

Another was Bonnie Lou Williams, a vocalist with Tommy Dorsey's orchestra in 1944-45, who, according to an SOS release, later "became terminally ill, and while unable to pay her medical bills, she was served with an eviction notice compounding her humiliation."

Mancini, Maiken, and the others said they had to do something about people like Morse.

Wain took a moment to tell me about Ginny Mancini. "You know, she is now heir to remarkable music, I mean Henry's songs," she commented. "There's a lot, a lot of money in royalties there. She's a woman that has the money and does the right thing with it, which is really wonderful."

The bulk of the Society's present operating capital is raised through memberships, which begin at $50.

"You don't have to be a singer to be a member of The Society of Singers," Wain noted. "You just have to pay the dues."

More funding comes from benefit affairs and showcases held every eightteen or so months. The first such major event, in 1989, presented honors to Ella Fitzgerald, and thereafter The Society named the award for her. As part of that year's program, Wain, Martha Tilton, Helen Forrest, Kay Starr, Helen O'Connell, Kitty Kallen, Fran Warren, and The Clark Sisters were featured in a special tribute, "The Ladies Who Sang With the Bands."

One-time band vocalists Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Joe Williams, Tony Martin, and Rosemary Clooney were among those to receive an "Ella" award in the years following.

"We have wonderful affairs," Wain observed. ""The people love the singers, everybody loves the singers. It's a really good group and we help a lot of people."

For more information, view The Society of Singers website: SOCIETY OF SINGERS