Friday, October 29, 2021


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

Bing Crosby

Alfred Hitchcock

Ann Miller
Pinky Tomlin & Rita Hayworth

Jackie Cooper

Elizabeth Montgomery

Past "A Classic Hollywood Halloween"...

Monday, October 25, 2021


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

Here is the countdown:

5. TONY MARTIN (1913-2012)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 22, 2021


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 19, 2021


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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 17, 2021


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

Thursday, October 14, 2021


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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 11, 2021


This weekend our township had a movie in the park, where for free you can set up a chair or blanket and watch a movie under the stars. It was a great night, and for this last movie of the season they showed 1993's Hocus Pocus. The film directed by Kenny Ortega and written by Neil Cuthbert and Mick Garris. The film follows a villainous comedic trio of witches (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy) who are inadvertently resurrected by a teenage boy (Omri Katz) in Salem, Massachusetts, on Halloween night.

The film was released in the United States on July 16, 1993, by Walt Disney Pictures. The film received mixed reviews from film critics at the time of its release. It was not a critical or commercial success upon its release, possibly losing Disney around $16.5 million during its theatrical run. However, largely through many annual airings on Disney Channel and Freeform (formerly ABC Family) all throughout the month of October, Hocus Pocus has been rediscovered by audiences, resulting in a yearly spike in home video sales of the film every Halloween season.The annual celebration of Halloween has helped make the film a cult classic among Americans born in the 1980s and early 1990s.

On October 31, 1693, in Salem, Massachusetts, Thackery Binx witnesses his little sister, Emily, being whisked away to the woods by the Sanderson sisters, three witches named Winifred, Sarah, and Mary. At their cottage, the witches cast a spell on Emily to absorb her youth and regain their own, killing her in the process. Thackery confronts the witches, but is transformed into a black cat cursed to live forever with his guilt for not saving Emily. Suddenly, the townsfolk, led by Thackery's friend, Elijah, and Binx's father, arrest the sisters and sentence them to be hanged for the murder of Thackery and Emily. Before their execution, Winifred casts a spell that will resurrect the sisters during a full moon on All Hallows' Eve when any virgin lights the Black Flame Candle. Thackery decides to guard the cottage to ensure no one summons the witches.

Three centuries later, on October 31, 1993, Max Dennison is feeling unsettled from his family's sudden move from Los Angeles, California, to Salem. On Halloween, Max takes his younger sister Dani out trick-or-treating, where they meet Max's new crush Allison. In an effort to impress Allison, Max invites her to show him the Sanderson house to convince him the witches were real.

Inside the Sanderson cottage, now a former museum, Max lights the Black Flame Candle and inadvertently resurrects the witches due to his virginity. The witches attempt to suck the soul of Dani, but Max comes to her rescue. Escaping, Max steals Winifred's spellbook (grimoire) on advice from Thackery, who now goes by his last name of Binx. He takes the group to an old cemetery (as witches can't step foot on hallowed ground) where he shows them the graves of his sister and Billy Butcherson, who was once Winifred's lover. But when she caught him making out with Sarah, she poisoned him and sewed his mouth shut so that he couldn't tell her secrets even in death. The witches eventually catch up with them and Winifred raises Billy Butcherson as a zombie to chase them on foot.

The witches try to acclimate to the 20th century, but are horrified when they discover Halloween has become a festival of disguises. They pursue the children across town using Mary's enhanced sense of smell. Winifred also reveals that the spell that brought them back only works on Halloween and unless they can suck the life out of one child, they'll turn to dust when the sun rises. Max, Dani, and Allison find their parents at the City Hall Halloween party, where Winifred enchants the partygoers to dance until they die. At Jacob Bailey High School, the children trap the witches in a kiln to burn them alive. While the children are celebrating, the witches' curse revives them again.

Not realizing the witches have survived, Max and Allison open the spellbook intending to reverse the spell on Binx. The open spellbook reveals the location of the group, and the witches track them down, kidnap Dani and Binx, and recover the spellbook. Sarah uses her siren-like song to entice Salem's children, luring them to the Sanderson cottage. Max and Allison free Dani and Binx by tricking the witches into believing that sunrise was an hour early. Thinking that they are done for, the witches panic and pass out, allowing Max, Dani, Allison, and Binx to escape.

Back at the cemetery, the group is ambushed by Billy who then takes Max's knife, cuts open his stitched up mouth, and insults Winifred, therefore joining Max, Allison, Dani and Binx against the witches. The witches attack, and Winifred attempts to use the last vial of potion to suck the soul from Dani. Binx leaps on Winifred and knocks the potion out of her hand. Max drinks the potion, forcing the witches to take him instead of Dani. The sun starts to rise just as Winifred is about to finish draining Max's life force; in the ensuing struggle, Allison, Dani, and Billy fend off Mary and Sarah, and Max and Winifred fall onto the hallowed ground in the cemetery, causing Winifred to turn into stone. As the sun finishes rising above the horizon, Mary and Sarah are disintegrated into dust along with Winifred's stone body.

With the witches gone, Max, Dani, and Allison say goodbye to Billy, as he returns to his grave. Binx finally dies, freeing his soul. Appearing as a spirit, Binx thanks the group for their help and bids farewell to them as he is reunited with the spirit of Emily.

The exhausted partygoers, including Max and Dani's parents, oblivious to their enchantment, are freed when the spell is broken. Meanwhile, at the Sanderson's cottage, Ice and Jay, who previously tormented Max and Dani, remain imprisoned in cages and sing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" to pass the time. Winnie's spell book is seen opening its eye, revealing it is still alive and the witches could possibly return again.

My children have each seen the movie about three times now, and I was afraid this latest viewing would bore them, but they really enjoyed the film again. My son and I both jumped at the same time when Sarah Jessica Parker jumped up from the bed when she was hiding near the end of the movie. Maybe it had something to do with watching the film outside. Hocus Pocus is a great family film, and Disney has announced that they are finally filming a sequel that will come out in 2022. Until then, enjoy the movie. Halloween isn't Halloween without the Sanderson Sisters!

MY RATING: 9 out of 10

Wednesday, October 6, 2021


Bunny Berigan was considered the best white trumpeter of swing era jazz, who died prematurely in 1942 at just 33 years-of-age. The factors leading to his demise were alcoholism and overwork (the endless grind of one-nighters), plus the added stress of a poor business sense that led to bankruptcy, as well as energy sapping extra-marital dalliances (most notoriously with singer Lee Wiley). This well-balanced, well-researched, and well-written bio covers his professional and personal lives fully, thanks to the cooperation of many of Bunny's relatives, friends, and musical colleagues. 

As a trumpeter, Berigan was a powerful technician and expressive soloist, always finishing in the top three in the polls of jazz fans during his heyday alongside Louis Armstrong and Harry James. Dupuis chronicles his rise and fall in objective detail with much care and feeling for his subject. Bunny Berigan was a tragic figure who inspires adulation among his fans decades after his death. I knew the background of Bunny Berigan's life as was familiar with his mega hit "I Can't Get Started". I knew he died tragically, but I was at best casually acquainted with Berigan's life before digging into this book. Nonetheless, I found Robert Dupuis's excellent biography a joy to read. Thoroughly researched and honest, the author manifests his love for Berigan's music without compromising his objectivity as a biographer.

When Dupuis was doing his research in the 80s, he still had access to many who knew and loved Berigan first-hand - Berigan's widow Donna, a sister-in-law, two daughters, locals who knew Berigan from his Fox Lake days, and a number of musicians who had worked with Berigan. He also drew on the extensive work of several other Berigan researchers, notably Bozy White and Tom Cullen. Dupuis presents a nuanced portrait of Berigan that praises his fabulous musicianship and bluntly describes the alcoholism that took his life, but also delves at length into his strengths and weaknesses as a family man, band-leader, and friend. In learning of Berigan's life, we also learn much about the lot of swing-era instrumentalists, their lives marked by frequent and often brutal travel, long hours on the bandstand and in the studio, and exploitative industry practices that apparently reached deep into the pockets of even a top-echelon talent like Berigan.

Bunny Berigan's life was a tragedy, but with excellent books like these, Berigan's life is retold. His music and genius will never be forgotten. I highly recommend this book...


Monday, October 4, 2021


Tony Bennett's wife, Susan Benedetto, is opening up more about the singer's health condition.

Bennett's family first revealed that he lives with Alzheimer's disease back in February, and the 95-year-old music legend took the stage one last time in August, with back-to-back shows at New York's Radio City Music Hall alongside frequent collaborator Lady Gaga.

During Sunday's episode of 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper sat down with Bennett and Benedetto following his final stage appearance.

"He recognizes me, thank goodness, his children, you know we are blessed in a lot of ways," Benedetto told the journalist. "He's very sweet."

"He doesn't know he has it," she added, referring to his Alzheimer's.

Previously, Benedetto said that Bennett was unable to understand what the disease is.

During the 60 Minutes broadcast, Bennett performed a song with his pianist — recalling each word and note without sheet music or lyrics in front of him.

 "Well that was really one of the great honors I've ever had," Cooper, 54, said, thanking Bennett for the song.

"Tony likes to say he's in the business of making people feel good, and he still is," Benedetto commented, to which Bennett confirmed, "That's it."

Dr. Gaytari Devi, who diagnosed Bennett with the disease in 2017, said in the 60 Minutes interview that the star "knows he's Tony Bennett and he knows how to behave like Tony Bennett."

"That's an area of the brain that's just so an innately hardwired part of his brain," she told Cooper. "And it's also an area of his brain that gives them real meaning and purpose in his life, and it's imbued with emotion."

Friday, October 1, 2021


Remembering Buddy Clark on the 72nd anniversary of his tragic death in a plane crash...