Sunday, August 30, 2015


The great jazz vocal stylist Peggy Lee will be celebrated by USM’s release of the 3CD/1DVD package ‘Peggy Lee – Live In London’ on December 4.

The set captures the landmark recordings by Miss Lee in the British capital, including her full live show at the London Palladium in March 1977. This recording includes outtakes, rarities and rehearsals, while the first disc is the studio album ‘Peggy,’ which like the concert itself is being released in full on CD for the first time. The DVD features the full BBC show ‘Peggy Lee Entertains’ from 1981. The set forms a comprehensive record of the only recordings Peggy ever made outside of the US.

The masterful musicality of Peggy Lee, born Norma Egstrom in Jamestown, North Dakota in 1920, made her one of the great names in both the jazz and pop worlds for many decades. Known for such signature songs as ‘Fever,’ ‘Mr. Wonderful,’ ‘Is That All There Is’ and her vocals for the soundtrack of such classic films as ‘Pete Kelly’s Blues’ and Walt Disney’s ‘The Lady and the Tramp,’ she won a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1995.

Lee was uniformly admired by her peers, including Louis Armstrong, who described her as “the greatest ever since I heard her chirp the first note.” Tony Bennett called her “the female Frank Sinatra,” while Sinatra himself said “her regal presence is pure elegance and charm.”

‘Peggy Lee – Live In London’ is dedicated to the memory of her producer Ken Barnes, who produced the original recordings, compiled the new set and wrote the accompanying liner notes. The British-born Barnes, who was a film-maker, songwriter and musicologist among his other talents, also worked with Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire and many other great names. He sadly died on August 4 at the age of 82...

Friday, August 28, 2015


It truly took me a long time to warm up to the zombie genre. Other than a few bad Bela Lugosi zombie movies from the early 1930s, I really had to admit I was afraid of zombies. My brother in law was into AMC's The Walking Dead series, and he jokes me that I don't watch shows until they are off the air. Hey, I am finally getting into I Love Lucy! Anyways, I started watching The Walking Dead, and I got hooked. So it was natural that I would watch it's spin off series Fear The Walking Dead which debuted on August 23rd. It moves slower than its parents series but it is pretty good.

Set in Los Angeles, California, the series follows a dysfunctional family composed of high school guidance counselor Madison Clark, her English teacher boyfriend Travis Manawa, and her overachieving daughter Alicia and drug-addicted son Nick, in the onset of the zombie apocalypse. The four are forced to choose between profoundly changing or proceeding as their current flawed selves while they come to terms with the impending collapse of civilization.

What I can say from the first episode (which shouldn't be forming such negative impressions as it's only ONE EPISODE so far) is that it's definitely intriguing to see it from the beginning of the zombie apocalypse, with cool news footage sequences of what at the moment is an 'unknown virus', and people going off the rails seeing what they're trying to convince people is "people eating other people", and it's definitely great to see the reactions to the impending zombie apocalypse, as this show starts when society is still fully functioning but strange things are happening.

I also found the characters' reactions to the "incidents" that did happen to be completely relatable. The high school kid who had been following the various events online and predicted "the end of times" was written off as a conspiracy theorist and told to stop spending so much time online. Because "if there really was something to worry about, the authorities would have told us". The drug addicted guy (Nick) who witnessed it first hand dismissed it as a hallucination and either a sign of a mental disorder or a really bad 'trip'. He thought he must be crazy so he refused to talk to the police about it and instead went to his dealer to see if the drugs were laced with something. Even the people who watched the leaked shooting video online thought it must have been faked or there must be a logical reason for it (like bath salts). No one really saw this for what it is, which is exactly what I would expect if it ever happened in real life.

The debut of this series was the biggest debut in cable history, and it shows that the zombie drama is not going anywhere quick. While this series may not have me as intrigued as its parent series, I know where I will be every Sunday night at 9pm....


Wednesday, August 26, 2015


A good time in my house to watch a classic movie these days is either after the kids go to bed (around 9pm) or before they wake up (before 7am) so I was actually happy the one Saturday morning I woke up wide awake around 5am and put on TCM. I got a chance to rewatch one of my favorite movies - The Great Dictator. The Great Dictator is a 1940 American satirical political comedy-drama film starring, written, produced, scored, and directed by Charlie Chaplin, following the tradition of many of his other films. Having been the only Hollywood filmmaker to continue to make silent films well into the period of sound films, this was Chaplin's first true talking picture as well as his most commercially successful film.

At the time of its first release, the United States was still formally at peace with Nazi Germany. Chaplin's film advanced a stirring, controversial condemnation of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini's fascism, antisemitism, and the Nazis.

Chaplin's film followed only nine months after Hollywood's first parody of Hitler, the short subject You Nazty Spy! by the Three Stooges which itself premiered in January 1940,  although Chaplin had been planning it for years before. Hitler had been previously allegorically pilloried in the German film by Fritz Lang, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse.

The film was directed by Chaplin (with his half-brother Wheeler Dryden as assistant director), and also written and produced by Chaplin. The film was shot largely at the Charlie Chaplin Studios and other locations around Los Angeles. The elaborate World War I scenes were filmed in Laurel Canyon. Chaplin and Meredith Willson composed the music. Filming began in September 1939 and finished six months later.

Chaplin was motivated by the escalating violence and repression of Jews by the Nazis throughout the late 1930s, the magnitude of which was conveyed to him personally by his European Jewish friends and fellow artists. The Third Reich's repressive nature and militarist tendencies were also well-known at the time. Indeed, Ernst Lubitsch's 1942 To Be or Not To Be dealt with similar themes, even including another mistaken-identity Hitler figure. However, Chaplin later stated that he would not have made the film had he known of the true extent of the Nazis' crimes. This view became widely held after the scope of Nazi atrocities became apparent: for it took nearly twenty years for films to find the right angle and tone to satirize the era.

As Hitler and his Nazi Party rose to prominence, Chaplin's popularity throughout the world became greater than ever; he was mobbed by fans on a 1931 trip to Berlin, which annoyed the Nazis, who published a book in 1934 titled The Jews Are Looking at You, in which the comedian was described as "a disgusting Jewish acrobat" (despite the fact that Chaplin was not Jewish). Ivor Montagu, a close friend of Chaplin, relates that he sent Chaplin a copy of the book and always believed this was the genesis of Dictator. The similarity of the moustaches of Hitler and Chaplin has been widely noted. In the 1930s cartoonists and comedians often noted the resemblance. Chaplin chose to capitalize on this resemblance in order to give his Little Tramp character a "reprieve".

Charlie Chaplin's son Charles Jr. describes how his father was haunted by the similar backgrounds of Hitler and himself. He writes,
Their destinies were poles apart. One was to make millions weep, while the other was to set the whole world laughing. Dad could never think of Hitler without a shudder, half of horror, half of fascination. "Just think," he would say uneasily, “he’s the madman, I’m the comic. But it could have been the other way around." 

Chaplin prepared the story throughout 1938 and 1939, and began filming in September 1939, one week after the beginning of World War II. He finished filming almost six months later. The 2002 TV documentary on the making of the film, The Tramp and the Dictator, presented newly discovered footage of the film production (shot by Chaplin's elder half-brother Sydney) which showed Chaplin's initial attempts at the film's ending, filmed before the fall of France.

According to The Tramp and the Dictator, the film was not only sent to Hitler, but an eyewitness confirmed he saw it. This allegation has however, been denied by Hitler's architect and friend Albert Speer. Hitler's response to the film is not recorded, but he is said to have viewed the film twice. Some of the signs in the shop windows of the ghettoized Jewish population in the film are written in Esperanto, a language which Hitler condemned as a Jewish plot to internationalize and destroy German culture, perhaps because its inventor was a Polish Jew.

The movie is 75 years old now, but it is as compelling and moving as it was in 1940. I recommend this movie to everyone from classic movie fan to students of film. I could go on and on about this film, but I'll let you see it and be the judge...


Monday, August 24, 2015


Here is an excellent story I found about the death of silent movies. It is much better than anything I could write...

October 6, 1927 remains one of the most decisive days in the history of pop culture. It changed the course of an industry, the expectations of the public, and forever altered the form of an art.The event was the first public presentation of Warner Bros.’ The Jazz Singer starring Al Jolson—which was the first film to feature talking sequences. While experiments with sound dated back to the earliest days of cinema, it wasn’t until the introduction of Vitaphone (in which sound was recorded on a disc and then synchronized with the projector for proper playback) in 1926 that sound seemed a distinct possibility. Vitaphone’s trial run was synchronized musical accompaniment to the otherwise silent Don Juan, as well as several short subjects that featured lip-synced dialogue. Don Juan proved that a huge orchestra was no longer necessary to provide a symphonic score to a motion picture: now even the smallest theaters had the potential to wow audiences with the sounds of a full orchestra. The days of the silent picture accompanist were now numbered. But it was The Jazz Singer that really spelled the end of an era. Even though the movie was still only part-talkie and was largely silent with intertitles, it showed exhibitors and producers that audiences craved talking and singing and crying and laughing. They wanted sound pictures.

It was now up to the industry to catch up, and decide how to make “talkies” an economically viable reality. Fox’s introduction of Movietone (a sound-on-film process that replaced the necessity of synchronizing projection with a disc) only further cemented the industry’s investment in sound picture production. However, as historian Lewis Jacobs describes, there was still plenty to work out.

The entire industry, now in a panic, rushed into the production of sound pictures, hoping to make up for lost time… Major companies at first tried to play the game from all sides. Their production schedules included part-talkies, all-talkies, sound films, and silent films, the common supposition being that eventually the talkie would merely share the screen with the silent movie. But as time went on and more theaters were wired for sound, it became apparent that the talkies were entirely supplanting the “silents.”

The switchover from silent to sound in the American film industry, which began in late 1927, was primarily complete by 1929 (though even in that year silent pictures continued to be produced, though at a heavily reduced rate). And while the transition took longer overseas (as late as 1936 Yasujrio Ozu was still making silent films in Japan), the dominance of Hollywood in the world market assured that sound would soon become an international phenomenon.

All of which begs to ask, what happened on American screens in 1928? It was a pivotal year in the transition, an entire year in which silent and sound pictures shared theater marquees, and when both were viable commercial artforms. Though silents would still exist in 1929, their era was not just numbered—it was practically over. And while Charlie Chaplin would continue to make two silent films in the 1930s (City Lights and Modern Times), both are certainly anomalies and do not represent the dominant trends in the industry (and were also produced by his independent company and not by major Hollywood studios). Thus 1928 was truly a special year, in which the innovators of an art were able to continue making pictures with a clear end in sight.

How did filmmakers – actors, directors, writers, and all the other professionals that comprise a movie crew – respond to the silent screen’s last call? One thing is for certain: the silent cinema was far from dead. It was thriving with innovation, artistry, and entertainment. Moreover, the artform was still continuing to grow. With the influx of German émigrés such as F.W. Murnau and Paul Leni, expressionism was reinvigorating Hollywood and cinematography. Filmmakers as varied as Frank Borzage, John Ford, King Vidor, and Paul Fejos, were taking expressionism and, more than just giving it their own spin, were turning it into an fully American style that would come to dominate Hollywood production for the next several decades.

1928 also marks a division, of sorts, between two different eras of Hollywood idols. Many of the craftsmen behind the scenes continued to have successful careers well into the sound era, particularly directors such as Ford, Vidor, and Borzage. Sadly, Murnau and Leni suffered untimely deaths – Leni in 1929 of blood poisoning, and Muranu in 1931 in a car accident – that cut short their careers. As it is, we can only speculate of the heights they could have attained, had they the opportunity to continue making movies.

The faces of the silent screen, however, would be noticeably different. Lillian Gish, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Louise Brooks, and even Charlie Chaplin—these were the first generation of Hollywood royalty. But after the coming of sound, their careers would be severely diminished, at least on-screen. Chaplin’s productivity halted to a couple films per decade; Gish worked mainly on the stage, and later on television, returning to the cinema only on rare occasions; Pickford and Brooks gave up after a few sound picture, as did Fairbanks. Comedians such as Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Harry Langdon were still active into the talking era, however their status was marginal compared their hay days in the 1920s. Other actors, however, such as Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, and Gary Cooper (to name only a few) would continue successfully into the sound era.

Did the “talkies” kill the “silents”? In some ways, yes, the rivalry is as simple as that. Hollywood has always been an industry, and it always goes in the direction of profit. When “talkies” promised increased revenue, that’s where producers invested their time and money. But in other ways, the “talkies” never killed the “silents” because silent cinema never truly died. While some of the personnel were not able to make the transition, others certainly did. And while it took some years for sound technology to catch up to the sophistication of the camera, once it became a tool rather than a hindrance, the camera began to move with the same grace it did during the silent era. But most important, silent cinema never died because we still have the films. That so many are still lost and will never be recovered is an undeniably tragedy, but those do survive continue to astound, entertain, and inspire viewers some eighty years later…


Saturday, August 22, 2015


One of the great characters that appeared in countless good films was the great Cecil Kellaway. He was born on this day in 1890 in Cape Town, South Africa, where he gained an early interest in theatre acting, much to the displeasure of his parents. He was educated in South Africa and England, before becoming a touring stock company actor. By the early 1920s, he had settled in Australia, becoming a popular character comedian of the local stage.

Well-known as a comedian in South Africa, Kellaway came to Australia in 1921 under contract to J. C. Williamson Ltd. On 21 January 1922 he appeared as the comic father of four daughters in A Night Out at Melbourne's Theatre Royal. He made a hit and performed in revivals in 1924, 1926 and 1931. For sixteen years he played character roles in musical comedies with Williamson's New Musical Comedy Company and became a favourite with audiences in such roles as Count Orpitch in Katja (1925), the polite lunatic in The Belle of New York and the British major in Sons o' Guns (1931).

In 1932 he played in Blue Roses and Hold my Hand with Madge Elliott and Cyril Ritchard and in 1936-37 in The Gipsy Princess, A Southern Maid and The Merry Widow with Gladys Moncrieff; in the last as Baron Popoff he gave 'the audience a mild attack of convulsions with his gait, and his red boots and yellow pants'. Whatever his part, Kellaway played it with 'aplomb and careless grace'. Sometimes an inferior piece was partly redeemed by his acting — the Bulletin claimed that in a revival of Florodora (1931) Kellaway gave 'a depth and humanity to Tweedlepunch that even the author could not suspect was there'.

Though a native of South Africa, Cecil Kellaway spent many years as an actor, author and director in the Australian film industry until he tried his luck in Hollywood in the 1930s. Finding he could get only gangster bit parts, he got discouraged and returned to Australia. Then William Wyler called and offered him a part in Wuthering Heights (1939). From then on Kellaway was always in demand when the part called for a twinkling, silver-haired leprechaun.

After receiving acclaim for his main role in the Australian Cinesound film It Isn't Done (1937), for which he also provided the original story, he was screen-tested by RKO Pictures and put under contract. He returned to Australia for a second Cinesound film, Mr. Chedworth Steps Out (1938), before going on to a long career as a Hollywood character actor, with prominent roles in William Wyler's Wuthering Heights (1939), The House of the Seven Gables (1940), The Letter (1940), Kitty (1945), Love Letters (1945), as the husband of Lana Turner's character in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), Portrait of Jennie (1948), Harvey (1950), Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967).

He was twice nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, for The Luck of the Irish in 1948 and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner in 1967.

In 1959 Kellaway made a guest appearance on Perry Mason as chemist and murderer Darrell Metcalf in "The Case of the Glittering Goldfish". In 1961, Kellaway guest starred as MacKay in the episode "Incident In The Middle of Nowhere" on CBS's Rawhide. In 1967, Kellaway played the part of a wealthy older suitor in one episode of "That Girl".

Cecil Kellaway died after a long illness at West Los Angeles convalescent home on February 28, 1973. He was survived by his wife of 54 years Doreen, his two sons, and his four grandchildren. His interment was at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery. His cousins were fellow actors Edmund Gwenn and Arthur Chesney...

Friday, August 21, 2015

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Today I found out four of the five Marx brothers got their nicknames during a poker game.

The famed Marx family comedy act was made up of Julius, Adolph, Leonard, Milton, and Herbert Marx. But to all of us who know and love this delightful comedy group, we know these five characters better as Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Gummo, and Zeppo Marx, names four of the five were given one fateful night in 1915.

The boys got involved in a poker game in Galesburg, Illinois with monologist Art Fisher. It was a popular fad around this time to give everyone and anyone a nickname that ended in “o”. For instance, common nicknames were things like “Jingo” or “Bongo” or “Ringo” or “Typo” or “Cheerio”. (You get the idea.)

In this poker game, Fisher was dealing out the cards to the four Marx brothers and he gave them each their nicknames in rapid fire. “First, here’s a card for ‘Harpo’.” Harpo was the easiest, Adolph Marx played the harp.

“Here’s one for ‘Chicko’.” Leonard Marx was a notorious ladies’ man and, in those days, women and girls were often referred to as “chickens”. (Later, as now, the slang term became “chicks”, which had actually previously referred to children since the 17th century.) As Groucho later said, Chico got the nickname as he was a “Chicken chaser”.

You might be wondering at this point, why it was later “Chico” instead of “Chicko”. Supposedly, a typesetter accidentally left the “k” in “Chico” out in one town the brothers were performing in, and his name became “Chico” instead. This typo gave rise to the misconception that his name should be pronounced as “cheek-o”, when in fact the correct pronunciation is actually “Chick-o”. Although, Chico rarely corrected people when they pronounced it wrong, even show hosts who’d interview him.

Next to be dealt a card was Julius, “and here’s a card for Groucho”. As to why this nickname was picked, there are two popular explanations and one that for a long time was put forth by Groucho, which few believe. The first is that the name derived from Julius’ not-so-friendly demeanor. Julius denied this for most of his life. The second popular theory is that it had to do with an item he commonly carried with him, a big pouch-type container, popular at the time, called a “grouch bag” (a.k.a. a small purse that goes around your neck and under your shirt), where Groucho kept his money.

The origin story Groucho himself often put forth was that he got the nickname after “Groucho the Monk” from the Knocko the Monk comic strip. However, shortly before he died, Groucho said that he hadn’t been entirely honest about the origin of his name and that Al Fisher had given him the nickname because of a propensity towards moodiness. However, it isn’t clear if this is any more accurate than his “comic strip character” origin story.

The fourth and least-known Marx brother was Milton, “and here’s a card for Gummo”, Fisher said, as he dealt the final Marx brother his card. This one has two popular theories behind it, but the one the family (excepting Harpo) states is correct is that Milton often wore gumshoes (rubber soled shoes), hence the “gummo” moniker. The alternate origin put forth by Harpo is that Gummo was sneaky and would creep up on people like a gumshoe detective. In both cases, the origin is related to the rubber soled gumshoes (where gumshoe detectives got their name).

As to how the fifth Marx brother got his name, that one’s completely up for debate. A few years later, the new straight man and the youngest of the five brothers entered the act, replacing older brother, Gummo. Herbert Marx somehow became the infamous “Zeppo” Marx. Harpo said Zeppo was named in honor of a wild monkey who played on the bars and ran around named “Zippo”. Groucho, on the other hand, said in 1972 that Zeppo was named after the Zeppelin airships...


Tuesday, August 18, 2015


As a child of the 1980s, one of my favorite things to do was wake up early on a Saturday morning and watch cartoons. It is so sad that my children will never experience the ritual of the Saturday morning cartoons. Feeling sentimental to the days of yore, I wanted to sportlight my five favorite Saturday morning cartoons growing up...

5. The Smurfs (NBC, 1981-1989)
Say what you will of the recent live-action/animated hybrid movies, but The Smurfs Hanna-Barbera Productions television show was a staple of Saturday morning cartoon block in the 1980s. Based on a Belgian comic, the cartoon series followed a colony of small blue creatures that live in mushroom-shaped houses in the forest in hiding from the evil wizard Gargamel, who along with his cat Azrael, wanted to capture the Smurfs to create a potion to turn base matter into gold.

4. Pac Man: The Animated Series (ABC, 1982-1983)
Pac Man was also the first cartoon based on a video game. The show follows the adventures of the title character, Pac-Man, his wife Pepper Pac-Man, their child Pac-Baby, their dog Chomp-Chomp and their cat Sour Puss. The family lives in Pac-Land, a place in which the geography and architecture seem to revolve primarily around spheres and sphere-like shapes.

3. Super Friends (ABC, 1973-1986)
Super Friends is an American animated television series about a team of superheroes, which ran from 1973 to 1986 on ABC as part of its Saturday morning cartoon lineup. It was produced by Hanna-Barbera and was based on the Justice League of America (JLA) and associated comic book characters published by DC Comics. When animation company Hanna-Barbera acquired rights to the DC Comics characters and adapted the Justice League of America comic book for television it made several changes in the transition, including the change of name to Super Friends. Nevertheless, team members sometimes referred to themselves as the Justice League on the show. The violence common in superhero comics was toned down for a younger audience and to adhere to broadcast standards governing violence in 1970s children’s television.

2. Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies (CBS, 1984-1991) Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies followed the adventures of preschool-age Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Animal, Rowlf, Scooter and Skeeter (a new addition to the gang), as they played and dreamed together in a nursery overseen by a nanny. (Voiced by Leave It to Beaver’s Barbara Billingsley; the character was never seen from the waist up.)

1. The Bugs Bunny Show (CBS, 1968-2000)
This show is a classic, featuring characters that most everyone has seen at some point. While the show started out in primetime, after two seasons The Bugs Bunny Show moved to Saturday mornings, where it remained in various formats for nearly four decades. The cartoons inspired countless animators and storytellers and the episodes are still entertaining 45 years later.

Those were the days...

Saturday, August 15, 2015



It is a shame that actress Joan Caulfield did not get a bigger obituary when she died in 1991. I think she was quite beautiful. Here is her obituary from the New York Times of June 20, 1991...

Joan Caulfield, an actress who starred in films of the 1940's and in television situation comedies of the 1950's, died on Tuesday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She was 69 years old and lived in Beverly Hills, Calif.

She died of cancer, a hospital spokesman said.

Miss Caulfield was propelled to stardom by the films "Monsieur Beaucaire," in which she appeared with Bing Crosby, and "Blue Skies," with Bob Hope, both released in 1946, and by "Dear Ruth," appearing opposite William Holden, in 1947. On television she was a co-star of "My Favorite Husband," on CBS from 1953 to 1957, and "Sally" on NBC in the 1957-58 season.

Miss Caulfield, who was a native of West Orange, N.J., attended Columbia University and was a fashion model and a cover girl before she landed ingenue roles on Broadway in the early 1940's. Her first stage success was in the 1943 production of the comedy "Kiss and Tell," in which she appeared for 14 months. Paramount Pictures promptly offered her a contract and she began her Hollywood career with "Miss Suzie Slagle's," in 1946.

Her films made the most of her beauty, although she was determined to win a reputation as an actress and not, as she said, "just a decoration."

In 1950, Miss Caulfield married the film producer Frank Ross and subsequently appeared only occasionally in films. She and Mr. Ross were divorced in 1960. She later married Robert Peterson, a dentist, from whom she was also divorced.

She is survived by two sons, Caulfield Kevin Ross of Sherman Oaks, Calif., and John Caulfield Peterson of Sacramento, Calif.; two sisters, Mary Parker of Stuart, Fla., and Elizabeth Victor of Los Angeles, and a grandson...

Thursday, August 13, 2015


There are so many vocalists, especially from the World War II era. Many of them never received fame, and after the war they retired to a more relaxed lifestyle. One such singer was vocalist Nora Martin. She performed with Eddie Cantor and appeared with him in the 1944 movie Hollywood Canteen, but she left Hollywood behind. As you'll read though she did not remain idle though.

Nora Martin was born March 31, 1921, in St. Helens. Her father was a logger and her mother tended a small farm and three children. That simple beginning did not foretell what would become a very dynamic and productive life. As a young girl she realized that God had given her a great voice, "so as to make people happy," she wrote. She sang locally for events, including President Roosevelt at the opening of Timberline Lodge. One evening she appeared at a local talent contest wearing a buckskin outfit and in the audience was Stephen M. Janik, a part time talent scout for NBC Radio. Recognizing her five octave range and perfect pitch, he signed her to a contract. A few years later with Stephen as her manager, Nora went off to Hollywood and starred in Western movies with Gene Autry, John Wayne and other cowboys. She played the dance hall singer with a heart of gold.

As WWII began, the famous radio star Eddie Cantor signed Nora to a five year contract to take over for Dinah Shore on his national radio program. During the war years she sang on the Cantor show from New York, made hundreds of appearances before returning soldiers, at military bases and hospitals. Her touring show was called "Time to Smile" which is what she brought to the soldiers. In addition, she made many appearances throughout the country selling war bonds on stage with Eddie Cantor, Bob Hope, John Wayne, Les Paul and her own group, "Pals of the Golden West." In one such 24-hour bond sale event, she raised $38 million. In 1946 she was awarded a citation for her service by the U.S. War Department.

As the war wound down Nora and Stephen wanted to return to Portland and did so after V-E Day and V-J Day. They moved into Laurelhurst and joined All Saints Parish and school. They had two sons, Stephen T. in 1947 and Robert M. in 1949. Nora was a devoted mother and wife and Hollywood was in the distant past. The symbols of that life were left in the attic, except for the time she sang with Frank Sinatra to raise money for the Portland Police Assistance League and for other charities. As her sons went off to school, Nora was involved in many church, PTA and community service activities, the beginning of a growing scope of community involvement. Nora faced a challenge in 1960 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer that required radical treatment. She overcame that challenge and took that experience as a direction from God to help others similarly challenged. She joined the American Cancer Society (ACS) and went public with her story about cancer, which was not common in those days. She became the first woman to be President of the Oregon Division of the ACS.

In the early '70s she developed the "Reach to Recovery Program," to help women to recover from breast cancer surgeries; established an early detection center at Good Samaritan Hospital, one of only seven in the nation; and in 1977 represented Oregon at the National Human Values and Cancer Conference. Finally, she established ACS thrift shops, not only to raise money but also to offer education. Nora received the "Order of the Red Sword," which is the ACS National Volunteer Award. In addition to her ACS work, during the decades after her own recovery, she was an officer of the YWCA, chaired the women's division of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, was an officer of the Assistance League, taught catechism to deaf children for several years, helped develop the Providence Nursery for severely impaired children, served as President of the Holy Name Auxiliary, and was a member of the West Hills Symphony Auxiliary.

In her later years she was a very active member of the International Chapter P.E.O. Sisterhood that provides college scholarships to women in need. As a doting mother she took great joy in the accomplishments of her family, including attending four Harvard graduations. The following two awards bracket her decades of work for the community. In 1963 the Oregon Journal named Nora as one of the first 10 "W omen of Accomplishment" and 32 years later, in 1995, Nora was named one of six women awarded the "White Rose," saluting Women of Achievement. In her last decade Nora had to deal with numerous medical and mobility issues. She never complained and always had a bright spirit. She was buoyed by her countless friends. Her door was always open and usually a friend would be there visiting, talking about current events and families and not dwelling in the past. She had hoped to make 95 years, but 92 and 10 months was a great run. In one of her last journal entries she wrote, "The joy of giving is truly the joy of living." "Life is about friends-everyday angels." Nora died on January 30, 2014. Nora's husband Stephen M. Janik predeceased her Feb. 14, 1979. Nora is survived by her sons, Stephen T. Janik and Robert M. Janik; five grandchildren, Matthew, Michelle, Aimee, Jacqueline and Thomas; and 13 great-grandchildren...

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


I never thought the death of Robin Williams would affect me that much. I saw many of his movies growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, but in recent years I have not thought about him that much. However, he appeared in so many great movies that I can watch over and over again like: Good Morning Vietnam, The Bird Cage, One Hour Photo, Jumanji, and so many others.

It has been one year now since his death, and I want to take this time to remember Robin Williams. I do not want to remember or think about the dispair or the way he died, but I want to think of all the joy he gave me and stills continue to. It has been one year since Robin Williams died - but his memory will never die. I wish he would have realized that when he was still alive.

He was and is a comedic genius...

Friday, August 7, 2015


One of the most notorious, unreleased films ever made, Jerry Lewis' Holocaust drama "The Day The Clown Cried" has long been the subject of rumor and speculation. Even Lewis himself, who has long been sitting on the only copy of the movie, has veered in recent interviews from being "embarrassed" to "proud" of the effort in which he plays a German circus clown arrested by the Gestapo after mocking Hitler, and who is eventually forced by the Nazis to perform and help lead Jewish children to concentration camp gas chambers. But he has long held he would never show the movie (which was plagued by production and financial woes) publicly, though he thinks if he had a chance to tweak it, maybe it could work.

"I think about this a lot. If I could pull certain specific elements from the project, and give me these three or four elements that I can do what I want with, if I hired Lincoln Center one night, for a specific audience, and give me one week shooting to let me shoot a beginning to that, a beginning to that, and a beginning to that and let me show that…. Whoooo-weeeee! It would be fucking wonderful to think about," he said in 2013, adding: "What I would shoot would be strictly as a marketing presentation tool for that night and it would all be thrown away after that night."

Well, that's not happening, but Lewis is making the picture available for future generations. The LA Times reveals that the Library Of Congress has just received a collection of Lewis' work from the man himself, including "The Day The Clown Cried." But there's one caveat: Lewis made the Library agree not to screen the movie for ten years.

So, the wait will continue, but it looks like this little piece of movie history will finally come to light in a decade...

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


Singer Helen Reddy has been diagnosed with dementia and has moved into a Los Angeles nursing facility, interrupting what she hoped to be a career comeback, Lead Stories has learned exclusively.

Reddy, 73, rose to fame with her 1972 smash "I Am Woman," which became an anthem for the growing women's movement in the United States.

While one source says the progressive illness is in its early stages, marked by Reddy "asking same question every few minutes," another source suggested the symptoms were more advanced. She would forget where she put something and then suspect someone stole it, the second source said.

Reddy became a resident of the Motion Picture and Television Fund's Samuel Goldwyn Center for Behavioral Health in Woodland Hills, California, in June, both sources confirmed.

Reddy had been attempting a comeback this year, but her failing health forced her to cancel a concert planned for August 11 in San Diego. Her management kept the real reason secret, announcing that the show was "cancelled due to a scheduling conflict."

She did perform at the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas for several nights in January. She earned great reviews for the Vegas shows.

"I am really in a very, very happy place," Reddy told a radio interviewer in January.

Reddy, who co-wrote "I Am Woman," earned a best female pop vocal performance Grammy for the record. She followed up with a dozen Top 40 hits over the next five years, including "Leave Me Along," "Angie Baby," and "You and Me Against the World."

A native of Australia, Reddy was helpful in launching the singing career of Olivia Newton-John.

She put her career on hold for more than a decade to return to Australia in 2002 to help care for ailing family members. She decided to return to the United States and the concert stage in 2012 after realizing she still had her voice when she sang for her sister's 80th birthday...

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


Coleen Gray, the dark-haired beauty who stood out in such film noir thrillers as Kiss of Death,Nightmare Alley and Kansas City Confidential, has died. She was 92.

Gray, who also starred opposite John Wayne in Howard Hawks’ Red River (1948) and played crook Sterling Hayden’s attractive accomplice in Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing (1956), died Monday of natural causes at her home in Bel Air, longtime friend David Schecter told The Hollywood Reporter.

“My last dame is gone. Always had the feeling she'd be the last to go,” Eddie Muller, founder and president of the Film Noir Foundation, wrote on Facebook. They collaborated on his 2001 book,Dark City Dames: The Wicked Women of Film Noir.

Gray was “introduced” to audiences in Henry Hathaway’s Kiss of Death (1947) as Nette, the girlfriend and future wife of ex-con Nick Bianco (Victor Mature), who battles psychopathic killer Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark) in a bid to go straight once and for all.

The Nebraska native then segued to a role as scheming carnival barker Tyrone Power’s aide inNightmare Alley (1947), then appeared as Wayne’s sweetheart Fen in Red River.

In Kansas City Confidential (1952), Gray portrayed the law-school daughter of a former cop (Preston Foster) who engineers a bank heist by framing a delivery man played by John Payne. (Gray and Payne’s characters fall for each other in the movie, and they were romantically linked offscreen as well.)

Gray also starred in the Frank Capra horse picture Riding High (1950), where her scene with Bing Crosby and Clarence Muse singing “Sunshine Cake” was the favorite film moment of her career.

She played a nurse femme fatale in The Sleeping City (1950) opposite Richard Conte, was manhandled by a creature in The Vampire (1957) and discovered the secret to immortality (but not without consequences) in The Leech Woman (1960).

Gray spent much of the 1960s on television, with guest-starring roles on such shows as Rawhide,Alfred Hitchcock Presents, 77 Sunset Strip, Mister Ed, Perry Mason and Family Affair.

Later, on the NBC drama McCloud, she played the wife of police chief Peter B. Clifford (J.D. Cannon) in a few episodes.

She was born Doris Bernice Jensen on Oct. 23, 1922, in Staplehurst, Neb. At age 7, she and her family moved to Hutchinson, Minn., and she studied drama at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn.

With only $26 to her name, she took a Greyhound bus to Hollywood. She enrolled at USC and then drama school and starred in the play Brief Music. She was seen by an agent and signed with Fox, where she made her movie debut for the studio in State Fair (1945).

In 1949, Gray starred on Broadway in Leaf and Bough with Charlton Heston.
Gray was married three times, the first to screenwriter, producer and future TV director Rod Amateau and the last to biblical scholar Joseph “Fritz” Zeiser, who died in 2012 (they were together for more than 30 years). Survivors include her daughter Susan, son Bruce, stepsons Rick and Steve and several grandchildren.

A memorial service at Bel Air Presbyterian Church is being planned...

Monday, August 3, 2015


One of the most enduring comic teamings was that of singer Bing Crosby and  comedian Bob Hope. Bing and Bob met briefly for the first time on the streets of New York in the summer of 1932. In December, both performed at the Capitol Theater in New York, as the newspaper ad to the right reveals. There for the first time Crosby and Hope performed together, doing an old vaudeville routine that included two farmers meeting on the street.

They did not work together again until 1938, when Bing invited Bob to guest on his radio program and to appear with him at the opening of the Del Mar race track north of San Diego. The boys reprised some old vaudeville routines that proved quite amusing to the celebrity audience. One of the attendees was the production chief of Paramount Pictures. He began searching for a movie vehicle for Hope and Crosby. He dusted off an old script intended originally for Burns and Allen, then later Jack Oakie and Fred MacMurray, and, now, Hope and Crosby. The tentative title was "Road to Mandalay," but the destination was eventually changed to Singapore.

To add a love interest to the movie one of the leading Paramount stars, Dorothy Lamour, was written into the script. Dorothy had appeared with Bob in "The Big Broadcast of 1938," but had never appeared in a film with Bing. Dorothy was known for her sultry singing voice and the skimpy South Sea outfits called sarongs that she wore in a couple of her movies. Although "The Road to Singapore" turned out to be the least zany of the Road pictures, the chemistry of the stars turned it into a blockbuster hit.

The Road films became a new musical-comedy genre to which many imitators would be compared, almost invariably unfavorably. The characters played by Bing and Bob were con-men who openly acknowledged to the audience that they knew they were in a motion picture. They defied Paramount to have them killed because they had a contract to do another picture. As the series progressed even the bad guys got wise to the action. For example, the patty-cake routine that Bing and Bob used to escape trouble didn't always work because the bad guys, too, had seen the previous picture. The Road to Utopia employed a movie critic who intervenes from time to time to evaluate the movie for the audience, even suggesting when it would be best to go for popcorn, usually, of course, while Crosby was singing.

At the series outset Dorothy Lamour was nearly as big a star as Crosby and Hope, but as the series unfolded her star progressively dimmed, in the end leaving her only a brief appearance in the final Road flic. By the 1960s Lamour had retired from show business to devote more time to her family in Baltimore. Crosby wanted Brigitte Bardot to play the female lead in "Road to Hong Kong," but in the end had to settle for Joan Collins. An 8th road picture was to be filmed in 1978. It had been tentatively called "Road to the Fountain of Youth" and would have reunited Bing, Bob and Dorothy. Before the new adventure could begin Bing died suddenly of a heart attack in Spain...

Saturday, August 1, 2015


Eddie Cantor was one of those rare vaudeville performs that loved his family. He not only loved them but he cherished them. He was married to his wife Ida from 1914 until her death in 1962. Together they had five daughters: Marjorie (1915-1959), Natalie (1916-1997), Edna (1919-2003), Marilyn (1921-2010), and Janet (born 1927). Here are some great family shots...