Thursday, December 31, 2015


It is hard to believe that the year 2015 is in the past now. As with every year, we have lost some great people in the entertainment world. Although this is not a complete list, I want to highlight some of the major people we lost this past year. They are gone but never forgotten...

Christopher Lee

Legendary actor Christopher Lee died of heart failure on June 7th at the age of 93. He was an English actor, singer and author. With a career spanning nearly 70 years, Lee initially portrayed villains and became best known for his role as Count Dracula in a sequence of Hammer Horror films. Lee's first film for Hammer was The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), in which he played Frankenstein's monster, with Peter Cushing as Baron Victor Frankenstein. It was the first film in which Lee and Cushing were co-stars, and ultimately appeared together in over twenty films and became close friends.His other film roles include Francisco Scaramanga in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), Saruman in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy (2001–2003) and The Hobbit film trilogy (2012–2014), and Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus in the final two films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy (2002 and 2005) and Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008).

Television actor Al Molinaro died on October 30th at the age of 96. He was known for his television sitcom roles as Al Delvecchio on Happy Days from 1974 to 1984 and Murray Greshler on The Odd Couple from 1970-1975. He also starred in TV commercials for On-Cor frozen dinners for 16 years.

Actor Rod Taylor died of a heart attack at the age of 84 on January 8th. Taylor's big breakthrough came with his starring turn in The Time Machine, director George Pal's 1960 adaptation of the H. G. Wells 1895 sci-fi classic.He also played the heroic Mitch Brenner in Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 classic The Birds, coming to the aid of Tippi Hedren, and he starred opposite Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in another 1963 release, The V.I.P.s. Most recently, he played Winston Churchill in Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds (2009).

Television actress Marjorie Lord died on November 28th at the age of 97. She played Kathy "Clancy" Williams, opposite Danny Thomas's character on Make Room for Daddy from 1956 to 1964 and later Make Room for Granddaddy from 1970 to 1971.She also appeared sporadically in movies, and she played opposite Bob Hope in the comedy Boy, Did I Get A Wrong Number in 1966.

Leonard Nimoy

Actor Leonard Nimoy died of  chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on February 27th at the age of 83. In 1965, he made his first appearance in the rejected Star Trek pilot The Cage, and went on to play the character of Mr. Spock until 1969, followed by eight feature films and guest slots in the various spin-off series. More recently, he also had a recurring role in the science fiction series Fringe. He played the elder Spock in the 2009 Star Trek movie and reprised the role in a brief appearance in the 2013 sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness.

Actor Louis Jourdan died on February 14 at the age of 93. He was a French film and television actor. He was known for his suave roles in several Hollywood films, including The Paradine Case (1947), Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), Gigi (1958), The Best of Everything (1959), The V.I.P.s (1963) and Octopussy (1983).

Television actress Donna Douglas died at the age of 81 on January 1st of pancreatic cancer. She was known for her role as Elly May Clampett in CBS's The Beverly Hillbillies (1962–1971). Following her acting career, Douglas became a real estate agent, a Gospel singer and inspirational speaker, and authored books for children and adults.

Director and writer Wes Craven died on August 30th at the age of 76. He was best known for creating the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise featuring the Freddy Krueger character, directing the first installment and Wes Craven's New Nightmare, and co-writing A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors with Bruce Wagner. Craven also directed all four films in the Scream series, and co-created the Ghostface character. Some of his other films include The Hills Have Eyes, The Last House on the Left, Red Eye and My Soul to Take.

Singer and actress Monica Lewis died at the age of 93 on June 12th. With the help of Benny Goodman she began to establish her career through nationally broadcast shows such as The Revere Camera Show and Beat the Band. In 1947 Lewis started providing the singing voice for "Miss Chiquita Banana," a cartoon television commercial character. In 1948 she appeared in the first ever Ed Sullivan Show, and she later appeared in some 1970s disaster films such as Earthquake (1974), Rollercoaster (1977), and both Airport '77 (1977) and The Concorde ... Airport '79 (1979).

Joan Leslie

Actress Joan Leslie died on October 12, 2015 at the age of 90. She was a dancer and vaudevillian who, during the Hollywood Golden Age, appeared in such films as High Sierra (1941) , Sergeant York (1941) and Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) - all before the age of 20. Her last film was The Revolt of Mamie Stover in 1956, but she remained active in appearances at various classic movie conventions.

Movie producer Samuel Goldwyn Jr. died of heart failure at the age of 88 on January 9th. Mr. Goldwyn was credited with giving Julia Roberts her big break in Mystic Pizza in 1988.  His final producing credit came in December of 2013 with the release of  The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, starring and directed by Ben Stiller, a remake of one of his father’s biggest hits. His father was studio mogul Samuel Goldwyn (1879-1974).

Singer Lesley Gore died of cancer on February 16th at the age of 68.  At the age of 16, in 1963, she recorded the pop hit "It's My Party", and followed it up with other hits including "Judy's Turn to Cry" and "You Don't Own Me". Gore also worked as an actress and composed songs with her brother Michael Gore for the 1980 film Fame, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award.

Actor James Best died of pneumonia at the age of 88 on April 6th. He was an American actor, who in six decades of television is best known for his starring role as bumbling Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane in the CBS television series The Dukes of Hazzard from 1979 to 1985. He also worked as an acting coach, artist, college professor, and musician. His last role was in the TV movie, The Sweeter Side of Life in a 2013.

Sex symbol Anita Ekberg died of undisclosed causes on January 11th at the age of 83. Anita was a Swedish-born Italian actress, model, and sex symbol. She is best known for her role as Sylvia in the Federico Fellini film La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life, 1960), which features a scene of her cavorting in Rome's Trevi Fountain alongside Marcello Mastroianni.

Actress Coleen Gray died on August 3rd at the age of 92. She was best known for her roles in the films Nightmare Alley (1947), Red River (1948), and Stanley Kubrick's The Killing (1956). A film noir beauty, she could also play light hearted roles like the role of Bing Crosby's love interest in the 1950 Frank Capra musical Riding High.

Actor Gary Owens died at the age of 80 on February 12th. He will be best remembered as the announcer for the TV series "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" from 1968 to 1973. His popularity and distinctive voice was suited well for animated TV programs such as "Space Ghost" (1966), "Yogi's Space Race" (1978), as well as many others.

Lizabeth Scott

Actress Lizabeth Scott died of heart failure at the age of 92 on January 31st. Scott was known for her deep voice and smoky sensual looks. After performing the Sabina role in the first Broadway and Boston stage productions of The Skin of Our Teeth, she emerged internationally in such film noirs as The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946),  Dead Reckoning (1947)  Desert Fury (1948)  and Too Late for Tears (1949). No other actress has appeared in more film noir. Of her 22 feature films, she was leading lady in all but one. In addition to stage and radio, she appeared on television from the late 1940s to early 1970s.

Character actor Robert Loggia died on December 4th. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Jagged Edge (1985). Other notable appearances include An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), Scarface (1983), Prizzi's Honor (1985), Big (1988), Independence Day (1996), and Lost Highway (1997), as well as television series such as The Sopranos. Despite suffering from Alzheimer's Disease, Loggia continued to make movies through this year.

Actress Anne Meara died on May 23rd at the age of 85. Along with her husband Jerry Stiller, she was half of the Stiller and Meara comedy team. They gained national attention during the 1960s with the aid of numerous appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show". Highly versatile, she experienced an extensive career on stage and was the recipient of an Obie Award for her performance in "Madchen in Uniform" (1955). She was the mother of actress Amy Stiller and actor Ben Stiller.

Actor Dean Jones died at the age of 84 on September 1st. Jones was an American actor best known for his light-hearted leading roles in several Walt Disney films between 1965 and 1977, such as The Love Bug (1968). Jones also originated the role of Bobby in Stephen Sondheim's Company. Jones also appeared in a small role as Director of Central Intelligence Judge Arthur Moore in the film adaptation of Tom Clancy's Clear and Present Danger (1994), which starred Harrison Ford.

Music producer and historian Ken Barnes died on August 4th at the age of 82. Ken produced a series of successful records that Bing Crosby made in the 1970s. In 1974, he convinced Johnny Mercer to record a two-disk collection of Mercer singing Mercer - with Johnny selecting his own favorites. These were the last recordings made by Mercer before his death in 1976. He was also the founder and CEO of The Laureate Company, a music and movie restoration company.

Maureen Stapleton

Actress Maureen O'Hara died at the age of 95 on October 24th. From an early age, she wanted to become an actress and took lessons. She was given a screen test, which was deemed unsatisfactory, but Charles Laughton saw something in her when he later saw it. He arranged for her to co-star with him in the Alfred Hitchcock 1939 British film Jamaica Inn. She also co-starred with him in the Hollywood production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, released the same year.  She made a number of films with John Wayne – the actor with whom she is most closely associated – and director John Ford, often both together in the same production, including The Quiet Man (1952). She also starred in swashbucklers such as The Black Swan (1942), opposite Tyrone Power, and Sinbad the Sailor (1947), with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., as well as the Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street (1947), with John Payne, Natalie Wood, and Edmund Gwenn.

May these great entertainers and all of the people we have lost in 2015 rest in peace and may their contributions to the world never be forgotten...

Monday, December 28, 2015


Can you believe it is Christmas again already? Well, I figured I would dust off my copy of 1954's White Christmas and watch it to get into the Christmas spirit! White Christmas is a 1954 American musical romantic comedy film directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen. Filmed in Technicolor, White Christmas features the songs of Irving Berlin, including the title song, "White Christmas". Produced and distributed by Paramount Pictures, the film is notable for being the first to be released in VistaVision, a widescreen process developed by Paramount that entailed using twice the surface area of standard 35mm film; this large-area negative was used to yield finer-grained standard-sized 35mm prints.

On Christmas Eve, 1944, somewhere in Europe, two World War II U.S. Army soldiers, one a Broadway entertainer, Captain Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby), the other an aspiring entertainer, Private Phil Davis (Danny Kaye), perform for the 151st Division. But word has come down that their beloved commanding officer, Major General Thomas F. Waverly (Dean Jagger), is being relieved of command. He arrives for the end of the show and delivers an emotional farewell. The men give him a rousing send-off ("The Old Man").

After the war, Bob and Phil make it big in nightclubs, radio, and then on Broadway, eventually becoming successful producers. They mount their newest hit musical titledPlaying Around. The same day they receive a letter from "Freckle-Faced Haynes, the dog-faced boy," their mess sergeant from the war, asking them to look at an act which his two sisters are doing.  When they go to the club to watch the act ("Sisters"), Phil notices that Bob is smitten with Betty (Rosemary Clooney), while Phil has eyes for her sister, Judy (Vera-Ellen). Betty and Judy join Bob and Phil at their table, and Phil dances with Judy so that Bob and Betty can get to know each other. Phil and Judy hit it off ("The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing").

When the train arrives in Pine Tree, there's not a snowflake in sight, and chances of it falling appear dim. Bob and Phil discover that the inn is run by their former commanding officer, General Waverly. Waverly has invested all of his savings into the lodge, which is in danger of failing because there's no snow and thus no guests. To bring business to the inn, Bob and Phil bring the entire cast and crew of their musical Playing Around, and add in Betty and Judy. Bob and Betty's relationship blooms ("Count Your Blessings") and they spend a good deal of time together. Meanwhile, Bob discovers the General's request to rejoin the army has been rejected. He decides to prove to the General that he isn't forgotten.

Mistakenly believing that her beloved boss will be portrayed as a pitiable figure in a nationwide broadcast, the housekeeper reveals what she heard to a shocked Betty. The misunderstanding causes Betty to grow suddenly cold toward a baffled Bob. Meanwhile, Judy becomes convinced that Betty will never take on a serious relationship until Judy is engaged or married. She pressures a reluctant Phil to announce a phony engagement, but the plan backfires when Betty abruptly departs for New York City to take a job offer.

Phil and Judy reveal to Bob that the engagement was phony, and Bob, still unaware of the real reason behind Betty's coldness, follows Judy to New York. Bob sees Betty's new act ("Love, You Didn't Do Right by Me") and reveals the truth about the engagement, but is called away by Ed Harrison before learning what is really bothering her. Back at the Inn, Phil fakes an injury to distract the General so he won't see the broadcast of Bob's announcement.

On the broadcast, Bob invites veterans of the 151st Division to come to Pine Tree, Vermont, on Christmas Eve ("What Can You Do with a General"). Betty catches Bob's televised pitch and realizes she was mistaken. She returns to Pine Tree in time for the Christmas Eve show. When the General enters the lodge, he is greeted by his former division, who sing a rousing chorus of "The Old Man." Just as the following number ("Gee, I Wish I Was Back in the Army") ends, he learns that snow is finally falling. In the finale, Bob and Betty declare their love for one another, as do Phil and Judy. The background of the set is removed to show the snow falling, everyone raises a glass, and toasts, "May your days be merry and bright; and may all your Christmases be white."

White Christmas is a beloved film these days, even with people who are not Bing Crosby or musical fans. However, Bing himself did not care for the finished film much, and Danny Kaye was the third choice for the film after Fred Astaire turned down the role (his wife was dying of cancer during the filming), Donald O'Connor broke his ankle. Bing and Danny Kaye seemingly meshed pretty good together, and with the age of rock n roll quickly approaching, this film was one of the final reminder of simpler times. For pure nostalgia and to get into the Christmas spirit, then this film is for you...


Friday, December 25, 2015


It is hard to believe that one of my favorite singers, Dean Martin, has been gone now for 20 years. He died on Christmas Day 1995. Although life goes on, Christmas is a little sadder since Dean has been gone. Here is the New York Times obituary from December 26, 1995...

Dean Martin, the sleepy-voiced pop crooner and movie actor who with Jerry Lewis formed one of the most popular comedy teams in movie history, died yesterday at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 78.

The cause was acute respiratory failure, said Mort Viner, his longtime agent and friend.

For nearly four decades Mr. Martin carried on two self-sustaining careers, one as a singer, the other as an actor. In the mid-1960's he also became a popular television star with his own variety show.

As a pop vocalist who brought a slurred, insinuating sensuality to the intimate crooning style popularized by Bing Crosby and Perry Como, he enjoyed a string of hit records including "That's Amore," "Memories Are Made of This," "Return to Me," and "Everybody Loves Somebody."

While Mr. Martin was never considered a serious pop-song interpreter, he was a significant influence on others. The singer, who once said he "copied Bing Crosby 100 percent," was the link between Crosby's and Perry Como's relaxed crooning style and the soft, sultry side of Elvis Presley, who named Mr. Martin a boyhood idol and whose ballad hits like "Love Me Tender" copied Mr. Martin's bedroom-voiced diction.

As an actor, Mr. Martin appeared in 55 films, beginning with "My Friend Irma" in 1949 and ending with "Cannonball Run II" in 1984. His screen career had two distinct phases. Beginning in 1949, he starred with Mr. Lewis in 16 hit comedies, playing the suave straight man to Mr. Lewis's infantile clown. They were direct descendants of the popular 40's duo of Abbott and Costello.

Among Mr. Martin's other important movies were "Some Came Running," "Rio Bravo," "The Sons of Katie Elder" and "The Silencers." "The Silencers" was the first of four spy films in which he played Matt Helm, a James Bond-like smoothie. Despite good reviews for "The Young Lions," he did not pursue a serious film career. Still, in movies like "Sergeants Three," "Four for Texas," and "Robin and the Seven Hoods," which he made with Mr. Sinatra and the clique known as the Rat Pack, Mr. Martin projected an unflappable nonchalance tinged with an amused self-parody.

Within the Rat Pack Mr. Martin was dubbed "the clown prince." One of the popular myths about him -- that he was a heavy drinker who lived in a perpetual alcoholic haze -- was an idea borrowed from Phil Harris and successfully promoted by the star, whose supremely relaxed manner, ad-libbing and slightly blurred diction bolstered the image of hard-drinking sybarite. Although the image was largely an invention, Nick Tosches' 1992 biography of the singer, "Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams," portrayed him as a heavy drinker late in his life.

The son of an Italian immigrant barber, Mr. Martin was born Dino Paul Crocetti on June 7, 1917 in Steubenville, Ohio, and began his singing career in a local spaghetti parlor. As a teen-ager he was an amateur welterweight fighter and later alternated between singing and working as a croupier in nightclubs. He adopted the name Dino Martini when he first sang with the Sammy Watkins Band in Cleveland and shortened it to Dean Martin after meeting Mr. Lewis.

From picture to picture, the Martin and Lewis formula hardly varied. As Mr. Lewis clowned and mugged, Mr. Martin played the amused, fraternally indulgent, faintly patronizing straight man. But their playful screen chemistry did not extend to their personal relationship and, in 1956, while completing their final picture "Hollywood or Bust," they announced their breakup.

Mr. Martin once said that the two biggest turning points in his career were "meeting Jerry Lewis" and "leaving Jerry Lewis."

He became a television star in 1965 when "The Dean Martin Show," a one-hour variety show, began its eight-year run. It was followed by "The Dean Martin Comedy World" and then by a series of celebrity roasts. The show, with its racy ad-libs and air of spontaneity, fixed Mr. Martin's image in the public mind as a genial, slightly soused emcee with a couldn't-care-less attitude.

His recording career was as long and successful as his career in movies. Signed to Capitol Records in 1948, he had 40 singles on Billboard's charts between 1950 and 1969. Three of them -- "That's Amore" (1953), "Memories Are Made of This" (1955) and "Everybody Loves Somebody" (1964) -- were million-sellers, and seven reached the top 10. Between 1964 and 1969 he released 11 albums that were certified "gold," for sales of more than 500,000 copies. All 11 were recorded for Reprise, a label founded by Frank Sinatra in which Mr. Martin was an investor.

"Everybody Loves Somebody," which revitalized his pop singing career in 1964 and was the theme of his television show, was produced by Jimmy Bowen, a top producer of country music during the 1970's. Most of Mr. Martin's later recordings were made in Nashville and had a strong country flavor.

Mr. Martin married three times. He had four children by his first wife, Elizabeth Anne McDonald, whom he married in 1940 and divorced in 1949. His second marriage to Jeanne Riegger lasted 23 years and produced three children, among them Dean Paul (Dino) Martin, who was a member of the 60's teen pop group Dino, Desi and Billy and later an actor. Dino Martin was killed in a plane crash in 1987...

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


In 2014, the 70th anniversary ceremonies honoring the Allied Forces who served and died in Normandy in the summer of 1944 ended, but a small British village quietly observed its own sacrifice made to the ravages of World War II. The residents of Freckleton in northwest England on Saturday saluted the memories of 61 people killed Aug. 23, 1944, when an American bomber undergoing a test flight became entangled in severe weather and nose-dived into the village. Thirty-eight of the fatalities were children ages 4 to 6 who were attending their second day of school for the semester.

Bing Crosby was in England doing a tour with the USO and heard about the tragedy at the school and wanted to visit and talk with some of the surviving children.

One of the three children in the school's toddler wing to survive was Ruby Whittle Currell who was four at the time of the crash. She was taken to the base hospital, burned over 40 to 50 percent of her body.

Ruby was all wrapped up like a mummy, all in gauze and Bing Crosby started talking to her and he asked her, ‘What would you like me to sing?’ and all she knew was "White Christmas."

Crosby tried three times to sing the song by the burned child’s bedside but kept choking up. Finally he walked out into the hall and sang from there.

At first he just couldn’t look at her. After he sang "White Christmas", he came back into the room and apologized. He explained to her that he was not sad at how she looked but upset at what the war was doing. According to Ruby, he pulled out a pen and paper and wrote his address and personal phone number down. He also paid for her extensive hospital bills, which included various operations.

She survived though, and is now 75 years old, but she will never forget how touching and kind Bing Crosby was to her. He wrote to her off and on until his death in October of 1977...


Monday, December 21, 2015


Even though I much prefer the earlier holiday themed musical Holiday Inn (1942), the musical White Christmas is remembered much more. Here are some fun facts about the 1954 movie that you might not know about...

1. White Christmas was intended to reunite Crosby and Fred Astaire for their third Irving Berlin showcase musical. Crosby and Astaire had previously co-starred in Holiday Inn (1942) (of which ‘White Christmas’ was a partial remake) and Blue Skies (1946). Astaire declined the project after reading the script and Danny Kaye would eventually take the role. Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney starred as the leading ladies.

2. Produced by Paramount Pictures, filming took place between Sep. and Nov. 1953. The movie premiered in October of 1954 and Paramount introduced a new mountain in their logo. That mountain would be in use for all Paramount films until the end of 1986.

3. The choreography was directed by an uncredited Bob Fosse. Fosse appears in three dance numbers including a riveting performance in the Abraham number.

4. Vera-Ellen’s singing was dubbed by Trudy Stevens. Clooney’s and Steven’s voices are what is heard in the film. However, when the time came to record the soundtrack album, Rosemary Clooney’s contract with Columbia Records made it impossible for her to participate. Thus, Peggy Lee stepped in. A soundtrack with Crosby, Kaye, Clooney, and Stevens was never made!

5.  The photo Vera-Ellen shows of her brother Benny is actually a photo of Carl Switzer, who played Alfalfa in The Little Rascals, in an army field jacket and helmet liner.

6. At 18 Vera-Ellen was one of the youngest Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, although she was not tall. During the 1950s, she was reputed to have the “smallest waist in Hollywood” and is believed to have suffered from anorexia nervosa. Rumours of her high necked, long sleeved costumes being designed to hide her neck and arms still run rampant. She retired from the screen in 1957 and became more reclusive when her 3 month old daughter Victoria died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in 1963.

7. White Christmas was enormously popular with audiences, taking in $12,000,000 at the box office, making it the top moneymaker for 1954 by a wide margin. Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep won White Christmas an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song...

Saturday, December 19, 2015


There are not many stars left from the 1930s, and one of the most beautiful was/is Mary Carlisle. Mary is 101 now. Born in Los Angeles, California, she starred in several B movie-grade Hollywood films in the 1930s, having been one of fifteen girls selected as "WAMPAS Baby Stars" in 1932. Mary Carlisle was born as Gwendolyn L. Witter on February 3, 1914 in Los Angeles, California. Her mother was Leona Ella Witter (née Wotton).Being born into a religious family, she was educated in a convent in Boston. Her father died when she was four years old. Leona Witter later remarried, to industrialist Henry J. Kaiser.Carlisle and her mother then relocated to Los Angeles, where her uncle lived. He gave her the opportunity to appear in the Jackie Coogan vehicle Long Live the King in 1923.

Carlisle married actor James Edward Blakeley (1910–2007) on March 14, 1942, who later became an executive producer at 20th Century-Fox. Carlisle retired from films shortly after getting married. The couple had one child during their nearly 65-year marriage. In her later life, she was in charge of the Elizabeth Arden Salon in Beverly Hills, California.

On February 8, 1960, aged 46, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. With the deaths of Gloria Stuart (1910-2010) and Barbara Kent (1907-2011), Carlisle became the only surviving "WAMPAS Baby Star".

In later years Mary kept active in current events, and was a glamourous reminder of a forgotten era. She attended a convention honoring Bing Crosby in 2003, and she remained active in Beverly Hills charity events.

Mary currently resides in an assisted living facility, and although in the picture below it looks like she is getting assistance while eating, she is still a beautiful woman. Her beauty is timeless and ageless just like the memories of her saved on film...

Thursday, December 17, 2015


I found this article that I thought would be interesting. It is the last interview that Cary Grant gave in July of 1986 - just four months before his death. To the end he was one of the greatest actors that Hollywood has even known... 

This interview with Mr. Grant was done four months before his death. He did the interview in connection with a film tribute in his honor at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. This is one of the last public conversations with a legend...

KENT SCHUELKE: What was your earliest ambition?
CARY GRANT: My earliest? I don't know, just to keep breathing in and out, I guess. I had no definite ambition. One has to go through one's education before forming thoughts about what one wants to do. Unless you've got some mad ideas about being a fireman or a great boxer or a football player. But I had none of those.

KS: What about acting?
CG: I had no ambition toward acting.

KS: I understand that as a boy you dreamed of traveling on the high seas. Did you want to be a sailor?
CG: Yes. I had an ambition to travel. I was born in a city -- Bristol -- from which there was a great deal of travel. It was a very old city, and in those days the ships came and left all the time from the port. I was constantly interested in what was going on down there and in those ships that took people all over the world.

KS: How did you get started in acting?
CG: Because of my wish to travel, I joined a small troupe of ground acrobats. I first came to New York with the troupe. When the troupe went back to England, I remained here. I liked this country very much, and gradually I got into musicals. In those days, a musical generally only lasted a year, so there weren't very many. But I was in musicals before I came to film.

KS: Young people who weren't even born when you made your last film are now discovering you in your classics. What do you think about that?
CG: I think they have a long life ahead of them. They will make their own choices. I hope for the best for the coming generation, but it doesn't seem to promise too much. But in every century people complain how the world is going. I don't know what the young people think or do; I only hear the emanation of their thoughts -- rock groups and similar noises. But if that's what makes them happy, fine -- as long as they don't do it next to me.

KS: How do you see yourself?
CG: How can I see myself? We are what we are in the opinion of others. It's up to them to make up their minds as to what we are. I can only see myself as a man of 82 who keeps on functioning. I do the best I can under the circumstances in which I've placed myself.

KS: How would you like history to remember you?
CG: As ... "A congenial fellow who didn't rock the boat," I suppose.

KS: Is your life relatively quiet these days?
CG: I live pretty quietly -- but what does one expect a man my age to do?

KS: Is that how you want to live out the rest of your life, quietly in Beverly Hills?
CG: I don't know how long that's going to be -- "the rest of my life" -- but I enjoy what I am doing and, of course, I shall live out my life here unless some extraordinary change suddenly occurs. If I didn't enjoy living in Beverly Hills, then I would move -- I can afford to do that.

KS: What is the most difficult thing about being Cary Grant, the movie star?
CG: I don't consider it difficult being me. The only thing that I wish -- that we all wish -- is that our faces were no longer part of our appearance in public. There's a constant repetition of people approaching me -- either for those idiotic things known as autographs or for something else. That's the only thing I deplore about this particular business.

KS: Do fans still approach you today?
CG: It happens, but not as much as it might to a Robert Redford or some younger, more popular star of today. It gets to be a bore.

KS: Have there been many interesting encounters with your fans?
CG: The people I'd most like to meet are the people who are the least likely to come up to me.

KS: Are you accessible to your fans? Do you interact with them?
CG: I do not care or like to talk to [my fans]. I'm not rude. I try to be as gracious as I can when someone next to me at dinner wants to know how I feel about a leading lady. But I don't answer any letters. I couldn't possibly answer everybody. I can't even attend to my own legal matters. I must receive two sacks of mail every day. So you can't answer the people. You feel rather sorry you can't, especially when there are children concerned, but it can't be done.

KS: Is is true that President Kennedy once telephoned you from the White House just to hear the sound of your voice?
CG: We all knew each other, just as we know our current President, who is a very dear and very friendly man. We [Reagan and Grant] are old friends.

KS: Film students break your films apart and analyze them. Do you think scholars place too much emphasis on films that were made strictly for entertainment?
CG: Oh, yes. A film's a film. As Hitch would say when someone would get all upset on the set, "Come on, fellas, relax -- it's only a movie." Now, if you want to bisect it and tri-sect it and cut it up into little pieces, well, that's up to you. We made them. We didn't know their intentions half the time, except to amuse and attract people to the box office.

KS: What are your memories of working with Alfred Hitchcock?
CG: I have only happy ones. They're all vivid because they're all interesting. It was a great joy to work with Hitch. He was an extraordinary man. I deplore these idiotic books written about him when the man can't defend himself. Even if you defend yourself against that kind of literature, it gets you nowhere.

KS: You worked with some of the most beloved leading ladies in film history. Who was the best actress with whom you worked?
CG: I've worked with many fine actresses. But in my opinion, the best actress I ever worked with was Grace Kelly. Ingrid [Berman], Audrey [Hepburn], and Deborah Kerr were splendid, splendid actresses, but Grace was utterly relaxed -- the most extraordinary actress ever. Her mind was razor-keen, but she was relaxed while she was doing it. I appreciated that. It's not an easy profession, despite what most people think.

KS: Was it disappointing to you that Kelly gave up acting to marry Prince Rainier?
CG: As far as we were concerned, she as a lady, number one, which is rare in our business. Mostly, we have manufactured ladies -- with the exception of Ingrid, Deborah and Audrey. Grace was of that ilk. She was incredibly good, a remarkable woman in every way. And when she quit, she quit because she wanted to.

KS: How was working with Katharine Hepburn?
CG: Marvelous. I worked with her about five times. One doesn't do a thing more than once -- unless you're an idiot -- that one doesn't like.

KS: In the 1950s, you announced that you were retiring from films. The retirement was short-lived, but what made you want to give up films at the height of your career?
CG: I was tired of making films.

KS: How did your friends and colleagues react to your decision?
CG: People say all sorts of things. I gave it up because I got tired of doing it at that point in my life; I had no idea then whether I would resume my career or not. The last time I left, I knew I wouldn't return to it. I enjoyed the profession very much, but I don't miss it a bit.

KS: Has anyone in the movie industry ever told you that your work has influenced the films they've done?
CG: Everybody copies everybody else, if they think you're doing something better than they. Athletes do that; that's evident in baseball scores and the improvement of the hitter today.

KS: How do you respond to the criticism that you never portrayed anyone but yourself in your films?
CG: Well, who else could I portray? I can't portray Bing Crosby; I'm Cary Grant. I'm myself in that role. The most difficult thing is to be yourself -- especially when you know it's going to be seen immediately by 300 million people.

KS: What about the people who say you should have expanded your repertoire to include more "character" roles?
CG: I don't care what people say. I don't take into consideration anything anyone says, including the critics. There's no point: You've made the film, it's done and if they want to criticize it, that's up to them. I don't pay attention to what anybody says -- except perhaps the director, the producer and my fellow actors. But I'm not making films; I haven't made a film in 20 years.

KS: Do you think these people misinterpret what you were trying to do?
CG: I have no concern with what anyone else is thinking -- I can't affect it -- or with what anybody else is saying anywhere in the world at any dinner table tonight. They may be discussing me or somebody else; I don't care. I've nothing to do with it, and I can't control it, so it doesn't matter what people say.

KS: Do you have a favorite film?
CG: Not really. I did them all for a purpose. Sometimes I hoped for better results; sometimes I was surprised by the results.

KS: Why did you leave acting for the business world in the '60s?
CG: Acting became tiresome for me. I had done it. I don't know how much further I might have gone in it. I have no knowledge of that, of course. But I enjoyed going from where I started on to a different world, equally interesting -- perhaps more so...

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Corsier-sur-Vevey (SWITZERLAND) (AFP) - A large crate tucked away in a musky storage room reveals a treasure: a pair of meticulously crafted wings covered with swan feathers made for a final film Charlie Chaplin never completed.

The seminal filmmaker had the surprisingly heavy contraptions made for his daughter Victoria, whom he envisioned in the role of "The Freak" -- a winged girl who brings hope to humanity, but also exposes its deepest flaws.

"It seemed to me to be a very beautiful fairytale. Something that maybe only a man of his age can imagine, can dream. A very charming dream," Chaplin's now 69-year-old son Michael told AFP, his dark eyes sparkling as he recalls reading his father's script back in the 1970s.

Comic genius Charlie Chaplin, whose iconic films like "The Kid", "Modern Times", "The Great Dictator" and "City Lights" are admired and loved the world over, was planning something very different for what he intended to be his last picture.

A book published this week in Switzerland, where Chaplin spent the last 24 years of his life, for the first time gives a full account of the unfulfilled project.

Author Pierre Smolik says he was able to consult archives containing hundreds of pages of Chaplin's notes detailing the evolution of the project, two scripts, dialogues and a synopsis, as well as pictures that together give a picture of what his final film may have looked like if he had finished it.

After what turned out to be his last finished film, "A Countess from Hong Kong" flopped in 1967, Chaplin was distraught, but immediately dived into a new project, "The Freak", Smolik told AFP.

The famous filmmaker wrote the synopsis for the story in 1969, at the age of 80, and worked on the project for another two years at his sprawling, idyllic estate, Manoir De Ban, overlooking Lake Geneva.

He had the wings made, and even held a few rehearsals at a studio in Britain with his 18-year-old daughter Victoria, whom he wanted to embody the mythical lead character.

The film was meant to tell the story of a winged girl, a "freak" born to a couple of British missionaries, who one day falls onto the roof of a professor working in Chile.

He takes her in, names her Sarapha, and sees his house become of pilgrimage site for invalids who see the girl as an angel who might provide a cure.

But Sarapha is kidnapped and brought to London, where she is put on display before a crowd hungering for miracles.

She escapes, is captured and forced to prove she is human before she is finally released.

Sarapha decides to fly home to Chile, but does not make it. She plunges into the Atlantic and dies.

"When reading it, one can glimpse what this 'Freak' would have been: a subtle mixture of the tale, the fable, the dream, the amusing, tender or satirical comedy, black humour, the tragedy, the nightmare, suspense, poetry…," Smolik writes.

So why was it never completed?

Smolik, who grew up near Chaplin's estate and occasionally ran into the filmmaker as a boy, says there is no single explanation.

"He was quite old, and his wife did not want the shoot to weigh on his health," the author said, pointing out that Chaplin was a perfectionist who worked himself ragged on all of his films.

After Chaplin's death in 1977, "the family generally was very protective about the script. They didn't really want it to fall into other hands," Michael said, explaining why so little was made of it previously.

"It was kept more or less as a secret," he said.

That was until 2010, when Smolik, who had already written a book about Chaplin and knew the family, asked if he could take a look at the documents.

"It's Pierre who pulled the wings out of the box again," Michael said.

Among the documents Smolik discovered a few sequences of film, never published, shot by Chaplin's wife Oona in the garden of his Swiss estate in 1974.

In the book's afterword, Victoria and Michael describe how Chaplin's family and friends had gathered at Manoir de Ban, when the old wheelchair-bound man suggested Victoria get the wings out of the cellar and put them on.

"Once he saw her with the wings on it was really quite amazing," Michael said, recalling how his father "got up out of his wheelchair and came down and said: 'No, no, you're not doing it right.' And he became a film director again."

But, he added, "It was kind of sad too, because obviously he was not going to make that film."

After filming the final scene, with Victoria dramatically crashing on the lawn instead of into the Atlantic, the wings were packed up for good.

But the public can soon catch a glimpse of the now yellowing feathered contraptions.

They will go on display at a new Charlie Chaplin museum opening at Manoir de Ban next April...

Saturday, December 12, 2015


It is hard to believe that Francis Albert Sinatra was born 100 years ago on December 12th, 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey. Little did everyone know that the skinny little Sinatra boy would grow into an international superstar. Frank himself once said "may you live to be 100 and may the last voice you hear be mine". He has been gone for over 17 years now, but his voice lives on. One thing I must admit while I'm writing this article is that for a long time I did not even like Sinatra.

Growing up under my Grandfather's watchful eye in regards to music, he instilled in me a love of the great music of the 1930s and 1940s. His basement was full of 78rpms, and I doubted his cold and dank basement as "record heaven" which is really was. There were hundreds of Decca 78rpms of Bing Crosby, loads of Capitol 78rpms of such crooners as Andy Russell and Gordon MacRae, and a healthy amount of Columbia 78rpms of Buddy Clark. However, there was not much room left in my Grandfather's collection for many Sinatra records. As a matter of fact, my Grandfather pretty much despised Sinatra. My Grandfather would call the crooner "Frank Snot Rag", and he resented Sinatra for not fighting in the war. Surprisingly though one of my Grandparent's favorite records was Sinatra's version of "I Fall In Love Too Easily". While I like that early Sinatra recording, I think I prefer it by Dinah Shore.

I learned to appreciate Frank Sinatra more through appearances he made with my favorite singers Bing Crosby and Dean Martin. While I always liked the personality of Crosby and Dino more, Sinatra really had a way with a song. Sinatra dominated the 1950s and 1960s concept album market. Two of my favorite albums by Ole Blue Eyes was his "In The Wee Small Hours" album for Capitol Records in 1955 and his masterful "Moonlight Sinatra" for his own Reprise record company in 1964.

While Frank Sinatra stayed in the game too long (in my opinion he should have never done the Duets albums in the early 1990s), Sinatra really defined a generation. He appealed to the Bing Crosby generation of the 1930s, while also seeming like a swinging rebel to the younger Elvis Presley generation of the 1950s. His personality was not always the best, but he taught everyone how to be cool. No performer in this modern generation can come close to Frank Sinatra in talent, charisma, and swagger. No performer ever will. Is Frank Sinatra my favorite singer - no, not even close. I prefer other crooners like Crosby, Dino, Bobby Darin, and even Tony Martin. However, I can not deny this boy from Hoboken had talent and deserves to be remembered 100 years after his birth. One other funny thing about Sinatra - my Grandfather was born the same day as Sinatra. However, my Grandfather was born 13 years after the crooner. Until my Grandfather's dying day I think he held that against Frank Sinatra as well...

Thursday, December 10, 2015


I did not write this article. It was much too good. However, I agree with the author that this was the best album that Frank Sinatra ever made...

Frank Sinatra's "In the Wee Small Hours" (1955) is the finest vocal album of American popular songs ever recorded. This thought is not original with me. Some people prefer his "Only the Lonely" (1958), but what do they know? "In the Wee Small Hours" came first and set the standard. With it, Sinatra invented the concept album.

Sinatra's comeback after a precipitous fall is one of the best known showbiz legends. The former teen idol had lost his voice in 1950 and his Columbia recording contract. With the help of his second wife, Ava Gardner, he got a part in "From Here to Eternity" and won the 1953 Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor. He got a low-ball contract with a new record company, Capitol, and made two light-and-easy 10-inch LP collections, "Songs for Young Lovers" (1953) and "Swing Easy" (1954), later released as a single 12-inch record.

Then came "In the Wee Small Hours." The radio personality Jonathan Schwartz, whose father, Arthur, wrote, with Howard Dietz, "I See Your Face Before Me," which appears on the album, has called it "a vast cathedral of a work." It contains 16 songs, each one about loss and loneliness. It lasts for 50 minutes. Sometimes -- in the wee small hours -- it can be almost unbearable to listen to. No one, not even Frank Sinatra, ever made a better record.

Only one of the songs was new, the one that gives the album its title, and that became an immediate classic. The rest are prime examples from what has become known as the Great American Song Book, of which Sinatra was the curator-in-chief. He created a song cycle from the work of several different composers bound together by a single theme. This was made possible by the 12-inch LP.

Sinatra's other technical tool was the microphone. A singer like Al Jolson had to be presentational, had to reach the back of the house. With a microphone, a singer like Bing Crosby could be intimate, conversational. Sinatra took this one step further. Crosby made you think he was singing to you; Sinatra made you think he was singing about himself. He took other people's lyrics and turned them into autobiography, making himself the link between Crosby and singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell.

Nelson Riddle, who wrote the arrangements for "In the Wee Small Hours," once said of Sinatra and his difficult second marriage: "Ava taught him how to sing a torch song. She taught him the hard way." She broke his heart more than once and kept him wildly jealous. She never suppressed her fierce independence when she became Mrs. Sinatra. So when he sang about "wishing that you were there again to get into my hair again," he meant it. He knew what he was singing about.

Sinatra's diction was immaculate. He got that from Mabel Mercer, the queen of the supper-club art song; they shared a friend, Alec Wilder, whose lovely "I'll Be Around" is on the album. He also learned from Billie Holiday. That influence is not so apparent, but something he told the writer Pete Hamill makes it clear: "What she did was take a song and make it hers. She lived in the song. It didn't matter who wrote the words or the music....She made it her story."

That's what Sinatra does here. The composers and lyricists include Duke Ellington, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, Jimmy Van Heusen, Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz, Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, and Hoagy Carmichael, whose "I Get Along Without You Very Well" elicits Sinatra's most wrenching performance.

The arranger, Mr. Riddle, was suggested to Sinatra by Alan Livingston, who was head of Artists and Repertoire at Capitol. Mr. Riddle, who is the subject of a fine biography by Peter J. Levinson, came out of swing bands like Sinatra himself, could be spare and lean, could be, like the singer, both tough and tender. To fully appreciate his contribution, listen to what sometimes happened when Sinatra allowed himself to be set awash in a sea of Gordon Jenkins's strings.

He took us -- still takes us, every time we listen to "In the Wee Small Hours" -- to the place in the heart where it happened, to the place in memory where it keeps us from sleep. Blessed with an exceptional natural instrument, and using every technical trick of tone and pace and phrasing at his command -- learned from such diverse models as the classical violinist Jascha Heifetz and the band leader and trombonist Tommy Dorsey -- he makes us, in his company, glad to be unhappy...

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


To celebrate 100 years of Frank Sinatra, guest reviewer Bruce Kogan is back to take a look at one of my favorite Sinatra musicals - 1957's Pal Joey...

In his career Frank Sinatra did two film adaptions of Rodgers and Hart musicals. The first was Higher and Higher which was his first feature film speaking part. Pal Joey was the second and it is probably the greatest show Rodgers and Hart ever did.

When it debuted on Broadway in 1941 it got good, but not great reviews. But everyone loved the Rodgers and Hart score. Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered and I Could Write a Book were the big hits of the show and were retained for the film.

Pal Joey may have been ahead of its times. It was revived in 1951 and ran twice as long as it did in its original production. The reviews were far better. To say this is unusual is putting it mildly.

On Broadway, Joey Evans who we would now call a lounge lizard was played by Gene Kelly and in the revival by Harold Lang. The part really fit Sinatra perfectly. But the role had to be changed from a dancing part to a singing part. I believe that was the reason for the interpolation of other Rodgers and Hart songs in the film.

And Sinatra sings some good ones in Pal Joey. Added in for the filmgoers listening pleasure are There's A Small Hotel, I Didn't Know What Time It Was, and The Lady is a Tramp, the last one becoming a Sinatra standard in his live concerts. Movie singing don't get too much better than this.

Frank is an ambitious man of rather low morals who is caught between rich widow Rita Hayworth and ingenue Kim Novak. He loves Kim, but Rita can give him financial security. These are the kind of people that populate the John O'Hara world, very real and not too noble.

Although a few years later Frank Sinatra sang a concert version of Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered with a hundred piece orchestra for his Reprise record label, it is in fact a woman's song as is My Funny Valentine. Rita does Bewitched as well as Zip. The latter song is a tribute number to Gypsy Rose Lee as Rita plays an ex-stripper. My Funny Valentine is done by Kim Novak.

When I say done, both ladies mouthed the words, but the vocals were dubbed as they always were for Ms. Hayworth. And I guess that had to be because both Hayworth and Novak could never have had the parts done by the best of vocalists.

As Pal Joey came to the screen in 1957 along with The Joker is Wild, my favorite Sinatra film, I've always picked that year as the year Old Blue Eyes was at the height of his career. His acting is impeccable and his singing, some of the best he ever did on screen...


Saturday, December 5, 2015


Robert Loggia, an Oscar-nominated actor who was known for portraying gravelly-voiced gangsters in “Scarface” and “The Sopranos,” but who played against type as a kid-at-heart toy-company boss opposite Tom Hanks in “Big,” died Dec. 4 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 85.

His wife, Audrey Loggia, said he died after a five-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

With a rugged face and rough voice, Mr. Loggia (pronounced LOH-juh) fit neatly into gangster roles, playing a Miami drug lord in “Scarface” (1983), which starred Al Pacino; and a Sicilian mobster in “Prizzi’s Honor” (1985), with Jack Nicholson and Kathleen Turner.

He played wise guys in David Lynch’s “Lost Highway” (1997), the spoofs “Innocent Blood” (1992) and “Armed and Dangerous” (1986), and again on David Chase’s HBO series “The Sopranos,” as the previously jailed veteran mobster Michele “Feech” La Manna.

It was not as a gangster but as a seedy detective that Mr. Loggia received his only Academy Award nomination, as supporting actor in “Jagged Edge.” In the 1985 film, which starred Glenn Close and Jeff Bridges, he played gumshoe Sam Ransom, who investigates a murder.

 Mr. Loggia gave an endearing comic performance in Penny Marshall’s “Big” (1988), dancing with Tom Hanks on a giant piano keyboard.

Hanks played an adolescent granted a wish to be big, becoming a 30-something man overnight who — still mentally a boy — eventually finds work at a toy company run by Mr. Loggia’s character. A chance meeting in a toy store leads to the pair tapping out joyful duets of “Chopsticks” and “Heart and Soul” on the piano keys built into the floor.

Mr. Loggia also appeared in five movies directed by Blake Edwards, including three “Pink Panther” films and the dark comedy “S.O.B.” (1981). He also portrayed Joseph, husband of Mary, in George Stevens’s 1965 biblical epic “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”

Asked in 1990 how he maintained such a varied career, he responded: “I’m a character actor in that I play many different roles, and I’m virtually unrecognizable from one role to another. So I never wear out my welcome.”

In 1966, Mr. Loggia had a rare opportunity for stardom, taking the lead role in the NBC television drama “T.H.E. Cat.” He played a former circus aerialist and cat burglar who guarded clients in danger of being murdered. When the series was canceled after one season, Mr. Loggia largely dropped out of the business for a time.

“I didn’t want to work,” he recalled in a 1986 interview. “I was played out, and I had to re-spark myself.”

His marriage had broken up, and he devoted himself to travel and skiing. He credited his re-emergence to a couple of plays produced by Joseph Papp: “Wedding Band,” with Ruby Dee; and “In the Boom Boom Room,” with Madeline Kahn.

Among his later roles, Mr. Loggia played a general and presidential adviser in the 1996 sci-fi thriller “Independence Day.”

In 2003, he appeared in four episodes of HBO’s “The Sopranos,” as gangster Feech La Manna, who was released from prison and sought to return to the Mafia. Tony Soprano worried about La Manna’s uncontrollable temper and tricked him into violating his parole.

Salvatore Loggia was born Jan. 3, 1930, on Staten Island. The son of Sicilian immigrants, he grew up in Manhattan’s Little Italy section.

First inclined toward newspaper work, he studied journalism at the University of Missouri but was drawn to acting and returned to New York to study at the Actors Studio.

He appeared on “Studio One,” “Playhouse 90” and other live dramatic series in the 1950s, then made his stage debut off-Broadway in 1956 in “The Man With the Golden Arm,” appearing in the title role of a drug addict, played in the movie by Frank Sinatra.

Mr. Loggia’s Broadway debut came in 1964 with the Actors Studio production of Anton Chekhov’s “The Three Sisters,” which then toured to London.

His film debut came in “Somebody Up There Likes Me” (1956), playing mobster Frankie Peppo, who tries to persuade boxer Rocky Graziano (Paul Newman) to throw a fight. He made movies until the end...


At my blog I wanted to celebrate what would have been Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday on December 12th so I wanted to kick off the week with a look at Old Blue Eyes through the years. There are some great photos out there of this memorable entertainer...

Sinatra as a boy

Sinatra - 1940s

Sinatra - 1950s

Sinatra - 1960s with Dean Martin
Sinatra - 1970s
Sinatra - 1980s