Saturday, March 31, 2012


Well the votes have been cast, and the new name of my blog will be A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE! The new title received 34% of the vote. I am actually very pleased that this title won, because A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE was the name of the magazine I made for my grandfather when I was a young writer with a little electric typewriter from 1984 to 1993.

Over the next week, you will see some changes to my blog. The address of course will be the same, but we hope the new title - while sounding nostalgic will also be the beginning of an exciting new era for my blog.

Thanks for all or your continued support as we take a trip down memory lane...

Friday, March 30, 2012


A collection of rare movie theater posters found in a northeastern Pennsylvania attic has fetched a total of $503,000 at auction.

The sale of 33 posters from the Golden Age of Hollywood ended Friday at Heritage Auctions in Texas.

The auction house said a rare 1931 poster for the movie "Dracula" topped the list with a selling price of $143,400. It sold to an anonymous overseas buyer.

A surprise of the auction was the $101,575 price paid for the rare poster of the 1931 movie "Cimarron," the first Western to win the Best Picture Academy Award.

The posters were stuck together with wallpaper glue when they were purchased for around $30,000 at a country auction last fall in Berwick. The rare find was revealed as they were steamed apart...


Wednesday, March 28, 2012


This is a morbid idea for an article, but I thought it was an interesting enough topic for a collection of some of the final pictures of our favorite stars. If any of these pictures offend you, I do apologize...

Here is the great actress Jane Wyman leaving President Reagan's funeral in 2004. She died in 2007 at the age of 90:

Here is Eddie Cantor receiving an award from Governor of California Pat Brown in January of 1964. He died in October of that year at the age of 72:

Here is legendary actor James Cagney with a young Michael J. Fox from 1985. Cagney died the following year at the age of 86:

Here is the blonde bombshell Betty Hutton, celebrating her 86th birthday. Sadly, she died of cancer a month later:

Here is the last known picture of popular President Franklin D. Roosevelt a few days before he died on April 12, 1945. He was only 63:

Here is probably the saddest picture of the bunch. Actor Tyrone Power suffered a heart attack on the set of "Solomon and Sheba"(1958). He died on route to the hospital. He was only 44:

Monday, March 26, 2012


This is one of the best articles I have ever read on films. It was written by Gary Cahall. I wanted to share it with you as the film Song Of The South is still one of the hardest to find movies made...

Of the many motion pictures never made available on home video in the U.S, none has been a source of contention and controversy, with impassioned speakers on both sides and entire websites devoted to the film, as has Song of the South. The ongoing question of whether it should be released matches debates that met the film upon its 1946 debut, when picketers, newspaper editorials, and scholars criticized its depiction of African-American life, and upon subsequent theatrical re-showings from the mid-'50s to its final go-round in 1986.

Since some of you out there may be too young to have seen the film in theaters (I was in junior high when I caught it during its 1972 run) and thus may be familiar with it solely through its cartoon segments or the song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," here's a brief synopsis. Shortly after the Civil War (no actual time frame is given), young Johnny (ill-fated child star Bobby Driscoll) is taken to live with his mother and grandmother on the older woman's Georgia plantation while Johnny's father returns to Atlanta. It's not really clear if Johnny's folks are actually separating, or if the father is merely finishing business regarding unspecified writings of his. A heartbroken Johnny intends to run away and follow his dad to Atlanta, but his journey is interrupted when he sees Uncle Remus (James Baskett), a jovial, elderly black man, telling stories to the plantation workers and their children. Uncle Remus finds Johnny sitting on a log and takes him back to his cabin, where he feeds him and tells him about a similar incident that happened to Brer (early African-American slang for "Brother") Rabbit, leading to the first of three animated Brer Rabbit tales in the film. Remus convinces Johnny to return home and takes him back to the mansion, but is scolded by the grandmother (Lucille Watson) for keeping the boy out so late.

Johnny eventually comes to enjoy his time on the plantation, befriending a black boy named Toby (Glenn Leedy) and a "poor white" neighbor girl named Ginny (Disney live-action regular Luana Patten) whose brothers harass both her and Johnny. The three spend every spare moment at Uncle Remus' cabin, where he spins more fables about rascally Brer Rabbit's run-ins with scheming Brer Fox and the oafish Brer Bear, tales that help the youngsters deal with Ginny's bullying siblings. Meanwhile, Johnny's mom (Ruth Warrick) is not happy with her son's behavior, and--after one such visit keeps Johnny from attending a birthday party she arranged for him--she tells Remus to stop the storytelling sessions. A dejected Remus packs up and prepares to move away, until a life-threatening incident with a bull eventually brings Johnny''s father back home and leads to a happy reunion (and a final rendition of "Zip-a-Dee-Do-Dah") for Johnny, his parents and his new friends, including Uncle Remus.

Audiences and critics generally agreed that the animated sequences (about 25 minutes in all) and the soundtrack that included, along with "Zip-a-Dee-Do-Dah," "Uncle Remus Said" and "Everybody's Got a Laughing Place" were Song of the South's best features. And while most found the story a touch on the cloying side, the performances of Driscoll, Patten and, in particular, Baskett (who was presented with a honorary Academy Award "for his able and heart-warming characterization") were praised. What was not praised--and what Disney and his studio should have been better prepared for--was the film's portrayal of everyday life on an "Old Dixie" plantation. A 1946 NAACP statement decried "the impression it gives of an idyllic master-slave relationship which is a distortion of the facts," while the National Urban League described the film as "another repetition of the perpetuation of the stereotype casting of the Negro in the servant role."

On the other side, a leading black newspaper, The Pittsburgh Courier, said that, even with its faults, the movie could in fact "prove of inestimable good in the furthering of interracial relations." The scenes of Johnny befriending Toby are, after all, fairly progressive for 1940s Hollywood; Our Gang and the East Side Kids were integrated, but everything there was played strictly for laughs (By the way, for a much more offensive family film set during the Civil War, check out the sole Our Gang feature, 1937's General Spanky, sometime). One gets the impression that the displeasure Johnny's mother feels over who he's with is as much about class (as with Ginny's family) as it is race. Moreover, Uncle Remus and another servant, Aunt Tempy (Oscar-winning Gone with the Wind alumna Hattie McDaniel), are shown to be sympathetic characters rather than the out-and-out caricatures that African-American actors were often relegated to at the time...although they're the only workers who get this treatment in Song of the South.

Had the film's makers put in some sort of explanation that its events took place after the Civil War and that Uncle Remus and his fellow workers were not slaves (a slave couldn't have decided to up and leave, as he does at one point), some of the negativity might--might--have been mitigated. Regardless of when in the 19th century Song of the South is set, however, the overall impression remains one of contented and subservient blacks whose lives revolve around working for and finding favor with their white bosses. Even the movie's title works against it; A name like "Tales of Uncle Remus" or "Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit" would have emphasized the person behind the story, but "Song of the South" to this day conjures up demeaning and racist images and a yearning for those bygone days when minorities "knew their place," as in Gone with the Wind.

Ah, you might say, but Gone with the Wind has been out on home video since the mid '80s, from VHS to DVD to Blu-ray, and there's been little complaint about its portrayal of slavery. It's true, Gone with the Wind--and much worse movies like The Birth of a Nation--are available for purchase, but Song of the South's case is unique because it is a Disney picture and is intended for children and families. Shouldn't parents, you might then say, be allowed to decide for themselves if the film is appropriate for their kids to watch? That may also be true, but what sort of statement would Song of the South's release--even with an explanatory statement tacked on before the opening or a documentary examining the film's origins and setting--make to minority audiences?

As journalist Hollis Henry put it in a 2005 article for the Black Commentator website, "Imagine a film about an old Jewish storyteller, living contentedly in Nazi Germany. He develops a deep bond with the grandson of the owner of the munitions factory in which he works. The sun shines brightly as he strolls along singing, back to his home in the prescribed ghetto, Star of David sewn onto his coat. No mention is made of his people’s ordeal. In fact, there is no ordeal. Such a depiction would be repellant not only to Jewish people, but to most people." From the point of view of a white male who saw the movie as a pre-teen decades ago, however, while there seemed to me to be an underlying message of racial tolerance, even at that age I could recognize the inequality that was being glossed over on the screen. And I'm certainly not going to pretend that I can fully appreciate how black viewers, especially young people, might feel insulted about it.

Song of the South was the fulfillment of a decade-long dream for Walt Disney to film the writings of Joel Chandler Harris, the illegitimate son of an Irish immigrant who abandoned the family shortly after Joel's birth in 1845. Apprenticed at a plantation, the outcast young Harris was fascinated by stories told in the slaves' quarters--tales linked to traditional African folklore that served as parables for coping with lives of oppression--and created the Uncle Remus character as a composite of several real people so that he could capture their experiences in book form (Uncle Remus has been compared to Ancient Greece's Aesop, who may or may not have been real, and may have also been a slave of African descent). There were good intentions all around, it seems, but looking at the movie's racially anachronistic tone with 21st-century eyes only draws attention to its many hurtful failings. For this reason, the folks at Disney seem to be resigned to leaving the film locked away in the vault.

Don't feel bad for the House of Mouse, though, if Song of the South never finds its way onto home video. The studio still makes money from the film's soundtrack, and Brer Rabbit and his animal cohorts are still seen in costume at the company's theme parks and as the (unofficial) mascots of the popular Splash Mountain ride. Oh, and James Baskett, the man who was in essence Song of the South's star and who would eventually be given an Oscar for his work on it? He couldn't attend the movie's screening or take part in any of the premiere festivities in the still-segregated city of Atlanta, because no hotel in the vicinity of the theater would give him a room. For Disney's Uncle Remus, there was no "Laughing Place" to be had in the real-life South.


Sunday, March 25, 2012


Sadly I missed this death from February of 2012...

Gloria Lloyd, daughter of Harold Lloyd, dies
by Shalini Dore

Gloria Lloyd, daughter of silent film star Harold Lloyd, died Feb. 10 in Santa Monica. She was 87.

An actress and a model, she appeared in 1946's "Temptation" with Merle Oberon, and as herself in "American Masters"' "Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius," and "This Is Your Life: Harold Lloyd."

Cari Beauchamp, who interviewed her for a book on Greenacres, Harold Lloyd's estate, said, "At her wedding in Greenacres, Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons both came. And for that one day they called a truce."

Survivors include a daughter, Susan, chairman of Harold Lloyd Entertainment.

Services will be private, although a public memorial is being planned, Beauchamp said...


Friday, March 23, 2012


This is taken directly from the Dinah Shore fan club website, which was founded in 1952 and still in existance today:

Dinah Shore was born Frances Rose Shore on February 29, 1916 in Winchester, Tennessee. Her parents, Solomon and Anna Stein Shore were Russian Jewish immigrants. Her sister Bessie was several years older. Solomon owned a dry goods store. When Dinah was almost two years old she contracted polio, the dreaded disease of the time. Fortunately her family was able to obtain excellent care and she recovered, though left with a slightly deformed foot and limp. Through extensive therapy and encouragement from her mother she eventually lost the limp. As a small child she loved to sing encouraged by her mother a contralto with operatic aspirations. Her father would often take her to his store where she would do impromptu songs for the customers.

When Fanny was about eight years old the family moved to Nashville, where her father opened a department store. Shy because of her limp she began to participate in sports and other activities. Fanny Rose developed a strong will to succeed and be the best in everything. She attended Hume Fogg High School where she continued in music, sports, cheerleading and dramatics. Her love for singing became her focus. She even tried to perform at a night club as an early teen. She hung out at the "Grand Ol' Opry" and eventually got a job on the local radio station WSM. During this time her mother died suddenly of a heart attack. Her sister Bessie who had married Maurice Seligman by this time stepped in to help her in this trying time. Solomon wanted her to forget about singing and pursue her education. She entered Vanderbilt University where she continued her many activities. She graduated in 1938 with a degree in sociology.

Fanny Rose's determination to become a singer led her to New York where she auditioned for orchestras and radio stations. She was hired to sing on radio station WNEW along with another upcoming young singer, Frank Sinatra. In the course of her auditions she sang the song, "Dinah". Martin Block, a New York disc jockey, couldn't remember her name and called her the "Dinah girl" and the name stuck. She sang with Xavier Cugat's orchestra and recorded with him. Soon Dinah had a recording contract of her own with RCA Victor records on their Bluebird label. Her first hit recording was "Yes, My Darling Daughter."

Dinah's singing came to the attention of Eddie Cantor and he signed her as a regular on his popular radio show, "Time to Smile" in 1940. Dinah credits him for teaching her self-confidence comedic timing, and the ways of connecting with an audience.

With her recording and radio career taking off Dinah soon became a popular favorite. In 1943 she was signed to host her own radio show, "Call to Music." That same year her first movie, "Thank Your Lucky Stars" starring Eddie Cantor with guest appearances by many Warner Brothers stars, was released.

By this time the nation was well into World War II and Dinah became a popular favorite of the troops. Along with stars like Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, she did many Command Performances for the armed forces radio network. Her records rose to the top of the charts. "Blues in the Night" was her first #1 hit. Dinah traveled to Europe to entertain the troops enduring the many hardships and making fans of the troops everywhere. A bridge in France was named for her. She entertained at the Hollywood Canteen of the USO. There she met a young actor about to go into the service, George Montgomery. They married December 5, 1943.

When George returned from service they settled in the San Fernando Valley. On Jan. 4, 1948 their daughter Melissa was born. In March of 1954 they adopted a son, John David.

Dinah's popularity continued with her radio shows and recordings such as "Shoofly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy", "The Gypsy", "Buttons and Bows". She became a regular with Jack Smith on the CBS "Oxydol Show" (later the "Tide Show". She made a few more movies and moved to the Columbia Record label.

In 1950 Dinah made her television debut on the Ed Wynn Show and a guest appearance on Bob Hope's first show. It wasn't long before Dinah was signed to host her own television show. On Nov. 27, 1951 Dinah began her shows for Chevrolet on NBC, two fifteen minute shows a week. She became immensely popular and won her first Emmy in 1955.In 1956 she did two hour Shows for Chevrolet which led to a regular spot on Sunday nights with the Dinah Shore Chevy Show, a musical variety show with many famous guests. These continued until 1960 for that sponsor and two more years for other sponsors. Many honors and awards including more Emmys and the Peabody Award came her way.

In the 60's Dinah did various TV specials and guest appearances. She also continued playing nightclubs in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe as well as concerts in cities across the country. She changed to the Capitol Record label and made many albums. Her marriage ended in divorce in 1962.
In 1970 Dinah returned to regular television with a daytime half hour on NBC called "Dinah's Place. Besides her music Dinah had guests talking and singing, did cooking, offered homemaking hints and fun. She won another Emmy for this show. This show continued until 1974 when NBC canceled. Later that year she returned to a 90 minute daily show called "Dinah!" for CBS. Continuing the basic format with talk, music and cooking she continued her popularity with the audience. This show ended in 1980.

Dinah's many interests included photography, painting, cooking. She became well known among friends for cooking and entertaining. This led to her writing three cookbooks, Someone's in the Kitchen with Dinah, The Dinah Shore Cookbook, and Dinah Shore's American Kitchen.

From childhood Dinah had a love for sports and for many years was a popular celebrity participant in charity tennis tournaments. When Colgate approached her about hosting a golf tournament for lady golfers, Dinah accepted with enthusiasm and took up the game in earnest. The Colgate (and now Nabisco) Dinah Shore Tournament has been held at Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, California near Palm Springs since 1972.

Dinah returned to television in 1989 with "Conversation with Dinah" on The Nashville Network cable. Again she was hostess to many top celebrities who came to interesting conversations with her.

In 1992 Dinah was inducted into the TV Hall of Fame of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in Orlando, Florida. She continued to do concerts and charity appearances as well as host her golf tournament.
Dinah Shore passed away on February 24, 1994 after a brief battle with cancer. Her resting spot is marked with these words. "Dinah Shore - loved by all who knew her and millions who never did"...


Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I have always loved the Godzilla franchise of movies. Many of them had silly storylines and the Godzilla costume looked as fake as could be. So, when Godzilla was getting the American treatment in 1998, I was excited and went to see the film on opening day. The movie did well financially, but it was critically panned. I watched the movie again this ast weekend when I was recovering from St. Patrick's Day festivities, and I must admit...I still like the film.

This 1998 movie is a loose remake of the 1954 giant monster classic Godzilla. The storyline was conceived from a screenplay written by Emmerich and Dean Devlin. The film relates a tale of a nuclear incident in the South Pacific which causes an abnormal mutation to occur in a reptile. The beast migrates to North America and wreaks havoc in Manhattan. Incorporated in the plot is the character of Dr. Niko Tatopoulos, played by actor Matthew Broderick. Tatopoulos, an American scientist whose work involves the effects of exposed nuclear radiation on species; is recruited by the military to help contain and subdue the creature referred to as "Godzilla". An ensemble cast featuring Maria Pitillo, Hank Azaria, Kevin Dunn, along with French actor Jean Reno, star in principal supporting roles.

The film was a co-production between the motion picture studios of Centropolis Entertainment and TriStar Pictures. It was commercially distributed by TriStar Pictures theatrically, and by Sony Pictures Entertainment for home media. Godzilla explores nuclear mutation, crisis management and military warfare. Following its wide release in theaters, the film won and was nominated for multiple mainstream awards, including Saturn Award nominations for Best Special Effects, Best Fantasy Film, and Best Director. The film also won the People's Choice Award in the category of Best European Director for Emmerich from the European Film Awards. On May 19, 1998, the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was released by the Epic Records label. It features songs written by several recording artists including The Wallflowers, Rage Against the Machine, Silverchair, and the Foo Fighters. The film score was composed and orchestrated by musicians David Arnold and Nicholas Dodd.

Godzilla premiered in theaters nationwide in the United States on May 20, 1998 grossing $136,314,294 in domestic ticket receipts. It earned an additional $242,700,000 in business through international release to top out at a combined $379,014,294 in gross revenue. The film was a strong financial success, taking into account its $130 million budget costs. However, preceding its initial screening in cinemas, the film was generally met with negative critical reviews.

Following a nuclear incident in French Polynesia, a lizard's nest is irradiated by the fallout of subsequent radiation. Decades later, a Japanese fishing vessel is suddenly attacked by an enormous sea creature in the South Pacific ocean; only one seaman survives. Traumatized, he is questioned by a mysterious Frenchman in a hospital regarding what he saw, to which he replies: "Gojira".

Dr. Niko Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick), an NRC scientist, is on the Chernobyl exclusion zone in Ukraine researching the effects of radiation on wildlife, but is suddenly interrupted by the arrival of an official from the U.S. State Department. He is sent to Tahiti and Jamaica, escorted by the military, to observe the wreckage of the recovered Japanese fishing trawler with massive claw marks on it. The Frenchman is also present, observing the scene, and introduces himself as Philippe Roaché (Jean Reno), an insurance agent. Aboard a military aircraft, Nick identifies skin samples he discovered in the shipwreck as belonging to an unknown species. He dismisses the military's theory that the creature is a living dinosaur, instead deducing that it is a mutant created by nuclear testing. The large reptilian creature dubbed as "Godzilla" by the media, travels to New York City leaving a path of destruction in its wake. The city is evacuated as the military attempts to kill it but fails in an initial attempt. Dr. Tatopoulos later collects a blood sample and learns that Godzilla reproduces asexually and is collecting food for its offspring.

Aspiring journalist and ex-girlfriend of Dr. Tatopoulos, Audrey Timmonds (Maria Pitillo), uncovers a classified tape in his provisional military tent which concerns the origins of the lizard. Her superior Charles Caiman (Harry Shearer) however, declares the tape as his own media discovery. The tape is broadcast on television embarrassing the military on the sensitive nature of the situation. Dr. Tatopoulos is thrown off the team but is kidnapped by Roaché, who reveals himself to be an agent of the French Secret Service. He and his colleagues have been keeping close watch on the events and are planning to cover up their role in the nuclear accident that spawned the creature. Suspecting a nest somewhere in the city, they cooperate with Dr. Tatopoulos to trace and destroy it.

Following a chase with Godzilla, the creature dives into the Hudson River where it is attacked by a Navy submarine. After sustaining head-on collisions with torpedoes, the beast sinks after being rendered incapacitated. Believing it is finally dead, the authorities celebrate. Dr. Tatopoulos and Roaché's special operations team, covertly followed by Timmonds and her cameraman Victor "Animal" Palotti (Hank Azaria), make their way through underground subway tunnels to Madison Square Garden. There, they locate numerous eggs, having finally found the nest.

As they attempt to destroy them by planting explosives, the eggs suddenly hatch. Sensing the human intruders as food, they begin attacking them. Dr. Tatopoulos, Roaché, Timmonds and Palotti take refuge in the coliseum's broadcast booth and send a live news report to alert the military of what will happen if the lizards escape. A prompt response involving an airstrike is initiated as the four escape moments before the arena is bombed. Godzilla however, survived the torpedo attack earlier underwater and emerges from the venue's ruins. Discovering all of its offspring dead, it roars in anger and chases Dr. Tatopoulos, Roaché, Timmonds and Palotti through the streets of Manhattan. In pursuit of the quartet, Godzilla eventually makes its way to the Brooklyn Bridge. The creature helplessly becomes trapped in its steel suspension cables, making it an easy target. After being attacked by military aircraft, it falls to the ground and slowly dies. Meanwhile, amidst the Garden's ruins, a lone egg has survived the aerial bombardment and begins to hatch...

my rating: 8 out of 10

Monday, March 19, 2012


Even though her tap-dancing musical movies for Warner Bros. captured the hearts of Depression-weary Americans and catapulted her to stardom, Ruby Keeler preferred home and hearth to glitz and glamour.

Born in 1910 in Nova Scotia, Canada, her family moved to a crowded tenement on New York City's east side. After only a few months of dance lessons, she fibbed about her age — 13 — and successfully auditioned for her first show, in the chorus of George M. Cohan's “The Rise of Rosie O'Reilly.” She continued dancing on New York stages and in nightclubs in the 1920s.

Her dancing caught the eye of Florenz Ziegfeld, who offered her a role in “Whoopee,” starring Eddie Cantor. Before rehearsals started, she took what was supposed to be a short trip to Los Angeles. There she met actor Al Jolson, who was quickly smitten. She dropped out of the Ziegfeld show and married Jolson in 1928. They honeymooned later at the El Mirador in Palm Springs.

Her career careened into film with her debut in 1933's “42nd Street” with Dick Powell. The movie is considered the quintessential backstage musical — she played a chorus member who takes over for the leading lady on opening night, saves the show and finds happiness with the leading man. She made 11 films, often featuring elaborately choreographed Busby Berkeley routines.

She and Jolson, who had adopted a son, Al Jr., divorced in 1940 — some say because of his distress as her amazing tap routines began to eclipse him.
She married John Lowe, a real estate developer in Pasadena in 1941, the year of her last starring role in “Sweetheart of the Campus.” She retired in 1942, preferring family life to movies and stage. She and Lowe had four children, three daughters and one son.

Shortly after Lowe's death in 1969, producer Harry Rigby invited her to return to Broadway in “No, No, Nanette.” She stayed with the show in New York for two years, then toured with it for two more years. She also played cameo roles in “They Shoot Horses, Don't They?” (1969) and “Phynx” (1970).

In 1974, Keeler suffered a brain aneurysm and was in a coma for several months. She walked with a cane for the rest of her life.

Keeler moved to the Coachella Valley in 1979, but had to pass on one of her favorite pastimes — golf. She had a 9 to 10 handicap and had played with people like Babe Didrikson (Zaharias). She became active in the local Assistance League and, as a representative of the National Stroke Association, spoke around the world about stroke rehabilitation.

In 1991, she and dancer Cyd Charisse were the first to receive Desert Palm Achievement Awards from the Palm Springs International Film Festival. In 1992, Keeler was among the first seven celebrities installed on Palm Springs Walk of Stars on South Palm Canyon Drive.

She died in February 1993 at her Rancho Mirage home after a long bout with cancer...


Friday, March 16, 2012


The votes are in and counted, and it has been decided that I will be changing my blog name. It was a 20-16 vote. The reason why I want to change the name is that my blog really isn't a "media" archive anymore. I rarely feature video from You Tube anymore because so many of the videos are removed or blocked from the site. I alwasy felt that the name of my blog was a little cumbersome as well. My blog address will stay the same, of course.

So on the side of my blog page, there will be a place where you get to vote for a new title of my blog! Please vote on the choices on the side. The voting will last for two weeks! Thanks for your comments, support, and suggestions!

It's a secret ballot too...

Thursday, March 15, 2012


By Patricia Barber

What’s cool? Who’s cool? How do you get cool? Jo Stafford was a cool singer. She was of the cool school ... cool was and is an aesthetic that embodies reserve. Whether that reserve comes from poise or rebellion, you just don’t give everything you’ve got. No blistering tempos, no complex bebop changes and no frantic scat singing. Jo sang with an ease and directness that reflected the confidence of the country. They called her “G.I. Jo” during WWII.

Being called Jo when you’re a woman is cool. In America, during the 1940s, swing and jazz were the popular musics of the day. That’s incredibly cool. Americans were cool. Jo, an accomplished musician and pianist as well, sang with a rich timbre and dead-on pitch. She hung slightly back of the beat in that swinging way, the way we walked down the street then, open faces and loose gestures, as if we had nothing to lose. We sang and danced our way through the middle of the 20th century and we won the war. The soldiers loved Jo and we loved her. She sold 25 million records. That’s cool.

But Jo was cool before the 25 million records. Cool begets cool and cool can come from a lot of things. It can come from growing up in California in the richest country on earth. It can come from the security of a loving family. It can come from knowing you’re a good singer, good enough to make the rhythm section do the dirty work while you let the words fall easily from your gorgeous lips. It can come from having gorgeous lips, being young, beautiful and smart and funny.

Jo was all that. After her string of hits, she and her second husband, Paul Weston, created a musical comedy review, Jonathan and Darlene Edwards, a pre-Saturday Night Live spoof on a bad lounge singer and pianist. The first time my bass player played this record for me I laughed so hard my sides hurt.

It’s cool to know when to get in, even cooler to know when to get out. After all those hits, Jo Stafford retired early to live a long, full life. She had had more than one ace in the hole. Jo was talented, beautiful, rich, smart, funny and loved by millions. Jo Stafford will be remembered as the perfect voice at the perfect place and time. Cool...


Tuesday, March 13, 2012


For every successful child star like Mickey Rooney and Jodie Foster, there are countless tragic child stars like Judy Garland and Dana Plato. Then there are just the child stars that seem to fade away. They disappear from movies and television, and they just fade into entertainment history. Here are some forgotten child stars that I was curious in learning more about...

LARRY SIMMS (1934-2009)
Larry is another forgotten name but a face you will remember if like me you remember watching the "Blondie" movie series on Sunday mornings. Simms played Baby Dumpling in that successful series from 1938 to 1950. After he is through with acting, Larry joined the Navy and then began another career as an engineer, before retiring to Thailand. Some reports claim that Larry was more interested in the technical aspects of filmmaking than in acting, which explains his career changes. Sadly, the social security death index reported the child star as died on June 17, 2009 - no media outlet ever reported it.

JULIE ALLRED (1954-2011)
Born in Philadelphia to a Jewish family, Julie landed her one and only film role in the 1962 thriller "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane" (1962) after winning a contest. The played the younger Bette Davis character from 1917. After appearing as the young Jane Hudson she never returned to the screen or any other form of acting thereafter due to the religious beliefs of her family. She spent the remainder of her life living in her birthplace of Pennsylvania married to a dentist and later raised a family. She was married with four children when she died of diabetes in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania on December 29, 2011.

Who is Tracy Stratford you may ask? Well, I discovered her on an episode of the the great series "The Twilight Zone". She was in the episode called "The Living Doll". She played the stepdaughter of an angry and mean Telley Savales. Stratford, born on January 19, 1955 in Los Angeles, California was also the first voice of Lucy van Pelt. Stratford provided the voice for Lucy in the first Peanuts animated television special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, in 1965. She also appeared on numerous other television shows like "The Loretta Young Show" and "Ben Casey" before retiring from acting in 1969. Not much is known about her but she did appear in a 2001 documentary on the making of "A Charlie Brown Christmas".

Sunday, March 11, 2012


One of the true silent icons celebrates a birthday today March 11th. On this day silent film actress Dorothy Gish was born in 1898. Gish was born in Dayton, Ohio. She had an older sister, Lillian. The Gish sisters' mother, Mary Robinson McConnell "Gish", supported the family after her husband, James Leigh Gish, abandoned the family. When they were old enough, Dorothy and Lillian were brought into their mother's act, and they also modeled. In 1912, their childhood friend, actress Mary Pickford, introduced them to director D.W. Griffith, and the sisters began acting at the Biograph Studios. Dorothy and Lillian Gish both debuted in Griffith's An Unseen Enemy. Dorothy would go on to star in over 100 short films and features, many of them with Lillian.

In Hearts of the World (1918), a film about World War I and the devastation of France, Dorothy found her first foothold, striking a personal hit in a comedy role that captured the essence of her sense of humor. As the “little disturber”, a street singer, her performance was the comic highlight of the film, and her characterization in this role catapulted her into a career as a star of comedy films.

Griffith did not use Dorothy in any of his earliest epics, but while he spent months working on The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance, Dorothy was featured in many feature-length films made under the banner of Triangle and Mutual releases. They were directed by young Griffith protégés such as Donald Crisp, James Kirkwood, and Christy Cabanne. Elmer Clifton directed a series of seven Paramount-Artcraft comedies with Dorothy that were so successful and popular that the tremendous revenue they raked in helped to pay the cost of Griffith’s expensive epics. These films were wildly popular with the public and the critics. She specialised in pantomime and light comedy, while her sister appeared in tragic roles. Dorothy became famous in this long series of Griffith-supervised films for the Triangle-Fine Arts and Paramount companies from 1918 through 1920, comedies that put her in the front ranks of film comediennes. Almost all of these films are now considered to be lost films.

When the film industry converted to talking pictures, Dorothy made one, Wolves (1930), but then chose to take a respite from film work and return to the American stage where she had spent her childhood. George Cukor directed her in Young Love, and the light comedy found success with New York audiences as well as those on the road. A London production followed with equal success.

Television in the 1950s offered many actors the opportunity to appear in plays broadcast live. Dorothy ventured into the new medium, appearing on NBC’s Lux Video Theatre on the night of November 24, 1955, in a production of Miss Susie Slagle’s. The play had been a film in 1945 with her sister, Lillian, made for Paramount Pictures Corporation.

From 1930 until her death, she only appeared in five more movies. Our Hearts Were Young and Gay (1944) was a hit for Paramount. The Magnificent Yankee (1946) presented Dorothy at the Royale Theater. Lillian noted in her pictorial book, Dorothy and Lillian Gish, John Chapman's review of the film: "Miss [Dorothy] Gish and Mr. Calhern give the finest performances I have ever seen them in. She is a delight and a darling."

Director Otto Preminger cast Dorothy in his 1946 film, Centennial Summer, and she was said to have been amused that she and some of the other stars were allowed to sing Jerome Kern’s music. Mae Marsh appeared in the film in one of her many bit parts. The Whistle at Eaton Falls (1951) was a documentary style film produced by Louis de Rochemont. Dorothy played the widow of a mill owner.

She died in 1968 from bronchial pneumonia at the age of 70 at a clinic in Rapallo, Italy where she had been a patient for two years, with sister Lillian at her side. Dorothy Gish was entombed in Saint Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in New York City in the columbarium in the undercroft of the church...

Friday, March 9, 2012


Dick Van Dyke has just become a newlywed after getting hitched to his makeup artist, Arlene Silver.

The 86-year-old Mary Poppins star tells that he and his 40-year-old significant other tied the knot on Feb. 29. "Kinda on the spur of the moment, we just decided Leap Day would be the best time to do it," says Van Dyke.

The veteran actor met Silver six years ago at the SAG Awards, where, according to Van Dyke, he was "bowled over by her beauty." He hired her as his personal makeup artist and the two became friends. But within the last couple of years, they "fell in love."

This is the second go-around for the song-and-dance man. Van Dyke was previously married to the mother of his four children, Margie Willett, but they eventually divorced. He then lived with Michelle Triola for more than 30 years until her death in 2009.

"I'm not a loner. I have to have a life partner," insists Van Dyke. "I found the perfect one."



When jazz singer Billie Holiday was first starting out in the 1930s, her phrasing and voice were audio gold. She did not have the great singing voice, but on those jazz 78s of the 1930s, Holiday could express a mood in a few short minutes. Holiday had a very sad life. She was born in 1915, not knowing who her father was and living a childhood where her mother reportedly was a prostitute. By the age of fourteen, Billie herself was a prostitute, and as early as 1930 she and her mom were arrested in a raid.

The 1930s saw Billie at the height of her career. She worked with some greats of jazz like Count Basie, Artie Shaw, and Teddy Wilson. She not only broke color barriers but transended them. Unfortunately, her success was not enough to conquer her past demons. By the 1950s, Holiday's drug abuse, drinking, and relationships with abusive men caused her health to deteriorate. She appeared on the ABC reality series The Comeback Story to discuss attempts to overcome her misfortunes. Her later recordings showed the effects of declining health on her voice, as it grew coarse and no longer projected its former vibrancy.

On March 28, 1957, Holiday married Louis McKay, a Mafia enforcer, who like most of the men in her life was abusive, but he did try to get her off drugs. They were separated at the time of her death, but McKay had plans to start a chain of Billie Holiday vocal studios, à la Arthur Murray dance schools.

Holiday's late recordings on Verve constitute about a third of her commercial recorded legacy and are as popular as her earlier work for the Columbia, Commodore and Decca labels. In later years, her voice became more fragile, but it never lost the edge that had always made it so distinctive.

In early 1959 she found out that she had cirrhosis of the liver. The doctor told her to stop drinking, which she did for a short time, but soon returned to heavy drinking. By May she had lost twenty pounds. Friends Leonard Feather, Joe Glaser, and Allan Morrison tried to get her to check into to a hospital, but she put them off.

On May 31, 1959, Holiday was taken to Metropolitan Hospital in New York suffering from liver and heart disease. She was arrested for drug possession as she lay dying, and her hospital room was raided by authorities. Police officers were stationed at the door to her room. Holiday remained under police guard at the hospital until she died from pulmonary edema and heart failure caused by cirrhosis of the liver on July 17, 1959. In the final years of her life, she had been progressively swindled out of her earnings, and she died with $0.70 in the bank and $750 (a tabloid fee) on her person. Her funeral mass was held at Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York City.

Gilbert Millstein of The New York Times, who had been the narrator at Billie Holiday's 1956 Carnegie Hall concerts and had partly written the sleeve notes for the album The Essential Billie Holiday described her death in these same 1961-dated sleeve notes:

"Billie Holiday died in the Metropolitan Hospital, New York, on Friday, July 17, 1959, in the bed in which she had been arrested for illegal possession of narcotics a little more than a month before, as she lay mortally ill; in the room from which a police guard had been removed – by court order – only a few hours before her death, which, like her life, was disorderly and pitiful. She had been strikingly beautiful, but she was wasted physically to a small, grotesque caricature of herself. The worms of every kind of excess – drugs were only one – had eaten her ... The likelihood exists that among the last thoughts of this cynical, sentimental, profane, generous and greatly talented woman of 44 was the belief that she was to be arraigned the following morning. She would have been, eventually, although possibly not that quickly. In any case, she removed herself finally from the jurisdiction of any court here below"...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Not suprisingly all of my five favorite actors are from the golden age of Hollywood. I like a lot of the movies made today, but the actors of yesteryear had much more personality and talent. Some of the great actors like Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne did not make my list, but that does not mean I do not like them. I just have my specific favorites:

5. SPENCER TRACY (1900-1967)
I am embarrassed to admit that even though Spencer Tracy made my list, I have not seen a ton of his movies. I have never seen a Tracy-Katherine Hepburn movie all the way through. However, the Tracy movies I have seen like "San Francisco" (1936), "Boy's Town" (1938), and even "It's A Mad,Mad,Mad, Mad World" (1963) show a perfect example of what a geniune acting style he had. Today he is mostly remembered for his movies with Katherine Hepburn, but even his fellow actors said that he was the greatest actor of their generation.

4. CHARLIE CHAPLIN (1889-1977)
People seem to love or hate Charlie Chaplin. I got interested in Chaplin and silent movies in general because of his film biography "Chaplin"(1992) starring Robert Downey Jr.. Even though Chaplin started out in vaudville as a comic, I think every movie he made had a serious message behind it. His masterpiece "City Light"(1931) had a message about class society, "Modern Times"(1936) had a message about the work place and industry, and "The Great Dictator"(1940) had a profound message about the destruction of the world by hate. Of all Chaplin's movies I think "Limelight"(1952) is my favorite. It is his most personal and best example of what a great film maker he was.

3. BING CROSBY (1903-1977)
Anyone that knows me, knows that Bing Crosby is my favorite singer of all-time. After over 30 years collecting his music there are still new items I am discovering. Bing was more than just a crooner though. In his movies he showed a ride range and could have been a great actor. His first real acting movie was in "Pennies From Heaven" (1936) where he played a reformed convict. Bing would go on to be nominated three times in 1944, 1945, and 1954 for an Oscar. He would win in 1944 for his role as Father O'Malley. If you really want to see great Bing Crosby acting, I recommend "The Country Girl" (1954) and the underrated "Man On Fire" (1957). Also, he played a dark doctor in the television movie "Dr. Cook's Garden" (1971).

2. JAMES CAGNEY (1899-1986)
Did James Cagney ever make a bad movie? I would say he probably made a few bad movies, but his acting made any movie worthwhile. From his turn as a gangster in "Public Enemy" (1931) to his return to films in "Ragtime" (1981), Cagney made every movie he was in great. I have a soft spot for his commanding role as gangster Cody Jarrett in "White Heat" (1949), and it is my favorite classic movie of all-time. Cagney should have won an Oscar for that role. Surprisingly he was not even nominated. He did win one for his portrayal of George M. Cohan in "Yankee Doodle Dandy" (1942). Another favorite Cagney role of mine was Marty Snyder, the boyfriend of singer Ruth Etting, in the musical "Love Me Or Leave Me" (1955). The film was a musical but Cagney added the drama that was needed.

1. CARY GRANT (1904-1986)
The biggest blunder that Hollywood ever made was not awarding Cary Grant an Oscar for acting. He started out as Arcibald Leach in England, but he immigrated to California in 1931 and never looked back. His early movies in Hollywood were pretty forgetful, but by 1937 he was making great light comedies like "Topper" and "The Awful Truth". He should have won an Oscar for his role in the tearjerker "Penny Serenade" (1941). In my opinion, he should have at least been nominated for his role in the brillant comedy "Arsenic And Old Lace" (1944). Cary Grant also became one of Alfred Hitchcock's favorite actors and starred in some of the director's best movies like: "Suspicion" (1941), "To Catch A Thief" (1955), and "North By Northwest" (1959) to name just a few. After Grant's only daughter was born in 1966, Grant left movies - never to return...

Who are your favorites....

Monday, March 5, 2012



Harper Lee's 1960 book, which has never been out of print, marked its 50th anniversary in 2010. The motion picture was released to resounding acclamation two years after the book.

I well-remember the debut of "To Kill A Mockingbird." And I still feel privileged to have enjoyed some small involvement in its Washington, D.C. debut.

In 1962, after receiving my discharge papers from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, I quickly landed my first civilian job as co-manager of the Town Theatre in downtown Washington, D. C. The Town, a first-run movie house, was located in the Masonic Building at New York Avenue and 13th Street Northwest. Since 1987, that building is known as the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

A few months after my being there, the Town Theatre owners learned that this best-selling American novel, which had won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, was in production as a motion picture. The beloved Gregory Peck was playing Atticus Finch, a perfect casting if there ever was one.

In those days, theater owners would bid for first-run rights to a major motion picture, which meant that the film could not be shown at any other area theatre until the first-run was exhausted. In exchange, the theater guaranteed payment of a certain sum of money regardless of the picture's success or failure or length of run.

Town Theatre ownership submitted its bid and patiently waited. Finally, the decision arrived. The Town had won the bid for this highly anticipated motion picture.

A few weeks before the picture's opening, the Town Theatre owners and management sponsored an invitation-only private screening of the film at the Motion Picture Academy of Washington. Guests included political figures, both federal and local as well as movie critics.

To represent the film, Universal Studios sent a young cast member. Although he had delivered impressive performances in television dramas such as “Outer Limits” and “Naked City,” this was his first movie role. When this powerful motion picture ended, many viewers and critics converged on the young actor, praising his performance as the reclusive Arthur “Boo” Radley, and assuring him that he had a bright future in Hollywood. The actor’s name, Robert Duvall.

At that screening, I saw this powerful motion picture for the first time. It was, in a word, riveting. I would see it countless times after that, for it played at the Town Theatre for 16 weeks. Lines would queue up from the front doors on New York Avenue and run west to 13th Street, around the corner to H Street and circle the corner again. The ticket-holders line extended east, from the front doors to the Rocket Room at the corner of 12th Street.

The central figure of the story is, of course, Atticus Finch. Attorney Finch is a wise, principled and courageous man, who dares to defend a black man accused falsely of rape. Finch suffers the indignities of name-calling, rejection, and spit-in-the-face contempt for taking on the case. Through all this, he remains a good neighbor, unwilling to cast execrable judgment upon those who lacked his own insight and sensitivity regarding matters of race.

In addition, the widower is a loving father of son Jem and daughter "Scout." He patiently tries to explain the abuses, injustices, and inequities that the children would witness in their small town community of Maycomb, Alabama.

Gregory Peck had wanted this role of Atticus so much that he originally tried to buy the film rights himself. When Universal offered him the part, he eagerly said, “I’m your boy.”

Harper Lee based the character of Mr. Finch on her own father, Amasa Coleman Lee, a small-town lawyer. The “tomboy” daughter, Scout, she patterned after herself. The friend, Dill, Ms. Lee based on her real-life childhood friend, Truman Capote. The city itself was patterned on the author's own hometown of Monroeville, Alabama.

The oppressive heat of the summertime South, where "men's stiff collars wilted by 9 o'clock in the morning and ladies bathed before noon," could almost be felt by movie audiences. Yet the film was shot entirely in a Uninversal back lot. The courthouse was created to replicate the one in Monroeville.

In Peck's first eloquent summation to the jury, director Robert Mulligan stopped the actor midway through. "Bring it down a little," he cautioned. When action resumed, Peck performed the nine-minute scene in one uninterrupted take after which the mock courtroom, jurors, and crew broke out in applause. The resounding applause was the first of many. Gregory Peck and young Mary Badham, who turned 60 this year, received Oscar nominations for their performances.

The Academy Awards ceremony took place on April 8, 1963, in the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, hosted by Mr. Peck’s long-time friend, Frank Sinatra. While Peck was the sentimental favorite for his portrayal of Atticus Finch, he could not have had more formidable competition than Burt Lancaster for “Birdman of Alcatraz,” Jack Lemmon for “Days of Wine and Roses,” Marcello Mastroianni for “Divorce-Italian Style,” and Peter O’Toole for “Lawrence of Arabia.”

Without question, Peck wanted the prized statue for this performance. He had been nominated four times before and yet had not taken an Oscar home. For good luck, he wore the gold pocket watch and chain, which had belonged to Harper Lee’s late father who died before the movie opened. It was a long evening, but at the end of it, lovely Sophia Loren placed the Oscar for Best Actor in the hands of Gregory Peck.

The film's voice-over narration of the adult Scout was performed, without screen credit, by actress Kim Stanley. Her tone was perfect and seemed an accompaniment to Elmer Bernstein’s splendid soundtrack as she read the tastefully adapted screenplay by Horton Foote. The movie concludes with the narrative voice representing the adult Scout remembering.

"Atticus once said, 'You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.' Just standing on the Radley porch was enough. The summer that had begun so long ago had ended, and another summer had taken its place....I was to think of these days many times...."

In 2007, the 84-year-old Harper Lee agreed to “think of these days” one more time. She made a significant last journey. First Lady, and former librarian, Laura Bush excitedly welcomed Harper Lee to the White House. George W. Bush presented Ms. Lee with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her book’s phenomenal contribution to the American culture.

The American Film Institute had named Atticus Finch the number one movie hero of the 20th century. It rated the movie itself second in its "100 Years...100 Cheers" of the most inspirational movies. And it listed the film as #25 of the all-time greatest movies ever made.

Americans are indebted to author Harper Lee and all of the cast, production staff and crew who teamed to create this 50-year-old film classic, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”


Sunday, March 4, 2012


On June 18, 1939, singer Kenny Baker appeared on ‘The Jack Benny Program’ and to all the world it sounded like he would be with the rest of the cast the following week broadcasting from Waukegan, Illinois. He never made it.

He never appeared on the Benny show again.

So what happened?

Benny fans have debated for years whether Baker was fired, whether he quit, whether he left on good terms or bad. It took Baker more than five years before he talked about it. And, even then, it seems pieces of the story are missing. Here’s a syndicated news article from 1944, at a time he was on Broadway and had shot a couple of films, including ‘Silver Skates.’

Kenny Baker Tired of Being Just a Jerk
Walks Out of Job Paying Him $150,000 a Year
By Art Cohn

NEW YORK, Nov. 1 (INS)—Kenny Baker was tired of being a jerk, even a $150,000 per year jerk.

The world knew him only as the high-voiced dope on Jack Benny’s program who made such incredibly yappy remarks everyone else on the show sounded like an intellectual by comparison, even Phil Harris. Kenny was the all-American oaf and everyone wanted him to remain that way.

He had become a jerk unconsciously. Most jerks do. He stopped being one intentionally. Most jerks don’t.

“It wasn’t easy walking away from $150,000 a year,” he said last night in his dressing room at the Imperial theatre, “but I realized if I didn’t kill the jerk character it would kill me.”

Kenny had to make his choice: To remain A. Jerk at $3000 a week or to be K. Baker with no offers in sight. It was a big gamble but he took it. He quit Fred Allen’s program more than a year ago and rejected dozens of movie, stage and radio offers—each one wanted him only as a 21-karat Stoopnagle.
“I was doing concerts,” he recalls, “sang with symphonies, went to England and made ‘The Mikado’ but nobody would take me seriously, they thought of me only as a jerk. I couldn't get a straight part to save my soul. That made me mad.”

The fact he has a boyish face and does not look a day over 22, although he is 10 years older, did not help either.

“It’s awfully embarrassing,” he growled. “When I bought a ranch in California last year, the man who sold it to me insisted that my father sign the papers; he didn’t think I was old enough.”

Rather ironical, considering that Baker is, the father of three children—Kenny, Jr., 7; Susan, 4 ½, and Johnny, the 8-month-old baby.
The “jerk,” as he always refers to the character he portrayed on the radio, was an accident.

“Mr. Benny originally hired me only as a soloist,” he says, “after I won a national audition conducted by Eddie Duchin. I was a genuine hayseed when I started on the program. I had lived in Long Beach, California, all my life and had never been on a train, let alone out of the state.

“I was 24, but shaved only once a week. I wore a $22 tuxedo, had the darndest mop of bushy hair and two buck teeth. The first night I stumbled over three chairs and when I was introduced to Mary Livingston I said, ‘How do you do, I am sure.’ It was on the level; that was the way I looked and talked.

“Harry Conn, who was Mr. Benny’s chief script writer at the time, nearly split a gut laughing at me that first night. Then he got together with Mr. Benny and they began giving me hick lines to read...”.

Baker isn’t being altogether forthright when he said “No offers were in sight” when he quit the Benny show. Even if it were true he was under contract to Mervyn LeRoy Productions, as each Benny broadcast reminded listeners, and LeRoy certainly wouldn’t let him sit idle. Not only was he on screens in ‘The Mikado’ in an unjerk-like performance praised by critics, he was also pulling down good cash every Wednesday night as the vocalist on ‘The Texaco Star Theatre,’ starring Ken Murray. In fact, one syndicated newspaper columnist suggested on the day he missed the Benny show in Waukegan that “Texaco would like to have Kenny Baker’s services exclusively.” And that’s exactly what happened. By July 15, newspapers reported Baker’s exclusive contract and that Jack was looking for a new vocalist.

Fans who prefer not to do research have suggested Fred Allen somehow enticed his phoney feuder’s singer away, but Allen didn’t join the ‘Texaco Star Theatre’ until 1940. In a way, Fred joined Kenny’s show.

The article claims Baker quit Allen’s show, but Billboard magazine of August 22, 1942 tells a quite different story. The show was being cut from 60 minutes to a half hour in the fall, which was a perfect opportunity to dump Baker. Reported Billboard: “Baker, who drew $2,000 weekly for singing two songs, proved to be a constant headache to producers because of his alleged prima donna attitude.

“The singer, because of the stipulation in his contract giving him the right to choose his own selections, was allegedly difficult to handle. This might have been worked out, according to an Allen spokesman, but he kept picking slow numbers which consumed anywhere from three to four minutes and which caused Allen a good deal of concern because they slowed the program. Christmas Eve he insisted on doing the Ave Maria in German instead of the customary Latin, an incident which cause Texaco much embarrassment because the mail man brought in loads of protests from irate listeners [remember, the U.S. was fighting Hitler at the time]. This was not the entire reason for X-ing him off the spot, but it helped.

The character that Baker found so objectionable to play on the Benny show was a continuation and modification of the one singer Frank Parker had played on the show. After Baker left, the character was tweaked a little bit more and was handed to Eugene McNulty, along with the name of Dennis Day. If Dennis had a problem playing a daft young man, he never told anyone. It led to a long and lucrative career with Jack, and on his own. In addition, along the way, it was discovered Dennis had a very good ear for mimicry and that was incorporated into the show. And, though all these characters were silly (though not truly moronic like, say, Charlie Cantor’s Finnegan on ‘Duffy’s Tavern’), people weren’t really laughing at them. They had been given comedy lines by Jack Benny, who was the real fall guy on his own programme.

Baker’s hopes of a skyrocketing career after walking away from the Benny show never really materialised, even when compared to Dennis Day. The “weekly half-hour show” mentioned in the newspaper article lasted eight weeks after the story was written and was replaced with Danny Kaye and Harry James. Baker took over ‘Glamour Manor’ (later named ‘The Kenny Baker Show’) in 1946 for a season. He never had a starring radio show after that, let alone one on television. With few prospects, he retired in the early 1950s to record a few gospel albums and, perhaps, mull over whether quitting ‘The Jack Benny Program’ was really the best thing to do. He died forgotten in 1985 at the age of 72...


Friday, March 2, 2012


For every pin up like Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth during the wwar, there was a Dolores Moran. Dolores Moran had the beauty it took to becoming a big star, but she just never got the fame that her looks warranted.

Born in 1924, Moran's brief career as a film actress began in 1942 with some uncredited roles in such films as Yankee Doodle Dandy. By 1943 she had become a popular pin-up girl and appeared on the cover of such magazines as Yank. She was given supporting roles in films such as Old Acquaintance (1943) with Bette Davis and Warner Bros. attempted to increase interest in her, promoting her along with Lauren Bacall as a new screen personality when they co-starred with Humphrey Bogart in To Have and Have Not (1944). The film made a star of Bacall, but Moran languished and her subsequent films did little to further her career, this probably had something to do with Howard Hawk's decision to marginalise Moran in order to boost the screen presence of Bacall, excising some of Moran's scenes.

The Horn Blows at Midnight gave her a leading role with Jack Benny and Alexis Smith but her film appearances after this were sporadic, and she suffered ill health that reduced her ability to work. Her film career ended in 1954 with a featured role in the John Payne and Lizabeth Scott western film Silver Lode.

She was married to the film producer Benedict E. Bogeaus in Salome, Arizona, in 1946. Their son, Brett Benedict, born August 30, 1948, in Hollywood, later became a successful businessman. They divorced in 1962, and he died of a heart attack in 1968. Moran is said to have had an affair with director Howard Hawks while filming To Have and Have Not, which Hawks undertook mainly as revenge for his rejection by Bacall in favour of Bogart.

In 1982, Dolores Moran died of cancer. She was survived by her son, sister, and mother...