Friday, November 26, 2021

HOLLYWOOD BEAUTY: LINDA DARNELL

One of the most stunningly beautiful women in Hollywood was Linda Darnell. I feel her beauty was literally breathtaking. Sadly, Linda died tragically in a fire in 1965, but her beauty lives in, and here are a few examples of it...















Monday, November 22, 2021

MY FIVE FAVORITE FEMALE SINGERS

 Nothing relaxes me more than one of the great songbirds from the golden age of singing. Whenever I am feeling stressed out, I love going to my music room and just listen to golden voices in the dark and get lost in the audio aspirins. I made a list of my five favorite female singers in 2013 and 2019 so I figured I was due to update my list. There are so any great female singers out there...


5. BILLIE HOLIDAY (1915-1959)
People either love or hate Billie's voice, and I love her singing. From her early recordings in the mid 1930s with Benny Goodman to her said and weakened voice in the 1950s, Billie had a way to sell a song. Billie's best recording was "God Bless The Child". "God Bless the Child" became Holiday's most popular and most covered record. It reached number 25 on the charts in 1941 and was third in Billboard's songs of the year, selling over a million records. Billie died tragically too young but her voice lives on in so many vocal masterpieces. (rank in 2013: 9, rank in 2019: 6)


4. JUDY GARLAND (1922-1969)
Like Billie, Judy Garland conveyed so much in her voice. Judy became an icon for the gay movement, but she also was a great recording star. Her records I feel were even better than her movies. At a young age she was signed to Decca and recorded some great numbers there like "Figaro", "Over The Rainbow", "No Love No Nothin", and "This Heart Of Mine". She only recorded soundtracks afterwards at MGM Records, but once she signed with Capitol in the 1950s, she made some terrific albums. Again, like Billie, Judy died way too young. (rank in 2013: 10, rank in 2019: 8)


3. CONNEE BOSWELL (1907-1976)
If you need an audio aspirin, then please listen to Connee Boswell. Connee herself is widely considered one of the greatest jazz female vocalists and was a major influence on Ella Fitzgerald. After breaking up with her sisters in 1936, she made some great solo records for Decca for the next 20 years. Some of my favorite of these records are: "I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart", "Sand In My Shoes", and "Why Don't You Fall In Love With Me" to just name a few. She made an excellent album for Decca in 1956 simply titled "Connee" with Sy Oliver and his Orchestra. Connee's last chart hit was "If I Give Myself To You" in 1954, and in my opinion I don't think she recorded enough. (rank in 2013: 2, rank in 2019: 3)

2. DINAH SHORE (1917-1994)
There is nothing finer than Dinah! After failing singing auditions for the bands of Benny Goodman, and both Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, Shore struck out on her own. She became the first singer of her era to achieve huge solo success. She had a string of 80 charted popular hits, spanning 1940–1957. Eddie Cantor helped to discover her, and she got a contract to Bluebird in 1939 where she recorded such recordings as "Sleepy Lagoon" and "Yes, My Darling Daughter". She then went to Columbia and scored some mega hits like "Lavender Blue" and "Button And Bows". In the 1950s she also sang for Capitol Records for a time. Dinah became more widely known for her television shows by the 1960s, and her voice was not what it was, but she is still one of my favorite songbirds out there.(rank in 2013: 3, rank in 2019: 2)


1. JO STAFFORD (1917-2008)
Like Bing Crosby on my favorite male singer list, Jo Stafford has also been number one on my list for decades. In addition to her recordings with the Pied Pipers, Stafford featured in solo performances for Dorsey. After leaving the group in 1944, she recorded a series of pop standards for Capitol Records and Columbia Records. Many of her recordings were backed by the orchestra of Paul Weston. In the 1950s, Stafford had a string of popular hits with Frankie Laine, six of which charted. Their duet of the Hank Williams song "Hey Good Lookin'" made the top 10 in 1951. She had her best-known hits—"Jambalaya", "Shrimp Boats", "Make Love to Me", and "You Belong to Me"—around this time."You Belong to Me" was Stafford's biggest hit, topping the charts in the United States. Jo retired in 1970, and although she retired so young, she left us with such a great recording songbook. There was no one like Jo! (rank in 2013:1 rank in 2019: 1)

There are many other singers that I love too so here is my list of runners up to round out the top ten: Margaret Whiting (1924-2011), Peggy Lee (1920-2002), June Christy (1925-1990, Jeri Southern (1926-1991), and Kate Smith (1907-1986).

Friday, November 19, 2021

MOMMIE DEAREST AND WHAT WENT WRONG

Based on Joan Crawford's adopted daughter's autobiography,Mommie Dearest is an oddity in the annals of cinema, a film which harbours such terrible family secrets and dark, almost taboo, depictions of child abuse that has earned a reputation as a campy, cult classic. This supposedly authentic recreation of Christina Crawford's upbringing should be a cautionary tale, an intense insight into the terror that comes along with the emotional and physical abuse of a child but instead the film has come to be perceived as an unintentional comedy, spurred forward by Faye Dunaway's now infamous performance as Crawford and a multitude of instantly quotable one liners that sound like they would be more at home in a Jon Waters film (my favourite being Gregg Savitt's comment on Crawford's drinking - "When you were a kid that made you look sexy. Now it just makes you look drunk.")

I sat down to watch Mommie Dearest knowing full well of its reputation (this in fact being the reason I was so interested in it) but was puzzled to find myself quite emotionally effected by the scenes of abuse rather than being able to find any sort of humour in them. This isn't to say the film as a whole is particularly good; it is, in fact, fairly atrocious in terms of its shoddy set design, tonal inconsistencies and warped sense of pacing but I wasn't able to fully immerse myself in what I had heard was a fun filled, campy misadventure due to the fact that the abuse scenes seemed so inexorably authentic. I'm not quite sure that watching a woman beat her child with a wire coat hanger is ever comedic, despite the melodrama or laughable dialogue that may have come before it.


The most derided and infamous aspect of the film's legacy lies in Dunaway's extravagant performance as Joan Crawford. The outright insanity and evil that Dunaway purveys throughout the film means she becomes the center of attention for the audience and, because of this, any insight or subtext is lost upon the viewer. Like a tornado she manages to draw everything in the scene into her sphere whilst simultaneously tearing everything in it apart, both physically and cinematically. Strangely though, I would be hesitant to deride the performance as bad. It certainly has a negative effect on the film as a whole but Dunaway herself is hypnotic and compelling, channeling a raw dynamism into what could have been merely an impression. Pauline Kael herself has said "“Faye Dunaway gives a startling, ferocious performance in Mommie Dearest. It's deeper than an impersonation...she turns herself into Joan Crawford, all right, but she's more Faye Duanway than ever".

So, is this a case of a director letting his star overpower the feature? Dunaway herself has expressed regret over the film, stating that she wished that director Frank Perry had "had enough experience to see when actors needed to rein in their performances." Whilst she may be correct in her analysis here, it ignores the fact that everything else in the film is so mundane. Aside from a few catwalk-esque shots of Dunaway framed by curtains in a beautiful dress, there isn't any attempt at artistic expression here to even deride. Ebert praised the film's look in his review but I disagree with him; it looks like a made for TV-movie and concludes like a made-for TV movie, dull and predictable. I'd argue that the only thing keeping this film alive is Dunaway and for that she should be applauded.

What was everybody else's experience of this film? Did you find fun and games in it or was it difficult to sit through? I'm still perplexed by it...

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

THE REAL GYPSY ROSE LEE

Here is a great article in Life Magazine by Ben Cosgrove. It is much better than I could ever write...

Ask any American today under the age of, say, 40, “Who was Gypsy Rose Lee?” and chances are pretty good that the reaction will be utter bewilderment. “Gypsy Rose who?”

On the other hand, ask anyone who came of age in the 1940s or ’50s the same question, and the reaction will likely be something along the lines of, “Gypsy Rose Lee? I haven’t thought about her in decades! But let me tell you, back in the day. . . .”

Gypsy Rose Lee (born Rose Louise Hovick in Seattle in 1911) was and remains a force in American popular culture not because she acted in films (although she did act in films) or because she wrote successful mystery novels (although she did write successful mystery novels). The reason Lee’s influence endures can be attributed to two central elements of her remarkable, all-American life story: first, her 1957 memoir, Gypsy, which formed the basis for what more than a few critics laud as the greatest of all American musicals, the 1959 Styne-Sondheim-Laurents masterpiece, Gypsy; and second, her career in burlesque, when she became the most famous and perhaps the most singularly likable stripper in the world. (Modern “neo-burlesque” performers, like Dita Von Teese, Angie Pontani and others, cite Gypsy in near-reverent terms as a pioneer and inspiration.)


Here, LIFE.com celebrates Gypsy Rose Lee’s life and her career with a selection of pictures by George Skadding, a LIFE staffer far better known for photographing presidents (he was long an officer of the White House News Photographers Association) than burlesque stars. But, as the images in this gallery attest, Gypsy was hardly just another stripper; instead, as a performer, a wife and a mother of a young son, she had something about her an approachable, self-deprecating demeanor aligned with a quiet self-certainty that any politician would envy.

“I’m probably the highest paid outdoor entertainer since Cleopatra,” she’s quoted as saying in the June 6, 1949 issue of LIFE, in which many of these pictures first appeared. “And I don’t have to stand for some of the stuff she had to.”

“Confidently taking her place among history’s great ladies, Gypsy has for the first time in her life gone outdoors professionally,” LIFE wrote at the beginning of Gypsy’s six-month tour with what was called “the world’s largest carnival,” The Royal American Shows. The prospect of having to do her old strip-tease act 8 to 15 times a day “all across the country to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan,” meanwhile, although hardly thrilling to the 38-year-old mom, was also something Gypsy could, characteristically, put in perspective:

“For $10,000 a week,” she told LIFE, “I can afford to climb the slave block once in a while.”


She also, as LIFE put it, “had it soft, as carny performers’ lives go. She lives in her own trailer with her third husband, the noted Spanish painter, Julio de Diego. With them is her 4-year-old son, Erik [film director Otto Preminger’s child, as it turned out] and his nurse. Gypsy, who loves to fish, carries an elaborate angler’s kit, and whenever the show plays near a river, goes out and hooks fish as ably as she does customers.”

But it’s in the notes of writer Arthur Shay, who spent a week with the star in Memphis, Tennessee, in May 1949, that we meet the woman who emerges when the lights go down and the crowds depart and it’s clearly this Gypsy who truly connected to audiences wherever she went:

“Funny thing about show people or just plain fans,” she told Shay at one point, offering insights into the appeal of her nomadic life. “They think if you’re not in Hollywood or on Broadway making a couple of thousand a week taking guff from everybody and his cousin in the west, and sweating out poor crowds on Broadway you’re not doing well. [But] I’ve been touring the country playing nightclubs and making twice as much as I made in the movies, and having more fun! I get a lot more fishing done, for one thing, and I can live in my trailer and see the country.”

Gypsy Rose Lee died in April, 1970, of lung cancer. She was 59 years old...


Friday, November 12, 2021

DANA PLATO: ANOTHER TORTURED CHILD STAR

I was raised in the 1980s, and watching television was the main form of relaxing. This was before cell phones and computers! I remember my first crush I ever had was Dana Plato, who played ther daughter on the hit series "Different Strokes" from 1978 to 1986. Sadly, as with so many younger stars, her life ended sadly.

Dana was also remembered for her troubled life after "Different Strokes" when her career spiraled downward after becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol. She was born in Maywood, California on November 7, 1964  to an 16-year-old unmarried teenager who gave her up for adoption. When she was three years old, her adoptive parents divorced and her mother started auditioning her at an early age. At the age of seven, she began doing television commercials for companies as diverse as Kentucky Fried Chicken, Dole, and Atlantic Richfield. In 1977 she made her film debut in Return to Boggy Creek. She was also an accomplished figure skater, and at one point she was training for a possible Olympic team spot. 

During this time she was spotted by a producer during a brief appearance on the daytime television's "The Gong Show," and won her role on "Diff'rent Strokes" and the show was an immediate hit. In 1984 she became pregnant by her boyfriend, rock guitarist Lanny Lambert, and the show's producers of felt that a pregnancy would fit the show's wholesome image, so she was let go but returned for several appearances during its final season. The two married in April 1984 but separated in January 1988, a week after her adoptive mother's death. 


After "Diff'rent Strokes" was cancelled, she attempted to establish herself as a serious actress, but found it difficult to step out of the long shadows cast by her sitcom career and ended up taking roles in B-movies such as "Bikini Beach Race" and "Lethal Cowboy." During this time, she also posed for Playboy magazine. In 1991 she ended up in Las Vegas, Nevada unemployed and took a job at a dry-cleaning store. On February 28, she entered a video store, produced a gun, and demanded the money in the register. Approximately 15 minutes after the robbery, she returned to the scene and was immediately arrested. The gun was only a pellet gun and the robbery netted her $164. Las Vegas entertainer Wayne Newton posted her bail and she was given five years' probation. 

She made headlines and became part of the national debate over troubled child stars, particularly given the difficulties of her "Diff'rent Strokes" co-stars, Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges. In January 1992 she was arrested again, this time for forging a prescription for Diazepam. She served 30 days in jail for violation of the terms of her probation and immediately entered a drug program. The same year, she was one of the first celebrities to star in a video game. The game, "Night Trap," was not a great success, but is considered a pioneering title as it was the first game to use live actors, specifically a well known personality, and was one of the first video game titles to have mature content and attracted controversy due to its depiction of violence. 


Toward the end of her career, she chose roles that could be considered erotic or even soft-core pornography, appearing partially nude in Prime Suspect (1988) and Compelling Evidence (1995), but her most infamous film was the 1997 pornographic movie Different Strokes: The Story of Jack and Jill...and Jill. On May 7, 1999 she traveled to New York City, New York with her finance Robert Menchaca, where she appeared on "The Howard Stern Show" to talk frankly about her life, including her run-ins with the law, financial problems, and drug and alcohol addictions. She admitted to being a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, but claimed that she had been sober for more than ten years by that point, and was not using any drugs, with the exception of prescribed painkillers due to discomfort and pain from the recent extraction of her wisdom teeth. 

The following day, she and Menchaca were returning to California and stopped by his mother's home in Moore, Oklahoma, for a Mother's Day visit. She went to lie down inside her recreational vehicle parked outside the house and subsequently died of an overdose of the muscle-relaxant Vanadom (Soma) and painkiller Lortab at the age of 34. Her death was ruled a suicide. Tragically, almost 11 years to the day of her death, her son Tyler Lambert committed suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. It is sad that Dana Plato never escaped the horror of being a child star. Dana and her son deserved better...


Tuesday, November 9, 2021

FORGOTTEN ONES: GARY CROSBY

I have taken a look at three of the sons Bing Crosby had with his first wife, Dixie Lee. However, I hesitated to profile Bing's oldest son Gary Crosby. As a lifelong fan of Der Bingle, I have been bitter against Gary for the scathing book he wrote about his father in 1983. However, now nearly 40 years later, it is what it is. Bing had a very difficult relationship with his four sons especially Gary. Despite that book, Gary's life was a life worth living, and I feel his life should not be forgotten.

Gary Crosby was born on June 27, 1933 in Los Angeles and graduated from Stanford University. He entered the entertainment business and performed in a harmony singing group, The Crosby Boys, with his three brothers, Philip, Lindsay, and Dennis, during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. As a teenager, he sang with his father on numerous records songs, and two of them "Sam's Song" and "Play a Simple Melody",  became the first double-sided gold record in history.  He also recorded duets with Louis Armstrong and at least one 45-single with Sammy Davis Jr.. He also performed on several variety programs, including ABC's The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom and NBC's The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford. In the mid-1950s, Gary also had his own radio program, the Gary Crosby Show on CBS. The musical variety program debuted June 6, 1954, as a summer replacement for Bing Crosby's show.


As an actor, Crosby appeared in many television programs. On March 20, 1955, he appeared on the Jack Benny Program Season 5, Episode 13. Later, he was briefly under contract to 20th Century-Fox in the late 1950s. He appeared in a number of supporting roles for the studio, normally comedies in which Crosby played a soldier: Mardi Gras (1958) with Pat Boone; Holiday for Lovers (1959), as Carol Lynley's love interest; A Private's Affair (1959), with Sal Mineo; The Right Approach (1961) with Frankie Vaughan. Gary spent a small stint in the military where he was stationed with Elvis Presley whom he would make Girl Crazy with in 1965.

He is perhaps best-remembered for his recurring roles as Eddie the scheming bellhop on The Bill Dana Show and Officer Edward "Ed" Wells on NBC's Adam-12 from 1968–75, as well as appearances on several other shows produced by Jack Webb's Mark VII Limited (including an episode of Dragnet 1969 and five episodes of Emergency!). In addition to the aforementioned, he also appeared in three episodes of The Rockford Files.


In the 1970s, he appeared occasionally on game shows such as Match Game and Tattletales as a guest panelist. He married and divorced three times; he had one stepchild as a result. A lifelong alcoholic, Gary jumped at the change to write about his famous father. The children of other famous stars such as Christina Crawford (daughter of Joan Crawfrod) had made millions off of the tell-all tales of growing up famous.

In 1983, six years after his father's death, Crosby published an autobiography, Going My Own Way, which revealed the effects of his alcoholism and his difficult childhood as a result of his mother's alcoholism and his father's emotional and physical abuse. Some, especially his brother Phillip, said the abuse was not as severe as Crosby described. Gary himself reportedly admitted the book was a big exaggeration to make money.

In the late 1980s, Gary gained peace in his life and became sober. At the time of his death, he was planning a duets album with his father like Natalie Cole had done with her father Nat King Cole. Gary Crosby died of lung cancer in Burbank, California on August 24,1995, and is interred at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills Cemetery. Just like Gary Crosby made peace with his father, I feel I need to make peace with Gary's book. Who know how anyone would have turned out if they had Gary's life. The important thing is that he finally had peace at the end...

RIP: DEAN STOCKWELL

Dean Stockwell, an American actor with a career that spanned more than 70 years, died on Sunday. He was 85.

Sources representing the actor say that he died peacefully, in his sleep at home.

Among his best credits were a leading role in the sci-fi series “Quantum Leap,” “Air Force One” and David Lynch films “Dune” and “Blue Velvet.”

Born as Robert Dean Stockwell in March 1936, Stockwell began his career as a child actor under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. His first know film appearance was in “Valley of Decision” in 1945. Other early titles included “Anchors Aweigh” and “The Green Years.”


Arguably, Stockwell’s biggest role was as Admiral ‘Al’ Calavicci in NBC sci-series “Quantum Leap” which ran for five seasons between 1989 and 1993. The womanizing, larger than life character was the foil for Scott Bakula’s role as Dr. Sam Beckett, a physicist who engaged in space time experiments.

The role earned Stockwell multiple nominations for the Primetime Emmys and for the Golden Globes, with a Golden Globe win in 1990 for “best performance by an actor in a supporting role in a series, miniseries or motion picture made for television.” Stockwell received a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame on Feb. 29, 1992.

Stockwell earned a supporting actor Oscar nomination for 1988 film “Married to the Mob.” Before that he was twice named best actor at the Cannes film festival in 1959 and 1962. The first of these was for “Compulsion,” in which Stockwell reprised a role he had earlier played on Broadway.


Stockwell famously dropped in and out of his acting career. In the 1960s, he joined the Topanga Canyon hippie group did drugs and participated in love-ins. In the early 1980s, after becoming depressed about his restarted acting career, Stockwell obtained a real estate license and moved out of Hollywood. He was apparently persuaded by Harry Dean Stanton to return and try again.

What followed were roles in some of the era’s defining movies. These included Wim Wenders’ “Paris, Texas,” “To Live and Die in L.A.,” “The Rainmaker,” “Robert Altman’s “The Player,” “Married to the Mob” and the two Lynch movies.

He went on to have recurring roles in “Battlestar Galactica” series and “The Tony Danza Show.”



Thursday, November 4, 2021

THE MOVIES OF KAY KYSER

Taken from the Kay Kyser website, this is a great rundown of the films that band leader Kay Kyser made. All of the band leaders of the time tried their hands at movies. Most of them were terrible actors, but at least Kyser had an image on radio than transferred nicely to movies...


1. THAT'S RIGHT-YOU'RE WRONG
(1939 RKO)
Kay Kyser Adolphe Menjou, Lucille Ball.

Kay and the band's radio show success brings a Hollywood movie offer in this movie-in-a-movie. It's fresh and entertaining with Menjou as the evil producer. Great songs, great energy. Ok, I'm biased.

2. YOU'LL FIND OUT
(1940 RKO)
Kay Kyser, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Peter Lorre, Helen Parrish, Dennis O'Keefe.

This, the 2nd KK film, is now a cult classic. People buy bootleg copies off EBAY all the time. But, a-ha! They're not restored copies. Kay and the band in a haunted house. Swing numbers one minute, Ish disappearing behind secret panels the next. The ONLY time (perk up, you experts) Karloff, Lugosi and Lorre appeared together in the same film. I love it, but Kay's a bit too over the top in first scene. Incredible songs! "Like The Fella Once Said", "You've Got Me This Way", "I'd Know You Anywhere", "One Track Mind", Ish's "Bad Humor Man (rumor has it that the song was to have been sung by the "3 Boogie Men"!! as print ads described them). A MUST for Halloween.

3. PLAYMATES
(1941 RKO)
Kay Kyser, John Barrymore, Lupe Velez, Ginny Simms.

Ginny gets co-star billing in her last film before leaving the band. Also known for being Barrymore's last film. (And yes, he did indeed read his lines off a sign or blackboard just off-camera). Publicity stunt goes awry, with Barrymore having to teach Kay to perform Shakespeare. Patsy Kelly, Peter Lind Hayes are memorable, JB cartoonish.



4. MY FAVORITE SPY
(1942 RKO)
Kay Kyser, Ellen Drew, Jane Wyman.

Not the Bob Hope film of the same name! Kay gets married and is drafted to become an American spy! Silly and funny. Gives you that goofy 40s feeling. Harry sings "Just Plain Lonesome", Sully sings "Got the Moon in My Pocket".


5. AROUND THE WORLD
(1943 RKO)
Kay Kyser, Joan Davis, Mischa Auer.

Kay and band fly around the world to entertain the troops. Band has now updated style to harder swing. Check out song "Roodle-ee-doo". Georgia Carroll and Harry Babbitt featured on "Candlelight and Wine".


6. SWING FEVER

(1943 MGM)
Kay Kyser, Marilyn Maxwell.

Kay plays Lowell Blackford, a hayseed composer in the big city w/ strange hypnotic power.. Gets mixed up w/ corrupt boxers and well, enough said. MGM had no clue what to do with him. Great posters, though! 



7. CAROLINA BLUES
(1944 Columbia)
Kay Kyser, Ann Miller, Victor Moore.

Kay and band can't stop turning down camp show requests even though they're overdue for a vacation. Moore trys to scam Kay into using Miller as singer when Georgia leaves band for matrimony. The last Kay Kyser feature. Rumor has it one was in development in 1949, but never appeared. Out of Kay's seven features, I rate this a seven.

Kay and his band also appeared in 2 other films:

Stage Door Canteen
(1943 UA) performing "A Rookie & His Rhythm".

Thousands Cheer
(1943 MGM) performing medley "I Dug a Ditch- Should I?". It's Kay and the gang in glorious color for the first (and only) time!

Kay and the band did several short subjects as well, the exact number not confirmed.

It should be noted that these were, in effect, pop movies of the time, and though they're certainly not Gone With The Wind, they are for the most part fun, funny and entertaining. It's also important to remember that the stories always revolved around Kay, unlike most bandleader's films of that time. For example, the two Glenn Miller movies, though entertaining, seldom feature Glenn for more than a line or two unless the band's performing...



Friday, October 29, 2021

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: A CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD HALLOWEEN

One of my favorite holidays is Halloween, and throughout my blog's history I have spotlighted some of the great costumes and poses that have been captured of classic Hollywood throughout the years. Here is another addition with some more great pics...

Bing Crosby

Alfred Hitchcock

Ann Miller
Pinky Tomlin & Rita Hayworth

Jackie Cooper

Elizabeth Montgomery

Past "A Classic Hollywood Halloween"...


Monday, October 25, 2021

MY FIVE FAVORITE MALE SINGERS

I love making lists of my favorites. It goes back to when I was a child. Is it the OCD in me? Or is it the desire to rank everything? I am not sure. I last published a list of my favorite male singers in 2019, so I wanted to see if the pandemic and two years changed anything! 

Here is the countdown:



5. TONY MARTIN (1913-2012)

Tony sang for an amazing nine decades, and he had one of the strongest pipes in the business. Although he recorded in the 1930s and 1940s prolifically, his biggest hits came in the 1950s with "Kiss Of Fire", "There's No Tomorrow", and many others. I had the pleasure of seeing him in concert in 1999, and although he was 86 then - he still had it! His later years were sad as he mourned the death of his wife dancer Cyd Charisse, as well as the death of his son. However he gave millions of fans hours of enjoyment with his records. (ranking in 2013: 10, ranking in 2019: 4)

4. BILLY ECKSTINE (1914-1993)
Billy Eckstine was born in my hometown of Pittsburgh, and like Tony Martin, Billy had such a smooth sounding voice. Just listen to his version of "I Apologize", and it will instantly get rid of any headache that you may have. Another big hit at the time for Billy was "My Foolish Heart". In the 60s and 70s, Eckstine recorded for Motown Records and smaller labels with mixed results, but the voice was still there. He did a lot of live performances at the time and toured with Sarah Vaughan. I highly recommend  their album together on the Mercury label of Irving Berlin songs from 1958. Billy died in Pittsburgh, and I was attending college near where his funeral procession was in 1993. (new to list)


3. DEAN MARTIN (1917-1995)
Dino Crocetti made singing look so easy. His records for Capitol, and later Reprise make it seem like Dean never tried. He made singing seem so effortlessly, but in reality he was a dedicated performer, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. Dean became more famous for his television show, which was on the air from 1965 to 1974, but he recorded countless hits like "That's Amore", "Memories Are Made Of This" and "Sway". Dean kind of gave up after 1987 when his son was killed in an airplane crash. I highly recommend an early album Dean did for Capitol called Swinging Down Yonder in 1955. One of my prized possessions are the various Bear Family CD box sets of Dino's complete output. What a singer he was! (ranking in 2013: 2, ranking in 2019: 2)

2. BUDDY CLARK (1912-1949)
Buddy spent countless years being a radio and big band singer. He had the personality and charisma for being a movie star, but unfortunately he did not have the looks. In 1946 he signed with Columbia Records and scored his biggest hit with the song "Linda" recorded in November of that year, but hitting its peak in the following spring. 1947 also saw hits for Clark with such titles as "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?" (from the musical Finian's Rainbow), which made the Top Ten, "Peg O' My Heart", "An Apple Blossom Wedding", and "I'll Dance at Your Wedding". The following year he had another major hit with "Love Somebody" (a duet with Doris Day, selling a million and reaching #1 on the charts) and nine more chart hits, and extended his success into 1949 with a number of hits, both solo and duetting with Day and Dinah Shore. Buddy's life ended tragically on October 1, 1949 in an airplane crash. He died way too young. (ranking in 2013: 5, ranking in 2019: 6)



1. BING CROSBY (1903-1977)
Bing has been one of my favorite singers for decades now, and I don't see that ever changing! From the 1920s to 1970s Bing recorded songs that I love like: "My Kinda Love" (in 1929), "Pennies From Heaven" (in 1936), "Blue Skies" (in 1946), "I Love You Samantha" (in 1956), "Younger Than Springtime" (in 1963), and one of his last recordings "Once In A While" (in 1977). Bing also recorded with everyone in the business like: the Dorsey Brothers, Duke Ellington, Frances Langford, Woody Herman, Louis Jordan, Louis Armstrong, Lee Wiley, and the list goes on and on! Many people said if you couldn't sing with Bing, then you couldn't sing and that was the truth. Bing recorded prolifically on Brunswick and Decca for over 25 years, and his voice was recorded more than any human voice in the history of the world. Even horrible songs that Bing was forced to record was made listenable by Bing's voice. There is no one who has ever matched Bing or ever will! (ranking in 2013: 1, ranking in 2019: 1)

It is hard coming up with five favorites so here are some of the singers that are runners up and make up my top ten favorite male singers list: Dick Haymes (1918-1980), Nat King Cole (1919-1965), Al Bowlly (1898-1941), Al Jolson (1886-1950), and Frank Sinatra (1915-1998).

Friday, October 22, 2021

BORN ON THIS DAY: CURLY HOWARD

One of the true geniuses of comedic cinema was the great Curly Howard. Today we celebrate what would have been this lovable buffoon's 118th birthday!  Curly was born Jerome Lester Horwitz in the Bensonhurst section of the Brooklyn borough of New York City, on October 22, 1903. Of Lithuanian Jewish ancestry, he was the youngest of the five sons of Jennie (Gorovitz) and Solomon Horwitz. Because he was the youngest, his brothers called him "Babe" to tease him. The name "Babe" stuck with him all his life, although when his elder brother Shemp Howard married Gertrude Frank, who was also nicknamed "Babe", the brothers called him "Curly" to avoid confusion.

A quiet child, Howard rarely caused problems for his parents (something in which older brothers Moe and Shemp excelled). He was a mediocre student, but excelled as an athlete on the school basketball team. He did not graduate from high school, and instead he kept himself busy with odd jobs and constantly following his older brothers, whom he idolized. He was also an accomplished ballroom dancer and singer, and regularly turned up at the Triangle Ballroom in Brooklyn, occasionally bumping into George Raft.


When Howard was 12, he accidentally shot himself in the left ankle while cleaning a rifle. Moe rushed him to the hospital and saved his life. The wound resulted in a noticeably thinner left leg and a slight limp. He was so frightened of surgery that he never had the limp corrected. While with the Stooges, he developed his famous exaggerated walk to mask the limp on screen.

Howard was interested in music and comedy, and watched his brothers Shemp and Moe perform as stooges in Ted Healy's vaudeville act. He also liked to hang around backstage, although he never participated in any of the routines.

Curly's first on-stage break was as a comedy musical conductor in 1928 for the Orville Knapp Band. Moe later recalled that his performances usually overshadowed those of the band. Though he enjoyed the gig, he watched as brothers Moe and Shemp with partner Larry Fine made it big as some of Ted Healy's "Stooges". Vaudeville star Healy had a very popular stage act, in which he would try to tell jokes or sing, only to have his stooges wander on stage and interrupt or heckle him and cause disturbances from the audience. Meanwhile, Healy and company appeared in their first feature film, Rube Goldberg's Soup to Nuts (1930).


Shemp Howard, however, disliked Healy's abrasiveness, bad temper, and alcoholism. In 1932, he was offered a contract at the Vitaphone Studios in Brooklyn. (Contrary to stories told by Moe, the role of "Knobby Walsh" in the Joe Palooka series did not come along until late 1935, after Shemp had been at Vitaphone for three years and had already appeared in almost 30 short subjects.) Shemp was thrilled to be away from Healy, but as was his nature, worried incessantly about brother Moe and partner Larry. Moe, however, told Shemp to pursue this opportunity.

With Shemp gone, Moe suggested that Curly fill the role of the third stooge, but Healy felt that with his thick, chestnut hair and elegant waxed mustache, he did not "look funny" and was "too handsome". Howard left the room and returned minutes later with his head shaven (the mustache remained very briefly). Healy quipped, "Boy, don't you look girlie?" Moe misheard the joke as "curly", and all who witnessed the exchange realized that the nickname "Curly" would be a perfect fit. And the rest is comedic history...


Tuesday, October 19, 2021

MEL BROOKS AND HISTORY OF THE WORLD PART 2

“History of the World, Part I” is finally getting a Part II, with Hulu ordering a variety series follow up to the classic Mel Brooks comedy film, Variety has learned exclusively.

“History of the World, Part II” is described as a sequel to the 1981 film. The film was made up of segments set during different periods of world history. Among those was the Stone Age, Ancient Rome, and the French Revolution. Like most of Brooks’ work, it also featured musical numbers, including one about the Spanish Inquisition and, of course, “Jews in Space.”

Brooks is a writer and executive producer on the series along with Nick Kroll, Wanda Sykes, Ike Barinholtz, David Stassen and Kevin Salter. There is no word yet on which world events the series will cover. Hulu has ordered eight episodes of the show. The writers room is beginning in October with production slated to begin in Spring 2022. Searchlight Television and 20th Television will produce.

“I can’t wait to once more tell the real truth about all the phony baloney stories the world has been conned into believing are History!” Brooks said.

Brooks, a comedy legend and EGOT winner, wrote and directed “History of the World, Part I” in addition to appearing onscreen in five different roles. Those included King Louis XVI and his piss boy doppleganger as well as the stand up philosopher Comicus. The film also featured stars like Gregory Hines, Dom De Luise, Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman, Cloris Leachman, and many more.

Brooks’ comedy films are consistently ranked among the best of all time, such as “Blazing Saddles,” “Young Frankenstein,” “The Producers,” and “Spaceballs.” He later adapted both “The Producers” and “Young Frankenstein” as critically-acclaimed stage musicals. He has also produced several hit films, most notably David Lynch’s “The Elephant Man.”


Sunday, October 17, 2021

CELEBRITY ADS: DORIS DAY

I love looking at the old advertisements that classic Hollywood stars would be in. This 1949 magazine advertisement shows Doris Day hawking a steamroller....yes a steamroller. It can only happen in Hollywood. The magazine ad also said Day was currently appearing in the Warner Brother's movie It's A Great Feeling(1949)...



Thursday, October 14, 2021

MICKEY ROONEY AND HIS OFFENSIVE ROLE

At the age of 93, actor Mickey Rooney passed away in 2014. As his many lengthy eulogies had made abundantly clear, his was a life of stratospheric highs and humiliating lows. He was one of the biggest stars in the world as a teen; he fell into bankruptcy and irrelevancy as an adult. He reinvented himself and rebounded. He crashed and burned. Few lives have had as many epic twists and turns, making his obituaries obsessively engrossing reading.

But there's one thing the newspapers have generally danced past, and it happens to be the role that has cast the longest shadow out of a career of thousands: His performance as Mr. I.Y. Yunioshi in the classic 1961 film "Breakfast at Tiffany's."

In the decades since the film was released, Rooney's portrayal of Yunioshi — taped eyelids, buck teeth, sibilant accent and all — has become one of the persistent icons of ethnic stereotype, brought up whenever conversation turns to the topic of Hollywood racism. The depiction has prompted widespread protests whenever the film is screened; Paramount, the studio behind "Breakfast" has now acknowledged Yunioshi as such a toxic caricature that its canonical "Centennial Collection" DVD release of the film includes a companion documentary, "Mr. Yunioshi: An Asian Perspective," which features Asian American performers and advocates in conversation about the role's lasting cultural impact and the broader context of Asian and other racial stereotypes in entertainment.


Six before his death in 2008, after four decades of stolidly defending the role, even Rooney himself finally expressed some regrets, stating in an interview that if he'd known so many people would be offended, "I wouldn't have done it."

Would that he hadn't. The spectre of Yunioshi continues to haunt Hollywood and Asian America today. Rooney's broadly comic performance, repurposed from his early vaudeville days into the brave new world of the cinema, is the godfather of the "Ching-Chong" stereotype that continues to rear its yellow head today.

And even when laughed at for the right reasons, they're problematic. As many have pointed out in the wake of that campaign, the mainstreaming of these images has the unfortunate side effect of making them seem safe for public consumption…so long as their intent isn't to "harm." The danger of allowing intent to be the sole arbiter of whether something is acceptable can be seen most obviously in the depictions of another marginalized American population — the Native American Indians...