Monday, August 30, 2021


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


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 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


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 7, 2021


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...