Thursday, May 31, 2012


Her Kansas home in "The Wizard of Oz" flew through the air. Now a Bel-Air house that was home to a young Judy Garland has flipped, selling for the second time since last year for $6,772,669.

The Wallace Neff-designed house sold in 2011 for $5.2 million and was then updated and renovated.

The two-story traditional, built in 1938, sits on about 2.5 acres. The 5,513-square-foot house features dormer and bay windows, white columns, French doors, five bedrooms and 6 ½ bathrooms. Outdoor amenities include a swimming pool and a detached studio.

Garland, who played Dorothy in the 1939 classic, died in 1969 at 47. The actress and singer received an honorary Oscar in 1940 for her performances in "Oz" and "Babes in Arms" and was later nominated for her work in "A Star Is Born" (1954) and "Judgment at Nuremberg" (1961)...


Tuesday, May 29, 2012


As any movie fan knows, Bob Hope was born on this day, May 29th in England. However, he was not the only naturalized Hollywood star that was born on the 29th of May. Beatrice Lillie was born on this day in 1894. Gladys "Bea" Lillie was an actress and comedic performer. Following her 1920 marriage to Sir Robert Peel in England, she was known in private life as Lady Peel.

Lillie was born in Toronto, where she performed, along with other Ontario towns as part of a family trio with her mother and older sister, Muriel. Eventually, her mother, Lucie, took the girls to London, England where she made her West End debut in the 1914 Not Likely. She was noted primarily for her stage work in revues, especially those staged by André Charlot, and light comedies, and was frequently paired with Gertrude Lawrence, Bert Lahr and Jack Haley.

In her revues, she utilized sketches, songs, and parody that won her lavish praise from the New York Times after her 1924 New York debut. In some of her best known bits, she would solemnly parody the flowery performing style of earlier decades, mining such songs as "There are Fairies at the Bottom of our Garden" and "Mother Told Me So" for every double entendre, while other numbers ("Get Yourself a Geisha" and "Snoops the Lawyer", for example) showcased her exquisite sense of the absurd. Her performing in such comedy routines as "One Double Dozen Double Damask Dinner Napkins", (in which an increasingly flummoxed matron attempts to purchase said napkins) earned her the frequently used sobriquet of "Funniest Woman in the World". She never performed the "Dinner Napkins" routine in Britain, because British audiences had already seen it performed by the Australian-born English revue performer Cicely Courtneidge, for whom it was written.

In 1926 she returned to New York city to perform. While there, she starred in her first film, Exit Smiling, opposite fellow Canadian Jack Pickford, the scandal-scarred younger brother of Mary Pickford. From then until the approach of World War II, Lillie repeatedly crisscrossed the Atlantic to perform on both continents. She was long associated with the works of Noël Coward (giving, for instance, the first ever public performance of "Mad Dogs and Englishmen"), though Cole Porter is among those who also wrote songs for her. She made few appearances on film, appearing in a cameo role as a revivalist in Around the World in Eighty Days and as "Mrs. Meers" (a white slaver) in Thoroughly Modern Millie.

She was married, on January 20, 1920, at the church of St. Paul, Drayton Bassett, Fazeley, Staffordshire, to Sir Robert Peel, 5th Baronet. She eventually separated from her husband (but the couple never divorced); he died in 1934. Their only child, Sir Robert Peel, 6th Baronet, was killed in action aboard HMS Tenedos in Colombo Harbour, Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) in 1942. During World War II, Lillie was an inveterate entertainer of the troops. Before she went on stage one day, she learned her son was killed in action. She refused to postpone the performance saying "I'll cry tomorrow."

She retired from the stage due to Alzheimer's disease and died on January 20, 1989. She was a funny lady who never let her personal problem or harships get in the way of a performance. She was a definite example of someone who believe that the show should always go on...

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Growing up I never had a pet of any kind - not even a pet rock. I would never hurt a living creature, but I do not have a desire to have a pet. That being said, there has been some great animal movies out there. My favorites are the horse movies. One of the biggest champions of horses and the sport of horce racing was Bing Crosby. He founded the now famous Del Mar Racetrack in 1937, and he had a lifelong love of horses. It was only natural in his career that he would make at least one horse movie.

Riding High (1950) is a black and white musical racetrack film featuring Bing Crosby and directed by Frank Capra in which the songs were actually sung as the movie was being filmed instead of the customary lip-synching to previous recordings. The movie is a remake of an earlier Capra film called Broadway Bill (1934). While the film is generally a light musical comedy, it has an unexpected tragic turn in its story.

Frank Capra did not particularly like his film Broadway Bill. It's chief problem was that Warner Baxter did not like horses and it showed. He got to re-make it with a man who loved horses. Bing at the track was a natural fit. There is a great Van Heusen-Burke score. It was probably one of the last great scores they wrote for a Bing Crosby movie before moving on to Sinatra material. "Sunshine Cake" became one of Bing's million sellers, a great addition to his group of upbeat philosophical numbers. My favorite number however was his version of Stephen Foster's "De Camptown Races", sung while walking Broadway Bill to the track for the big race, accompanied by a gang of kids.

I was pleasantly surprised the way the Clarence Muse character was portrayed here. Yes, he was the exercise boy/groom for the horse, a subservient role to Bing Crosby as owner, but he was not portrayed negatively as many blacks were portrayed in such movies. He was an equal partner in the training of the horse - and sang equally well with Bing Crosby! No eye-rolling, silly cavorting as many of these movies show blacks (as in the Marx Brothers' "Day at the Races."). If you read Capra's autobiography, "The Name Above the Title", he addresses the performance of Clarence Muse as it regards racial stereotypes. He quotes one reviewer's harsh criticism of the role of Muse, and then in his defense he quotes a Black newspaper article which actually praises the importance of and respect shown to the character of Whitey. I also noticed that early on in the film Crosby's fiance, whom we are not supposed to like, arrives at his house and is greeted by Whitey. She disdainfully asks, "What IS your name anyway?" Muse replies, "Clarence White". This was obviously inserted for the purpose of explaining the nickname Whitey.

This film is Capra casting at its best. My favorites are Raymond Walburn and William Demarest. Demarest is one of the few of the replacement cast since Lynne Overman had died the year before. Also watch for Oliver Hardy, he has a bit that is short but very memorable. The movie is more than just a movie about horses. It is a story of a man's love for his horse. The plot is slight at times and dramatic at others, but I recommend RIDING HIGH to anyone who likes horses, Bing Crosby, or a good Frank Capra movie...

MY RATING: 8 out of 10

Friday, May 25, 2012


I was on the phone with Liza Minnelli recently. I just felt like saying that.

It wouldn't be precisely accurate to add that I had no idea what I was doing on the phone with her: Ms. Minnelli is to be honored on June 4 with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 30th Annual Fred and Adele Astaire Awards. It was more that I didn't believe my extremely limited knowledge of dance—which the awards celebrate on Broadway and in the movies, in the same way that the Oscars or Tonys do acting—made me worthy of speaking about the subject with the legendary performer. My appreciation for the art form, whether classical ballet or musical theater, is pretty much limited to admiring the dancers' legs.

However, I knew there had to be something dance-related that I had an opinion about, that I could discuss with passion. I finally figured out what that was: To me, Fred Astaire and fellow dancer Gene Kelly have always symbolized aspects of the human spirit. Kelly was the consummate athlete. Not to take anything away from Kelly, but in my humble opinion Astaire was something more. He had a touch of genius, a talent that showed the way to the stars.

Ms. Minnelli and I shot the breeze for a while before I popped the question. However, shooting the breeze could have gone on all day because the actress is disarmingly loquacious, and because, given her storied lineage and star-studded reference points, I could have listened all day.

For example, I assumed she currently lived in L.A. or maybe Vegas. With parents like Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli, and with a high-kicking showbiz career, I took it for granted she had Hollywood running through her veins. Turns out she's almost a life-long New Yorker.

"I live on the Upper East Side," she reported matter-of-factly. "I walk my dogs."

I finally broached the Fred Astaire vs. Gene Kelly question. "I was on his TV show," Ms. Minnelli said, referring to Kelly. She sang a duet with him when she was 13. "He lived a couple of blocks away." She meant in L.A., where she grew up before she moved to New York a few years later. Her first address here, she said, was the Barbizon Hotel for Women at Lexington Avenue and 63rd Street.

"As a kid. I used to go watch his rehearsals when he was working at MGM," she went on. "My favorite place was always the dance rehearsal studio."

She also mentioned watching dancers Cyd Charisse and Gwen, meaning Gwen Verdon. "That's what I wanted to do. I wanted to dance."

By that point it almost felt tacky to ask her which of the men she preferred. "He danced so brilliantly," she said of Astaire. "He was all about a certain style and a certain line. And Kelly was about athletics."

Her preference? "Both great."

If my interview with Liza (based on our 10-minute phone conversation, I feel I've earned the privilege of calling her by her first name, and not just because everybody does) was marked by solid ignorance on my part, my meeting with Elena Roger last week at the Lambs Club, where the nominees for the Astaire awards were announced, evinced an even more profound lack of knowledge.

I had no idea that the personable Ms. Roger is currently starring on Broadway in "Evita." I saw the show many years ago, with Patti Lupone playing the lead. I certainly didn't remember the dance numbers.

"I have to dance like crazy," Ms. Roger informed me.

Now you understand why I came with that Astaire/Kelly question stuffed in my back pocket. I feared the "Evita" star was too young to know much about the legendary hoofers, but she said that wasn't true. She watched their movies on TV, growing up in Argentina.

"It's weird to say—it's a Fred Astaire award," she confided, "but my hero is Gene Kelly. There is something about the energy I like more."


Wednesday, May 23, 2012


NEW YORK ( - The late Hollywood legend Mary Pickford will return to the big screen in a film based on Eileen Whitfield's biography, "Pickford: The Woman Who Made Hollywood."

Poverty Row Entertainment and producer Said Zahraoui have acquired the rights to the book, which revisits the life of one of the industry's earliest and greatest stars.

"With no intention of creating a conventional biopic, we will use the language of film to hopscotch through time, in order to tell the story of a woman so ahead of her time who was living one of the most romantic love stories of all time," Julie Pacino and Jennifer DeLia, who run Poverty Row, said in a statement. "Mary Pickford's story is one of intense emotion, astute intuition, dedicated artistry, and about the creation of Hollywood."

For those who didn't major in Hollywood history, Pickford was famous both for her work in films like "Pollyanna" and "Rosita," as well as her marriage to Douglas Fairbanks, another star of silent cinema.

The iconic couple surreptitiously began a relationship while Pickford was still married to Owen Moore, later marrying and living at the famous "Pickfair" mansion. The couple eventually divorced.

DeLia will direct and Josh Fagin will adapt the book...


Monday, May 21, 2012


Looking back at the 1960s sitcom "Bewitched" I can't believe it was one of my favorite shows that I saw in reruns while growing up in the 1980s. I think it is pretty corny now except for two things - the beautiful Elizabeth Montgomery and the character of Uncle Charlie, played by Paul Lynde. I would see Lynde on other shows like Match Game and The Dean Martin Show, and his comic styles never stopped amusing me.

Paul Lynde was born in Mount Vernon, Ohio in 1926, and studied drama at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where his fellow students included Cloris Leachman, Charlotte Rae, Patricia Neal, Jeffrey Hunter and Claude Akins. At Northwestern, he joined the Upsilon chapter of Phi Kappa Sigma and is listed amongst the most famous members of the fraternity. He graduated in 1948 and moved to New York City, where he initially worked as a stand-up comic.

Lynde made his Broadway debut in the hit revue New Faces of 1952 in which he co-starred with fellow newcomers Eartha Kitt, Alice Ghostley, and Carol Lawrence. In his monologue from that revue, the "Trip of the Month Club," Lynde portrayed a man on crutches recounting his misadventures on the African safari he took with his late wife. The show was filmed and released as New Faces in 1954.

After the revue's run, Lynde co-starred in the short-lived 1956 sitcom Stanley opposite Buddy Hackett and Carol Burnett, both of whom were also starting out their careers in show business. That same year, he guest starred on NBC's The Martha Raye Show, a comedy/variety show.

In 1960, Lynde returned to Broadway when he was cast as "Harry MacAfee," the father in Bye Bye Birdie. He reprised the role in the play's film adaptation, which was released in 1963. That same year, he recorded a live album, Recently Released, issued as an LP record (no other formats are available). All six tracks were written by him. Once he could afford writers, he rarely used his own material until his tenure on Hollywood Squares years later.

Over the years, Lynde made regular appearances on sitcoms such as The Phil Silvers Show, The Munsters, and I Dream of Jeannie, and variety shows such as The Perry Como Show and The Dean Martin Show. Lynde first appeared in episode 26 of Bewitched, "Driving is the Only Way to Fly," as Samantha's driving instructor Harold Harold, before taking on the recurring role of Uncle Arthur, Endora's brother. He was also a frequent guest on the 1976-79 variety show, Donny and Marie.

Lynde also did extensive voice work on animated cartoons, particularly those of Hanna-Barbera Productions. His most notable roles included Sylvester Sneekly ("The Hooded Claw") in The Perils of Penelope Pitstop (though he was uncredited), Mildew Wolf from It's the Wolf (a segment of Cattanooga Cats), and Pertwee from Where's Huddles?. He also voiced the role of Templeton the gluttonous rat in the animated feature Charlotte's Web. Lynde's sardonic inflections added a dimension to such lines as the sly, drawn-out whine, "What's in it for meeee?" Lynde's distinctive voice is popular among impressionists.

In 1972, Lynde starred in the short-lived ABC sitcom, The Paul Lynde Show, playing an uptight attorney and father at odds with his liberal-minded son-in-law. The series, which was a contractual fulfillment to ABC in place of a final season of Bewitched, was canceled after only one season. The network, and producer William Asher, then "transferred" Lynde to another comedy series that had debuted in 1972, Temperatures Rising, for the 1973 season, but his presence in the cast did not help flagging ratings and this series, too, was not renewed and was replaced by Happy Days. The series’ failure reportedly exacerbated Lynde’s drinking problem, which led to numerous run-ins with the law and frequent arrests for public intoxication. According to Peter Marshall ("Florence Henderson Show", 2008) and Kaye Ballard ("E True Hollywood Story", 2000) the comedic actor would sometimes verbally ridicule his friends when inebriated.

Paul Lynde's sexual orientation was something of an open secret in Hollywood, although, in keeping with the prejudices and social mores of the time, it was not acknowledged or discussed in public.

In 1965, Lynde was involved in an accident in which a young actor, reputed to be his lover, fell to his death from the window of their hotel room in San Francisco's Sir Francis Drake Hotel. The two had been drinking for hours before 24-year-old James "Bing" Davidson slipped and fell eight stories, an event witnessed by two policemen, yet the event was largely kept out of the press, thus saving his career.

Despite his campy television persona, Lynde never publicly came out as being gay and the press generally went along with the deception. In 1976, a People magazine article on Lynde featured him and Stan Finesmith; the latter was dubbed Lynde's "suite mate" and “chauffeur-bodyguard.” In the 1970s, this was as close as the press would come to hinting at his sexuality.

In 1978, Lynde was arrested outside of a gay bar in Salt Lake City. As a result of the arrest, he lost his guest starring role on The Donny and Marie Show. Increasingly in the late 1970s, acting jobs became harder for him to find, although it is unclear if this was because of anti-gay prejudice or his substance abuse problems and noted eratic behavoir, which often made him difficult to work with. He had been arrested for drunk driving and, while under the influence of alcohol, he was known to make rude and racist public comments towards people. Lynde finally became sober and drug free in the early 1980s, shortly before his death. Lynde also suffered from weight control problems, and was honored in 1977 by Weight Watchers.

Lynde was found dead in his Beverly Hills, California, home by friend Paul Barresi on Monday, January 11, 1982. The coroner ruled the death a heart attack. Lynde's cremated remains are interred at Amity Cemetery, in Amity, Ohio, where he is buried next to his brother Johnny and sister Helen. Perhaps his sexual orientation is what caused his alcohol problems and even heart problems that led to his death. In the 1950s and 1960s and even to this present day it has got to be hard to be a homosexual in a heterosexual society. Whatever it is, the important thing is Paul Lynde made millions people laugh and laugh still to this day...

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Like I have said in other posts, I am not an animal lover. I would never hurt an animal, but I shy away from movies like "Marley And Me", "National Velvet" and even "Lassie". However, I have always loved Art Carney. Carney was a much better actor than he was ever given credit. He was so much more than "Ed Norton". I recently caught Carney's Oscar winning performance in HARRY AND TONTO from 1974, and I have to admit I enjoyed the quirky movie.

A wonderful movie experience that speaks volumes with its quiet, methodical pace. The film is about a retired school teacher in his 70s, although Carney was only in his 50s at the time, who is forced to leave the only home he has ever known when his apartment in New York is demolished to make way for a parking garage. Possibly this will be no big deal as he and Tonto (his faithful cat) decide to go live with his son (Philip Burns). Quickly it is apparent though that the arrangement will not work and Carney decides that maybe it is time to see the nation he has never gotten a chance to see before by heading west (with a little luggage and his cat of course).

Along the way he meets back up with his daughter (Ellen Burstyn), has his grandson (Josh Mostel) follow him from New York, encounters a strange hitchhiker (Melanie Mayron) and even has a short jail stay with Chief Dan George. As the trip continues a fine line is developed between Carney's old ties and his new ones. Carney is one of those people who instantly appears to be everyone's life-long friend. The trip is an opportunity to meet new friends and sometimes, very sadly, say goodbye to old ones.

In the end Carney's journey does not only take him cross-country, it also takes him to new and sometimes forgotten emotional experiences that he desperately needed to have. HARRY AND TONTO is a simple film that did not rely on a big budget or trivial situations to tell its story. This is a human tale that speaks to anyone who is willing and able to listen.

Carney is a revelation. He is basically only known for his silly turn on television's "The Honeymooners", and he was always overshadowed by another genius Jackie Gleason. Carney was never known for his acting ability and in the end, Carney did win Oscar gold over such other names as Al Pacino ("The Godfather, Part II"), Jack Nicholson ("Chinatown"), Dustin Hoffman ("Lenny") and Albert Finney ("Murder on the Orient Express"). At the time, Carney noted that prior to his work in HARRY AND TONTO, he "never liked cats" but said he wound up getting along well with the cat in the film.

Even though this movie is about a man and his cat, as a non-pet owner, I feel the movie is more about an older man's emotional journey and learning to live his remaining years to the fullest. The movie does not make me want to buy a cat all of a sudden, but it does make me want to see more Art Carney roles than just Ed Norton...


Thursday, May 17, 2012


Marion Hutton may not be remembered much today but she was one of the greatest big bands singers and the female voice of the Glenn Miller Orchestra for most of its heyday. The older sister of singer/actress Betty Hutton, Marion Hutton was best-known for her vocals with the Glenn Miller's orchestra. She would appear with other great Miller vocalists like Tex Beneke, Ray Eberle, and The Modernaires. She was considered one of the pre-eminent female vocalists of the Big Band era.

Born in Battle Creek, Michigan, her father, a railroad worker, abandoned the family when Marion was only four-years-old. In order to support her two daughters her mother opened a small speakeasy in their home. Marion and Betty would often perform for the patrons. Trouble with police kept the family on the move, and eventually they ended up in Detroit.

Marion began her professional career with the Vincent Lopez Orchestra in 1938, alongside and overshadowed by her sister. Her career took a turn for the better when Glenn Miller heard the two sisters sing one night in Boston. Though Betty was the one who captured the public's eye Miller thought Marion would be easier to handle, and in September he invited her to join his group.

Marion was well-liked by everyone in Miller's orchestra, both for her vocal talents and for her bright personality. Miller himself loved the girl-next-door aura that she projected. In fact, he briefly changed her name to Sissy Jones!

In the summer of 1939 Marion was replaced by Kay Starr as Miller's female lead after she collapsed on the bandstand due to exhaustion. She soon returned and all went well until early 1941 when a gossip columnist discovered that she was pregnant. Though she was married and could have easily sang with the band for several more months despite her condition the embarrassment was too much for her, and she resigned. Miller replaced her with Bobby Byrne vocalist Dorothy Claire.

Marion returned to Miller in August, however, and stayed until the orchestra's final night, September 27, 1942. She couldn't make it through the performance for her tears. After the group broke up, she continued singing and starred in several movies but never found big success. In October of 1947 she appeared with Desi Arnaz's orchestra at the Radio City Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

In the 1960s Marion married Vic Schoen, noted arranger and long-time music director for the Andrews Sisters. The couple eventually settled in Kirkland, Washington, where Marion served as director of Residence XII, an alcoholic treatment center for women, a position she held until her death in 1987. Reportedly at the time of her death Marion was estranged from her sister Betty. They had worked together sporadically during their careers. Marion was more than Betty Hutton's sister, she was a true big band legend...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


The John Wayne Birthplace, in Winterset, Iowa, will be celebrating the legendary actor's birthday with a lavish salute to the enduring 1952 film classic, "The Quiet Man" over two days.

In addition to big screen presentations of the film at Winterset's vintage Iowa Theatre, the weekend will include a plethora of celebrations.

These will include:

- the Midwest premiere of the Loopline Film documentary "Dreaming The
Quiet Man" by Dublin director Se Merry Doyle
- live stage performances of "Maurice Walsh's The Quiet Man" by Frank Mahon
- the Inisfree Race Meet (a 5K run/walk)
- breakfast at the Winterset firehouse
- traditional Irish music at the Little Dublin Irish Pub
- guided tours of the John Wayne Birthplace home
- "Pie Squared," a pie tasting event on the historic Courthouse square,
- corned beef and cabbage at the Pheasant Run tavern
- a special Birthplace Museum Benefit Dinner and auction
-rides on an authentic horse-drawn Irish jaunting car like the one featured in “The Quiet Man”.

Hailed as director John Ford's greatest triumph, the "The Quiet Man" stars John Wayne as an American boxer who, after accidentally killing an opponent in the ring, returns to his Irish birthplace to forget his troubles. Instead he falls in love with the fiery Maureen O'Hara and their ensuing onscreen romance became a Hollywood legend.

The picture received Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Cinematography. But the real star of the picture, according to O'Hara, is Ireland itself, a fact not lost on organizers of this event.

The original Quiet Man story was written by popular Irish author Maurice Walsh and, using the same source material, Chicagoan Frank Mahon wrote an award-winning stage adaptation of the tale, "Maurice Walsh's The Quiet Man." Mahon's play has been presented throughout the United States and Ireland and will be performed by The Winterset Stage theater company throughout the weekend.

The documentary "Dreaming The Quiet Man" includes interviews with Maureen O'Hara, John Wayne's daughter Aissa, directors Martin Scorsese and Peter Bogdanovich and surviving bit players in Ireland who worked in the film. Much of the documentary takes place at the actual sites in Ireland where "The Quiet Man" was filmed 60 years ago and where very little has changed.

A highlight of the celebration will be a Benefit Dinner program ($100 per person) to help raise funds for the planned John Wayne Birthplace Museum. Hosted by the actor's daughter, Aissa Wayne, the evening will include traditional Irish food, a performance of music from "The Quiet Man" score, an auction of "Quiet Man" collectibles and memorabilia and a performance by the acclaimed Shannon Rovers pipes and drums.

The celebrations are set to take place on 25th and 26th May. For further details on the event and dinner reservations visit the John Wayne Birthplace website...


Saturday, May 12, 2012


Not only does April showers bring May flowers but it also brings Mother's Day! In this modern age of the working mother, it is hard to get quality time with your children all of the time. However, classic Hollywood stars were doing it decades earlier. Thankfully not every Hollywood child turned out like Christina Crawford or Gary Crosby. Here are some of the happier pictrues of classic Hollywood mothers and their children...







Thursday, May 10, 2012


Many classic comedies do not transfer to modern audiences. Society changes and what is deemed as funny to one generation may not be be considered humorous to another one. One classic comedy team that I think is still as funny today as it was yesterday is the team of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Over a twenty year period, Bing and Bob made seven "Road" movies, and what keeps their humor timeless is they were just having fun. It seemed like there was no script and their jokes were just made up right there. That was the joy of the Crosby-Hope movies.

Most of the Road movies consisted of Bing and Bob fighting over Dorothy Lamour on some remote island. However, I think the bets movie os the series is one that does not take place on an island at all - it takes place in Alaska of all places! Road to Utopia, filmed in 1943 but not released until 1946, is the fourth film of the "Road to …" series.

After the credits we see Sal and Chester Hooton, (Lamour and Hope) an old married couple. They are visited by an equally old Duke Johnson (Crosby) and the three reminisce about their previous adventure in the Klondike.

The film flashes back to the turn of the century. A man is murdered and two thugs, McGurk (Nestor Paiva) and Sperry (Robert Barrat), steal a map to a gold mine. The map and mine belonged to a man named Van Hoyden and the dying man tells Sal (Van Hoyden's daughter) the mine is in Alaska and to find a man named Ace Larson. Sal manages to get on the last boat to Alaska before McGurk and Sperry.

To evade the police, the thugs duck into a theater, where Duke and Chester are performing vaudeville. They proceed to work the crowd with a "ghost scam" into to "gambling" their money in hope of doubling it. As the police find the thugs, they escape onstage and reveal Chester hiding under the table with the crowd's money. Duke and Chester are forced to flee the angry mob.

As Duke divides their money, Chester is fed up with having to jump from town to town. Duke convinces him to head north to Alaska to prospect for gold. Chester refuses on the grounds that every time Duke gets a "great idea", Chester is the one that gets the runaround. He even pulls out a black book with a list of every time Duke has taken advantage of him. Chester then takes all the money and tells Duke to go on without him.

As McGurk and Sperry get on the boat bound for Alaska, Duke and Chester prepare to part ways. As they bid a solemn goodbye, and picking each others pocket, Duke steals the money. Chester waves goodbye until he sees Duke counting the money and changes boats at the last moment. He's about to throttle Duke when he realizes the boat has left the dock, for Alaska. In Duke's cabin, Chester takes the money back and goes to put it in a safe, which turns out to be a porthole. With no money to pay for passage, they are forced to scrub the deck and shovel coal.

Sal arrives in Alaska and meets with Ace Larson (Douglass Dumbrille), a saloon owner and friend of her father. Instead of going to the police, Larson assures Sal that he'll take care of things. He gives her a job performing in his saloon, an act which infuriates Larson's girlfriend, Kate (Hillary Brooke). Larson tells Kate how he really plans to take Sal's gold mine for the two of them and passionately kisses her.

While doing housekeeping duties in a cabin, Chester finds the map to the gold mine. As the thugs enter behind them, Duke and Chester realize they've found the Van Hoyden map and the occupants are the killers. They overpower the thugs and take their place(and their beards) to get off the boat, only to find the entire town is terrified of the real thugs. Thinking they can get anything they want, Duke and Chester adopt the tough persona and head to the saloon. They argue over who gets to hold the map and decide to tear it in half and each man keep his for safe keeping.

While enjoying "free" champagne and lots of dancing girls, they see Sal's singing routine and are both instantly smitten. Thinking they are McGurk and Sperry, Sal plays up to both of them and sends a note to Chester. She doubts they are the real killers, but Ace's lackey, Lebec, reminds her that the map is the most important thing and to get it at all costs.

Chester(as Sperry) falls head over heels for Sal and confides in her about the map, even telling her how Duke hid his half in his hat. Sal sends him away but tells him to return at midnight. Meanwhile, Duke receives a note from Sal, and thinking he's McGurk, Sal plays up to him, allowing Lebec to take his hat and the map. She also sends him away telling him to return at midnight. Duke and Chester are at first shocked to be on a date with the same woman, but the night is cut short when the real McGurk and Sperry burst into the hotel. As they make a hasty exit, Sal learns she only gave half of the map to Ace. Duke and Chester manage to escape by dog sled.

Meanwhile, Ace is furious to only have half a map, and sends Kate to the get the other half, with Lebec as a backup plan. Kate tries to pull the "stranded girl in the snow" routine to attract Duke and Chester, but is interrupted by Sal's arrival. The four of them head to a nearby cabin. Kate tells Sal that they need to get the other half or the men will be killed.

After a failed attempt to get the map, Sal gets "McGurk" (Duke) to reveal "Sperry" (Chester) has hidden his half in his undershirt. She plays to "McGurk" and tells him that "Sperry" wants to steal his half and they should run away together. Duke then reveals his true identity and says he'll take care of "Sperry" as Kate walks in. Sal, now realizes how much she loves Duke, refuses to go along with the plan. But Kate warns her that only Ace can keep them from being killed and the only way to get to him is to give up the map. Sal reluctantly agrees to steal the map while the men sleep, and the two girls leave the next morning with Lebec. Duke and Chester are confronted by the real McGurk and Sperry and they realize the girls had stolen the map. They still manage to escape and the after a merry chase through the mountains head back to town.

Sal tells Ace she'll only give up the map if he refuses to kill Duke and Chester, but instead he forms a posse to dispose of them. Somehow they managed to steal the map back, rescue Sal, scare away the mob and get rid of McGurk and Sperry. They escape by dog sled with the mob after them but the sled overturns. The ice splits, leaving Sal and Chester on one side, and Duke on the side of the mob. He throws them map, wishes them well and turns to face the mob.

The movie flashes back into the present with aged Duke telling Sal and Chester how he escaped the mob. He is then surprised to hear Chester and Sal have a son. They call for him, and ironically he bears a striking resemblance to Duke. Chester looks into the camera and says, "We adopted him."

The film is the only Road to … film without a real place in its title though Alaska with its gold mines is referred to as "Utopia" several times in the film. Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour starred, as they did in all but one of the series. The film is also the only "Road" film that did not take place in contemporary times though the film begins and ends with the cast made up to look older who flashback to the past.

As a “narrator”, humor essayist Robert Benchley provides some wry commentary that is interspersed throughout the movie. Benchley's drinking, already a problem ruined his health, and Benchley died in a New York hospital on November 21, 1945 before the movie was released.

There are also jabs at Paramount Pictures (the studio that originally released the film) and a reference to Frank Sinatra, not to mention many instances of "breaking the fourth wall" and general wackiness. In her autobiography, Dorothy Lamour said that the release of Road to Utopia may have been delayed by Paramount to not jeopardize the public's and Academy Awards committee's acceptance of Crosby as Best Actor for playing a priest in Going My Way.

If you want to watch a fun movie and are a fan of just good comedy, I recommend Road To Utopia. Watching Bing Crosby and Bob Hope at the top of their careers are definitely a type of utopia for me at least...

my rating: 10 out of 10

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present a two-night celebration of the life and career of legendary dancer, director and choreographer Gene Kelly on the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Film clips, personal remembrances and an exploration of the technology Kelly used to change the look of dance on film will be featured on consecutive evenings: Thursday, May 17, at 7:30 p.m. at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, and Friday, May 18, at 7:30 p.m. at the Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood. Both programs will be hosted by Kelly’s widow, film historian Patricia Ward Kelly.

Kelly is perhaps best known for his remarkable dancing, but his talents extended to many different aspects of filmmaking. His work behind the camera, as an innovative director and choreographer, has had a lasting influence on the way that dance is filmed. On screen, he was the proverbial triple-threat as an actor and singer as well as a dancer.

“A Centennial Tribute to Gene Kelly” on May 17 will showcase Kelly’s charisma and creativity, his unique use of props (mops, sheets of newspaper, roller skates) and environments (a rain-drenched street, a creaky old barn), and his extraordinary athleticism in films like “Living in a Big Way” and “The Pirate.” His beloved classics “An American in Paris” and “Singin’ in the Rain” will be discussed along with later directorial efforts such as “Invitation to the Dance” and “Hello, Dolly!”, with insightful commentary on Kelly’s creative process.

“Gene Kelly: Choreography and the Camera” on May 18, presented by the Academy’s Science and Technology Council, will take a more in-depth look at how Kelly’s contributions helped change the look of dance on film.

Even during the height of his career, Kelly frequently encountered technical barriers and studio resistance in his efforts to build dance numbers into the structure of film and bring the dance, quite literally, into the streets. The program will discuss how he overcame those obstacles and will also explore the innovative ways that he used cinematography, animation and sound to create some of his most iconic scenes.

In 1951 the Academy presented Kelly with an Honorary Award (an Oscar® statuette) for “his versatility as an actor, singer, director and dancer, and specifically for his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film.” Kelly had previously received a Best Actor nomination for his role in “Anchors Aweigh” (1945).

Tickets to “A Centennial Tribute to Gene Kelly” and “Gene Kelly: Choreography and the Camera” are available for purchase. Tickets for each evening are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID, and may be purchased by mail, at the Academy box office (8949 Wilshire Boulevard, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.), or online at Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Ticketed seating is unreserved. In the event that tickets are sold out, a standby line will form on the day of the event, and names will be taken when the Box Office opens at 5 p.m.

The Samuel Goldwyn Theater is located at the 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. The Linwood Dunn Theater is located at 1313 Vine Street in Hollywood...


Sunday, May 6, 2012


George Lindsey, Andy Griffith Show Costar, Dies
By Stephen M. Silverman

George Lindsey, best remembered for his role of Goober Pyle – cousin of Gomer Pyle – on CBS's rural sitcom The Andy Griffith Show, died Sunday morning in Nashville, where he lived, after a lengthy hospitalization, reports The Tennessean. He was 83.

Andy Griffith, 85, said in a statement that accompanied the Lindsay family's announcement of the death, "George Lindsey was my friend. I had great respect for his talent and his human spirit."

Griffith also said the two often spoke by phone. "Our last conversation was a few days ago. We would talk about our health, how much we missed our friends who passed before us and usually about something funny. I am happy to say that as we found ourselves in our 80s, we were not afraid to say, 'I love you.' That was the last thing George and I had to say to each other. 'I love you.' "

An Alabama native who was raised by his grandparents, Lindsey got the acting bug at 14 when he saw a performance of the musical Oklahoma!. He was a school athlete who also displayed a sharp sense of humor, and he went to college to become a teacher, according to the Tennessean.

While in the Air Force stationed in Orlando, Fla., he met and, in 1955, married Joyanne Herbert, and they had two children. The marriage lasted until 1991.

Before his long TV career, which also included another comic stint on CBS's Hee Haw, Lindsey studied acting in New York and played in stage productions there.

His survivors, the newspaper reports, include son George Lindsey, Jr., daughter Camden Jo Lindsey Gardner, two grandsons and his companion of many years, Anne Wilson...



The voice of Al Jolson was one of the most unique voices ever recorded. When he died in 1950, the entertainment industry lost a great talent. Even though the showmanship and the charisma of Jolson has never been duplicated, there have been singers that sound a lot like Al Jolson. One such entertainer that gained fame in the 1950s and 1960s was Norman Brooks.

Born in Montreal, Canada to Lebanese parents on August 19, 1926 Brooks possessed a voice naturally similar to that of Al Jolson. Brooks began his career in his late teens, singing in the Jolson style in Montreal nightclubs, often in duet with his sister Annie (who as Anne Brooks later sang in Canadian and US nightclubs). During his career he has returned frequently to Jolson routines, but he also has sung in a more personal style. By the early 1950s he had moved from clubs to theatres - eg, the Seville in Montreal and the Casino Theatre in Toronto. He made two 78s for Canadian Victor at this time.

In 1953 he went to New York where he appeared in nightclubs and recorded 'Hello Sunshine,' a substantial hit that year for Zodiac, a label established expressly for Brooks. He was a popular nightclub and TV performer in the USA during the 1950s and 1960s, appearing, for example, for 44 weeks 1959-60 at The Sands Hotel, Las Vegas. He also performed frequently in Canadian nightclubs and on CBC TV, and was host for CTV's 'Musical Showcase' in 1966. He appeared in 1975 on Broadway in The Magic of Jolson and subsequently sang and played piano in New York nightclubs and continued to tour. He performed in 1979 at PDA.

Brooks' other recordings include singles for Zodiac and for RCA's 'X' label, LPs of Jolson material for Spin-O-Rama, Coronet, Diplomat, and Sutton, and LPs of pop songs - some his own - for Verve, Sure, Promenade and Venus (see Kinkle's Encyclopedia of Popular Music and Jazz for details). Brooks played Jolson in the The Best Things in Life Are Free (1956) and had dramatic roles in The Block (1963) and Ocean's Eleven (1965).

Norman Brooks was showcased in four motion pictures. In the 1956 feature film "The Best Things In Life Are Free" he played Jolson and sang "Sonny Boy." A second filmsaw Norman on stage singing " I'm Gonna Live Til I Die " with sister Ann in the popular best ever casino heist in the 1960 film "Ocean's Eleven." Then audiences heard Norman singing "I'm Sittin' On Top Of The World" so remarkably in the 1983 Woody Allen film "Zelig" that it hard to distinguish Norman's rendition to that of "Jolie" himself. Norman also played "Brand" a non vocal role, in the 1964 Tony Orlando film "The Block."

In the 1970s and 1980s, when the Jolson style of entertainment fell out of style, Brooks became another forgotten relic of a bygone era. Lung problems forced him to pretty much retire. He died on September 14, 2006 at the age of 78. Not only was another voice of Jolson silenced then, but Norman Brooks was a great talent all his own...

Friday, May 4, 2012


LOS ANGELES – The TCM Classic Film Festival took over the heart of Hollywood last month, highlighting decades-old movies and celebrating stars from the entertainment industry’s beloved Golden Era. So what is the special ingredient in classic films from “Cabaret” to “The Thief of Bagdad” to “Singin’ in the Rain” that's missing today?

“I wish they would clean up some of the movies, make them a little more wholesome,” Debbie Reynolds told reporters. “I think the American public wants that, so we should give it to them.”

Linda Gray, best known for her role as the Sue Ellen Ewing in the prime time soap “Dallas,” said that today’s scripts often don't develop characters and their relationships very well.

“We are used to everything being so fast – next, next, next – so it is lovely for younger people to be able to see the magnitude and magic of old Hollywood films,” she explained. “Films for me they have been all about relationships. I think they spent more time expanding those relationships back then.”

"I wish they would clean up some of the movies, make them a little more wholesome" says Debbie Reynolds.

Woody Allen’s longtime collaborator Tony Roberts misses the Old Hollywood studio system and how it functioned to establish iconic stars.

“In the old studio system [actors and actresses] signed up for seven years or five years, and they made a lot of movies each year. They could still make bad movies, yet they still got parts, because they had a contract and they learned on the job,” he said. “Nowadays, if you are lucky enough to get one or two pictures under your belt, that could be the end of you – and you never grew, you never got that comfortable being a character in front of the camera.”

Roberts said it was this stability that enabled screen stars to really shine.

“When you think of the old actors and the movies they made each year, they finally had a chance to be great when they got a great script. You can't remember 80 pictures, but you remember five or four because they were good scripts and knew what to do with them,” he said. “That's what is missing today.”

As for Liza Minnelli, who was feted alongside co-star Joel Grey for her work in “Cabaret” during the festival, embracing all that is new is what keeps her motivated to keep on entertaining the masses.

“Some of what is coming out is brilliant today,” she added. “Something (exciting) will always happen tomorrow, you have got to stay curious. Luckily, my phone always rings.”


Thursday, May 3, 2012


Today people mostly remember Bing Crosby as the laid back singer who made the song "White Christmas" a major hit. Some younger people do not even recognize him for that. Bing Crosby though was more than just a Christmas singer. He was a singer who pioneered early popular music in the 1930s, and he was one of the most widely head voices of the 1940s. On this day, May 3rd in 1903 this legend was born.

Crosby was born in Tacoma, Washington, on May 3, 1903 in a house his father built at 1112 North J Street. In 1906, Crosby's family moved to Spokane, Washington. In 1913, Crosby's father built a house at 508 E. Sharp Ave. The house now sits on the campus of Bing's alma mater Gonzaga University and formerly housed the Alumni Association.

He was the fourth of seven children: brothers Larry (1895–1975), Everett (1896–1966), Ted (1900–1973), and Bob (1913–1993); and two sisters, Catherine (1904–1974) and Mary Rose (1906–1990). His parents were Harry Lincoln Crosby (1870–1950), a bookkeeper, and Catherine Helen (known as Kate) (née Harrigan; 1873–1964). Crosby's mother was a second generation Irish-American.[16] His father was of English descent; some of his ancestors had emigrated to what would become the U.S. in the 17th century, and included Patience Brewster, the daughter of the Pilgrim leader and Mayflower passenger William Brewster (c. 1567 – April 10, 1644).

In 1910, six-year-old Harry Crosby was forever renamed. The Sunday edition of the Spokesman-Review published a feature called "The Bingville Bugle". Written by humorist Newton Newkirk, The Bingville Bugle was a parody of a hillbilly newsletter filled with gossipy tidbits, minstrel quips, creative spelling, and mock ads. A neighbor, 15-year-old Valentine Hobart, shared Crosby's enthusiasm for "The Bugle" and noting Crosby's laugh, took a liking to him and called him "Bingo from Bingville". Eventually the last vowel was dropped and the nickname stuck.

In 1917, Crosby took a summer job as property boy at Spokane's "Auditorium," where he witnessed some of the finest acts of the day, including Al Jolson, who held Crosby spellbound with his ad libbing and spoofs of Hawaiian songs. Crosby later described Jolson's delivery as "electric".

In 1923, Bing Crosby was invited to join a new band composed of high school students much younger than himself. Al Rinker, Miles Rinker, James Heaton, Claire Pritchard and Robert Pritchard, along with drummer Bing Crosby, formed the Musicaladers, who performed at dances both for high school students and club-goers. However, the group disbanded after two years.

By 1925, Crosby had formed a vocal duo with partner Al Rinker, brother of singer Mildred Bailey. Mildred introduced Al and Bing to Paul Whiteman, who was at that time America's most famous bandleader. Hired for $150 a week, they made their debut on December 6, 1926 at the Tivoli Theatre (Chicago). Their first recording was "I've Got The Girl," with Don Clark's Orchestra, but the Columbia-issued record did them no vocal favors, as it was inadvertently recorded at a speed slower than it should have been, which increased the singers' pitch when played at 78 rpm. Throughout his career, Bing Crosby often credited Mildred Bailey for getting him his first important job in the entertainment business.

Even as the Crosby and Rinker duo was increasing in popularity, Whiteman added a third member to the group. The threesome, now including pianist and aspiring songwriter Harry Barris, were dubbed "The Rhythm Boys". They joined the Whiteman touring act, performing and recording with musicians Bix Beiderbecke, Jack Teagarden, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, and Eddie Lang and Hoagy Carmichael, and appeared together in a Whiteman movie.

Crosby soon became the star attraction of the Rhythm Boys, and in 1928 had his first number one hit with the Whiteman orchestra, a jazz-influenced rendition of "Ol' Man River". However, Crosby's reported taste for alcohol and his growing dissatisfaction with Whiteman led to the Rhythm Boys quitting to join the Gus Arnheim Orchestra. And the rest as they say is history...