Monday, July 30, 2012


I had the pleasure of meeting Tony Martin in 1999, and I have never forgotten the experience. He will be missed...

Tony Martin, Debonair Pop Troubadour, Dies at 98

Tony Martin, the debonair baritone whose career spanned some 80 years in films and nightclubs and on radio and television, died on Friday at his home in West Los Angeles. He was 98. .

His death was confirmed by business manager, Stan Schneider.

Mr. Martin’s long life in show business began in the late 1920s, when he formed his first band at Oakland Technical High School in California. He was still performing in nightclubs around the country well into the 21st century.

“Tony Martin may be his generation’s Last Man Standing,” Stephen Holden wrote in The New York Times in January 2008. The occasion was a five-night engagement at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency in New York, where Mr. Martin sang his hits from half a century earlier while dropping names of colleagues he had outlived, like Bing Crosby and Perry Como.

After a chorus or two of, say, “The Very Thought of You,” Mr. Martin would interject: “Ray Noble, lovely guy. I met him when I did the Palladium in London, and he asked me to sing that song.”

A few lines of “I Don’t Know Why” would recall Russ Columbo, who popularized it. “I was working with Woody Herman in Tom Gerun’s band in Oakland,” Mr. Martin would tell his audience, “when we heard that both Columbo and Bing Crosby were singing with Gus Arnheim’s band down in L.A. So we drove down to hear them.”

Mr. Martin spoke familiarly of Crosby and later singers. Crosby, who was almost 10 years older than he was, was the first of the popular male singers to develop the laid-back persona that Frank Sinatra would make his own. But Mr. Martin rarely appeared out of black tie. Young swains of the 1950s preparing for their first prom could avail themselves of a popular tuxedo model called the Tony Martin.

In a sense Mr. Martin represented an earlier fantasy, stemming from the 19th-century European operettas and musicals, that of the impossibly elegant troubadour warbling to equally elegant (and mythical) audiences at nightclubs and balls. In the 1940s Mr. Martin was to popular song what Fred Astaire was to dance.

His popularity later helped propel a successful performing partnership with his wife, the dancer and actress Cyd Charisse, in nightclubs and on television. Their marriage lasted 60 years, ending with Ms. Charisse’s death at 86 in June 2008.

Tony Martin was born Alvin Morris in San Francisco on Dec. 25, 1913; his family moved across the bay to Oakland soon after. His parents were well-off Jewish immigrants from Poland who wanted him to be a lawyer. He attended St. Mary’s, a Christian Brothers college in nearby Moraga, where he was in the class of 1934 for a time. “I left in 1932,” he once said, “after one of the brothers told me I was flunking everything and should stick to music.”

He headed for Hollywood, where a new name, his good looks and his voice soon had him working steadily, mostly in small parts, starting with that of a sailor in “Follow the Fleet” (1936), a song-and-dance feature starring Astaire and Rogers. Later that year he appeared in “Sing, Baby, Sing,” starring Alice Faye, whom he married in 1937. That marriage ended in divorce in 1940.

In 1941, in one of the high points of his screen career, he serenaded Judy Garland, Hedy Lamarr and Lana Turner as they floated down a staircase in a number staged by Busby Berkeley in MGM’s “Ziegfeld Girl.”

He eventually won larger roles in musicals like “Here Come the Girls” (1953) and “Hit the Deck” (1955). But his acting rarely drew critical praise, owing at least partly to the sort of films with which his career began — mostly the escapist fluff that audiences were demanding in those grim Depression days. In reviewing Mr. Martin in “Sing and Be Happy” in 1937 Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote that the only depth in the film was to be found in the dimples of Mr. Martin and his female co-star.

Mr. Martin made his radio debut in the early 1930s on “Lucky Strike Hour.” He later became a regular on “The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show.” For a time in the 1950s he was the host of “The Tony Martin Show,” a 15-minute television variety series.

From 1938 to 1942 he recorded constantly, mostly for Decca. His hits included “Begin the Beguine,” “There’s No Tomorrow” (an adaptation of “O Sole Mio”) and “I Get Ideas,” taken from an Argentine tango and much criticized at the time for its supposed sexual innuendo.

In World War II Mr. Martin served briefly in the Navy then switched to the Army amid rumors that he had tried to buy a Navy commission. The rumors persisted after the war, even though Mr. Martin had served honorably in the Pacific, and several major labels refused to record him.

He signed instead with Mercury, then a small independent label based in Chicago. When one of his Mercury discs, “To Each His Own,” became a million seller, RCA Victor, one of the major labels, offered him a contract. He remained with RCA for the rest of his career.

Mr. Martin married Ms. Charisse on May 15, 1948, in a City Hall ceremony in Santa Barbara, Calif. They had a son, Tony Martin Jr., who died in 2011. Survivors include Ms. Charisse’s son from her first marriage, Nico Charisse, and two step-grandchildren.

In 1976 Mr. Martin and Ms. Charisse were co-authors, with Dick Kleiner, of “The Two of Us,” a book chronicling their lives together as performers and business partners.

In her last years Ms. Charisse appeared at most of Mr. Martin’s performances, usually sitting quietly in the audience. But she performed with him again in 1997, when they participated in “A Celebration of MGM Musicals” at Carnegie Hall, a show that blended vintage film clips from the 1940s and ’50s with reminiscences by the films’ stars. Mr. Martin later adapted this format for his club dates.

After a sequence from “Ziegfeld Girl,” Mr. Holden of The Times wrote: “Mr. Martin, now 84, came out and sang a beautifully nuanced, pitch-perfect ‘All the Things You Are.’ The voice, with its virile overtones, seemed only to have grown richer over the years, and the audience response was rhapsodic.”



This summer has been a particular hot one where I am. The grass is brown, the heat is unbearable, and I am almost looking forward to fall and winter. I remember whenever I would go out with my grandfather in the summer, he would sing an old song that was written before his father was even born called "In The Good Old Summertime".

"In the Good Old Summer Time" is an American Tin Pan Alley song first published in 1902 with music by George Evans and lyrics by Ren Shields.

Shields and Evans were at first unsuccessfully trying to sell the song to one of New York's big sheet music publishers. The publishers thought the topic of the song doomed it to be forgotten at the end of the summer season. Blanche Ring, who had helped Evans arrange the number's piano score, was enthusiastic about it and at her urging it was added to the 1902 musical comedy show "The Defender" she was appearing in. The song was a hit from the opening night, with the audience often joining in singing the chorus.

"In the Good Old Summer Time" was one of the big hits of the era, selling popular sheet music and being recorded by various artists of the day, including John Philip Sousa's band in 1903. It has remained a standard often revived in the decades since.

The song appeared in many films, including the Judy Garland film named after it: In the Good Old Summertime (1949). The book Elmer Gantry opens with the title character drunkenly singing the song in the saloon.

The song appeared in an episode of the hit PBS show Arthur, and featured in the 1930 Laurel and Hardy short Below Zero in ironical terms, sung during a snowstorm.

The chorus is used with a slight twist in Baylor University's song, "That Good Old Baylor Line."

Billy Murray and Blanche Ring had the biggest hit version of the song, but my favorite version was Bing Crosby's version from 1954. Bing must of liked the song because he recorded it again on his last album "Seasons" in 1977. It's amazing that this song about our warmest but most fun season is over 100 years old...

Friday, July 27, 2012


With the passing of the great Ernest Borgnine, TCM recently aired a tribute to him with a showing of all of his movies that made him famous. It is sad to say that up to that tribute, I had not seen the great movie Marty. Marty was the movie that propelled Borgnine to stardom and nabbed him an Oscar in 1955.

The film stars Borgnine as Marty Piletti, a heavy-set Italian-American butcher who lives in The Bronx, New York City, with his mother (Esther Minciotti). Unmarried at 34, the good-natured but socially awkward man faces constant badgering from family and friends to get married, pointing out that all his brothers and sisters are already married with children. Not averse to marriage but disheartened by his lack of prospects, Marty has reluctantly resigned himself to bachelorhood. In spite of his failed love life, Marty maintains an optimistic outlook on life characterized by his frequent outbursts such as "Perfect!" or "Fantastic!".

After being harassed by his mother into going to the Stardust Ballroom one Saturday night, Marty connects with Clara (Betsy Blair), a plain schoolteacher who is quietly weeping on the roof after being callously abandoned at the ballroom by her blind date. Spending the evening together dancing, walking the busy streets, and talking in a diner, Clara and Marty discover many affinities that they share. He eagerly spills out his life story and ambitions, and they encourage each other. He brings Clara to his house, and they awkwardly express their mutual attraction, shortly before his mother returns. Marty, delighted with his new-found love, takes her home by bus, promising to call her at two o'clock the next afternoon, after Mass. In an exuberant scene, he punches the bus stop sign and weaves between the cars, looking for a cab, a rare luxury matching his mood.

Meanwhile, his cranky, busybody widowed aunt moves in to live with Marty and his mother. She warns his mother that living alone, when children marry, is a widow's fate. Fearing that Marty's romance could spell her abandonment, his mother belittles Clara. Marty's friends, with an undercurrent of envy, deride Clara for her plainness and try to convince Marty to forget her and to remain with them, unmarried, in their fading youth. Harangued into submission by the pull of his friends, Marty doesn't call Clara.

That night, back in the same lonely rut (among his regular cast of male friends), Marty realizes that he is giving up a chance of love with a woman whom he not only likes, but who makes him happy. Over the objections of his friends, he dashes to a phone booth to call Clara, who is disconsolately watching television with her parents. When his friend asks what he's doing, Marty bursts out saying:

“You don't like her. My mother don't like her. She's a dog and I'm a fat, ugly man. Well, all I know is I had a good time last night. I'm gonna have a good time tonight. If we have enough good times together, I'm gonna get down on my knees and I'm gonna beg that girl to marry me. If we make a party on New Year's, I got a date for that party. You don't like her? That's too bad! Hey, Ang, when are you going to get married? You're 33 years old, and all your kid brothers and sisters are married. You oughta be ashamed of yourself.”

Marty then closes the phone booth's door and calls Clara. In the last line of the film, he tentatively says "Hello... Hello, Clara?".

The role of Clara was intially going to be reprised by actress Nancy Marchand, later of Lou Grant and The Sopranos fame, who had portrayed the character in the television version. However, actress Betsy Blair was interested in playing the role and lobbied hard for it. At the time, Blair, who was married to actor Gene Kelly, had been blacklisted due to her Marxist and Communist sympathies. It was only through the lobbying of Kelly, who used his major star status and connections at MGM to pressure United Artist, that Blair got the role. Reportedly, Kelly threatened to pull out of the film It's Always Fair Weather if Blair did not get the role of Clara.

The cast was nearly perfect and in addition to Borgnine and Betsy Blair, look for Frank Sutton in a supporting role as one of Marty's friends. He would later go on to fame in television's Gomer Pyle in the 1960s. The movie deserved every award it received, and I've got to say that Borgnine really made you feel for the Marty character. The character was a poor sap, but a good person. There is a little bit of all of us in the Marty character I believe. I highly recommend this movie to anyone wanting to see an Ernest Borgnine movie or anyone who just wants to see a good movie...


Wednesday, July 25, 2012


by Jennifer Elbin

I still remember the first time I saw a picture of Rudolph Valentino. I was only a kid, not even old enough to realize that the man had died nearly 60 years before I was born. At the time I had no idea that Valentino was something of a playboy during his time or that his ghost still roamed.

Rudolph Valentino came to Hollywood at a young age and found some level of success before being cast in the movie The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. That movie pushed him into the limelight and made him a true star. Men wanted to be him and women wanted to be with him. The man had an exotic appearance that drew people to him and made him look a little different than other actors at the time.

Valentino played the role of the romantic hero in several movies, which only increased his appeal to his female fans. When he released a book of poetry he presumably wrote himself, that adoration from the public grew tenfold. Since he had such a romantic and debonair persona, some questioned his sexuality and others bluntly stated that he preferred the company of men in private. Valentino fought back against those allegations, but some still wondered.

The actor even married twice in the hopes of ending those rumors. Yet those marriages only added to the rumors. He married his second wife before his first was over and found himself charged with bigamy. Then it was revealed that he had never actually slept with either woman and both were in fact lesbians. Maybe there was something to those rumors after all.

When Valentino was rushed to the hospital, word of his illness quickly spread. Female fans flocked to the site, hoping to catch a glimpse of the famous actor or getting close to him. Fans were so outraged at his death that some fans even committed suicide out of grief. The funeral was private and closed to the public, but that didn't stop thousands of people from gathering outside the funeral home to mourn together.

Two women came forward after his death with claims that they were engaged to Valentino: a semi-famous actress by the name of Pola Negri and a lesser known dancer. It would seem like the actor was living up to his playboy reputation all the way up to the end. Not long after the man's body was buried in Hollywood.

The most famous story relating to Rudolph Valentino's death involves the mysterious Lady in Black. The woman began appearing right after his death, always clad in black. She leaves flowers at his tomb and is sometimes seen crying. Even eighty years after his death people still find the flowers at his tomb and sometimes see the mysterious Lady in Black. Is this a special woman in his life, a serious of distraught fans, or maybe the ghost of the original Lady in Black? No one will ever know.

Valentino's death also brought to light rumors of a cursed ring. The actor was rumored to have bought the ring, knowing that it was supposed to be cursed. He wore the ring continuously on the set of one movie that nearly ruined his career. Supposedly he never worse the ring again until days before he died when he decided the stories were lies and put the ring back on.

The story of the cursed ring doesn't end there. Somehow his "fiancée" Negri ended up with the ring and became quite ill herself. She later gave the ring to a man who died a couple of days later. The next owner hid the ring away, but when he finally decided to wear it, he too died.

The next owner experienced nothing strange about the ring and wore it for quite a long time without dying or becoming sick. When the ring was stolen from his home though, the robber was killed just minutes later, with the ring in his possession. The cursed ring was then used in the filming of a biopic about Valentino. You guessed it, the man wearing the ring died from a mysterious disease.

The cursed ring somehow disappeared during the 1960s. It was kept in a locked vault at a Hollywood bank, but no one knows exactly what happened to it. Maybe someone destroyed the ring, hoping to end the supposed curse. Then again, someone might be wearing it right now without knowing its history.

Then there are the number of ghosts and haunted spots relating to good old Rudolph. His spirit supposedly haunts the home he was living in when he died. The house was called Falcon's Lair and was later owned by a number of Hollywood celebrities. A number of those people claimed to see his ghost in the house. Valentino's ghost is also rumored to haunt Valentino Place, an apartment building that was also a prohibition era bar. Residents have found the man's ghost in their bedroom late at night.

Valentino has a busy ghost since he also supposedly haunts two other locations. One is the Santa Maria Inn where he had a favorite suite that he often stayed at. The other is a home he owned and lived in while working. In both places people have seen his ghost roaming around and looking like he was happy.

It looks like this is one ghost that isn't yet ready to move on. Maybe he's waiting to find his mysterious Lady in Black...


Monday, July 23, 2012


The age of the movie musical died when rock n roll took hold of the young people in the late 1950s. Hollywood was the last one to admit its death, and studios kept on making big budgeted and overblown musicals. For the most part, Hollywood in the 1960s and 1970s got their ideas for musicals from broadway. Broadway still produced the musicals of high quality that used to be the speciality for the movie musicals. When the musical "Hello Dolly" debuted on broadway in 1964, it was only a matter of time before this blockbuster show was given the Hollywood treatment. Unfortunately, the Hello Dolly that was made on film was not the Hello Dolly on broadway. It was expensive, unsuccessful, and cost 20th Century Fox a lot of money that they did not have.

The film grew out of a massive attempt by 20th Century Fox to duplicate its earlier, unprecedented success with The Sound of Music by producing three expensive, large-scale musicals over a period of three years, Doctor Dolittle and Star! being the others. Unfortunately, film attendance as a whole was down and all three films' box-office performance reflected this. All were released amid massive pre-release publicity and all lost equally massive amounts of money for the studio (though "Dolly" was in the box office top 5 for the year of its release). The result was that several top studio executives lost their jobs, and the studio itself went into such dire financial straits that it only produced one picture for the entire calendar year of 1970. In truth, Fox would never recoup its losses until a highly successful theatrical reissue of "The Sound of Music" in early 1973.

The key problem that many people express with “Hello, Dolly!” was the unlikely casting of Barbra Streisand in the eponymous role of the 1890s matchmaker Dolly Levi. The role, of course, was conceived for a late-middle-aged woman – Carol Channing famously originated the part on Broadway, while Mary Martin starred in the West End premiere. A skein of old-time movie queens played the role in the post-Channing Broadway run and in various touring companies, including Ginger Rogers, Martha Raye, Betty Grable, and Dorothy Lamour. Offbeat casting included Pearl Bailey in an all-black Broadway version plus comic actresses Phyllis Diller, Dora Bryan and Molly Picon in other stage versions.

Streisand, however, was 27 when Ernest Lehman signed her for the film version. Lehman would later state he initially considered Channing for the film, but he was concerned about her spotty track record as a film performer. After viewing Channing’s performance in the 1967 film “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” he felt that the star’s stage-bound vivacity could not translate into a motion picture. Ironically, Streisand had even less film experience than Channing – her one film at that point was the adaptation of her Broadway hit “Funny Girl,” but that was still in post-production when she was signed to play Dolly Levi.

For her part, Streisand was surprised at the offer – oddly, she thought the role would be best suited for Elizabeth Taylor, even though the two-time Oscar-winner was years removed from late middle age and possessed no musical abilities (a fact that was cruelly confirmed a decade later with the film of “A Little Night Music”).

Streisand reportedly did not get along with her co-star Walter Matthau, who was cast as the curmudgeonly “half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder that Dolly recklessly pursues. Whatever friction took place off-screen may have helped fuel their respective performances. A critical eye can dissect their joint scenes and witness how they try to upstage each other – a Matthau grimace is met with a Streisand eye roll, met in turn by a Matthau scowl, and so forth. Not surprisingly, the film shows slight signs of lethargy whenever either star is not present. During filming, Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau fought bitterly. He disliked her so intensely that he refused to be around her except when required to do so by the script. He is famously quoted as telling Barbra that she "had no more talent than a butterfly's fart".

“Hello, Dolly!” came at the tail end of an era where studios spared no expense in putting on an extravaganza. In this pre-CGI era, the recreation of 1890s New York was achieved by actually recreating the city’s downtown skyline. The song “Before the Parade Passes By,” takes the metaphoric link between fading opportunities and an expiring march, and visualizes it with a magnificent display of colorful floats and period-clad marchers and spectators. The film was shot in the wide screen 65mm Todd-AO format, and much of its original visual pizzazz is lost when viewed in today’s letterboxed DVD screen. The director, Gene Kelly was a tremendous dancer and choreographer as everyone knows, but his directing style is seemingly overblown and a little bit too elaborate for 1969 audiences.

What we also forget is that while today’s film scholars would peg “Bonnie and Clyde” or “Easy Rider” as symbolizing their era, the audiences of four decades ago actually sought out the traditional productions – the so-called groundbreaking efforts could be counted on fingers, and the top grossing U.S. film of 1969 was not “Easy Rider,” but was Disney’s non-cutting edge romp “The Love Bug.”

Indeed, detractors love to insist out that “Hello, Dolly!” was not a commercial success at the time of its release. Indeed, it only earned back $18 million of its $24 million budget (quite a princely sum for 1969). What is not mentioned, however, is that when the film was in wide release during 1970, it was among the year’s top ten grossing films; it later recouped its costs through international theatrical, television and home video sales.

There were some good moments in "Hello, Dolly!" though. Louis Armstrong, who had the biggest hit of the title song, joined Streisand for the performance of the title song. He was only on the screen for a few minutes, and he did it all in one take, but it was the best part of the film. Streisand's voice is very vibrant and appealing, which makes up for a twentysomething actress playing the older matchmaker Dolly Levi. The film did not hurt Streisand's career, but it did hurt 20th Century Fox, the directing career of Gene Kelly, and movie musicals as a whole. With "Hello, Dolly" a big upcoming young star and an overblown lavish budget did not spell box office success...

Friday, July 20, 2012


Most of my top five lists are of my personal favorites, but I thought it would be interesting and thought provoking to make a list of something more negative. I made a list of who I believe are the top five most overrated actors in classic Hollywood. Now, all of the actors on the list have much more talent than I do. I am not saying they did not have talent, but in my opinion they were just overrated. Let me know what you think...

5. ERROL FLYNN (1909-1959)
I think the problem I have with Errol Flynn is I do not care much for the swashbuckler type film that he was famous for in the late 1930s and early 1940s. He was the bad boy Russell Crowe of his day, but I just could never get into Flynn. His personal life and problems I think were much more interesting than any film he ever made.

4. JAMES DEAN (1931-1955)
This may be a controversial view to have, but I feel that actor James Dean was famous because he died. I do not think he would have had the staying power to make it in Hollywood. Yes, he made four popular films, but I still prefer other actors of his day like Paul Newman and Steve McQueen much more. Dean had a look that is forever frozen in time because of his death. He had the look, but I did not see the ability so much.

3. VICTOR MATURE (1913-1999)
Again, I feel that Victor Mature was another actor who made it because of his looks. He made some interesting movies and some pretty bad movies. Has anyone ever seen "Red,Hot,And Blue"(1949) with Mature and Betty Hutton - a real stinker of a movie. As Mature aged, he kept his looks for most of his life but his movie career basically ended by the 1960s. He was perfect person to play Samson in "Samson And Delilah"(1949) with Susan Hayward, but I could not see Victor Mature playing Hamlet.

2. WARREN BEATTY (born 1937)
I have seen interviews through the years that Warren Beatty has done, and personally I just do not like the man. I have tried to sit through a Warren Beatty movie - everything from "Bonnie And Clyde" (1967) to "Dick Tracy"(1990), and I just can not do it. Beatty looks like he does not care what the audiences think. A lot of people flocked to his movies back in the day, but he has been mostly retired since 2000. Maybe it's for the best, if his personality is anything I think it is like - he probably does not want to be viewed as an aging actor who once made it big in tinsel town.

1. RICHARD BURTON (1925-1984)
There are people I see in my every day life that make my skin just itch. Richard Burton is one of those people on the screen who when I see him, I feel dirty and have to itch. Burton just looks simply dirty to me. Even just seeing him on film, I picture his breath smelling like the dinner and booze he had the night before. There has never been a movie I have been able to sit through with him in it. Like many of the stars I picked for the list, Burton was very popular in Hollywood, and his marriage to Elizabeth Taylor was more legendary than any movie he made. However, I do not understand his appeal. Yes, he was British but there were much better British actors out there from Laurence Olivier to James Mason. That is why I picked Richard Burton as the most overrated actor I know...

Any comments...opinions...additions to the list?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


One of my favorite character actors that died way too young was Jack Carson. His acting was wasted at Warner Brothers for much of his career, but he did make some memorable appearances in classics like: "Arsenic And Old Lace" (1944), "Mildred Pierce" (1945), and "A Star Is Born" (1954). Some of his roles might have been small but his ability was massive. Carson's trademark was the wisecracking know it all who eventually and typically was undone by his own excessive self-confidence.

Carson was born in Carman, Manitoba on October 27, 1910 to Elmer and Elsa Carson. Shortly afterwards the family moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which he always thought of as his home town, although there is no known evidence confirming that he took out United States citizenship. He attended high school at Hartford School, Milwaukee and St. John's Military Academy, Delafield, but it was while attending Carleton College that he developed a taste for acting.

Jack Carson, because of his size — 6 ft 2 in (1.9 m) and 220 lb (100 kg), had his first stage appearance as Hercules in a college production. During a performance, he tripped and took half the set with him. A college friend, Dave Willock, thought it was so funny he persuaded Carson to team with him in a vaudeville act—Willock and Carson—and a new career began. This piece of unplanned business would be typical of the sorts of things that tended to happen to Carson during some of his film roles.

During the 1930s, as vaudeville went into decline owing to increased competition from radio and the movies, Willock and Carson sought work in Hollywood. Carson initially landed bit roles at RKO Radio Pictures, including a bit part in Bringing Up Baby (1938), starring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. The radio also proved to be a source of employment for the team following a 1938 appearance on the Kraft Music Hall during Bing Crosby's period as program host. This led to a number of other appearances which would culminate in Carson's own radio show in 1943.

From 1950-51, Carson was one of four alternating hosts of the NBC Television program 4 Star Revue, along with other hosts Jimmy Durante, Ed Wynn. and Danny Thomas. The show aired Wednesday evenings. Carson's second season was his last with the comedy-variety program when its title was changed to All Star Revue.

Carson's radio success on radio led to the start of a lucrative film career. An early stand-out role for Carson was as an undercover G-Man feigning drunkenness opposite Richard Cromwell in Universal Pictures's anti-Nazi action drama entitled, Enemy Agent. Carson shortly thereafter achieved contract-player status with Warner Brothers. While there, he was teamed with Dennis Morgan in a number of films, supposedly to compete with the popular Crosby and Hope road pictures.

However, despite this auspicious beginning, most of his work at Warner Brothers was limited to light comedies with Morgan and later with Doris Day (who in her autobiography would credit Carson as one of her early Hollywood mentors). Critics generally agree that Carson's best work was in Mildred Pierce (1945) where he played the perpetually scheming Wally Fay opposite Joan Crawford in the title role. Another role which won accolades for Carson was publicist Matt Libby in A Star is Born (1954).

Carson's work during this period included a number of appearances on television including The Martha Raye Show, The Guy Mitchell Show and The Polly Bergen Show (both 1957), Alcoa Theatre (1959), Bonanza (Season 1, Ep.9: "Mr. Henry Comstock", 1959), and The Twilight Zone (Season 2, Ep. 14: "The Whole Truth", 1961). Jack Carson also had a brother Robert (Bob) who was a character actor.

In 1962, while rehearsing the Broadway play Critic's Choice, he collapsed and was subsequently diagnosed with stomach cancer. Carson died in Encino in 1963, aged 52. The early death of the burly Carson, whose screen image was one of energy and vitality, made front page news, along with the death of fellow actor and good friend Dick Powell. He was entombed in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery. He has been gone nearly fifty years, but Jack Carson's talent lives on in the great character roles and movies he left behind...

Monday, July 16, 2012


Last year I posted some pictures of odd Hollywood pairings, or at least unusual ones that you are not always used to seeing. I dug up a few more different pairings that I think are interesting. Only in Hollywood...








Sunday, July 15, 2012


Celeste Holm, a versatile, bright-eyed blonde who soared to Broadway fame in "Oklahoma!" and won an Oscar in "Gentleman's Agreement" but whose last years were filled with financial difficulty and estrangement from her sons, died Sunday, a relative said. She was 95.

Holm had been hospitalized about two weeks ago with dehydration after a fire in actor Robert De Niro's apartment in the same Manhattan building. She had asked her husband on Friday to bring her home, and she spent her final days with her husband, Frank Basile, and other relatives and close friends by her side, said Amy Phillips, a great-niece of Holm's who answered the phone at Holm's apartment on Sunday.

Holm died around 3:30 a.m. at her longtime apartment on Central Park West, Phillips said.

"I think she wanted to be here, in her home, among her things, with people who loved her," she said.

In a career that spanned more than half a century, Holm played everyone from Ado Annie — the girl who just can't say no in "Oklahoma!"— to a worldly theatrical agent in the 1991 comedy "I Hate Hamlet" to guest star turns on TV shows such as "Fantasy Island" and "Love Boat II" to Bette Davis' best friend in"All About Eve."

She won the Academy Award in 1947 for best supporting actress for her performance in "Gentlemen's Agreement" and received Oscar nominations for "Come to the Stable" (1949) and "All About Eve" (1950).

Holm was also known for her untiring charity work — at one time she served on nine boards — and was a board member emeritus of the National Mental Health Association.

She was once president of the Creative Arts Rehabilitation Center, which treats emotionally disturbed people using arts therapies. Over the years, she raised $20,000 for UNICEF by charging 50 cents apiece for autographs.

President Ronald Reagan appointed her to a six-year term on the National Council on the Arts in 1982. In New York, she was active in the Save the Theatres Committee and was once arrested during a vigorous protest against the demolition of several theaters.

But late in her life she was in a bitter, multi-year legal family battle that pitted her two sons against her and her fifth husband — former waiter Basile, whom she married in 2004 and was more than 45 years her junior. The court fight over investments and inheritance wiped away much of her savings and left her dependent on Social Security. The actress and her sons no longer spoke, and she was sued for overdue maintenance and legal fees on her Manhattan apartment.

The future Broadway star was born in New York on April 29, 1919, the daughter of Norwegian-born Theodore Holm, who worked for the American branch of Lloyd's of London, and Jean Parke Holm, a painter and writer.

She was smitten by the theater as a 3-year-old when her grandmother took her to see ballerina Anna Pavlova. "There she was, being tossed in midair, caught, no mistakes, no falls. She never knew what an impression she made," Holm recalled years later.

She attended 14 schools growing up, including the Lycee Victor Duryui in Paris when her mother was there for an exhibition of her paintings. She studied ballet for 10 years.

Her first Broadway success came in 1939 in the cast of William Saroyan's "The Time of Your Life." But it was her creation of the role of man-crazy Ado Annie Carnes in the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein musical "Oklahoma!" in 1943 that really impressed the critics.

She only auditioned for the role because of World War II, she said years later. "There was a need for entertainers in Army camps and hospitals. The only way you could do that was if you were singing in something."

Holm was hired by La Vie Parisienne, and later by the Persian Room at the Plaza Hotel to sing to their late-night supper club audiences after the "Oklahoma!" curtain fell.

The slender, blue-eyed blonde moved west to pursue a film career. "Hollywood is a good place to learn how to eat a salad without smearing your lipstick," she would say.

"Oscar Hammerstein told me, 'You won't like it,'" and he was right, she said. Hollywood "was just too artificial. The values are entirely different. That balmy climate is so deceptive." She returned to New York after several years.

Her well-known films included "The Tender Trap" and "High Society" but others were less memorable. "I made two movies I've never even seen," she told an interviewer in 1991.

She attributed her drive to do charity work to her grandparents and parents who "were always volunteers in every direction."

She said she learned first-hand the power of empathy in 1943 when she performed in a ward of mental patients and got a big smile from one man she learned later had been uncommunicative for six months.

"I suddenly realized with a great sense of impact how valuable we are to each other," she said.

In 1979 she was knighted by King Olav of Norway.

In her early 70s, an interviewer asked if she had ever thought of retiring. "No. What for?" she replied. "If people retired, we wouldn't have had Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, John Gielgud ... I think it's very important to hang on as long as we can."

In the 1990s, Holm and Gerald McRainey starred in the CBS's"Promised Land," a spinoff of "Touched by an Angel." In 1995, she joined such stars as Tony Randall and Jerry Stiller to lobby for state funding for the arts in Albany, N.Y. Her last big screen role was as Brendan Fraser's grandmother in the romance "Still Breathing."

Holm was married five times and is survived by two sons and three grandchildren. Her marriage in 1938 to director Ralph Nelson lasted a year but produced a son, Theodor Holm Nelson. In 1940, she married Francis Davies, an English auditor. In 1946, she married airline public relations executive A. Schuyler Dunning and they had a son, Daniel Dunning.

During her fourth marriage, to actor Robert Wesley Addy, whom she married in 1966, the two appeared together on stage when they could. In the mid-1960s, when neither had a project going, they put together a two person show called "Interplay — An Evening of Theater-in-Concert" that toured the United States and was sent abroad by the State Department. Addy died in 1996.

Funeral arrangements for Holm haven't been made. The family is asking that any memorial donations be made to UNICEF or to The Lillian Booth Actors Home of The Actors Fund in Englewood, N.J...


Saturday, July 14, 2012


The name Rick Moranis takes me back to the 1980s when I first started going to the movies. I remember seeing the great comic actor in films such as Strange Brew (1983) and Ghostbusters (1984).

I also recall watching reruns of his television appearances on the Canadian comedy show SCTV and be amazed at his ability. That show introduced the world to the talents of Martin Short, Eugene Levy, John Candy, and Rick Moranis. Unfortunately, Rick Moranis has basically retired from show business.

Moranis was born in Toronto, Ontario, and went to high school at the Sir Sandford Fleming Secondary School. He went to elementary school with Geddy Lee, frontman of the rock band Rush. His career as an entertainer began as a radio disc jockey in the mid-1970s, using the on-air name of "Rick Alan" at three Toronto radio stations. He also did the voice over for a short lived cartoon series on NBC called Gravedale High.

He left the film industry in 1997, six years after the 1991 loss of his wife, Anne, to liver cancer. He later explained that he "pulled out of making movies in about '96 or '97. "I'm a single parent and I just found that it was too difficult to manage raising my kids and doing the traveling involved in making movies. So I took a little bit of a break. And the little bit of a break turned into a longer break, and then I found that I really didn't miss it".

As of 2004, Moranis was on the Advisory Committee for the comedy program at Humber College. In 2005, Moranis released an album titled The Agoraphobic Cowboy, featuring country songs with lyrics which Moranis says follow in the comic tradition of songwriters/singers such as Roger Miller, Kinky Friedman, and Jim Stafford. The album was produced by Tony Scherr, and is distributed through ArtistShare, as well as Moranis' official web site. Commenting on the origins of the songs, he said that in 2003, "out of the blue, I just wrote a bunch of songs. For lack of a better explanation, they’re more country than anything. And I actually demoed four or five of them, and I'm not sure at this point what I’m going to do with them—whether I’m going to fold them into a full-length video or a movie. But, boy, I had a good time doing that".

On December 8, 2005, The Agoraphobic Cowboy was announced as a nominee for the 2006 Grammy for Best Comedy Album. (A previous album by Moranis was entitled You, Me, The Music, and Me (1989)). On February 3, 2006, Moranis performed Press Pound on Late Night with Conan O'Brien and discussed the development of his music career.

In November 2007, Moranis reunited with Dave Thomas for a 24th anniversary special of Bob and Doug McKenzie, titled Bob and Doug McKenzie's 2-4 Anniversary. The duo shot new footage for this special. Thomas subsequently created a new animated Bob and Doug McKenzie series, Bob & Doug, for his company Animax Entertainment. Moranis declined to voice the role of Bob, which was taken over by Dave Coulier, but remains involved in the series as an executive producer.

On June 24, 2008, Moranis declined to come out of retirement to join the other cast members of Ghostbusters in the production of a new video game based on the films. For almost five years, Rick Moranis has been completely removed from Hollywood and the entertainment industry. Due to overcoming great loss, Moranis realized what was important to him, and a life in Hollywood was not it...

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Nat King Cole's widow, Maria Hawkins Cole, dies of cancer, aged 89

Nat King Cole's widow, Maria Hawkins Cole, has died in South Florida after a short battle with cancer, aged 89.

The Associated Press cited a family representative as confirming that Maria Cole died Tuesday at a Boca Raton nursing home.

Her daughter, nine-time Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Natalie Cole, tweeted:

"I just want to thank everyone for their prayers & loving support. Mom has passed, gone to glory, July 10th 2012. She will be next to Dad at Forest Lawn. — Natalie Cole (@NatMCole) July 12, 2012"

Nat King Cole, who died in 1965 — also of cancer — at the age of 45, was buried at the Glendale, California cemetery along with such "Golden Age" Hollywood stars as Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Jean Harlow, Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn and Spencer Tracy.

Maria Cole, born in Boston in 1922, moved to North Carolina to stay with an aunt after her mother died, but later moved to New York to pursue a musical career.

She married a Tuskegee Airmen flyer, Spurgeon Ellington, in 1947, who was killed in Georgia two years later during a routine postwar training flight, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

After performing briefly with Count Basie and swing innovator Fletcher Henderson, Maria Cole was hired by Ellington as a vocalist with his orchestra. She worked for him until 1946, when she embarked on a solo career and was performing at Club Zanzibar when she met Nat King Cole. She married him on Easter Sunday in 1948 at Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church.

The ceremony, just six days after Nat's divorce from his first wife became final, was administered by then-U.S. Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

Maria Cole traveled and performed with Nat King Cole throughout the '50s. After he died, she established the Cole Cancer Foundation.

A statement by Natalie Cole with her twin sisters Timolin and Casey Cole, cited by the AP, read: "Our mom was in a class all by herself. She epitomized, class, elegance, and truly defined what it is to be a real lady. ... She died how she lived — with great strength, courage and dignity, surrounded by her loving family."



It is hard to believe that one of the greatest comedian and actors of all time, Jackie Gleason has been gone now for 25 years. This story of Gleason was featured in People magazine at the time of his death on July 13, 1987. Twenty five years later, Gleason is still missed, and his talent will never be repeated or seen again...

Save a table for me, pal." With this wry but heartfelt scribble, sent along with flowers, Jackie Gleason said au revoir to his best friend, Toots Shor, the Manhattan tavern keeper, who died in 1977. Just over a week ago Gleason arrived to claim his reservation. After a three-month battle with cancer of the colon, the Volkswagen-shaped leprechaun who reigned as Mr. Saturday Night during the Golden Age of TV comedy died peacefully at home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 71. "If God wants another joke man," he said just before the end, "I'm ready."

Two days later, while tapes of Melancholy Serenade and other Gleason compositions played softly in the background, some 2,000 mourners filed past his closed casket in a Miami funeral parlor. The next day family and close friends prayed for his soul at a requiem Mass. Geraldine and Linda, Gleason's daughters by his first wife, were there with his widow, Marilyn, and drove with her to Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery. Audrey Meadows, Gleason's co-star in The Honeymooners, was the only famous performer who showed up at the service, but Art Carney, Jackie's close friend and comic sidekick, sent flowers. So did Perry Como, Mickey Rooney and Bob Hope, who spoke for millions when he said: "Jackie was a supercomic, bigger than life as a talent and as a man."

Gleason would surely have agreed. Orson Welles dubbed him "The Great One," and he wore the epithet as proudly as an emperor wears ermine, charming and tickling and bullying us until we took him at his own measure. Gross in physique, gargantuan in gourmandise, oceanic in liquid capacity, prodigal of purse, a fire hose of libido and a Niagara of comic invention, the B man was excess personified and § one of the great entertainers of the I age. He was the last of the dear mad I Irishmen who from Finley Peter Dunne (Mr. Dooley) to Frank Fay to Fred Allen have made America laugh at their inspired shenanigans, and he died in an Indian summer of his renown. Yet another generation has fallen in love with his finest work, The Honeymooners, and it is in that vintage series, more than anywhere else, that we can still feel the beating of his big, crazy heart.

Who would have imagined that such a wild Irishman would live to enjoy a happy old age? But he did. He persuaded Gen at last to give him that divorce, weathered another unworkable marriage, this time to ex-secretary Beverly McKittrick, and in 1975 finally wed the widow of his dreams: his old girlfriend Marilyn. Their golden years were not without dark moments—in 1978 Gleason had a triple bypass operation. But he restrained his lust for lunch, had an eye job and a chin tuck, made MasterCard commercials, played the steaming sheriff in the Smokey and the Bandit movies, grew a riverboat-gambler mustache that crawled across his face like a hairy, black caterpillar, built up a multimillion-dollar estate and basked in the afterglow of mass adoration.

What revived the glory that was Gleason? In recent years a creeping fascination with The Honeymooners has become a national addiction. Since they first went into reruns, back in 1958, the 39 episodes Gleason telecast in 1955-56 have never been off the air. Now aired by 100 stations worldwide, the skits have been shown more than 100 times in some areas. In 1985 Gleason gave his Honeymoonies—who have set up the Royal Association for the Longevity and Preservation of The Honeymooners(R.A.L.P.H.)—a massive bonus of delight. He revealed the existence of "lost" kinescopes of The Jackie Gleason Show, including Honeymooners sketches first telecast between '52 and '57, that had sat unseen for 30 years in a refrigerated vault. For a sum in excess of $5 million, he sold distribution rights to Viacom Enterprises. Edited into 70 new episodes of The Honeymooners, the shows were aired on Showtime in 1986 and then released for syndication.

It's a grand legacy, befitting a grand Irish life. "Almost everything I wanted to do," he said not long ago, "I've been able to do, and most of it turned out pretty good. Everybody's been damn nice to me."

And how would he like to be remembered? "Aw, hell. I'd just like to be remembered."

That he will be...


Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Last month was the 90th birthday of Judy Garland. I must admit though she is not one of my favorite actresses. I do enjoy her movies, but I like the fresh faced kid of The Wizard of Oz and Andy Hardy movies. I would say anything before she was kicked out of MGM in 1950 was more to my liking than the worn out and strung out Garland of the late 1950s and 1960s. One of my all-time favorite musicals, and one of the first movies I saw Garland in was "For Me And My Gal".

"For Me and My Gal" is a 1942 American musical film directed by Busby Berkeley and starring Judy Garland, Gene Kelly – in his screen debut – and George Murphy, and featuring Martha Eggerth and Ben Blue. The film was written by Richard Sherman, Fred F. Finklehoffe and Sid Silvers, based on a story by Howard Emmett Rogers inspired by a true story about vaudeville actors Harry Palmer and Jo Hayden, when Palmer was drafted into World War I. It was a production of the Arthur Freed unit at MGM.

For Me and My Gal marked the first real "adult" role for the nineteen-year-old Judy Garland, who had played juvenile parts until then, many of them opposite Mickey Rooney. The original script had called for Harry Palmer to be involved with two women, a singer, which was to be Garland's role, and a dancer, who would have most of the dramatic scenes, but acting coach Stella Adler, who was an advisor to MGM at the time, suggested to producer Arthur Freed that the two roles be combined, and that Garland be given the part. Adler also suggested Gene Kelly for the lead.

Kelly was 29 years old at the time, and had made a mark on Broadway as the star of Pal Joey and the choreographer of Best Foot Forward. When David O. Selznick signed him to a film contract, Kelly's intention was to return to Broadway after fulfilling his contractual obligation, but he ended up staying in Hollywood for a year because Selznick didn't have a role for him. When Arthur Freed inquired about getting Kelly for For Me and My Gal, Selznick handed over the contract, and Kelly got the part, over the objections of Freed's bosses at MGM. The casting of Kelly meant that George Murphy, who was originally going to play "Harry Palmer", was switched to playing "Jimmy Metcalf".

Gene Kelly and Judy Garland got along well – she had been in favor of his getting the part, and during shooting she helped Kelly adjust his stage acting for films, and backed him in disagreements with director Busby Berkeley, whom she did not like. Kelly and Garland went on to star together in two other films, The Pirate (1948) and Summer Stock (1950).

The film was also the American motion picture debut of Hungarian singer Martha Eggerth, who had appeared in over thirty films in Germany. Her career in Hollywood did not last long: she appeared in only two other American films.

For Me and My Gal had an estimated budget of $803,000, and was in production at MGM's Culver City studios from 3 April until 23 May 1942, with additional scenes shot in June. Working titles for the film while it was in production were "My and My Gal" and "The Big Time".

When the film was initially previewed, the audience was dissatisfied with the ending: they thought that Jo (Garland) should end up with Jimmy (Murphy) rather than Harry (Kelly). This prompted Louis B. Mayer to order three weeks of additional shooting to give Kelly's character more of a conscience and to reduce Murphy's presence in the film. It was also interesting to note that all of the stars were ten years apart in ages: George Murphy was born in 1902, Gene Kelly in 1912, and Garland in 1922. Murphy had appeared with Judy as her father in "Little Nellie Kelly"(1940).

I remember my grandfather telling me that the first movie he ever saw in theaters was "For Me And My Gal" when he was 14. In turn my grandfather had fun introducing the movie to me when I was younger. I did not care that all of the songs sung in the film were even old by 1942 standards. Now when I watched this movie last month, my two year old son was "Ballin The Jack" right with Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. That alone warrants giving a movie 10 out 10, but add the tear jerking moments of the film, and it is a true classic musical that I can not miss when it is on...


Sunday, July 8, 2012


Oscar-winning film star Ernest Borgnine dies in LA at age 95
By Associated Press

Ernest Borgnine, who won the best-actor Oscar as a lovesick butcher in "Marty" in 1955, died Sunday. He was 95.

His longtime spokesman, Harry Flynn, told The Associated Press that Borgnine died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles with his family by his side.

A prolific and talented character actor, Borgnine was known for gruff, villainous roles such as the heavy who beats up Frank Sinatra in "From Here to Eternity" and one of the bad guys who harasses Spencer Tracy in "Bad Day at Black Rock."

Borgnine, who earned a salary of $5,000 for playing his Academy-Award winning role as Marty, once said "I would have done it for nothing."

He was also known as the Navy officer in the television series "McHale's Navy," which aired from 1962-66. Borgnine earned an Emmy Award nomination at age 92 for his work on the series "ER."

"The Oscar made me a star, and I'm grateful," Borgnine told an interviewer in 1966, according to AP. "But I feel had I not won the Oscar I wouldn't have gotten into the messes I did in my personal life."

The actor was married five times, including to singer Ethel Merman, who became his third wife in 1964. The marriage barely lasted a month.

Borgnine is survived by his fifth wife, Tova Traesnaes — whom he married in 1973 — son Christopher and daughters Sharon and Diana.