Wednesday, January 27, 2021


Cloris Leachman, the acclaimed actress whose one-of-a-kind comedic flair made her a legendary figure in film and television for seven decades, has died, according to a statement from her longtime manager and representatives. She was 94.

"It's been my privilege to work with Cloris Leachman, one of the most fearless actresses of our time. There was no one like Cloris," said a statement from her manager, Juliet Green. "With a single look she had the ability to break your heart or make you laugh 'till the tears ran down your face. You never knew what Cloris was going to say or do and that unpredictable quality was part of her unparalleled magic."

Leachman died Wednesday of natural causes in Encinitas, California, according to the statement.
During her extensive career, Leachman, who was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 2011, earned 22 Emmy nominations and eight Primetime Emmy awards and one Daytime Emmy Award.

Two of her statues were won for playing what was arguably her most iconic role -- cunning landlady Phyllis Lindstrom. The character originated on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and later received a spin-off series.

In the early 2000s, Leachman earned a fresh round of acclaim for her role as cranky grandmother Ida on Fox's "Malcolm in the Middle." She won a best guest actress in a comedy Emmy award in 2006 for the part.

Her last nomination for television work was in 2011 for her role as Maw Maw in sitcom "Raising Hope."

Her accolades were not exclusive to her work in television. Leachman won an Academy Award in 1971 for her dramatic role in "The Last Picture Show." She was also memorable as Frau Blücher in Mel Brooks' 1974 classic "Young Frankenstein," and in her roles in 1977's "High Anxiety" and 1981's "History of the World: Part I."

Off screen, Leachman's fireball personality was as well known as her on-screen work. On social media, she was remembered fondly by both fellow actors and former coworkers.

Leachman is survived by her children and her grandchildren, according to the statement from her representatives. A lifelong vegetarian and animal rights advocate, Leachman's family asked that those wishing to make donations in her name make them to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) or Last Chance for Animals.

Cloris was also memorable as Billy Mumy's mother in an iconic Twilight Zone episode called "It's A Good Life" in 1961. Her last role was in the 2020 movie "High Holiday"...

Monday, January 25, 2021


One of the top male vocalists of the late 1930s, Jack Leonard was rivaled only by Bing Crosby in popularity. Leonard got his start singing at a roadside stand on Long Island and worked on the government relief team that built New York’s Jones Beach in the early 1930s. He was singing in Bert Block’s orchestra in 1935 when Tommy Dorsey hired him away. Dorsey also took trumpeter Joe Bauer and arranger Axel Stordahl, then known as Odd Stordahl. Together the men formed a vocal group call the Three Esquires. It was as a soloist, though, that Leonard would achieve stardom, singing on such classics as “Marie,” “All the Things You Are,” “Our Love,” and “Indian Summer.”

Leonard was a shy, handsome man who was liked by all. He was very near-​sighted but refused to wear glasses in public so as not to spoil his romantic image. His departure from Dorsey’s orchestra in November of 1939 was a surprise to his bandmates. The rumor was that Dorsey had grown suspicious of Leonard’s intentions, fearing that he was going to leave soon for a solo career, and had forced him out, though Leonard himself tried to dispel it at the time, saying he just needed a break and would return soon. He never did. He was replaced in the band by Allan DeWitt, who failed to work out and was replaced after only one month by Frank Sinatra.

Leonard’s popularity kept him busy after leaving Dorsey. Readers selected him as among the top three male singers in Billboard’s college polls for both 1939 and 1940. He worked on radio, on stage and in the recording studio for Okeh Records until May 1941, when he received his draft notice. His draft board proposed putting him in an Army entertainment unit, though Leonard refused. He ended up leading a band anyway, at Fort Dix, New Jersey.

Discharged in 1945, Leonard continued singing professionally throughout the 1940s and into the 1950s, though he never achieved the level of recognition he had during the late 1930s. He signed a two-​year deal with Majestic Records in December 1945 and made three minor silver screen appearances in the late 1940s. He also had his own television program in 1949 and appeared as one of the hosts for Broadway Open House in 1951. He made a brief return to the recording studio with Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra in 1951, and in 1956, he performed at the memorial concert in tribute to the late bandleader.

Leonard also served as Nat King Cole’s business manager and later worked in music publishing before retiring in the 1970s. He made a brief return to singing and appeared on PBS's "Jukebox Saturday Night" special in 1983. Jack Leonard died from cancer in 1988, age 75....


Sunday, January 17, 2021


Here is the original NY Times review of the campy horror classic Whatever Happened To Baby Jane. It appeared on November 7, 1962...

Joan Crawford and Bette Davis make a couple of formidable freaks in the new Robert Aldrich melodrama, "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" But we're afraid this unique conjunction of the two one-time top-ranking stars in a story about two aging sisters who were once theatrical celebrities themselves does not afford either opportunity to do more than wear grotesque costumes, make up to look like witches and chew the scenery to shreds.As this pair of profoundly jealous has-beens who live alone in an old Hollywood house, where one of them (Miss Crawford), a cripple, is confined to a wheelchair as the result of a long-ago vindictive "accident," they do get off some amusing and eventually blood-chilling displays of screaming hatred. Especially Miss Davis.

As the mobile one who is slowly torturing to death the helpless sister whose fame as a movie actress eclipsed her own as a child vaudeville star, she shrieks and shrills in brazen fashion, bats her huge mascaraed eyes with evil glee, snarls at the charitable neighbors and acts like a maniac. Indeed, it is only as a maniac that her character can be credited here—a sadly demented creature who is simply working out an ancient spite.If you see her as that and see this picture, which opened yesterday in several score neighborhood theaters, as a "chiller" of the old-fashioned type—as a straight exercise in studied horror—you may find it a fairly gripping film.The feeble attempts that Mr. Aldrich has made to suggest the irony of two once idolized and wealthy females living in such depravity and the pathos of their deep-seated envy having brought them to this, wash out very quickly under the flood of sheer grotesque.

There is nothing particularly moving or significant about these two.Miss Crawford does have the less malevolent and more sympathetic role. As a poor thing stuck in a wheelchair, unable to counter or resist her diabolic sister when she delivers a dinner tray bearing a dead pet canary or a scalded rat, she might earn one's gentle compassion. But she is such a sweetly smiling fraud, such an artlessly helpless ninny, that one feels virtually nothing for her. No wonder her crazy sister finds her a deadly bore.Of course, she does have her big chance to chew some scenery when she has to drag herself to the telephone and when she later thrashes about in pop-eyed terror with her hands tied and a tape across her mouth.

Victor Buono gets a nice chance to do some elaborate acting, too. He plays a fat piano player who is invited into the house. But his weirdly epicene intruder is little more than a colorful buffoon, a bit of comic relief, in the proceedings. He takes a fast powder toward the end. Maidie Norman also gets in for a few tense scenes as an anxious maid, and Anna Lee burbles occasionally as the woman who lives next door.Of course, we won't tell you how it comes out. But the revelation at the end would be enough to tag the whole thing synthetic and a contrivance, if nothing else did— which it does....

Sunday, January 10, 2021


Betty Hutton's visit to Britain, and her first ever appearance at the London Palladium in 1948, corresponded with the premiere of her film, Dream Girl. Upon appearing at the Palladium, critics described Betty as "a big strong, lively girl, always eager to please" but complained that her voice was so loud "she deafened the first two rows of the auditorium".

The Palladium show contained much of the "lively horseplay" of her American appearances. The London Orchestra, however, was less enthusiastic about Hutton's clowning. One critic described how, after Hutton had leapt on to the back of the conductor, kissing him and sweeping him off his feet, "a look of alarm swept across the faces of the more accessible bandsmen".   


The newspaper article is from August 22, 1948...

Thursday, January 7, 2021


Mary Ann Anderson was a new sub agent for The Lund Agency in California when she was ordered to deliver flowers to movie star Ida Lupino's home on her birthday. The woman was stunned by what she saw.

Anderson, who would go on to serve as Lupino’s conservator and business manager, collaborated with the Hollywood beauty on a book published posthumously in 2011 titled “Ida Lupino: Beyond the Camera.”

The London-born entertainer came from an acting dynasty and made her film debut at age 15. Her career spanned almost five decades, with acting appearances in 59 films alongside Humphrey Bogart, Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn, among others. She passed away in 1995 at age 77.

But it was 1983 when Anderson met the then-64-year-old with flowers on hand. And despite her glamorous past, Anderson said she looked nothing like a screen siren on that fateful day.

“The house was very overgrown,” she recalled. “I walked to the other end of the property and she came walking down a pathway dressed like a bag lady with a lot of keys.”

While Lupino appeared to be a recluse, she was alert and cheerful with her new surprise guest.

“I said, ‘Ida, I have some flowers for you,’” Anderson recalled. “She said, ‘From the florist?’ I said no. She said, ‘Is there a bomb in them?’ I said, ‘No, the flowers are for you.’ And she started laughing. … She was very sweet, very funny, imitating me. She shook my hand and said, ‘You really do have flowers for me.’ She had a little tear coming down on her eye.”

The next day, Lupino called Anderson and asked her to come over for tea. Anderson stayed with Lupino for eight hours.

“She talked about everything,” said Anderson. “She didn’t think I was the agent type. She thought I would be better as a manager. She wanted me to come work for her.”

Anderson noticed cards with cats and dogs — which all had names — taped to Lupino’s walls. And while Anderson suspected Lupino was lonely at the time, the star had faith someone would come into her life.

“[Ida] told me she prayed to God that somebody would come,” said Anderson. “She was very spiritual.”

But the veteran femme fatale who famously starred opposite Humphrey Bogart in the 1941 film noir “High Sierra” didn’t seem to feel sorry for herself. In fact, Anderson said one of the things that quickly surprised her was Lupino’s sense of humor.

“She was really funny,” said Anderson. “A lot of people have no idea how funny she was. And I have so many memories. Like some of her mishaps with the neighbors. I remember I was once taking her to lunch. I came through the wrong side, where the neighbors she didn’t like were located. She thought I was a neighbor and got me with a garden hose. She looked at me and said, ‘Well, you’re all wet!’ We just sat outside for a long time and laughed about it.”

And Lupino was aware of her status in Hollywood. She’s still recognized as a successful woman who worked within the ‘50s Hollywood studio system all while directing, producing, acting and singing. At the time of her death, The New York Times added she was celebrated for directing “eight provocative and socially relevant feature films and scores of episodes of many long-running television series.”

The Los Angeles Times reported Lupino famously walked out on a $1,700-a-week contract in 1937 because she was fed up with “lightweight ingenue parts.” The newspaper added she would later abandon another acting contract in the early 1950s to produce, write and direct.

But despite her significant contributions to film, Lupino never saw herself as a feminist.

“She felt more women should work in the film, but she didn’t think there was anything special to it,” said Anderson. “She was just doing her job.”

But at the point Anderson first encountered Lupino, the actress had stopped working altogether. Her last credited role was 1978’s “My Boys Are Good Boys.” Lupino preferred it that way.

“When I met her, she was kind of a recluse,” explained Anderson. “She just didn’t seem like she wanted to work anymore. She could have. She had offers. But she just didn’t want to do. She was offered ‘Murder, She Wrote,’ which she considered, but then she got sick with cancer.

“And remember, Ida had been working since she was 14 years old. She was 64 by then. She spent many years in front of the camera, behind the camera and above it.”

Lupino did have one daughter named Bridget whom she shared with her third husband, actor Howard Duff. That union lasted from 1951 until 1984. He died in 1990.

According to reports, Lupino and Bridget allegedly had a strained relationship, but the two reconciled before the matriarch’s death.

“Ida wanted Bridget to pursue the movie industry,” said Anderson. “The Lupinos go back several hundred years. Bridget did not want to be a part of the film industry.”

And when it came to her own legacy, Lupino was determined to tell her story.

“When I met Ida, she wanted to do a book,” said Anderson. “She wanted two books on herself. She had the covers designed. … She had notes and I started taping her. She was aware of the first book and had participated in a great amount of it, like 80 percent. I, of course, wrote the ending … She was quite aware at the end of her life in terms of what was going on.”

When asked what Lupino would have thought of today’s Hollywood, Anderson said the star would have been “very happy” there are more women directing films. And while she appeared as a great beauty who was no-nonsense, Lupino was eager to share stories on her own terms.

“She was a very sensitive person,” said Anderson. “She was very gentle. If she liked you, she would be very protective. And if she wanted to do something, she would find a way to do it.”

Sunday, January 3, 2021


Probably one of the greatest roles ever on Broadway was that of Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! Since the show debuted in 1964, countless actresses have taken on the role. Carol Channing originated the role, while Barbra Streisand was in the movie version. In recent years, Bette Midler and Bernadette Peters were in the revivals of the show. However, here are some of the other classic actresses the played Dolly in the past...

Betty Grable

Ginger Rogers

Martha Raye

Pearl Bailey

Phyllis Diller

Ethel Merman