Friday, June 29, 2012


This is a new blog entry we are starting where we spotlight an older obituary from the past. So many of the great entertainers have left us, that it is a great opportunity to remember a forgotten star. This time around it is the obit for big band vocalist Helen O'Connell. This obit appeared in the New York Times on September 10, 1993...

Helen O'Connell Is Dead at 73; Big-Band Singer of 'Green Eyes'
By The Associated Press

Helen O'Connell, the big-band singer whose recordings of "Green Eyes" and other songs made her one of the most popular female vocalists in the nation in the early 1940's, died today at a hospice, her manager said. She was 73.

The cause was cancer, said the manager, Gloria Burke.

Miss O'Connell was one of the best-known female singers during the height of the swing era, when the big bands toured the nation.

She was born in Lima, Ohio, on May 23, 1920, and she left high school there to become a band singer. She was performing with the Larry Funk band at the Village Barn in New York City when she came to the attention of Jimmy Dorsey, who was looking for a vocalist. Her singing career took off in 1939 when she was paired with Bob Eberly on a Dorsey recording of "Green Eyes." That song, along with "Tangerine" and "Amapola," sold in the millions.

She also made popular songs like "Jim," "I Remember You," "Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in a Hurry" and "When The Sun Comes Out."

In the 1950's, she worked with Dave Garroway on NBC's "Today Show." For nine years, she was hostess of the Miss Universe Pageant, and she was a television spokeswoman for Polaroid cameras for several years.

In 1978 and 1979, she toured the country in a highly successful concert presentation called "4 Girls 4," in which she appeared with the singers Rose Marie, Margaret Whiting and Rosemary Clooney.

This summer, she toured with a big-band show, performing for the last time at the Valley Forge Music Fair in Valley Forge, Pa., on Aug. 14. The tour's producer, Craig Hankenson of Tampa, Fla., said Miss O'Connell had to leave the tour just before it ended because she was experiencing chest pain. Miss O'Connell returned home to Orange County, Calif., and was admitted to a La Jolla hospital, where she underwent surgery on Aug. 27.

Miss O'Connell married Frank DeVol, a composer, arranger and conductor, in 1991. She had been married to Clifford Smith Jr., heir to a Boston investment fortune, from 1941 to 1951, and to Tom T. Chamales, a novelist, from 1957 until his death in a fire in 1960.

She is survived by her husband and four daughters...


Wednesday, June 27, 2012


It is hard to believe that the year 1942 was 70 years ago. 1942 saw the country in its first full year in the war. Bing Crosby recorded "White Christmas" for the first time, and everyone was dancing to the sounds of the big bands. It was a tough year for society but a great year for movies and Hollywood...

Best Picture-winning Casablanca (1942), based on the play Everybody Comes to Rick's and set in 1941 war-time Morocco, premiered in New York. Its studio, Warner Bros., capitalized on the war-time events occurring (the Allied landings in N. Africa that mentioned the city). Altogether, its director Michael Curtiz made over 40 films in the decade of the 30s, and over 150 films in his entire career, from the silent era to the early 1960s.

Jacques Tourneur's moody and intelligent Cat People (1942), producer Val Lewton's first film at RKO, influenced future film-makers by showing how subtle and suggestive horror could be effectively generated.

The first of numerous Hollywood films to take up the U.S. cause of World War II was Wake Island (1942). It was Hollywood's first major World War II film, starring Brian Donlevy, William Bendix, and Robert Preston. The war film was followed by other morale-boosting feature films such as Flying Tigers.

Black actor Paul Robeson, who had starred in Show Boat (1936), said he wouldn't make any more films until there were better roles for blacks. His last film was Tales of Manhattan (1942).

Tweety Bird, originally pink-colored, debuted in Tale of Two Kitties, a spoof on the popular comedy team of Abbott and Costello. Tweety Bird's first cartoon appearance with lisping cat Sylvester was in Tweetie Pie (1947) -- it won an Oscar for animator Friz Freleng. This was the first Warner Brothers cartoon to win an Oscar!

During a War Bond promotional tour, 33 year-old popular star and actress Carole Lombard, Clark Gable's wife, was killed in a plane crash near Las Vegas, Nevada on January 16, 1942.

A fire in Boston's Cocoanut Grove nightclub took the life of 50 year-old B-western movie star Buck Jones after he sustained injuries. 492 individuals were victims of the deadly blaze.

Orson Welles directed his second motion picture, The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), noted for dialogue that was realistically spoken.

The Hollywood Canteen was founded (by Bette Davis, John Garfield, and others) and opened its doors on Cahuenga Blvd. in greater Los Angeles (Hollywood) in the fall of 1942, to provide free entertainment (food, dancing, etc.) to servicemen by those in the industry. It operated for just over three years as a morale booster, during the war years, and was the impetus for the Warners' film Hollywood Canteen (1944), featuring lots of stars in cameo roles.

Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy teamed up for the first time in MGM's Woman of the Year (1942). It was the first of nine films in which Tracy and Hepburn starred together, stretching out a period of 25 years until their final film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967).

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences commenced with an award category for Best Documentary - Short Subject, won for the first time (in the 1942 awards ceremony) by the Canadian production Churchill's Island (1941).

Lena Horne was the first African-American woman to sign a long-term contract with a major studio (MGM) as a specialty performer, meaning that she was initially cast in parts and subplots (usually separate singing scenes) that could be edited out for showings in Southern theaters.

Warner Bros' nostalgic, shamelessly-patriotic, entertaining black and white musical biopic Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) was released. It was the first time that a living US President (FDR in this case, played by Jack Young) was portrayed in a motion picture. For the first time in his entire career, James Cagney attended the premiere for one of his films - when it had its world premiere on Memorial Day, 1942 on Broadway. Rather than tickets for its opening night premiere, the studio sold war bonds and reportedly raised over $5 million for the war effort. It became the second highest grossing box-office hit of the year for Warners (after Desperate Journey (1942)). Cagney won his sole career Oscar, and became the first Best Actor Oscar winner to take home the Oscar for an appearance in a film musical, in his role as American music entertainer George M. Cohan. The film was one of the first computer-colorized films released by entrepreneur Ted Turner in 1985 (on George M. Cohan's alleged birthday July 4th - naturally!).

The war years had a distinct influence on Hollywood. The Office of War Information (OWI) stated that film makers should consider seven questions before producing a movie, including this one: "Will this picture help to win the war?" The War Production Board imposed a $5,000 limit on set construction. Wartime cloth restrictions were imposed, prohibiting cuffed trousers and pleats. Klieg-lit Hollywood premieres were prohibited. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hollywood turned out numerous anti-Japanese films, some of them quite racist, such as Fox's Little Tokyo, U.S.A.,which dealt with the controversial subject of Japanese internment. The OWI then cracked down on the artistic license of Hollywood beginning in 1943. The Office of Censorship prohibited the export of films that showed racial discrimination, depicted Americans as single-handedly winning the war, or painted our allies as imperialists.

And that was the year in movies 1942...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Nora Ephron, Writer-Director of Sleepless in Seattle, Dies at Age 71
By Mike Fleeman

Nora Ephron, one of the most powerful figures in Hollywood as the creative force behind such blockbusters as You've Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally, died on Tuesday at age 71.

The three-time Oscar nominee passed away in New York of pneumonia brought on by acute myeloid leukemia, her son Jacob Bernstein tells The New York Times.

A writer and director who was as comfortable with romantic comedies as she was with hard-hitting dramas with social themes, Ephron's films featured strong female roles that attracted such A-listers as Meg Ryan, Meryl Streep, Amy Adams and Cher.

The daughter of playwrights and sister to three other writers, Nora was married and divorced to author Dan Greenberg before marrying Watergate investigative reporter Carl Bernstein. She based her searing novel and screenplay Heartburn on the collapse of their marriage.

She also wrote the screenplays for the drama Silkwood (starring Streep and Cher) about nuclear activist Karen Silkwood, but was best known – and reached the highest levels of success – with her lighter fare.

Described both affectionately – and sometimes not – as "chick flicks," the wildly successful trio of Harry, Sleepless and Mail (co-written with sister Delia), had Ryan falling in love with Billy Crystal or Tom Hanks – and turned the actress into a mega-star.

Ephron's last film was the time-shifting Julia Child foodie flick Julie & Julia and in 2008 she wrote a bestseller about aging called I Feel Bad About My Neck.

At the time of her death she was married to her third husband, Goodfellas writer Nicholas Pileggi...


Monday, June 25, 2012


The big band era and vocal years before rock took over is full of great talent, which years later now are sadly forgotten. One such talent that emerged from the big band era to make a name for himself in the 1940s and 1950s was the great Eddy Howard.

Eddy Howard was born in Woodland, California on September 12,1914. He attended both San Jose State University and Stanford Medical School, but music was his first love. He began his musical career on Los Angeles area radio in the early thirties, and was soon featured with the bands of Eddie Fitzpatrick, Tom Gerun (with whom Woody Herman and singer Tony Martin started out) and Ben Bernie.

In 1934 Howard began a productive six year stint as trombonist and more importantly, lead vocalist with the orchestra of Dick Jurgens. He began with vocals on such tunes as "The Martinique" and "You're Slightly Terrific" to "My Last Goodbye" and "Careless", both hits for the Jurgens band in mid-1939 and both written by Howard. The last Howard vocals with the band were in January of 1940 for the Vocalion label. They were "A Little Boy And A Little Girl", and "Between You And Me". He was replaced as vocalist with the band by Harry Cool.

In 1940 Eddy Howard decided to go it alone as a solo performer, but during the following year formed his own orchestra. The musical organization was a competent, if unexciting act, that performed throughout the war years. They recorded a number of largely unsuccessful records for the Columbia label during the early forties. In 1946 Howard signed to record with a Chicago independent label called Majestic. The first release was a new recording of his previous hit "Careless" (now used as the band's theme song) and the flip side was a song originally written for the film "To Each His Own", using the same title. Ironically the song was never used in the picture. The tune became a huge hit in three different versions. Howard's became a number one million seller for the fledgling Majestic label. The recording spent five months on the best seller charts and launched the band and the label on a period of popularity that bucked the trend of big bands falling by the wayside.

The year 1947 was a good one for Eddy Howard. Fresh on the heels of his big breakthrough of the previous year, he first scored with the fine standard ballad "(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons", which rose as high as the number four position on the list of best selling records. The springtime of the year found Eddy Howard on the charts again with a tune called "My Adobe Hacienda". This release went to number four . The very next outing for Majestic was the Howard version of the hit tune "I Wonder, I Wonder, I Wonder" which got as high as the number three position. The year closed out with the lovely tune "An Apple Blossom Wedding" which was a top twenty seller for the band and it's leader. Eddy Howard, his orchestra and the vocal trio would now be leave Majestic and go with another Chicago based label - Mercury records.

The first release for their new label that charted was their version of 1948's biggest song - "On A Slow Boat To China". A good seller that got as high as the number twelve position. The next hit for Howard was their version of the huge country hit "A Roomful Of Roses". This record was a steady if not spectacular seller, that remained on the charts for close to four months but never quite broke into the top ten. The song "Maybe It's Because" carried the band through 1949 remaining for two and a half months on the best sellers list. More than a year would pass before Eddy Howard's name would appear on a good selling record, and even then it would be a minor effort called "To Think You've Chosen Me". The year 1951 saw only one recording by Howard on the top popular music charts, but it was a million selling smash hit called "Sin". A dramatic vocal featuring Eddy and the singing trio, it surpassed anything Howard had ever done. It reached the number one selling position in the country, and had a run of six months on the charts. It definitely revitalized his career and made him a star caliber in person attraction.

Not content to coast on a hit of huge proportions, the year 1952 was a very good one to follow up. The first Mercury charted record of the year was "Stolen Love". It was a moderate seller during the early part of the year. The next release was a stylish ballad that sold very well. It was called "Be Anything (But Be Mine)". This record lasted on the charts for more than four months, and added to the repertoire of tunes requested at all personal appearances. The next hit was a cover of Vera Lynn's British hit "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart" which was a nice hit for Eddy Howard here in the U.S. It remained a hit for close to three months and got in the top twenty. Although 1952 closed out Eddy Howard's run of hits on the best seller lists, Eddy remained a sought after in person attraction for some time. Unfortunately, ill health began to dog Howard, causing him to curtail his career from time to time in the nineteen fifties. He died in his sleep of a cerebral hemorrhage in May 1963, in Palm Desert, California, aged 48. He was buried at Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California. He was survived by his wife of 25 years as well as two children, Lynn born in 1942 and Eddy Jr born in 1948.

Largely forgotten at his time of death in 1963, Eddy is even more forgotten now some 50 years after that. His voice did not have the range or a Crosby or a Sinatra, but I do not think I have ever heard a bad Eddy Howard recording, and I don't think I will...

Saturday, June 23, 2012


1939 was the year that belonged to "Gone With The Wind". The movie swept the country and many other movies in that year got forgotten with the passages of time. One such movie that is largely forgotten today is a little 20th Century Fox film called "Rose Of Washington Square". MGM is known better for their splashy and extravagent musicals, but 20th Century Fox had a secret weapon in their actress and stunning vocalist Alice Faye.

In the movie, Faye played Rose - a character so close to the real life of actress Fanny Brice that she sued 20th Century Fox for $750,000. They letter settled out of court. It is so funny that the studio did not even try to cover up that the movie was based on Brice's life. The character had a good-looking con man husband (Tryone Power) who goes to jail on a bond fraud. The lead character is headlining with the Ziegfield Follies, and the film featured Brice's signature song "My Man". 20th Century Fox did some odd things in the 1930s and 1940s and this movie was one of them. Another oddity is why they never allowed their biggest musical star Alice Faye make more records.

Rounding out the cast was Al Jolson - at one time he was the world's greatest entertainer. However, by 1939 his movie career was over, and any appearance he would make would be basically as Al Jolson. There is a corny sub plot about a man who is paid to drink so he can heckle Al Jolson as part of his act, and there's Al himself in blackface with white lips up on stage singing.

Nevertheless, the real story concerns the codependent relationship between Rose and Bart, her crooked husband. But it's Tyrone Power, and what woman wouldn't have loved him - in fact, what woman didn't love him in 1939? He was the number 2 box office star. He portrays the likable but sleazy character very well. In the beginning of his career a few years earlier, he did romantic comedy, then did a string of films where he was a cad, then played soldiers, and after the war, did everything - he was a young man who found himself in "The Razor's Edge," played against type in "Nightmare Alley," and period-pieced his way through Fox until his contract finally ended. In 22 years as a star, he really did every genre, and did them beautifully.

There's lots of music in this movie and a HUGE build-up to the song "My Man" before Faye ever sings it. When she does, it's not the Streisand version, but rather a torch song, sung in Faye's low, rich voice. Jolson was a terrific performer though apparently extremely egomaniacal and difficult to work with. He sings his standards: "Mammy," "California Here I Come," "Toot-toot-Tootsie," "Rockabye Your Baby," etc., and he's great. The movie was not the "Gone With The Wind"or "Wizard Of Oz" of 1939, but if you like great music and the wonderful Alice Faye, then this movie is for you...


Thursday, June 21, 2012


The Andrews Sisters not only represented the voice of World War II, but they were the voice of a generation. They were one of the most successful singing groups of all time, and sadly there is only one Andrew Sister left - Patty Andrews, now 94, who was the main sister in the successful trio.

After being a group since the 1930s, the act broke up in 1951 when Patty wanted to be a solo artist. With the change in music, it did not work out and the trio reunited in 1956. They signed a new recording contract with Capitol Records (for whom Patty had become a featured soloist) and released a dozen singles through 1959, some rock-and-roll flavored and not very well received, and three hi-fi albums, including a vibrant LP of songs from the dancing 1920s with Billy May's orchestra. In 1962, they signed with Dot Records and recorded a series of stereo albums over five years, both re-recordings of earlier hits, as well as new material, including "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" and "Puff the Magic Dragon".

The act came to an abrupt end in 1967 when eldest sister LaVerne died of cancer after a year-long bout with the illness, during which she was replaced by singer Joyce DeYoung. LaVerne had founded the original group, and often acted as the peacemaker among the three during the sisters' lives, more often siding with her parents, to whom the girls were extremely devoted, than with either of her sisters. Once LaVerne was dead, Maxene saw no need to continue as a duo (she taught acting, drama, and speech at a Lake Tahoe college and worked with troubled teens), and Patty was once again eager to be a soloist.

Maxene and Patty reunited for a short lived broadway show called "Over There" in 1974, and they were seen together in 1987 when they got a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. In the inner circle of the Andrews Sisters, it was widely known that Patty Andrews' husband Wally Weschler, who was also her manager, caused much of the rift between the sisters. He alienated Patty from many close friends and family members throughout their marriage.

Maxene Andrews died on October 21, 1995. Patty continued to give interviews, but her appearances were less and less. Wally Weschler, her husband of 60 years, died on August 28, 2010, at the age of 88. After his death, Patty was reunited with many of her friends. However, at the age of 94, her health is not that good anymore. It got so poor that earlier this year she was placed in hospice care. Her memory is fading so she does not remember many of the moments in her life that brought her joy like singing and entertaining. However, hopefully Patty Andrews has realized the millions of people her and her sisters gave joy to throughout the years from soldiers going over seas to families enjoying great music. The Andrews Sisters and Patty Andrews are not just a part of entertainment history, they were/are three icons who gave their all in everything they did...

UPDATE: JANUARY 2013 - Despite being confined to be a bed and suffering from the effects of dimentia, Patti Andrews still looks relatively good. She will be 95 this year...


Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Everybody Loves Dean Martin

Dean Martin – like his Rat Pack pals Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. – was a man of many talents. The actor-singer-comedian was equally successful in nightclubs, on the silver screen and TV screen, and in record shops.

This month would have been Martin’s 95th birthday, and we're celebrating the versatile entertainer and all the things he did so well.

Dean Martin tried his hand at many trades before landing in show business: delivering bootleg liquor, blackjack dealing, working in a steel mill… he even boxed for a while as welterweight “Kid Crochet.” After twelve bouts (“I won all but eleven,” he later said), Martin gave up on boxing and turned to showbiz, crooning with local bands and calling himself “Dino Martini.”

After a brief stint in the Army during WWII, Dean Martin (as he was then known) started to make a name for himself on the East Coast nightclub circuit. While performing at the Glass Hat Club in New York, he met comedian Jerry Lewis. The two became fast friends and the rest, as they say, is history. Audiences loved the way they played off each other, with Martin as the straight man to Lewis’ very goofy one, and Martin and Lewis vaulted to stardom.

With comedy success came calls from Hollywood, and Martin and Lewis starred in several wacky movies together. But after years of formulaic film comedies, Martin longed to do more serious acting. Meanwhile, his partnership – and friendship – with Lewis was beginning to fray. After ten years and much to the disappointment of their adoring fans, Martin and Lewis went their separate ways. Martin embarked on a solo acting career and, after a few flops, was finally successful in 1957 when he starred in The Young Lions with Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift. The film was a hit, and Martin solidified his reputation as an actor.

Though he found fame and success both as a comedian and an actor, it was as a singer that Dean Martin truly made his mark. But the legendary singer didn’t succeed overnight; it took Martin years to refine his style and hit it big. In his early nightclub days, he copied the styles of other top performers like Bing Crosby and Perry Como. Eventually, he matured into his own distinctive sound, and his music career really started to move. Today, even more than his work in movies or comedy, he’s remembered for his smooth voice and effortless style on classics like “That’s Amore,” “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head,” “Baby It’s Cold Outside” – and, of course, his signature song, “Everybody Loves Somebody.”


Sunday, June 17, 2012


One of the most rewarding and gratifying moments in my life have been as a father. I do not think there is anything more special for a man than the bond between a father and his child. On this Father's Day, I wanted to salute a few of the famous classic Hollywood fathers through some of the pictures of them with their children:







Friday, June 15, 2012


It is hard to believe Jack Klugman is 90 years old. He has done everything in his long career on television and in the movies. Earlier on in his career he played some great roles on the Twilight Zone in the late 1950s. One episode had him shooting pool for his soul alongside a serious Jonathan Winters. In 1963, he starred alongside Judy Garland in the good but forgotten movie "I Could Go On Singing". However, his best known role in movies was as one of the jurors in the classic "Twelve Angry Men"(1957). He is the last living cast member of that great film.

In television, he gained his wides fame on "The Odd Couple" (1970-1975) and "Quincy" (1976-1983). Throughout the years Klugman has been a sold and wonderful character actor. Even at 90 years old, he is pretty spry if somewhat frail. He had his vocal cords removed due to cancer in 1989. He married his longtime girlfriend Peggy Crosby in 2008. She was once the daughter in law of Bing Crosby. Here is a recent interview he gave on his life in Hollywood...


Wednesday, June 13, 2012


It is often hard for children to compete with their older siblings. They are constantly compared to their older counterparts. That happens in all families. However, it is even worse when an older sibling is a major legendary star. Bob Crosby had to face this comparison all his life. He was ten years younger than his older brother Bing, but he faced a life of being in Bing's shadows. However, Bob emerged from those shadows at a young age and became one of the best bandleaders of the big band era.

Bob Crosby was born on August 23, 1913 in Spokane, Washington. He was the youngest of seven children: five boys, Larry (1895–1975), Everett (1896–1966), Ted (1900–1973), Harry (1903–1977, popularly known as Bing Crosby) and Bob; and two girls, Catherine (1905–1988) and Mary Rose (1907–1990). His parents were English-American bookkeeper Harry Lowe Crosby (1871–1950) and Irish-American Catherine Harrigan (1873–1964), (affectionately known as Kate), the daughter of a builder from County Mayo in Ireland.

Bob Crosby began singing in the early 1930s with the Delta Rhythm Boys which included vocalist Ray Hendricks and guitarist Bill Pollard also with Anson Weeks (1931–34) and the Dorsey Brothers (1934–35). He led his first band in 1935, when the former members of Ben Pollack's band elected him as titular leader. He recorded with the Clark Randall Orchestra in 1935, led by Gil Rodin and featuring singer Frank Tennille, whose pseudonym was Clark Randall. Glenn Miller was a member of that orchestra which recorded the Glenn Miller novelty composition "When Icky Morgan Plays the Organ" in 1935. His most famous band, the Bob-Cats, was a Dixieland jazz group with members from the Bob Crosby Orchestra. Both the Bob Crosby Orchestra and the smaller Bob-Cats group specialized in Dixieland jazz, presaging the traditional jazz revival of the 1940s. Crosby's singing voice was remarkably similar to that of his brother Bing, but without its range.

The Bob Crosby Orchestra and the Bob-Cats included (at various times) Yank Lawson, Billy Butterfield, Muggsy Spanier, Matty Matlock, Irving Fazola, Ward Silloway, Warren Smith, Eddie Miller, Joe Sullivan, Bob Zurke, Jess Stacy, Nappy Lamare, Bob Haggart, Walt Yoder, Jack Sperling, and Ray Bauduc. Arrangements for the orchestra were often done by a young trumpeter by the name of Gilbert Portmore who, during the time he was a decorated WWII fighter pilot in the South Pacific, started an Air Force swing band known as Cap'n Portmore's Hepcats.

Hits included "Summertime" (theme song), "In a Little Gypsy Tea Room", "Whispers in The Dark", "South Rampart Street Parade", "March of the Bob Cats", "Day In, Day Out", "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby", "Dolores" and "New San Antonio Rose" (last three with Bing Crosby). A bass and drums duet between Haggart and Bauduc, "Big Noise from Winnetka," became a hit in 1938-39.

The enduring popularity of the Bob Crosby Orchestra and the Bob Cats - whose biography was written by British jazz historian John Chilton, was evident during the frequent reunions in the 1950s and 1960s. Bob Haggart and Yank Lawson organized a band that kept the spirit alive, combining Dixieland and swing with a roster of top soloists. From the late 1960s until the mid-1970s, the group was known as The World's Greatest Jazzband. Since neither leader was happy with that name, they eventually reverted to The Lawson Haggart Jazzband. The Lawson-Haggart group was consistent in keeping the Bob Crosby tradition alive.

During World War II, Bob Crosby spent 18 months in the Marines, touring with bands in the Pacific. His radio variety series, The Bob Crosby Show, aired on NBC and CBS in different runs between the years 1943 to 1950, followed by Club Fifteen on CBS from 1947 through 1953 and a half-hour CBS daytime series, The Bob Crosby Show (1953–1957). He introduced the Canadian singer Gisele MacKenzie to American audiences and subsequently guest starred in 1957 on her NBC television series, The Gisele MacKenzie Show.

On September 14, 1952, Bob replaced Phil Harris as the bandleader on The Jack Benny Program, remaining until Benny retired the radio show in 1955 after 23 years. In joining the show, he became the leader of the same group of musicians who had played under Harris. According to Benny writer Milt Josefsberg, the issue was budget. Because radio had strong competition from TV, the program budget had to be reduced, so Bob replaced Phil. Prior to joining Benny on the radio, Crosby, who was based on the East Coast, would often play with Benny during Benny's live New York appearances, and he was seen frequently throughout the 1950s on Benny's television series.

In the 1950s, Bob grabbed headlines he never would like to be a part of when his wife was arrested for trying to stab Bob during a domestic fight at their home. Even though his wife threatened divorce, I believe the couple stayed married until his wife's death shortly before Bob passed away.

As a performer, Crosby had tremendous charisma and wit combined with a laid back persona. He was able to swap jokes competently with Benny, including humorous references to his brother Bing's wealth and his string of losing racehorses. An exchange during one of the popular Christmas programs ran thus: Crosby muses to Jack that he's bought gifts for everyone but bandmember Frank Remley. When Jack suggests "a cordial, like a bottle of Drambuie," Crosby counters that Drambuie is an after-dinner drink and adds, alluding to Remley's penchant for alcohol, that "Remley never quite makes it to after dinner."

Bob Crosby guest starred in the television series The Gisele MacKenzie Show. He also starred in his own afternoon variety show, The Bob Crosby show, that aired between 1953 and 1957.

In later years Bob grew closer to Bing, and he discovered that although Bing refused to give Bob money when he was starting out, Bing did pull strings to get Bob some of his first jobs in entertainment. Bing never told Bob this until later in life. After Bing died in 1977 though, Bob became estranged from Bing's second wife Kathryn.

Bob Crosby died on March 9, 1993 at his home in La Jolla, California.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Ann Rutherford, the demure brunette actress who played the sweetheart in the long-running Andy Hardy series and Scarlett O’Hara’s youngest sister in Gone With the Wind, has died. She was 94.

A close friend, actress Anne Jeffreys, tells the Los Angeles Times that Rutherford died Monday night at her home in Beverly Hills. She had heart problems and was in declining health.

The Andy Hardy series, a hugely popular string of comical, sentimental films, starred Lewis Stone as a small-town judge and Mickey Rooney as his spirited teenage son.

Rutherford first appeared in the second film of the series, You’re Only Young Once, in 1938, and she went on 11 more. She played Polly Benedict, the ever-faithful girlfriend that Andy always returned to, no matter what other, more glamorous girl had temporarily caught his eye. (Among the other girls: Judy Garland and Lana Turner.)

It was said she won the part of Carreen – the youngest of the three O’Hara sisters in Gone With the Wind – because Judy Garland was filming The Wizard of Oz.

Rutherford told the Times in 2010 that MGM head Louis B. Mayer was going to refuse her the role, calling it “a nothing part.” But Rutherford, who was a fan of the novel, uncharacteristically burst into tears and he relented.

Rutherford plays the sister who, early in the film, begs to be allowed to go to the ball at Ashley Wilkes’ plantation. “Oh, Mother, can’t I stay up for the ball tomorrow? … I’m 13 now,” she says in a sweet voice.

In 1989, she was one of 10 surviving GWTW cast members who gathered in Atlanta for the celebration of the film’s 50th anniversary.

“Anyone who had read the book sensed they were into something that would belong to the ages, and everyone was in a frenzy to read the book,” she said.

“The specialness of this is with each generation of young people who are touched by Gone With the Wind,” she said. “As long as there are little children, there will always be a Mickey Mouse. … On an adult version, Gone With the Wind does that.”

Rutherford concurred with other cast members that no matter what else they had done, “Our obituary will say we were in Gone With the Wind and we’ll be proud of it.”

In a 1969 Los Angeles Times interview, she lamented that the “permissive generation” of the 1960s wasn’t getting the old-fashioned parenting that the fictional Andy Hardy got.

“Someday someone will have to sit down with today’s youth and give them a man-to-man talk,” she said.

She also joked that “my life has reached the point where I’m now `camp.’”

Rutherford was born in 1917, according to the reference book The Film Encyclopedia. Some sources give other dates. The daughter of an opera tenor and an actress, she began performing on the stage as a child.

She launched her movie career in Westerns while still in her teens, often appearing with singing cowboy hero Gene Autry and sometimes with John Wayne.

She joined MGM in 1937, playing a variety of roles for several years before leaving the studio to freelance.

Among her other films: Whistling in the Dark, with Red Skelton, 1941, and its two sequels, Whistling in Dixie and Whistling in Brooklyn; Orchestra Wives, with bandleader Glenn Miller, 1942; and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, with Danny Kaye, 1947.

She largely retired from the screen in 1950, but appeared in a couple of films in the 1970s, They Only Kill Their Masters, 1972, and Won Ton Ton – The Dog Who Saved Hollywood, 1976.

Her first marriage, to David May in 1942, ended in divorce; they had two children. In 1953, she married producer William Dozier, a union that lasted until his death in 1991. He was best known as the producer of the Batman TV series.

Vivien Leigh, who played Scarlett O’Hara, died in 1967. Evelyn Keyes, who played the middle O’Hara sister, Suellen, died in July 2008.

Rutherford recalled that the night of the Gone With the Wind premiere in Atlanta, author Margaret Mitchell invited the cast, including Leigh and co-star Clark Gable, to her home for scrambled eggs. Gable and Mitchell disappeared.

“Clark Gable and Margaret were hiding in the bathroom, Clark on the edge of the tub and Margaret you know where, just talking,” she chuckled. “They had to get away from the photographers.”


Sunday, June 10, 2012


It is hard to believe that the talented but tragic Judy Garland was born on this day, June 10th, 90 years ago. It seems like only yesterday she was singing about going over a rainbow or dancing with Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly. Judy started life as Frances Ethel Gumm in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, Garland was the youngest child of Ethel Marion (née Milne; November 17, 1893–January 5, 1953) and Francis Avent "Frank" Gumm (March 20, 1886–November 17, 1935). Her parents were vaudevillians who settled in Grand Rapids to run a movie theatre that featured vaudeville acts.

Garland's ancestry on both sides of her family can be traced back to the early colonial days of the United States. Her father was descended from the Marable family of Virginia, her grandfather from a Milne ancestry from Aberdeen, and her maternal grandmother from a Patrick Fitzpatrick, who emigrated to America in the 1770s from Smithtown, County Meath, Ireland.

Named after both her parents and baptized at a local Episcopal church, "Baby" (as she was called by her parents and sisters) shared her family's flair for song and dance. Her first appearance came at the age of two-and-a-half when she joined her two older sisters, Mary Jane "Suzy/Suzanne" Gumm (1915–1964) and Dorothy Virginia "Jimmie" Gumm (1917–1977), on the stage of her father's movie theater during a Christmas show and sang a chorus of "Jingle Bells"". Accompanied by their mother on piano, The Gumm Sisters performed there for the next few years.

Following rumors that Frank Gumm had made sexual advances toward male ushers, the family relocated to Lancaster, California in June 1926. Frank purchased and operated another theater in Lancaster, and Ethel, acting as their manager, began working to get her daughters into motion pictures.

In 1928, The Gumm Sisters enrolled in a dance school run by Ethel Meglin, proprietress of the Meglin Kiddies dance troupe. They appeared with the troupe at its annual Christmas show. It was through the Meglin Kiddies that they made their film debut, in a 1929 short subject called The Big Revue. This was followed by appearances in two Vitaphone shorts the following year, A Holiday in Storyland (featuring Garland's first on-screen solo) and The Wedding of Jack and Jill. They next appeared together in Bubbles. Their final on-screen appearance came in 1935, in another short entitled La Fiesta de Santa Barbara.

In 1934, the trio, who by then had been touring the vaudeville circuit as "The Gumm Sisters" for many years, performed in Chicago at the Oriental Theater with George Jessel. He encouraged the group to choose a more appealing name after "Gumm" was met with laughter from the audience. According to theatrical legend, their act was once erroneously billed at a Chicago theater as "The Glum Sisters"".

Several stories persist regarding the origin of the name "Garland". One is that it was originated by Jessel after Carole Lombard's character Lily Garland in the film Twentieth Century which was then playing at the Oriental; another is that the girls chose the surname after drama critic Robert Garland. Garland's daughter, Lorna Luft, stated that her mother selected the name when Jessel announced that the trio "looked prettier than a garland of flowers". Another variation surfaced when he was a guest on Garland's television show in 1963. He claimed that he had sent actress Judith Anderson a telegram containing the word "garland," and it stuck in his mind.

By late 1934 the Gumm Sisters had changed their name to the Garland Sisters. Frances changed her name to "Judy" soon after, inspired by a popular Hoagy Carmichael song. By August 1935 they were broken up when Suzanne Garland flew to Reno, Nevada and married musician Lee Kahn, a member of the Jimmy Davis orchestra playing at Cal-Neva Lodge, Lake Tahoe. In 1935, Garland was signed to a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and the rest is history. Happy 90th birthday Judy...

Friday, June 8, 2012


I know that Toy Story 3, which was made in 2010, is hardly considered a classic movie. However, being a father now has made me appreciate any kid friendly movie out there and there is not much out there. Toy Story 3 is a modern movie, but as a movie fan I have watched it about seven times and never get tired of it. I do admit I also get a little teary eyed at the end.

Toy Story 3 is a 2010 American 3D computer-animated comedy-adventure film, and the third installment in the Toy Story series. It was produced by Pixar and released by Walt Disney Pictures. Toy Story 3 was also the first film to be released theatrically with 7.1 surround sound.

The plot focuses on the toys Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen), and their friends dealing with an uncertain future as their owner, Andy, prepares to leave for college. Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Estelle Harris, John Ratzenberger, Wallace Shawn, Jeff Pidgeon, Jodi Benson, R. Lee Ermey, John Morris and Laurie Metcalf reprised their voice-over roles from the previous films. Jim Varney, who played Slinky Dog in the first two films, and Joe Ranft, who portrayed Lenny and Wheezy, both died before production began on Toy Story 3. The role of Slinky Dog was taken over by Blake Clark, while Ranft's characters and various others were written out of the story. New characters include performances by Ned Beatty, Timothy Dalton, Kristen Schaal, Bonnie Hunt, Whoopi Goldberg, Jeff Garlin, and Michael Keaton.

The feature broke Shrek the Third's record as the biggest opening day North American gross for an animated film unadjusted for inflation and a big opening with an unadjusted gross of $110,307,189. It is also the highest-grossing opening weekend for a Pixar film, as well as the highest-grossing opening weekend for a film to have opened in the month of June. The film is the highest-grossing film of 2010 in the United States and Canada, and the highest-grossing film of 2010 worldwide. In July, it surpassed Finding Nemo to become Pixar's highest ever grossing film at the North American box office. In early August, the film surpassed Shrek 2 as the highest-grossing animated film of all-time worldwide; later that month, Toy Story 3 became the first ever animated film in history to make over $1 billion worldwide.[8] It is currently the 8th highest-grossing film of all time.

Toy Story 3 was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Sound Editing. It was the third animated film (after Beauty and the Beast and Up) to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. It won the awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song.

While the voice superstars of the film are Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, character actor Ned Beatty, who you do not seem much in films any more, stole the film away, as the evil teddy bear Lasso. Beatty really was great and created a voice for his character so it is hard to tell it is him. Another memorable voice is Michael Keaton as the Ken doll. He provided some of the biggest laughs in the whole movie.

Toy Story 3 became the highest-grossing film of 2010 and Pixar's highest-grossing film of all time. It is also the second highest grossing G-rated movie of all time and Disney's second film to reach $400 million (the other being Dead Man's Chest with $423 million), but dispite all the hype and stats, Toy Story 3 is just a great movie that the whole family will enjoy. I love seeing the old toys that I grew up come to life, and as a child I often wondered what my toys did when I went to bed. Now I know...


Wednesday, June 6, 2012


This is the oddest casting since Faye Dunaway played Joan Crawford...

When Lindsay Lohan first walked onto the set of Lifetime’s Liz & Dick dressed as screen legend Elizabeth Taylor, “there was an audible gasp,” the movie’s costume designer, Salvador Pérez, tells PEOPLE. “You’d swear it was Elizabeth.”

Dressed in Taylor’s favorite styles — jewel-toned cocktail dresses, fur coats and those famous gems (well, good fakes) — the actress looked remarkably like her screen idol. “She just walked into the clothes and became Elizabeth Taylor,” says Pérez.

Producer Larry Thompson had some of Taylor’s most famous bling, including the 33-carat Krupp diamond, recreated for the film. “Part of the magic is the wardrobe,” he says. “And Lindsay said she wants to bring magic to the movie.” Many of the vintage dresses fit her like a glove, too; Lohan’s waist measures a tiny 23 inches, while Taylor’s was a mere 22 inches.

Lohan will wear 66 different looks in the 80-minute biopic, which begins in 1961, ends with Richard Burton’s death in 1984 and focuses on their tumultuous relationship (an affair while she was still married, two weddings and two divorces). To prep, Lohan hired a voice coach and even dyed her auburn hair a deep brunette to better match Taylor’s dark tresses.

Lohan’s hair and makeup will span all of Taylor’s looks, from the long lashes and red lips of the 1950s (attained using M.A.C’s “Hot Tahiti” lipstick) and the Cleopatra-inspired eyeliner and nude mouth of the ’60s to her teased ’80s bouffant, always with her trademark eyeliner to accentuate her famous violet eyes. (Lohan is wearing opalescent lavender contacts for the role.)

“She brings in makeup for me,” makeup artist Eryn Krueger Mekash, who’s using mostly Chanel, Dior and M.A.C products, tells PEOPLE. Adds the movie’s hair stylist, Beatrice De Alba, “She looks so much like her. There was a moment when she saw her picture on the monitor and said ‘I’m her.’ It was thrilling.”


Monday, June 4, 2012


Back in the 1940s, race relations were quite different than they are today in most of the United States. African-Americans had little freedom and rights back then, nearly 80 years after President Lincolm emancipated the slaves. Even though African-American soldiers fought valiantly during World War II against the Axis Powers, they were not looked upon as equals. The entertainment industry was a little different with the popularity of bands such as Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington and singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday. However, they had a long way to go as well.

A popular medium at the time was the use of blackface in performing. Blackface was theatrical makeup used in minstrel shows, and later vaudeville and movies. The use of blackface is almost universally denounced today in 2011, but the debate rages on if it should be deleted and/or forgotten from movies of the 1940s. One such movie that uses blackface a lot was DIXIE (1943).

DIXIE, directed by A. Edward Sutherland, capitalized on the then current trend of musical biographies of popular songwriters of the twentieth century, a cycle that appeared to have begun with the life of George M. Cohan in YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942). Unlike this and others made during this period, DIXIE goes back a century, prior to the Civil War in fact, depicting the life of a composer named Daniel Decatur Emmett. His life-story is as unknown as his name itself. The fictional screenplay does toy with the facts before leading to the purpose of its film title, the composition that's to become Emmett's most recognizable American song of all, "Dixie."

Bing Crosby, one of Hollywood's top box office attractions, is properly cast as Dan Emmett. It reunites him with HOLIDAY INN (1942) co-star, Marjorie Reynolds, and re-teams him opposite Dorothy Lamour, in her only film opposite Crosby outside from the seven "Road to" comedies all featuring Bob Hope as part of the funny trio.
Dan Emmett's life is portrayed more to the personification of Çrosby himself, that of a good-natured singer/composer whose only weakness is his forgetfulness, especially when it comes to leaving his lit up smoking pipe around that causes a fire. He is engaged to Jean Mason (Marjorie Reynolds), a beautiful blonde Southern belle whose father (Grant Mitchell) disapproves of their courtship because he feels Dan to be irresponsible and won't amount to anything. Mason's more convinced now after Dan's lit-up pipe has caused the burning and destruction of Mason's old Kentucky home. However, Mason consents to Jean's marriage only if Dan can prove himself capable by doubling his $500 life savings to $1,000 within six months. (A similar opening lifted from the more familiar Fred Astaire musical, SWING TIME, in 1936).

Leaving his clerical job, Dan seeks his fortune in New Orleans. While riverboat bound, he loses all of his $500 to Mr. Bones (Billy De Wolfe), a suave actor and cardsharp. After discovering that he had been cheated, he sets out to find Mr. Bones. Instead of beating him for the return of his money, composer and actor form a partnership leading to the origins of what was to be known as a Minstrel Show. Dan, who has already encountered Millie Cook (Dorothy Lamour) at the boarding house to whom Bones and other out-of work actors (Lynne Overman and Eddie Foy Jr.) owe back rent for their lodgings to her trusting father (Raymond Walburn), finds himself in love with her, in spite that she's the aggressor who made the first move. Dan decides to return to Kentucky and break his engagement to Jean. Upon his return, Dan finds the girl he once loved to be a victim of a crippling disease, polio, that puts him in a difficult situation as to which girl he should marry, and which should get his swan song.

The movie has never been issued on video or DVD leading many people to the conclusion that it has been removed from circulation. However, the movie has been aired on AMC, as late as 1989. The question DIXIE a racist movie? While blackface is outdated and just plain wrong in 2011, the movie DIXIE was a 1940s movie depicting life in the 1860s. The entertainment scene in the 1860s was mostly blackface due to the popularity of the minstrel show. While it is hard to watch DIXIE today because of the black face scenes, it is a part of history that should not be brushed under the carpet. As a society, we need to view the movie from a history standpoint. If we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. Watching 1943's DIXIE, we need to view it from a historical standpoint. We can look at it from the viewpoint of it being a 1940s depiction of 1860s life. Watching DIXIE some 68 years after it is made does not make us a racist, but it should make us aware and proud of how far we have come...and maybe how far we still need to go.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


Richard Dawson, Original Family Feud Host and One of Hogan's Heroes, Dies

Richard Dawson, the original host of TV’s Family Feud and one of Hogan’s Heroes, passed away on Saturday night. He was 79.

Dawson’s son Gary shared the sad news via Facebook, saying, “It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that my father passed away this evening from complications due to esophageal cancer. He was surrounded by his family. He was an amazing talent, a loving husband, a great dad, and a doting grandfather. He will be missed but always remembered.”

Born in Gosport, Hampsire, England, Dawson’s first major acting role after moving to Los Angeles was as Cpl. Peter Newkirk on the war-themed comedy Hogan’s Heroes, which ran from 1965 to ’71. After that show’s run, he appeared as a panelist on such game/quiz shows as I’ve Got a Secret and Match Game.

Fun fact: So popular was Dawson on Match Game that contestants almost always chose him as their Head-to-Head bonus round partner — to the point that a rule change was made where the celeb partner was randomly selected for the player.

As a host, Dawson’s credits include Family Feud, which debuted in July 1976 and where he was famous for smooching female players, and what I always felt was the too-short-lived Masquerade Party.

On the big screen, Dawson tweaked his TV persona by playing a malevolent game show host/producer in 1987′s The Running Man, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger...


Saturday, June 2, 2012


For the video of the month, I have picked a great clip from a so-so movie. It is the movie performance of the Tommy Dorsey hit "I'll Take Tallulah" from SHIP AHOY (1942). The musical number features the cast singing the song, which included Red Skelton, Bert Lahr, and the great Eleanor Powell. Powell does some fancy dancing and even joins Buddy Rich in some drumming. Tommy Dorsye recorded the song with a young Frank Sinatra and the Pied Pipers, and you just can't feel down when you watch a number like this. Enjoy...