Monday, February 22, 2021


Our guest reviewer Bruce Kogan returns to take a look at the forgotten 1952 musical Somebody Love Me. I haven't seen this music in years!

For Betty Hutton's last film with Paramount and her next to last appearance on the big screen altogether she plays the fourth and last of four real people she was cast in her career as. Betty plays Blossom Seeley vaudeville and musical comedy star who was still performing when this film was made. Betty's other real life characters on screen were Annie Oakley, Pearl White, and Texas Guinan. However unlike Seeley, the other three women were deceased when films about them were made.

Not only was Seeley still around, but so was her husband Benny Fields who was in ill health pretty much at that time. And one guy who is not mentioned at all in the film is Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Rube Marquard. He was Blossom Seeley's second husband, she had two of them before she met Fields. That part of the story is not told, but her first husband was a gentleman named George Kane whom she left for Marquard. The notoriety of baseball and show business was equivalent to Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe in that time and Alex Rodriguez and Madonna in the present day. Marquard used to appear with her in vaudeville and he outlived both Blossom and Benny living to the ripe old age of 93 and dying in 1980.

But that was all in the past when most of this film's action takes place. Blossom is a big star who decides to expand the act by hiring a trio to perform with her that includes, Ralph Meeker, Sid Tomack, and Henry Slate. But Meeker wants to make it a duo.

Meeker's part as Benny Fields is poorly written and should have been played by a singer. It would have been great had Betty Hutton got Frank Sinatra as she wanted. Meeker's part is written as a heel, but Fields and Seeley were an established team still known in 1952. Sounds like the writers and director couldn't figure out how Meeker should come across. The unknown singer they got for Meeker sounded reasonably like Benny Fields.

And Blossom Seeley's style was as brassy as Betty Hutton's was so her casting was no stretch. In fact Betty and her numbers are the best thing about Somebody Loves Me. Starting with the title song, the score is made up of period standards plus three new songs by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans.

There is a short that Warner Brothers made of the two of them right around the time they were introducing The Jazz Singer. It's the only record of their act around and I did do a review of it. I remember as a lad watching the Ed Sullivan Show and seeing Blossom Seeley performing well into the Sixties. I appreciate now that I saw one of vaudeville's last remaining stars still performing in her seventies. You can also see Blossom in the Russ Columbo film, Broadway Through A Keyhole where she has a supporting role.

Though Rube Marquard was edited out of Blossom's life for this movie, probably at his request, and Ralph Meeker is miscast, Somebody Loves Me is definitely a film that Betty Hutton's fans will enjoy...


Monday, February 15, 2021


Today we celebrate the birth of one of the greatest straight men in the history of comedy - Harvey Korman. Perhaps only Bud Abbott had accomplished more as a straight man. Korman portrayed Bud Abbott in a poorly conceived TV movie on the life of Abbott & Costello in the 1970s.  Korman, who was of Russian Jewish descent, was born in Chicago, Illinois on February 15, 1927, the son of Ellen (née Blecher) and Cyril Raymond Korman, a salesman. He served in the United States Navy during World War II. After being discharged, he studied at the Goodman School of Drama and at HB Studio. He was a member of the Peninsula Players summer theater program during the 1950, 1957, and 1958

Korman's first television role was as a head waiter in The Donna Reed Show episode, "Decisions, Decisions, Decisions". He appeared as a comically exasperated public relations man in a January 1961 episode of the CBS drama Route 66. He was seen on numerous television programs after that, including the role of Blake in the 1964 episode "Who Chopped Down the Cherry Tree?" on the NBC medical drama The Eleventh Hour and a bartender in the 1962 Perry Mason episode, "The Case of the Unsuitable Uncle." He frequently appeared as a supporting player on The Danny Kaye Show from 1963 through 1967. He was cast three times, including the role of Dr. Allison in "Who Needs Glasses?" (1962), on ABC's The Donna Reed Show. He also guest-starred on Dennis the Menace and on the NBC modern western series Empire.

With the 1967 debut of The Carol Burnett Show, Korman saw his greatest fame. He was nominated for six Emmy Awards for his decade of work on The Burnett Show and won four times – in 1969, 1971 (for "Outstanding Achievement" by a performer in music or variety), 1972, and 1974. He was also nominated for four Golden Globes for the series, winning that award in 1975.

While appearing on The Carol Burnett Show, Korman gained further fame by appearing as the villainous Hedley Lamarr in the 1974 film Blazing Saddles. He also starred in High Anxiety (1977) as Dr. Charles Montague. In 1978 he appeared in the CBS Star Wars Holiday Special providing "comedy" in three of the special's variety segments: a cantina skit with Bea Arthur where he plays a barfly who drinks through a hole in the top of his head, another as Chef Gormaanda, a four-armed parody of Julia Child, and one as a malfunctioning Amorphian android in an instruction video. In 1980 he played Captain Blythe in the Walt Disney comedy, Herbie Goes Bananas. In 1981 he played Count de Monet in History of the World, Part 1. In later years he did voice work for the live-action film The Flintstones as well as for the animated The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue.

He also reunited with fellow Carol Burnett Show alumnus Tim Conway, making a guest appearance on Conway's 1980–1981 comedy-variety series The Tim Conway Show. The two later toured the U.S. reprising skits from the show as well as performing new material. A DVD of new comedy sketches by Korman and Conway, Together Again, was released in 2006. Korman and Conway had been jointly inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 2002. He died of an aneurysm in 2008...

Saturday, February 13, 2021


Here is a little tribute I made to my wonderful wife. She is an amazing woman, mother, and friend. The video uses our wedding song - Etta James' "At Last"...

Monday, February 8, 2021


Here is a great story that was featured on the far superior blog Geezer Music Blog...

Julius La Rosa – The Rest Of The Story

If you were around at the time, you might remember when radio/TV host Arthur Godfrey fired popular crooner Julius La Rosa from his show. It caused a uproar at the time, and ended up being a pretty significant turning point for both entertainers’ careers. But there’s more to the story.


Julius La Rosa was yet another Brooklyn-born Italian/American with singing aspirations. After high school he joined the US Navy, was trained as a radioman, and settled in. It was the late 1940s and peacetime, so it was a pretty good life for a young guy. Having a little time on his hands, he joined a Navy choir and eventually had the chance to make a little money on the side by entertaining in bars and at the Navy officers club.

Meanwhile Arthur Godfrey was riding high as the star and host of a popular variety show that was broadcast on both radio and TV. He had a lot of loyal fans, but critics didn’t appreciate his folksy style, which often included a tacky or coarse aspect. A good example was his big hit record, which is definitely non-PC.

Godfrey was in control of just about every facet of the show, including decisions on who appeared. He had a stable of regulars but he also loved uncovering new talent. (After all, his show was originally known as Talent Scouts.) He was a Navy veteran, was still a reserve officer, and had a very comfortable relationship with Navy brass. When young La Rosa’s buddies began lobbying for him it was like a match made in heaven, and Godfrey invited him to sing on the show.

He was a smash and was offered a chance to become a regular as soon as his enlistment was up. Once the young sailor left the Navy behind, he made his debut as a regular on the show, becoming one of those who sat at the side waiting their turns in every show. It was November of 1951 and was the beginning of a period of success.
La Rosa became a fan favorite very quickly, and Godfrey was delighted. After all, the show’s ratings were up and once again he’d proven his ability to spot new talent. But the prickly Godfrey had a king-size ego and La Rosa’s rising popularity began to rub him the wrong way. It was especially galling when the young singer’s fan mail exceeded Godfrey’s own by an ever-increasing amount.

Meanwhile LaRosa’s career was going in new directions. Godfrey’s musical director, Archie Bleyer, had started a record company on the side, and the singer was a natural fit. His first couple of records did moderately well, but he then had Top Ten hits on “Anywhere I Wander”, and “Eh, Cumpari!” His solo career building, La Rosa decided to hire an agent, but Godfrey always discouraged his performers from having agents. He said he didn’t have time to deal with a bunch of outside reps, preferring to deal with the performer directly. La Rosa did it anyway. Of course it was really about control, and subsequent events would reinforce that.

Godfrey probably wasn’t too thrilled by Bleyer’s role in La Rosa’s success (in fact, he too would eventually be fired) but for now he was focused on the popular singer. It’s difficult to know what was going on behind the scenes, but things began to unravel. Just one example was when La Rosa missed a dance session for a family emergency and Godfrey kept him off the show the next day. As other incidents occurred Godfrey built up a real head of steam, and he finally went to the network to discuss his intentions. I’m sure they weren’t thrilled by the idea, but nobody wanted to say no to Godfrey, who was the powerful star of an enormously profitable show.


On October 19th, 1953, the hammer fell. On the radio portion of the show Godfrey introduced La Rosa, who sang “Manhattan” and then sat back down. Godfrey then said “That was Julie’s swan song for the show. He’ll be going out on his own now”.

It’s been reported that La Rosa was stunned, and asked the guy sitting next to him, “Was I just fired?”

Having a volatile boss give you a quick heave-ho is nothing special, but doing it on a live broadcast raised the tackiness factor to a level that wouldn’t be equaled until a certain occupant of the Oval Office began doing it with tweets. Fans of the show were just as upset as La Rosa was, and it resulted in a big scandal, with the majority condemning Godfrey. It didn’t help when he said La Rosa didn’t show the proper “humility” — a statement that just made Godfrey seem even more haughty and conceited.

La Rosa was riding high after that. Beginning with a series of appearances with Ed Sullivan (who was Godfrey’s bitter rival), he also continued to churn out new records and stay very busy for a while. Things slowed down in subsequent years but he continued to perform in a variety of venues, and even did a little acting. He was 86 when he died in 2016.

As for Arthur Godfrey – sometimes known as “The Ol’ Redhead” – he didn’t exactly fold up his tent after that, but he definitely began a slow fade. Eventually he was just hosting the occasional special radio or TV show before pretty much retiring. He was 79 when he died in 1983...

Friday, February 5, 2021


Christopher Plummer, who starred in The Sound of Music, won an Oscar for Beginners and was nominated for All the Money in the World and The Last Station, died peacefully today at his home in Connecticut, his family confirmed. Elaine Taylor, his wife and true best friend for 53 years, was by his side.

Lou Pitt, his longtime friend and manager of 46 years said; “Chris was an extraordinary man who deeply loved and respected his profession with great old fashion manners, self deprecating humor and the music of words. He was a National Treasure who deeply relished his Canadian roots. Through his art and humanity, he touched all of our hearts and his legendary life will endure for all generations to come. He will forever be with us.”

Plummer spent the past 75 years as a stalwart of stage and screen, the latter of which covered more than 100 film. He is best known for playing Captain John Von Trapp in 1965 Robert Wise-directed classic The Sound of Music, but he won his Oscar for the 2010 film Beginners, and he was most recently Oscar nominated for the Ridley Scott-directed All The Money In The World. In that film, he replaced Kevin Spacey in the role of J. Paul Getty, after Spacey had an #MeToo downfall. Plummer most recently costarred in the ensemble of the Rian Johnson-directed Knives Out.

Raised in Montreal, Plummer began his professional career on stage and radio in both French and English. After Eva Le Gallienne gave him his New York debut in 1954, the actor went on to star in many celebrated productions on Broadway and London’s West End winning accolades on both sides of the Atlantic.

He won two Tony Awards for the musical Cyrano and for Barrymore plus seven Tony nominations, his latest for his King Lear in 2004 and for his Clarence Darrow in Inherit the Wind three years later; also three Drama Desk Awards and the National Arts Club Medal. A former leading member of the Royal National Theatre under Sir Laurence Olivier and the Royal Shakespeare Company under Sir Peter Hall, where he won London’s Evening Standard Award for Best Actor in Becket; he also led Canada’s Stratford Festival in its formative years under Sir Tyrone Guthrie and Michael Langham.

Apart from honors in the UK, USA, Austria and Canada, he was the first performer to receive the Jason Robards Award in memory of his great friend, the Edwin Booth Award and the Sir John Gielgud Quill Award. In 1968, sanctioned by Elizabeth II, he was invested as a Companion of the Order of Canada — an honorary knighthood. An Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts at Juilliard, he also received the Governor General’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000. 

He played the great novelist Tolstoy opposite Helen Mirren in The Last Station for Sony Classics where he received his first Academy Award nomination in 2010. He followed that up the next year with another nomination and a win for Best Supporting Actor in Beginners from writer/director Mike Mills and appeared in David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that same year. In July and August 2012, he returned to the Stratford Festival to perform his one-man show that he created entitled A Word or Two, directed by Des McAnuff. In 2013, he starred opposite Oscar winner Shirley MacLaine in Elsa & Fred directed by Michael Radford, Hector And The Search for Happiness directed by Peter Chelsom, Danny Collins opposite Al Pacino and Annette Benning for writer/director Dan Fogelman and The Forger opposite John Travolta directed by Phillip Martin. In 2015, he starred in Remember, directed by Atom Egoyan and in 2017 The Exception, based on the novel “The Kaiser’s Last Kiss” co-starring Lily James, Jai Courtney and Janet McTeer He was recently seen in the very successful 2019 film Knives Out starring Daniel Craig and Chris Evans....


I used to love television comedies like "The Jack Benny Show", "Seinfeld", and "Scrubs", but I want to stand up and announce that "The Office" which ran on NBC from 2005 to 2013 was the best comedy that television ever created. To celebrate this landmark series, here are ten facts about the great series that maybe even the biggest fans did not know...

 1. The idea to create a U.S. version of The Office started after TV producer Ben Silverman happened to catch an episode of the UK version while vacationing in London in 2001.

2. Before his audition, Steve Carell had only seen about five minutes of the U.K. version of The Office. Carell said that if he had watched anymore, he would've ended up just doing a characterization of Ricky Gervais during his audition.

3. John Krasinski (Jim) shot the footage of the Scranton, PA, that appears in the opening credits.

4. B.J. Novak (Ryan) and John Krasinski (Jim) have known each other since childhoodEd Helms (Andy) and Brian Baumgartner (Kevin) also attended high school together in Georgia.

5. Phyllis Smith (who played Phyllis) was actually the casting director for The Office, the producers liked her so much that they created a role for her.

6. Oscar Nunez (Oscar) didn’t think the show would be successful, so he kept his jobs as a server and babysitter after he got the role.

7. The success of The 40-Year-Old Virgin -- which shot Steve Carell to stardom -- saved The Office from cancellation after its first season.

8. In the episode "A Benihana Christmas," Michael, Andy, and Jim dine at the exact same Benihana restaurant that Andy Stitzer goes to in The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

9. Originally Jim and Pam were an interracial couple. Jim would’ve been White and Pam would've been African-American. Actress Erica Vittina Phillips would have played Pam.

10. Although Dunder Mifflin is a fictitious company, it is recognized by the Scranton Chamber of Commerce because of all the tourism it has given the city.

Monday, February 1, 2021


Hollywood isn’t all that glamorous, actors say all the time. There’s no privacy. The tabloids invent whatever sells. Sitting in makeup chairs every day. Getting ripped apart on social media.

But there’s no arguing, today’s celebrities face less stigma, get paid more, and have greater autonomy than film’s first stars — especially women.

In the early days of silent cinema, actors were ashamed to be seen in films. Movies were middle class, low-brow diversions, whereas theater was the respected art of the wealthy. But as more people ventured to the movies, they started demanding to know the people appearing on screen. Who was that woman trapped in a train car? Who was that handsome cowboy?

Movie producers didn’t have a good answer. Most of these actors didn’t have catchy names or dramatic backgrounds. They weren’t exactly marketable.

Then producer Carl Laemmle spread a rumor that actress Florence Lawrence had been killed in a streetcar accident. Shortly, he corrected the rumor and announced that, by the way, she would be starring in an upcoming film of his. He had promoted the first movie star.

Such a scheme formed the backbone of the industry’s new “star system,” the process of discovering, creating, and exploiting actors for profit. Women in particular got the brunt of the pressure; everything from their salaries to their bodies were tightly regulated.

In the 1920s major studios sent scouts to spot promising young talent and contract them for years of work. They would invent exciting actor backstories for the press, and mold their identities into roles that might define them for a lifetime. (Shirley Temple was the adorable pipsqueak before she was cast out.) Studios would even change actors’ names. (MGM held a contest to let the public vote on Joan Crawford’s name. She hated it, said it reminded her of crayfish. Later she was labelled “box office poison.”)

We know Judy Garland as leading lady in The Wizard of Oz, but for the most part her studio gave her girl-next-door parts. She was the yearning gal pal, the ugly duckling searching for love. She simply wasn’t as beautiful as her counterparts — Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor.

Born Frances Ethel Gumm, she changed her name to Judy Garland while touring with her two older sisters in their vaudeville act. Then MGM spotted her in 1935.

Struck by her singing voice and stage presence, MGM offered her a contract and immediately put her to work. In 1937 they paired Garland with Mickey Rooney in a series of Andy Hardy teenage musicals; as planned, she played the girl next door.

With strict contracts, morality clauses, and minimal child labor laws, studio bosses were able to push child stars at breakneck pace. Garland worked six days per week, sometimes 18-hour shifts of constant singing and dancing to pump out as many movies as possible. To keep her energy up and force her weight down, studios plied her with “pep pills,” amphetamine uppers to keep her perky and alert all day. When she couldn’t sleep, they supplied sleeping pills.

“After four hours they’d wake us up and give us the pep pills again,” said Garland. She was using throughout the filming of Wizard of Oz.

In 1941, at age 19, Garland married composer David Rose. MGM did not approve, and ordered her back to work within 24 hours of the wedding. When she became pregnant, her mother Ethel worked with the studio to arrange for an abortion. She was innocent little Dorothy, after all. The public wasn’t ready to see her as a mother, a grown-up.

Meanwhile, MGM manipulated Garland’s publicity. When she gained weight, she was made to take more speed, while press reps told magazines she ate like a truck driver. Her persona was not her own, and she was given little time to discover herself outside the movies.

Hers was not an isolated case. The star system invented many leading stars, and subsequently dropped them when their popularity waned or left them for broke.

Child star Shirley Temple was discovered in 1932, after which she was cast in a series of sexually suggestive “Baby Burlesks,” in which babies act out flirtatious bar and dance scenes. When they misbehaved, studio employees would lock children in windowless sound rooms with nothing but a block of ice to sit on. In her autobiography Child Star, Temple wrote, “Its lesson of life, however, was profound and unforgettable. Time is money. Wasted time means wasted money means trouble.”

From 1935 to 1939, Temple was the most popular movie star in the country. She made a startling 23 films during the Depression.

But after her 1940 film The Blue Bird tanked, Fox dropped her from the studio at 12 years old. Months later, MGM picked her up. During her first visit, producer Arthur Freed invited her into his office, unzipped his pants, and exposed his genitals to Temple. She giggled and he threw her out.

When her golden hair turned brown as a teenager, she became, to the public, “an unremarkable teenager,” wrote historian David Thompson. She retired in 1950 after almost 50 films.

Remarkably, for a child actor under such pressure, Temple’s life was relatively stable. She died in 2014, aged 85.

Judy Garland was not so fortunate.

In 1944, Garland began work on Meet Me in St. Louis. By the end of filming she had called in sick 16 days. Her increasing reliance on “bennies,” amphetamines the studios had hooked her on, was becoming a problem. Her absence was costing the studio money.

They tightened her leash. “If Metro [MGM] had protected her and often catered to her, it had also imprisoned her. Inside those walls she would forever remain the ugly duckling of her early teens,” wrote Vanity Fair in 2000.

In 1947, work on The Pirate had to be postponed until February. The songs Garland had pre-recorded were scrapped — she sounded too feeble. When she did appear for filming, she seemed to be sleepwalking, staring off into space, like she didn’t know where she was. When she was on uppers, she acted paranoid or hallucinated.

“The studio became a haunted house for me,” Garland said later. “Every day when I went to work it was with tears in my eyes, resistance in my heart and mind.”

Meanwhile, MGM’s accountants were calculating every minute Garland called in sick or sought help at psychiatric clinics. Those filming delays would come out of her paycheck. At one point, she owed $100,000.

Studio head Louis B. Mayer flew Garland to Boston where she checked into a hospital and learned to eat and sleep again. MGM loaned her the money for the stay.

Three months and three meals per day later, Garland returned to Hollywood healthier and plump. Too plump for the studio. They ordered her to lose weight. So Garland turned to what she had been taught: fasting and more pills.

When she missed more days filming Summer Shock, she was suspended from MGM one last time. Later, Garland would slice her neck with a piece of glass. Though a minor flesh wound, the tabloids got a hold of the story. “JUDY GARLAND CUTS THROAT OVER LOST JOB,” headlined The Los Angeles Mirror. Garland was officially damaged goods.

Though she would make a brief comeback in the 1960s singing her most beloved songs on the publicity circuit, she was financially unstable and still reliant on the daily cocktail of uppers and downers. Garland ultimately died from a barbiturate overdose in 1969, at age 47.

Her one-time costar Mickey Rooney, who got hooked on the same drugs in the 1930s, said of Garland, “They seemed to want her to pass away, and no one wanted to heal her.” He called her “the greatest talent that ever trod the boards.”

Ultimately, the star system would be dismantled by a series of high-profile lawsuits. Actors like Bette Davis sued studios beginning in the 1930s, in attempts to free themselves from uncompromising contracts. Marilyn Monroe walked out on filming The Seven Year Itch until Fox fixed her contract demands. Finally, Shirley MacLaine’s successful 1959 lawsuit marked the end of the star system era.

By this time, the stigma around drugs, mental health, and women’s behavior was beginning to loosen. Actors began to market themselves as individuals and control their own image. If they found themselves the center of a scandal, it was due to paparazzi, a bad publicist, or these days, computer hackers.

In the past decade, Hollywood made an average of 300 to 400 films per year. In the studio era it was 700. The top earning actor in 1937 took home $370,000 per year ($6.2 million adjusted for 2016). Today’s highest paid actor, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, raked in $64 million.

Through it all, most Depression-era actors withstood the long studio hours and managed to avoid crippling addiction. Others were young victims who knew no alternative...


Legendary singer Tony Bennett has Alzheimer's disease and was diagnosed in 2016, according to a profile in AARP magazine.

At his neurologist's recommendation, the 94-year-old continued to tour and record music after his diagnosis, and because of music's "peculiar power" to rouse deep memories in dementia patients, "audiences and critics never suspected his condition."

Bennett continued to record and tour up until March 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic ended live musical performances.

Since then, his condition has worsened, his caregivers told AARP.

"Just how therapeutically beneficial performing had been for Tony soon became obvious when his world shrank to the confines of his apartment," Dr. Gayatri Devi, Bennett's neurologist, told the magazine.

Describing him as free today from some of the condition's worst symptoms — anger, disorientation — the magazine noted that there is still "little doubt that the disease had progressed."

AARP reported that Bennett’s “increasingly rare moments of clarity” show how far the disease has advanced; at the time of reporting the story, a fork and a set of house keys were “utterly mysterious to him.”

Lady Gaga's forthcoming collaboration with Bennett, recorded between 2018 and 2020 and slated to be released this spring, was among projects that helped slow the progression of his condition, the magazine noted.

Bennett's son and wife, Danny Bennett and Susan Crow, said theydecided to share the news of Bennett's condition because they know he will be unable to do promotional interviews after the album's scheduled release this spring.

They are are reportedly eager for "as many ears as possible to hear and enjoy what may very well be the last Tony Bennett record."