Thursday, April 30, 2020


Even though America was involved in World War II by 1942, audiences were flocking to the movies to get away from their troubles. Here are the biggest stars of that year by box office, and it shows who war weary audiences were going to see...



Monday, April 27, 2020


With two movies, a weekly radio show and several overseas tours, 1950 was the busiest-ever year for superstar funny man Bob Hope. No wonder Dolores, his wife of 15 years, spent much of the time alone in their Hollywood mansion. Not that she worried about the state of their marriage.

"I don't like Bob being away so much but I trust him absolutely," Dolores told Hollywood gossip columnist Louella Parsons. "Our marriage is stronger than ever."

Only a handful of Bob Hope's closest friends knew that Dolores was living in a make-believe world.

Her husband had fallen in love with another woman and for the next ten years was to conduct a secret love affair under the very noses of the media without a word of it being made public. Hope, then 47, had met 28-year-old dark-haired Marilyn Maxwell at MGM where she was on a five-year contract, but she hardly noticed him — she was having an affair with Frank Sinatra! 

When that ended in January 1950 she re-met Bob Hope when he asked her to appear in a huge charity gala he was organising at the Hollywood Bowl. Despite being married to Beverly Hills restaurateur Andy McIntyre, Marilyn was captivated by the wisecracking star. Soon they were meeting in secret and when Hope was looking for a co-star for his latest movie comedy, The Lemon Drop Kid, he chose Marilyn Maxwell.

Soon afterwards, Marilyn confided to her hairdresser: "I'd marry Bob and I think he'd marry me, but Dolores is a strict Catholic and would never let him go. 

"Their happy marriage is a sham. I know Bob loves me and is only happy with me. I don't mind staying in the shadows so long as it means we can be together."

In April 1951, after making My Favourite Spy, Hope and Marilyn Maxwell sailed for Europe on the liner Queen Mary for a promotional tour. This time gossip got back to Dolores who phoned her husband in London furious that he was publicly humiliating her. "Marilyn Maxwell is just an actress I work with," Bob Hope told her. When we're not working I never see her. Which was a little wide of the truth: the next day the couple flew for a holiday in Ireland when, according to Bob Home's long-time secretary Jean Greenberg, Hope asked Marilyn to marry him.

"She turned him down. She knew that Dolores would never give him a divorce. She also feared that if it was known that she was breaking up what was regarded as a fairytale Hollywood marriage, the big studios would never employ her again."

Added Jean Greenberg: "Bob and Dolores might appear happy together in public, but in fact they hadn't slept together in years."

In 1954 Marilyn Maxwell, who had divorced Andy McIntyre, married writer/producer Jerry Davis in 1954. But that didn't stop her passionate affair with Bob Hope. He provided her with a secret love-nest in Hollywood's Holmby Hills where they met several times a week.

By now, according to close friends, Hope had several times asked his wife for a divorce and she had refused. She had told him: "I don't care what you get up to in private. All I ask is that you don't humiliate me in public. People think we are happily married and I want that to continue."

Hope would organise private dinner parties for himself and Marilyn Maxwell in the luxurious Hollywood offices of his production company.  Food would be delivered from Romanoff's, Hollywood's top restaurant, and served on silver dishes. Then the waiters would leave and Hope and his mystery guest would enjoy a sumptuous meal.

Said Romanoff's boss Kart Niklas: "Bob would never say who he was entertaining but we always knew it was Marilyn Maxwell. It was a ritual that went on for years.   

Friends said that Marilyn was the great — and secret — love of Bob Hope's life. He always hoped that one day they would be married but on March 21, 1971 that dream was shattered for good. 

At 49, Marilyn Maxwell was found dead in her Beverly Hills home, apparently of natural causes. Hollywood friends like Hope, Frank Sinatra, and Bing Crosby all paid for her funeral expenses...

Friday, April 24, 2020


Here is an interesting article I found on the internet. I did not write it myself, but it is an interesting take on Jolson...

On a Sunday night in September 1918, the great operatic tenor Enrico Caruso stepped onstage at the Century Theater in New York to perform as part of a special program put on by the Army Tank Corps Welfare League. Caruso dazzled the audience with his rendition of Italian war songs, before launching into a surprising finale, the patriotic tune "Over There," which left the audience in a state of frenzy.

Who could follow this performance by the greatest singer of his day? The composer of "Over There," George M. Cohan, was also part of the program, but even he must have feared the prospect of matching this version of his most famous song. But one daring soul bounded out from off stage, looked impishly at the audience and confidently told the crowd: "Folks, you ain't heard nothin' yet." This single line, proclaimed by the 32-year-old Al Jolson, brought down the house, and before long the audience had all but forgotten about the great Caruso, as it responded to the man who was already being billed as "The World's Greatest Entertainer."

Almost a decade later, Jolson used the same line as part of his historic performance in "The Jazz Singer," a film that signaled the transition from silent to sound motion pictures. Here, Jolson's quip served as more than just personal boasting; it was a symbolic proclamation of the promising future of "talking" motion pictures. What a glorious future it was destined to be: everything about Hollywood movies turned out bigger and brasher than even Jolson could have imagined at the time.

But Al Jolson's own future would be far more problematic.Close to seventy years after his death, on Oct. 23, 1950, one expects few memorials and public events to commemorate it. The man who was once the most popular entertainer in America certainly lives on in the public imagination, but increasingly as an egregious symbol of political incorrectness. Jolson was no saint, as all but his most ardent defenders are quick to admit. Even during his lifetime, he was deprecated for a host of vices, from selfishness to overweening pride. But with the passing years, these diminish in comparison to his chief transgression: his persistent use of the burnt-cork makeup commonly known as blackface.

If blackface has its shameful poster boy, it is Al Jolson. Many other 20th-century performers from Shirley Temple to Bing Crosby donned the makeup for various roles, but Jolson adopted it as a core part of his public persona. From vaudeville to the cinema, Jolson brought his minstrel makeup kit with him. Although he frequently performed without burnt cork, it is the image of Jolson's black face and white-gloved outstretched palms that lives on in popular memory.

Jolson deserves better. His performances included less race-baiting and hate-mongering than any given hour with Chris Rock or Howard Stern, relying instead on his electric stage presence and sheer enthusiasm for pleasing his fans. Even his biggest detractors granted that Jolson, the supposed egomaniac, saved his kindest, gentlest moods for his moments onstage. He truly had little knack for the ridicule, irony and sarcasm that racist humor requires for its effect.

Instead, Jolson aimed to make each of his shows into a lovefest, lavishing his audiences with affection and giving them everything, even if he stinted in his off-stage relations with family and friends. Jolson himself was aware of this contrast between his private life and his public persona, and it even became an important theme of his most famous performance in "The Jazz Singer" and the later autobiographical film, "The Al Jolson Story."

Although Jolson did not star in the latter film, he did supply the vocal track, to which the actor Larry Parks lip-synced his part. Even at this late age Jolson was 60 when the film was released he showed that he had lost none of his magic. The scenes in which Jolson sings overshadow the rest of the film. The later Jolson had developed a deep resonance in the lower part of his range, perhaps to compensate for his inability to belt out high notes as he had in earlier years. Audiences responded with enthusiasm to the film, which proved to be the highest-grossing movie in one of Hollywood's most memorable years outdistancing other 1946 releases like "It's a Wonderful Life," "The Big Sleep," "The Best Years of Our Lives," "Notorious" and "The Postman Always Rings Twice."

These late-career achievements only make us wish all the more that we were better able to evaluate Jolson in his prime. His finest work from his early career may be legendary, but like most legends it comes to us mostly by word of mouth, with little documentation to give it substance. Jolson's career in "talking movies" did not begin until he was 41 years old. Unlike today's stars, who draw on every tool of art and science to resist the ravages of time, Jolson looks very much middle-aged in his films, with a receding hairline and an unhealthy pallor to his potato-shaped face. At first glance, it's hard to understand his appeal based on his paltry looks and meager acting skills. But his performance is lackluster only until his singing scenes, when Jolson's features light up and he exudes an almost boyish charm. He looks years younger when he sings, his body seems charged with an unnatural vitality, and his reputation for being the greatest entertainer of his day suddenly seems credible.

These few scenes provide us with our closest glimpse of the Jolson who captivated Broadway, who dazzled London and who left behind ardent admirers in virtually every city where he appeared onstage in his prime years. When the Imperial, on 59th Street across from Central Park, was renamed in his honor in 1921, Jolson created a sensation on opening night, called back by the audience for no fewer than 37 curtain calls. An account from a 1916 newspaper describes another Jolson success: "I have never heard such cheering and such genuine enthusiasm given to a performer or a performance in all my experience as a theatergoer, which covers a period of more than 20 years. To be exact, Mr. Jolson stopped the show three times, and in each instance a scene was delayed and the audience simply wouldn't allow the performance to proceed. Mr. Jolson had to plead with the audience. Some of the people in the audience stood up, cheered and threw hats in the air simultaneously during the second act."

Jolson went to great lengths to maximize the impact of his stage appearances. He demanded that a long runway be constructed, allowing him to move into the midst of the audience. He did not hesitate to change the course of a performance to satisfy the crowd's demands, sometimes singing on into the night, long after the show was supposed to be finished. Above all, he used every resource his body could muster to deepen the impression he made, orchestrating his face, his eyes, his limbs, his voice to amplify the intended effect. The vibrato of his voice, for instance, is so often accompanied by a tremulous motion of his body. His gestures were sometimes so dramatic that they have become almost inseparable from our image of Jolson: the out-stretched arms, palms facing outward, the genuflection on one knee in front of his fans.

Despite these virtues, Jolson was in many ways an unlikely choice to lead the cinema into the modern age. An indifferent actor, he was at his worst when reciting dialogue a limitation that became painfully obvious in films that, after all, were distinguished for being "talkies." His gesticulations and movements were far better suited for the stage, where Jolson could project to the back row. In contrast he lacked the subtle modulations and nuances that bring vitality to close-up camera work. He was too old to play the romantic lead roles that, then as now, are the building blocks of Hollywood stardom. most of all, his long-standing use of blackface made Jolson seem like the last representative of the 19th century, not a harbinger of the brave new world of multimedia entertainment.

But even here, the matter is more complex than first meets the eye. In some respects, "The Jazz Singer" is daringly forward-looking. This story, which matches Jolson's own biography in many respects, tells of a young singer, Jack Robin, forced to decide between applying his talents to the synagogue, where his family had served as cantors for many generations, or to the stage as a popular entertainer. Yes, the acting is melodramatic and over- drawn, but the underlying themes of the anguish of assimilation, the complex emotions of ethnic pride, the conflict between tradition and modern ways are far deeper than the ones Hollywood routinely treats these days. And these issues have lost none of their pointedness at the dawn of the 21st century.

The irony is, of course, that Jolson is most derided for his insensitivity to issues of race and ethnicity. In fact, his career was distinguished by a more heartfelt understanding of these matters than the vast majority of his contemporaries. Even in the cinematic scenes most lambasted, for instance when Jolson sings "My Mammy" in blackface toward the close of "The Jazz Singer," the symbolic resonance is more open-ended than the stereotyped image might suggest. The scene comes when Robin is singing to his own mother, Sara, who sits in the audience, and deals more directly with the issue of Jewish assimilation and the family tensions it creates than with any attempt to demean blacks a theme that, in fact, plays no part in "The Jazz Singer."

Was Jolson a racist? Although he was guilty of many faults, Jolson showed no overt signs of ethnic hatred. Indeed, the songwriter and performer Noble Sissle, a longtime partner of the ragtime pioneer Eubie Blake, recalled Jolson's unprompted act of kindness after a Hartford restaurant refused to serve the two black musicians. A local newspaper mentioned the incident, and, Sissle later recalled: "To our everlasting amazement, we promptly got a call from Al Jolson. He was in town with his show and even though we were two very unimportant guys whom he'd never heard of until that morning, he was so sore about that story he wanted to make it up to us." The next evening, Jolson treated Sissle and Blake to dinner, insisting that "he'd punch anyone in the nose who tried to kick us out."

Jolson's own reasons for adopting blackface were more prosaic. After struggling as a young man to make his mark in vaudeville, Jolson tried the burnt-cork makeup, almost out of desperation, in late 1904. A fellow performer had counseled him that wearing blackface was like putting on a mask one looked, and even felt, more like a performer. The advice proved tremendously helpful: Jolson was energized by the new look; his stage demeanor became markedly more spontaneous, and audiences responded with enthusiasm. From that time on, Jolson continued to use burnt-cork makeup, perhaps not through any desire to degrade blacks, but simply to enhance the theatrical qualities of his performances.

Such justifications, however, make scant headway in today's atmosphere of greater sensitivity to matters of race and ethnicity. In an age when even "Huckleberry Finn" can be castigated as a racist work, one can hardly expect Al Jolson's reputation to be rehabilitated any time soon. Indeed, what Jolson intended may be interesting to the scholar or psychologist, but what his use of burnt cork represented to the mass public is a larger issue. Blackface evokes memories of the most unpleasant side of racial relations, and of an age in which white entertainers used the makeup to ridicule black Americans while brazenly borrowing from the rich black musical traditions that were rarely allowed direct expression in mainstream society. This is heavy baggage for Al Jolson. True, he was the comeback kid of his day. His cinema career revitalized his flagging popularity in the late 1920's, just as "The Al Jolson Story" brought him back into the limelight 20 years later. Even after his death, Jolson somehow managed to keep center stage, commemorated in a huge monumental grave site within eyesight of the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles, dazzling thousands of commuters daily with a six- pillar structure towering over a 120-foot waterfall. Here, one finds an almost life-size statue of Jolson down on one knee with palms outspread, almost as if he is imploring motorists to give him one more chance. Perhaps they will some day, but for the time being Jolson promises to be remembered less for his talent, and more for his makeup...


Monday, April 20, 2020


After Lucille Ball (1911-1989) and Desi Arnaz (1917-1986) divorced in 1960, you did not see them together. They led fairly separate lives, but they always had a bond together. Here is a rare picture of the ex-Hollywood couple from their daughter's Lucie Arnaz's wedding day to 2nd husband Laurence Luckinbill on June 22, 1980...

Thursday, April 16, 2020


A fitting song - stay well everyone!

Monday, April 13, 2020


A new excellent two CD set will be coming out in May from Sepia records called "Bing Crosby - Philco Radio Time". From the Philco Radio Time series starring Bing Crosby broadcast between 1946 & 1949 this 2CD set picks up Bing's cover versions of the hits of the day. It's a historical archive of those immediate post-war years and demonstrates Bing's versatility with all kinds of songs as he duets with Ezio Pinza, Al Jolson, Burl Ives, Dick Powell, Peggy Lee, Rhonda Fleming, Dorothy Kirsten..


Five Minutes More
In The Evening By The Moonlight
You Are My Sunshine
If You Were The Only Girl In The World
La Borrachita
(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons
The Anniversary Song
Among My Souvenirs
Country Style
How Are Things In Glocca Morra?
Time After Time
Peg O' My Heart
Feudin', Fightin' And Fussin'
That's My Desire
I Wonder, I Wonder, I Wonder
I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now?
Almost Like Being In Love
Sweet Betsy From Pike
Just An Old Love Of Mine
You Do
 I Still Get Jealous
With A Hey! And A Hi! And A Ho! Ho! Ho!
The Best Things In Life Are Free
I Only Have Eyes For You
With Plenty Of Money And You
You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby
Jeepers Creepers
Shuffle Off To Buffalo
Thanks A Million
How Lucky You Are
Love Is So Terrific
Hooray For Love


I May Be Wrong
Blue Shadows On The Trail
Baby Face
Nature Boy
You're Too Dangerous, Cherie
My Happiness
A Tree In the Meadow
Rambling Rose
Something To Remember You By
Hair Of Gold, Eyes Of Blue
Cuanta La Gusta
My Darling, My Darling
The Missouri Waltz
I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm
So In Love
You Was
Once In Love With Amy
While The Angelus Was Ringing
Down The Old Ox Road
Cruising Down The River
Riders In The Sky
Blue Hawaii
Careless Hands
When Is Sometime
Buttons And Bows
It's Magic
So Dear To My Heart
I Got Lucky In The Rain
Far Away Places
So Tired
Powder Your Face With Sunshine
Some Enchanted Evening

Sunday, April 12, 2020


On this day in entertainment history...

1932: "Grand Hotel" directed by Edmund Goulding and starring Greta Garbo and John Barrymore premieres in New York, includes the line "I want to be alone" (Best Picture/Production 1932).

1935: Actress Mary Astor (28) divorces Dr. Franklyn Thorpe after 4 years of marriage.

1946: Ed O'Neill, American comedian and actor (Married With Children, Modern Family), born in Youngstown, Ohio.

1959: James Gleason, American writer and actor (Bishop's Wife, Flying Fool), dies at 76.

1974: "Coal Miner's Daughter" actress Sissy Spacek weds art director Jack Fisk.

1976: Paul Ford, American actor (Phil Silvers Show, The Music Man), dies at 74.

Thursday, April 9, 2020


Fans of Linda Darnell know that she tragically died in a fire some 55 years ago in 1965. However, initial reports had her surviving. Here are is an article from the Madera Tribune of April 9, 1965, which gives some of the sad details of the horrific occurrence...

Linda Darnell Near Death

CHICAGO (UPI) —Actress Linda Darnell was critically burned early today when fire swept the suburban home of her ex-agent. Miss Darnell, 43, w’as rushed to Skokie Valley Community Hospital. Spokesmen said she suffered third degree burns over 85 to 90 per cent of her body. She w’as taken to surgery where a team of doctors worked on her. Ralph G. Hutchems, hospital administrator, said the surgery would take several more hours.

Miss Darnell was pulled from the burning home by firemen. Miss Darnell and Mrs. Richard Curtis, her former agent, stayed up late to watch a 1940 film, "Star Dust." which was being re-played on television. Miss Darnell starred in the film with actor John Payne. Spokesmen said the two women sat up after the film, smoking cigarettes downstairs on the sofa. Then thev went up to read in a second floor bedroom. Mrs. Curtis’ daughter, Patricia, 16, smelled smoke, and the three apparently headed for a stairway from the second floor bedroom. Mrs. Curtis and the daughter stopped to put wet towels around themselves. They said they thought Miss Darnell was with them. Instead, officers said, Miss

Darnell apparently continued on downstairs. She was found behind a sofa in the burned out living room, clad in pajamas. Mrs. Curtis told her dai ghter to leap from the second floor window, which she did. Mrs. Curtis crawled out on a bathroom ledge until firemen rescued her. A neighbor, David Mundhenk, 22. broke a window with a shovel but was driven back by the smoke. The fire department spokesman said the fire was believed, to have started in a large couch in the living room. Mrs. Curtis’ husband was not home at the time of the fire, authorities said.

Monday, April 6, 2020


The 1950s were full of singing groups. There was something about a group of women or men singing together that really appealled to audiences in that decade. One of my favorite singing groups of that era were The Four Aces. Over the last half-century, the group amassed many gold records. Its million-selling signature tunes include "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing", "Three Coins in the Fountain","Stranger in Paradise", "Tell Me Why", and "(It's No) Sin". Other big sellers included "Shangri-La", "Perfidia", and "Sincerely". The original members, responsible for every song made popular by the group, included Al Alberts, Dave Mahoney, Lou Silvestri, and Rosario "Sod" Vaccaro.

Alberts went to South Philadelphia High School and Temple University, and served in the United States Navy, where he met Mahoney. Originally, Alberts sang with Mahoney playing behind him, and later they added Vaccaro on trumpet and Silvestri on drums. They played locally in the Philadelphia area, and Alberts started his own record label, Victoria Records, when they could not find a distributor to release their first record, "(It's No) Sin". It sold a million copies, and Decca Records soon signed the group, billing them as The Four Aces featuring Al Alberts.

Alberts left the group in 1958 to try to make it as a soloist, but never made the charts. He was replaced as lead singer by Fred Diodati, who had attended South Philadelphia High School a few years after Alberts. After Alberts had left the group, Mahoney and Vaccaro also left. Silvestri never left the group, but led three new members: Diodati, Tony Alesi, and Joe Giglio. The Original Aces later asked Silvestri to rejoin the original group, and he did.

It was then that Diodati led a new line-up, which consisted of Diodati, Alesi, Giglio, and Harry Heisler. After almost 19 years with the group, Alesi developed a medical condition that forced him to leave the group. As of 2013the Four Aces members are Diodati, Giglio, Heisler, and Danny Colingo. These members sing all the songs the original Four Aces had made popular at one time.

In 1975, Diodati, Alesi, Giglio, and Heisler were awarded the right to the name in a court suit in which the original members tried to re-establish their right. The court allowed the founding members to tour as "The Original Four Aces, Featuring Al Alberts", which they did, finally retiring the act in 1987. Diodati, Giglio, Heisler, and Colingo continue to legally use the name of the Four Aces and perform the songs made popular by the Original Four Aces.

The founding lead singer, Alberts, died of natural causes on November 27, 2009 at age 87. Mahoney died on July 12, 2012 of complications from Alzheimer's Disease at age 86. Silvestri died on January 27, 2013 at age 86. Vaccaro (born in 1922) died on April 5, 2013 at age 90...

Saturday, April 4, 2020


One of my favorite comedians of all time was the great Curly Howard. His zaniness really made The Three Stooges what they were. I was looking for the obituary for Curly and found this newspaper clipping.

This particular clipping was from the Oregonian Newspaper of January 20, 1952...