Thursday, September 16, 2021

RIP: JANE POWELL

LOS ANGELES -- Jane Powell, the bright-eyed, operatic-voiced star of Hollywood's golden age musicals who sang with Howard Keel in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and danced with Fred Astaire in “Royal Wedding,” has died. She was 92.

Powell died Thursday at her Wilton, Connecticut, home, longtime friend Susan Granger said. Granger said Powell died of natural causes.

“Jane was the most wonderful friend," Granger said. ”She was candid, she was honest. You never asked Jane a question you didn’t want an absolutely honest answer to."

Granger was a youngster when she met the then-teenaged Powell, who was making her film debut in 1944's “Song of the Open Road,” directed by Granger's father, S. Sylvan Simon.

She performed virtually her whole life, starting about age 5 as a singing prodigy on radio in Portland, Oregon. On screen, she quickly graduated from teen roles to the lavish musical productions that were a 20th-century Hollywood staple.

Her 1950 casting in “Royal Wedding” came by default. June Allyson was first announced as Astaire’s co-star but withdrew when she became pregnant. Judy Garland was cast, but was withdrawn because of personal problems. Jane Powell was next in line.

“They had to give it to me,” she quipped at the time. “Everybody else is pregnant.” Also among the expectant MGM stars: Lana Turner, Esther Williams, Cyd Charisse and Jean Hagen.

Powell had just turned 21 when she got the role; Astaire was 50. She was nervous because she lacked dancing experience, but she found him “very patient and understanding. We got along fine from the start.”


“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” proved to be a 1954 “sleeper” hit.

“The studio didn’t think it was going to do anything,” she recalled in 2000. “MGM thought that `Brigadoon’ was going to be the big moneymaker that year. It didn’t turn out that way. We were the ones that went to the Radio City Music Hall, which was always such a coup.”

The famed New York venue was a movie theater then.

Audiences were overwhelmed by the lusty singing of Keel and Powell and especially by the gymnastic choreography of Michael Kidd. “Seven Brides” achieved classic status and resulted in a TV series and a Broadway musical.

“Blonde and small and pretty, Jane Powell had the required amount of grit and spunk that was needed to play the woman who could tame seven backwoodsmen,” John Kobal wrote in his book “Gotta Sing Gotta Dance: A Pictorial History of Film Musicals.”


After 13 years at MGM, though, Powell quit the studio, reasoning that she was going to be fired “because they weren’t going to be doing musicals anymore.”

“I thought I’d have a lot of studios to go to,” she said in 2000, “but I didn’t have any, because no one wanted to make musicals. It was very difficult, and quite a shock to me. There’s nothing worse than not being wanted.”

She found one musical at RKO, “The Girl Most Likely,” a 1958 remake of “Tom, Dick and Harry.” Aside from a couple of minor films, her movie career was over.

She was born Suzanne Lorraine Burce in Portland, Oregon, in 1928. She began singing on local radio as a small child, and as she grew, her voice developed into a clear, high-pitched soprano.


When the Burce family planned a trip to Los Angeles, the radio station asked if Suzanne would appear on a network talent show there. The tiny girl with a 2½-octave voice drew thunderous applause with an aria from “Carmen” and was quickly put under contract to MGM.

Her first movie was a loanout to an independent producer for “Song of the Open Road,” a 1944 mishmash with W.C. Fields (at the end of his career) and Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.

The character’s name in “Song of the Open Road” was Jane Powell, and MGM decided that that would be her movie name.

She played teens in such films as “Holiday in Mexico,” “Three Daring Daughters” and “A Date With Judy.” But she pleaded with the studio bosses to be given grown-up roles and finally succeeded in “Royal Wedding.”

Frothy romances and musicals continued to dominate her career, including “Young, Rich and Pretty,” “Small Town Girl” and “Three Sailors and a Girl.”

After her movie career ended, musical theater offered plenty of work for a star of her prominence and talent. She sang in supper clubs, toured in such shows as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” and “I Do! I Do!” and replaced Debbie Reynolds in the Broadway run of “Irene.”

She frequently appeared on television, notably in the Judy Garland role in a new version of “Meet Me in St. Louis.”


As she approached her 70s, Powell abandoned her singing career. “I can’t hit the high notes, and I won’t be second-rate,” she explained in 2000. She switched to drama, appearing in New York theater in such plays as “Avow,” portraying mother of an unmarried, pregnant daughter and a son who wanted to marry his male partner.

Powell’s first four marriages ended in divorce: to Geary Steffen (son Geary, daughter Suzanne), Patrick Nerney (daughter Lindsay), James Fitzgerald and David Parlour.

Powell met fifth husband Dick Moore when he interviewed her for his book about child actors. As Dickie Moore, he had been a well-known child actor in the 1930s and ’40s and gave Shirley Temple her first screen kiss in “Miss Annie Rooney” (1942). Moore, head of a New York public relations office, and Powell married in 1988. He died in 2015.

Jane Powell's survivors include her daughter, Lindsey Nerney, Granger said....





THE REBRANDING OF TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES

Turner Classic Movies is one of the only 24-hour curated film channels available today. Its celebration of movies from the past could easily make it obsolete and stagnant. However, in the past few years, the cable network and its brand have taken leaps and strides in introducing new and modern ways to view old films. The rebrand that TCM announced at the beginning of September may look purely aesthetic, but it hints at more progressive programming that will serve new viewers — and the old films — better than ever.

In 1994, TCM began broadcasting films from the Turner Entertainment vault, which includes Warner Bros., MGM, and RKO Pictures. The cable network offered commercial-free programming along with host-delivered intros, which has not changed in more than 20 years. Even when AMC (American Movie Classics) abandoned this similar model to show contemporary releases, TCM remained the one place for classic films without commercials or edits to the original films. For many, the channel has been as much of a source of education as it has been of entertainment.

However, media consumption has changed rapidly in the past 10 years. Cable television viewership among younger audiences has become a rarity thanks to streaming services that offer everything possible without much curation. TCM made an effort to respond to this need by partnering with Criterion for the beloved but short-lived streaming service Filmstruck. TCM now has a sizable and diverse catalog on HBO Max. But many of their films lack the hosted introductions that make the brand unique. Fortunately, those intros are available through TCM’s on-demand option, Watch TCM.

The new “brand refresh” follows Warner Media’s dissolution of Turner Broadcasting System, leaving the future of TCM up in the air. However, it also follows many successful efforts to modernize TCM programming in the past few years.

Balancing an interest in the past with updated perspectives is not always easy, but the channel has found a way to further incorporate contextualizing old content with incredibly knowledgeable hosts such as Jacqueline Stewart and Alicia Malone. Their programs, “Silent Sunday Nights” and “TCM Imports,” have brought in films from varying perspectives, places, and time periods, allowing a stretch beyond the typical “classic” canon.

Last year, the “Women Make Film” program was a multi-week series of documentaries and films made by women from around the world. There has been a very clear effort to include more people of color in regular programming, as well, like with Star of the Month, which is currently highlighting Paul Robeson for the first time.

This kind of evolution not only attracts younger or previously uninterested viewers, but it also challenges long-time fans as well. There can be quite a push by a large portion of TCM viewers to exclusively play the hits. While showing Singin’ in the Rain at least four times a year ensures that there are ample times for someone to experience it for the first or fiftieth time, showing “new” movies is what keeps viewers tuning in again and again.

Having the tough conversations about rampant racism in Hollywood, the queer-coded characters of early American film, and the stars whom people have forgotten about challenges the nostalgia that can keep many people away from classic movies. That nostalgia is also challenged when we connect themes and attitudes from the past to today, which can uncover systemic problems within America that many people choose to ignore or believe have faded in time. Overall, recent efforts from TCM have set out to make more well-rounded and critical audiences, which feels so rare in media today.

It would be foolish not to recognize the power of marketing and branding as a way of showing off this work to modernize the brand while continuing its original goal, showing classic films. The TCM team, along with Sibling Rivalry, came up with a sleeker and easily malleable look for the logo and graphics associated with the new and improved TCM. These aesthetics look similar to many film festival graphics, like those of the New York Film Festival and Sundance. These festivals are associated with the future of film, which the TCM rebrand seems to be going for as well.


Inspired by shades found in Technicolor films and modern color movies, the palette for the branding is bright and colorful. This is a direct antithesis to what people think of when they think of old movies. “We want classic films to live,” says Dexter Fedor, Vice-President, Brand Creative & Marketing.

With the new tagline for TCM, “Where then meets now,” this desire is clear. The imagery alone would be bland. But it becomes a pedestal that stills and clips from TCM movies can stand on and stand out. Old films are still alive in the conversations we have about them and their influence on modern movies.

The TCM logo now focuses on the “C,” which has many different forms depending on its use. The “C” now embodies the core of what TCM will continue to focus on in the future: curation, context, connection, culture, and of course, classics. These aspects have been a part of TCM all along, so what people love about the channel is not changing. There is just a larger emphasis on what will keep TCM growing and evolving with generations to come.

Branding and aesthetics feel like a secondary thought to people focused on the movies that TCM provides. But it is a sign of efforts being made to grow TCM and keep it from being a casualty of streaming services. There is so much value in recontextualizing films of the past. We can learn as much about ourselves as we can about history and art. That can only be appreciated and influential if TCM can reach a wide audience. Here’s to hoping this attractive refresh will do just that...



Tuesday, September 14, 2021

RIP: NORM MACDONALD

Norm Macdonald, the deadpan comedian, actor, writer and “Saturday Night Live” star, has died after a private battle with cancer, Variety has confirmed. He was 61.

Macdonald’s cancer diagnosis was kept secret from the public, but he battled it for nine years. “Norm was an original! He defined American humor with honesty and blunt force,” Jeff Danis, president of DPN Talent, told Variety in a statement. Dozens of comedians, like Seth Rogen, Jon Stewart, Ron Funches and Jim Gaffigan, paid tribute to Macdonald, “one of the greatest comedians to have ever lived,” on social media. The comedian got his start in showbiz as a writer on “Roseanne” in 1992 after making rounds at comedy clubs in Canada. He joined the cast of “Saturday Night Live” in 1993, and the next year he began his memorable stint as Weekend Update anchor until early 1998, when he was replaced by Colin Quinn. Macdonald was known for his dry humor, non-sequiturs and impressions of Burt Reynolds, David Letterman, Larry King, Quentin Tarantino and many more during his five-year run on the show.


Macdonald anchored Weekend Update during the O.J. Simpson trial, where he delivered one of his most memorable jokes at the top of the episode following Simpson’s acquittal: “Well, it is finally official: murder is legal in the state of California.” After his removal from Weekend Update, Macdonald accused NBC exec Don Ohlmeyer of firing him over his controversial Simpson jokes, though Ohlmeyer cited poor ratings.

After exiting “SNL,” Macdonald created “The Norm Show” with Bruce Helford on ABC, which ran from 1999 until 2001. The comedian starred as Norm Henderson, an NHL player who is banned for life because of gambling and tax evasion, so he must perform five years of community service as a social worker. The cast included Laurie Metcalf, Ian Gomez, Max Wright, Artie Lange and Faith Ford, and the show ran for three seasons.


In the 1990s, Macdonald appeared in films like “Billy Madison,” “The People vs. Larry Flynt” and Eddie Murphy’s “Dr. Dolittle” as the voice of Lucky the dog. In 1998, he starred in the film “Dirty Work,” directed by Bob Saget based on the Roald Dahl short story, about two friends who raise money to pay for heart surgery for one of their fathers by starting a revenge-for-hire business. The cast included Lange, Chris Farley, Jack Warden, Traylor Howard, Chevy Chase, Christopher McDonald and featured cameos by Don Rickles, Adam Sandler, John Goodman, and more.

Macdonald went on to provide voice work in the “Dr. Dolittle” sequels and other animated films and shows. He voiced Lieutenant Yaphit, a gelatinous, shape-shifting engineer on Fox’s sci-fi comedy “The Orville,” starring Seth MacFarlane. A third season of the show is set to release on Hulu...



Saturday, September 11, 2021

THE NICHOLAS BROTHERS: THE EARLY YEARS

Nicholas Brothers, tap-dancing duo whose suppleness, strength, and fearlessness made them one of the greatest tap dance acts of all time. Fayard Antonio Nicholas (1914-2006) and his brother Harold Lloyd Nicholas (1921-2000) developed a type of dance that has been dubbed “classical tap,” combining jazz dance, ballet, and dazzling acrobatics with tap dancing. Growing up in an era of “hoofers” and “board beaters,” the Nicholas Brothers elevated tap dancing with their singular elegance and sensational showmanship.

The brothers’ parents were both college-educated professional musicians. Their mother, Viola, was a classically trained pianist, and their father, Ulysses, was a drummer. They performed together in pit orchestras for black vaudeville shows throughout the 1910s to the early 1930s, forming their own group called the Nicholas Collegians in the 1920s.

From the time Fayard was an infant, his parents brought him to the theatre for their practices and performances. There he gained an early education in show business by watching great black entertainers such as the jazz musician Louis Armstrong, the dance team Buck and Bubbles, the singer Adelaide Hall, and the dance teams Leonard Reed and Willie Bryant and the Berry Brothers. The Nicholas family traveled from city to city to play with various orchestras, but, after the birth of two more children, Dorothy and Harold, they settled in Philadelphia in 1926 and continued working with the Nicholas Collegians. Their orchestra played at the Standard Theatre, one of the city’s largest and most prestigious black vaudeville houses.


Fayard taught himself how to dance, sing, and perform by watching the entertainers on stage. He then taught his younger siblings, first performing with Dorothy as the Nicholas Kids; they were later joined by Harold. When Dorothy opted out of the act, the Nicholas Kids became known as the Nicholas Brothers.

TO BE CONTINUED...


Friday, September 3, 2021

HOLLYWOOD MYSTERIES: THE SUICIDE OF DAN DAILEY'S SON


Entertainer Dan Dailey had his share of problems in Hollywood. He suffered from alcoholism and also reports of him being a closest cross dresser. None of the issues he had in Hollywood was as tragic is living through the suicide of his only son - Dan Dailey Jr. 

On July 1, 1975 - The younger Dailey walked outside of a hospital, pulled out a gun and shot himself in the side of the head. He died instantly. He was only 29.

Reportedly once his son died, actor Dan Dailey turned to drinking even more. He broke his hip in 1977, and died from complications on October 16, 1978.

Reportedly a note was found on the young Dailey when he died, but it has never been released. There is a rumor that he received bad health news at the hospital and decided to end it all. 

Even though it has been 47 years later, does anyone out there have any info what happened. As of now, it is still a mystery...



Monday, August 30, 2021

RIP: ED ASNER

Ed Asner, best-known for playing fictional TV newsman Lou Grant, has died aged 91.

The actor, whose roles also included voicing the lead in the Pixar film Up, passed away "peacefully" on Sunday morning, his family said.

"Words cannot express the sadness we feel. With a kiss on your head - goodnight dad. We love you."

The character Lou Grant was first introduced as Mary Richards's boss on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970s.

Star Wars actor Mark Hamill, who worked on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, was among those who paid tribute to Asner on Twitter.

"A great man...a great actor... a great life. Thank you Mr. Asner. #RIP," Hamill said.

Comedy actor Ben Stiller added: "Sending love to the great Ed Asner's family. An icon because he was such a beautiful, funny and totally honest actor. No one like him."

The character of Lou Grant, the irascible editor of the fictional Los Angeles Tribune, later became a character in a show in his own right from 1977 to 1982.



The role helped earn Asner seven Emmy awards across his career, a record for a male performer.

In 2009, he became known to a new generation of audiences by playing elderly widower Carl Fredricksen in the animated hit Up.

He also played Santa Claus in the 2003 Will Ferrell comedy Elf.

During his acting career, Asner was an outspoken supporter of a number of humanitarian and political causes, including trade unionism and animal rights.

He served as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1981 to 1985, and was honoured in 2000 with the union's prestigious Ralph Morgan Award.


Asner was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1929, and began acting at school.

After serving two years in France in the US Army Signal Corps, Asner returned to theatre work in Chicago.

In 1955 he made his Broadway debut with Jack Lemmon in Face of A Hero, then performed with the American and New York Shakespeare festivals and appeared in numerous off-Broadway shows.

Asner moved to Hollywood in 1961 and began his acclaimed career in television and film.

He was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame in 1996.


In 2018, Asner was cast in the Netflix dark comedy, Dead to Me, which premiered on May 3, 2019. The series also stars Christina Applegate, Linda Cardellini, and James Marsden. Also in 2018, Asner portrayed Johnny Lawrence's step-father, Sid Weinberg, in a guest role on the series Cobra Kai. In 2020 he guest starred in an episode of Modern Family and in 2021 played himself in a sketch on Let's Be Real.

Beginning in 2016, Asner took on the role of Holocaust survivor Milton Salesman in Jeff Cohen's acclaimed play The Soap Myth in a reading at Lincoln Center's Bruno Walter Theatre in New York City. He subsequently toured for the next three years in "concert readings" of the play in more than a dozen cities across the United States. In 2019, PBS flagship station WNET filmed the concert reading at New York's Center for Jewish History for their All Arts channel. The performance, which is available for free, world-wide live-streaming, co-stars Tovah Feldshuh, Ned Eisenberg, and Liba Vaynberg. In the week before his death, Asner told his frequent collaborators, Greg Palast and Leni Badpenny, that he soon would be doing three one-act plays....



Saturday, August 21, 2021

CELEBRITY SPOUSES: MIRIAM PAAR


Here is a new blog feature where we spotlight a celebrity spouse - because behind every famous person is a patient and supportive spouse!

This first profile is the spouse of talk show host Jack Paar. Miriam Paar was born Miriam Lucille Wagner, Jaunuary 30, 1919 in Derry Township, Hershey, Pennsylvania. She was the second daughter of dairy farmer Irvin U. Wagner and Bertha K. (Yordy) Wagner. Miriam and her older sister, Kathryn, grew up on their parents’ farm, and graduated from Hershey High School. In 1943, Miriam met a 26-year-old soldier at a dinner dance held by the Hershey Company.

He was on infantry training at Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, and his name was Jack Harold Paar- the future host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show”(1957-62), and “The Jack Paar Program”(1962-65). Jack and Miriam were married October 9, 1943, in what is now Salem U.C.C. Church, in Campbelltown, Pennsylvania. Rev. W. Wilson Carvell officiated, and Miriam’s Maid of Honor was Charlotte “Lucy” Horst Chryst. Jack’s Best Man and organist at the wedding was Army friend and musician, Jose Melis. He would be Jack’s musical director on his future shows. After the war, the Paars moved to Hollywood, California, where their daughter, Randy, was born on March 2, 1949. In 1953, the Paar family moved to Bronxville, New York, and later to Connecticut. 

Jack Paar died in 2004 nd Miriam was never the same. Miriam was a warm, gracious hostess with a sparkling smile. She was an excellent cook, avid tennis player, and cherished the time with their dogs, including Schnapps and Leica. Above all, Miriam was a loving and devoted wife, mother, grandmother, and sister. Miriam Paar passed away on May 16, 2006. She was 87. Sadly their only child Randy died in 2012...


Tuesday, August 17, 2021

TONY BENNETT RETIRES

Tony Bennett has retired from performing. Bennett performed two sold-out shows with Lady Gaga at Radio City Music Hall in New York last week, but his son and manager Danny Bennett has revealed he’s now decided to cease his on-stage shows.

Danny Bennett – who has been his dad’s manager for more than four decades – told Variety: “There won’t be any additional concerts. This was a hard decision for us to make, as he is a capable performer. This is, however, doctors’ orders.”

Bennett was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016, and his wife Susan implored Tony to step back from performing.

Danny explained: “His continued health is the most important part of this, and when we heard the doctors – when Tony’s wife, Susan heard them – she said, ‘Absolutely not.’

“He’ll be doing other things, but not those upcoming shows. It’s not the singing aspect but, rather, the travelling. Look, he gets tired. The decision is being made that doing concerts now is just too much for him.

“We don’t want him to fall on stage, for instance – something as simple as that.”

Danny insisted he’s not worried about his dad’s singing capabilities.

Instead, he’s concerned for Tony’s “physical” health.

He shared: “We’re not worried about him being able to sing. We are worried, from a physical stand poi … about human nature. Tony’s 95.”

Despite this, Danny has insisted that Tony’s illness hasn’t hindered his on-stage performances in recent years.

He said: “He has short-term memory loss. That, however, does not mean that he doesn’t still have all this stored up inside of him. He doesn’t use a Teleprompter. He never misses a line. He hits that stage, and goes.

“Tony may not remember every part of doing that show. But, when he stepped to the side of the stage, the first thing he told me was: ‘I love being a singer.'”


Monday, August 16, 2021

RECENTLY VIEWED: SUMMER STOCK

I recently had the joy of watching the 1950 musical Summer Stock with my eight year old daughter, who is an emerging movie buff! She loves Judy Garland, and even though I have the film on DVD, we watching on a Sunday night airing on TCM. It is not the most-remembered Judy Garland or Gene Kelly movie, but the film is fun to watch. Summer Stock is a 1950 American Technicolor musical film produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It was directed by Charles Walters, stars Judy Garland and Gene Kelly, and features Eddie Bracken, Gloria DeHaven, Marjorie Main, and Phil Silvers. Nicholas Castle Sr. was the choreographer.

Garland struggled with many personal problems during filming and Summer Stock proved to be her final film for MGM, as well as her last onscreen pairing with Kelly. By mutual agreement, MGM terminated Garland's contract in September 1950, something studio head Louis B. Mayer said he later regretted doing. As we all know Louis B. Mayer was one of the worst human beings to ever work in Hollywood. 

The plot is slight. Jane Falbury (Judy Garland) is a farm owner whose actress sister, Abigail (Gloria DeHaven), arrives at the family farm with her theater troupe. They need a place to rehearse, and Jane and her housekeeper, Esme (Marjorie Main), reluctantly agree to let them use their barn. The actors and actresses, including the director, Joe Ross (Gene Kelly), repay her hospitality by doing chores around the farm. Although Joe is engaged to Abigail, he begins to fall in love with Jane after Abigail leaves him in an angry fit. Similarly, although Jane is engaged to Orville (Eddie Bracken), she falls in love with Joe. 


The big draw of the film was the music. The most famous number from the movie is Judy’s “Get Happy” number. For most of the film, Judy looked overweight, but this was the last scene filmed for the movie, and Judy had lost a lot of weight for the film. She looked better in the number than she had looked in years! An underrated song in the film is Judy’s love song “Friendly Star”, which was written by the songwriting team Harry Warren and Mack Gordon. Judy sings this song perfectly. Probably the most energetic number of the film was Gene Kelly’s “Dig For Your Dinner” number. It is an amazing feat of dancing that Kelly does as he dances on a table. The movie is worth seeing for that number alone! 

Although Garland and Kelly were the stars originally announced by MGM in 1948 to appear in the film, in February 1949 the studio announced that Garland would be replaced by June Allyson. She was suspended in May 1949, during the filming of Annie Get Your Gun, and spent three months in a hospital in Boston being treated for drug dependence. Betty Hutton replaced her on that film, but she was reinstated to the lead in this one, which was her first one following the suspension. Still, the filming was sometimes a struggle for Judy, who was facing many pressures in her personal life, aside from her heavy reliance on prescription medication. 


Kelly was not the first choice for the role: the producer, Joe Pasternak, originally wanted Mickey Rooney, but was prevailed on to go with Kelly because Rooney was no longer the box office draw he had once been. Busby Berkeley was originally slated to direct the film, but was replaced by Charles Walters before production began. He and Kelly worked on it as a favor to Garland, whose career needed a boost at the time. Later, after filming had begun, Pasternak asked Mayer if he should abandon the film because of Garland's erratic behavior – for example, she was supposed to appear in the "Heavenly Music" number to sing and dance with Kelly and Silvers, but she never showed up for the shoot . 

Dance director Nick Castle did not choreograph "You Wonderful You," "All for You", and "Portland Fancy" – these were done by Kelly – but did do "Dig For Your Dinner" and other numbers. He also did not shoot "Get Happy," which was filmed three months after the rest of the film; instead it was shot by Chuck Walters. In the interval, Garland had been treated by a hypnotist for weight loss and took off 15-20 pounds; she appears considerably thinner in the number. Garland finished filming and embarked on a long-promised vacation from the studio. 

Soon, however, she was called back to star with Fred Astaire and Peter Lawford in the film Royal Wedding, replacing June Allyson, who was pregnant. Once again, she struggled to perform in the face of exhaustion and overwork. She was fired from Royal Wedding, and her contract with MGM was terminated through mutual agreement. Overall, Summer Stock took six months to film, and was a box-office success. My daughter loved the film but she did say it was “kind of crappy for Judy to steal her sister’s boyfriend away!”, but my daughter loved the music. The film marks a sad end of Judy Garland’s time at MGM, but the movie was well made and fun! 

MY RATING: 10 out of 10



Saturday, August 14, 2021

Saturday, August 7, 2021

SUSPICION: 80 YEARS LATER

It is hard to believe that this classic Hitchcock film turns 80 years old. The film is not remembered as much as it should be...

Much has been written, correctly and incorrectly, about the difficulties surrounding the ending of Alfred Hitchcock's Suspicion(RKO-1941), the director's fourth Hollywood production, based on Francis Iles's Before the Fact. What follows is an examination the shooting script before and after revisions, production correspondence, a careful study of the finished picture, and the director's statements after the fact.

Hitchcock himself told François Truffaut and numerous other interviewers that his original intention was to have Johnnie Aysgarth (Cary Grant) guilty of the crimes for which he is suspected, and that Lina (Joan Fontaine), aware of her husband's guilt writes a letter to her mother (Dame May Witty) indicating that she knows Johnnie is going to murder her and she intends to allow him to do so. Later, Hitchcock said, Johnnie brings Lina a glass of poisoned milk, and she gives him the letter to mail. The last scene would have been Johnnie mailing the incriminating letter.

This ending, reminiscent of the ironic or twist endings of many an Alfred Hitchcock Presents installment, was never actually filmed, nor is there evidence that it was ever scripted that way. While the twist ending would have satisfied the Production Code, Hitchcock and RKO knew that audiences would have difficulty accepting Lina's drinking the milk which she knows to be poisoned, and so, according to Hitchcock biographers John Russell Taylor and Donald Spoto, it was the director's suggestion early on in his involvement with the production, that the story should be about a "neurotically suspicious woman".


In spite of the lack of script material for an "incriminating letter" ending, there is much evidence in the finished film to support Hitchcock's statements that this was his preferred ending. Such an ending is consistent with -- and would have completed -- a major theme in the existing picture.

In the opening sequence, it is a postage stamp which Johnnie borrows from Lina that ultimately brings them together. Using the stamp to pay his fare, Johnnie remarks to the annoyance of the conductor, "Write to your mother!" Thus, foreshadowing the ending of Lina's incriminating letter to her mother. At crucial moments in the film letters are sent and received. When Lina elopes with Johnnie, the excuse that she gives her parents when she goes out is that she is going to the post office.

The theme of "letters" is carried forward in the game of anagrams that Lina plays with Beaky. At the moment when Lina decides she will leave Johnnie, she writes a letter to him, ultimately tearing it up (an action that would be repeated by both Judy Barton in Vertigo and Melanie Daniels in The Birds). Johnnie then enters with a telegram containing news of his father-in-law's death. Later, Lina's suspicions mount when Johnnie hides a letter he's received from an insurance company. Finally, Hitchcock makes his cameo appearance dropping a letter into a mailbox.


Also telling are several suggested titles contained in a memo from producer Harry Edington to RKO executive Peter Lieber, dated December 10, 1940, which include: Letter from a Dead Lady, A Letter to Mail, Posthumously Yours, Forever Yours, Yours to Remember, and Your Loving Widow -- all suggestive of the "incriminating letter" ending.

This ending however was foiled for several reasons. One reason is that RKO did not wish to have Cary Grant portray a murderer. A second, and more likely reason is that the Production Code would not allow Lina to allow herself to be murdered. Criminals could commit suicide within the Code, but a heroine could not, in spite of the fact that her actions would help convict a murderer. Despite the indecision over its ending, the film was a tremendous success, and more importantly Hitchcock had enjoyed a measure of creative freedom which he knew that he would not get at Selznick International...

Saturday, July 31, 2021

PHOTO OF THE DAY: CANDID EDDIE CANTOR

Eddie Cantor has been gone now for over 55 years, but his the memory of his talent and personality should not be diminished. Not only was he a great entertainer, but he was an even better human being. Here are six candid photos of Eddie through the years...



With Eddie Fisher & Sammy Davis Jr



With Laurel & Hardy

With Jane Wyatt
                                         
With Marlene Dietrich

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

THE FIRST BILLBOARD MUSIC CHART


Billboard has celebrated 81 years since the release of its very first music chart. In July of 1940, the publication shared its first chart ranking the sales of recorded songs.

The "National List of Best Selling Retail Records" included the top 10 best-selling songs in the US at the time.

16 years later, the Billboard 200 would make its debut, showcasing the top-selling weekly album. Then, in 1958, the Billboard Hot 100 (singles chart) was introduced.

Since then, a number of charts have been added to Billboard's list, keeping track of some of the most popular tunes and artists in the world.
 

Take a look at the top 10 songs from Billboard's first chart below:

1. I'll Never Smile Again - Tommy Dorsey

2. The Breeze and I - Jimmy Dorsey

3. Imagination - Glenn Miller

4. Playmates - Kay Kyser

5. Fools Rush In - Glenn Miller

6. Where Was I? - Charlie Barnet

7. Pennsylvania 6-5000 - Glenn Miller

8. Imagination - Tommy Dorsey

9. Sierra Sue - Bing Crosby

10. Make Believe Island - Mitchell Ayres


HEALTHWATCH: BOB ODENKIRK


Bob Odenkirk, star of hit TV shows "Breaking Bad" and "Better Call Saul," was rushed to the hospital after collapsing on set on Tuesday, the TMZ entertainment website reported.

The actor was shooting "Better Call Saul" in New Mexico when the incident happened, TMZ reported. A person with knowledge of the matter confirmed the accuracy of TMZ's report to CNN.

"Better Call Saul" is currently in production for its sixth season. It is a prequel to the AMC crime series "Breaking Bad," which introduced Odenkirk as Saul Goodman, the criminal defense attorney for the show's protagonist, Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston.

According to TMZ sources, "Odenkirk went down, and was immediately surrounded by crew members who called an ambulance."

It is unclear what Odenkirk's condition is at present.

Odenkirk co-created and co-starred in the HBO sketch comedy series "Mr. Show with Bob and David." He has won two Emmy awards and received 16 nominations, including nine for his work on "Better Call Saul."



Tuesday, July 27, 2021

COMING SOON: BOULEVARD! A HOLLYWOOD STORY

 From producer Alan Eichler...


I am thrilled to announce that "Boulevard! A Hollywood Story," a project I have nurtured since 1994, has finally reached fruition thanks to Jeffrey Schwarz's brilliant new documentary, which traces Gloria Swanson's ill-fated efforts to turn "Sunset Boulevard" into a Broadway musical as a stage vehicle for herself. With two gay writers assisting her, it very nearly did get produced before it all fell apart, and this is that story. 

The feature-length film, of which I am one of the executive producers, will have its world premiere on Tuesday, Aug. 17 at the Director's Guild Theater in Hollywood, as part of Outfest. Tickets are on sale now on the Outfest website and it will also stream for three days, Aug. 18-20 on their app. Another big feather in Jeffrey's cap, totally due to his perseverance and brilliance. And I'm also on screen in it!



Saturday, July 24, 2021

FORGOTTEN ONES: JOAN EDWARDS

There are a lot singers like Peggy Lee and Jo Stafford that were icons of an era. However, for every Peggy Lee there is two or three singers who never really became popular. One such singer was Joan Edwards. Joan was born in New York City on February 13, 1919. Edwards' father was Ben Edwards, a song plugger. Music ran in her family; uncle Gus Edwards was a vaudeville entertainer, uncle Leo Edwards wrote music, and aunt Dorothy Edwards was a vocal teacher. Despite the family's show business background, she was urged to go in a different direction. In fact, Gus Edwards told her, "Stay out of show business."

As a child, Edwards had a heart murmur, and doctors advised her to start playing the piano "to keep her busy outside of school hours." She graduated from George Washington High School in Manhattan, where she directed the glee club. She went on to major in music at Hunter College, planning to be a teacher. However, her interest in singing and playing the piano won out, leading to a career in music.

Edwards' first job after finishing at Hunter College was performing with Rudy Vallee. Her guest appearance on his radio program was so successful that she toured the United States with Vallee and his orchestra for eight months. She also appeared with bandleader Paul Whiteman and with her uncle, vaudevillian Gus Edwards. A December 6, 1941, newspaper article reported that she had "played the leading vaudeville theaters in the country." In the early 1940s, she also was "appearing at one of Broadway's top night clubs."


Joan's early appearances on radio came "via small stations in New York City." Her first network appearance was on Fred Allen's program. Beginning March 3, 1941, Edwards had her own program, Girl About Town, on CBS. The 15-minute show was broadcast Wednesdays and Fridays at 10:30 p.m. Eastern time. Although her singing was featured, she played the piano for one song in each episode.

In December 1941, Edwards was selected as the new female soloist on Your Hit Parade. There she gained the most fame. Three years later, an article in Tune In magazine observed, "Joan Edwards sets something of a record, lasting through the regimes of three male singers -- Barry Wood, [Frank] Sinatra, [Lawrence] Tibbett -- in a three-year period." Her tenure on the program eventually reached five years, and the list of male singers' names grew to include Dick Todd and Johnny Mercer. She was dropped from Your Hit Parade in 1947 when the sponsor, American Tobacco Company, changed format, using guest stars rather than regular soloists.


In 1942, Edwards performed at the Copley-Plaza hotel in Boston, Massachusetts, with what one newspaper columnist called "the year's most unusual night-club contract." The time off was reserved so that she could fly to New York City to perform on Your Hit Parade on Saturdays. In 1950, she appeared on stage at the Capitol Theatre in a show with bandleader Russ Morgan and others.

Edwards was also a regular on The Danny Kaye Show  and on Songs for Sale. She was also heard on George Jessel's program, Duffy's Tavern, Here's to Romance, and Swing Session.

As the music industry begane to change, Edwards knew her singing was not going to continue on. On March 3, 1952, Edwards began a morning disc jockey program on WCBS-AM in New York City.

Edwards had her own program, The Joan Edwards Show, on the DuMont Television Network in 1950. The 15-minute program was broadcast on Tuesday and Thursday nights. She also was seen in a TV version of her Girl About Town radio program in 1941.


After she ended her singing career, she began composing. Edwards was co-composer of the Broadway musical Tickets, Please! (1950). She also "wrote scores for nightclub revues as well as many successful advertising jingles." Edwards and Lyn Duddy wrote the songs for Arthur Godfrey's songbook Arthur Godfrey's TV Calendar Songs, published 1953.

Edwards was married to Julius Schachter, a violinist who died in 1976. They had three daughters and one son. Joan Edwards died in Manhattan, New York, of an apparent heart attack on August 27, 1981. She was only 62, and if you have a chance to listen to any of her recordings please do so. She had a wonderful voice that deserves to be remembered...