Friday, November 26, 2021
HOLLYWOOD BEAUTY: LINDA DARNELL
Monday, November 22, 2021
MY FIVE FAVORITE FEMALE SINGERS
Nothing relaxes me more than one of the great songbirds from the golden age of singing. Whenever I am feeling stressed out, I love going to my music room and just listen to golden voices in the dark and get lost in the audio aspirins. I made a list of my five favorite female singers in 2013 and 2019 so I figured I was due to update my list. There are so any great female singers out there...
5. BILLIE HOLIDAY (1915-1959)
People either love or hate Billie's voice, and I love her singing. From her early recordings in the mid 1930s with Benny Goodman to her said and weakened voice in the 1950s, Billie had a way to sell a song. Billie's best recording was "God Bless The Child". "God Bless the Child" became Holiday's most popular and most covered record. It reached number 25 on the charts in 1941 and was third in Billboard's songs of the year, selling over a million records. Billie died tragically too young but her voice lives on in so many vocal masterpieces. (rank in 2013: 9, rank in 2019: 6)
Friday, November 19, 2021
MOMMIE DEAREST AND WHAT WENT WRONG
I sat down to watch Mommie Dearest knowing full well of its reputation (this in fact being the reason I was so interested in it) but was puzzled to find myself quite emotionally effected by the scenes of abuse rather than being able to find any sort of humour in them. This isn't to say the film as a whole is particularly good; it is, in fact, fairly atrocious in terms of its shoddy set design, tonal inconsistencies and warped sense of pacing but I wasn't able to fully immerse myself in what I had heard was a fun filled, campy misadventure due to the fact that the abuse scenes seemed so inexorably authentic. I'm not quite sure that watching a woman beat her child with a wire coat hanger is ever comedic, despite the melodrama or laughable dialogue that may have come before it.
The most derided and infamous aspect of the film's legacy lies in Dunaway's extravagant performance as Joan Crawford. The outright insanity and evil that Dunaway purveys throughout the film means she becomes the center of attention for the audience and, because of this, any insight or subtext is lost upon the viewer. Like a tornado she manages to draw everything in the scene into her sphere whilst simultaneously tearing everything in it apart, both physically and cinematically. Strangely though, I would be hesitant to deride the performance as bad. It certainly has a negative effect on the film as a whole but Dunaway herself is hypnotic and compelling, channeling a raw dynamism into what could have been merely an impression. Pauline Kael herself has said "“Faye Dunaway gives a startling, ferocious performance in Mommie Dearest. It's deeper than an impersonation...she turns herself into Joan Crawford, all right, but she's more Faye Duanway than ever".
So, is this a case of a director letting his star overpower the feature? Dunaway herself has expressed regret over the film, stating that she wished that director Frank Perry had "had enough experience to see when actors needed to rein in their performances." Whilst she may be correct in her analysis here, it ignores the fact that everything else in the film is so mundane. Aside from a few catwalk-esque shots of Dunaway framed by curtains in a beautiful dress, there isn't any attempt at artistic expression here to even deride. Ebert praised the film's look in his review but I disagree with him; it looks like a made for TV-movie and concludes like a made-for TV movie, dull and predictable. I'd argue that the only thing keeping this film alive is Dunaway and for that she should be applauded.
What was everybody else's experience of this film? Did you find fun and games in it or was it difficult to sit through? I'm still perplexed by it...
Tuesday, November 16, 2021
THE REAL GYPSY ROSE LEE
On the other hand, ask anyone who came of age in the 1940s or ’50s the same question, and the reaction will likely be something along the lines of, “Gypsy Rose Lee? I haven’t thought about her in decades! But let me tell you, back in the day. . . .”
Gypsy Rose Lee (born Rose Louise Hovick in Seattle in 1911) was and remains a force in American popular culture not because she acted in films (although she did act in films) or because she wrote successful mystery novels (although she did write successful mystery novels). The reason Lee’s influence endures can be attributed to two central elements of her remarkable, all-American life story: first, her 1957 memoir, Gypsy, which formed the basis for what more than a few critics laud as the greatest of all American musicals, the 1959 Styne-Sondheim-Laurents masterpiece, Gypsy; and second, her career in burlesque, when she became the most famous and perhaps the most singularly likable stripper in the world. (Modern “neo-burlesque” performers, like Dita Von Teese, Angie Pontani and others, cite Gypsy in near-reverent terms as a pioneer and inspiration.)
“I’m probably the highest paid outdoor entertainer since Cleopatra,” she’s quoted as saying in the June 6, 1949 issue of LIFE, in which many of these pictures first appeared. “And I don’t have to stand for some of the stuff she had to.”
“Confidently taking her place among history’s great ladies, Gypsy has for the first time in her life gone outdoors professionally,” LIFE wrote at the beginning of Gypsy’s six-month tour with what was called “the world’s largest carnival,” The Royal American Shows. The prospect of having to do her old strip-tease act 8 to 15 times a day “all across the country to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan,” meanwhile, although hardly thrilling to the 38-year-old mom, was also something Gypsy could, characteristically, put in perspective:
“For $10,000 a week,” she told LIFE, “I can afford to climb the slave block once in a while.”
But it’s in the notes of writer Arthur Shay, who spent a week with the star in Memphis, Tennessee, in May 1949, that we meet the woman who emerges when the lights go down and the crowds depart and it’s clearly this Gypsy who truly connected to audiences wherever she went:
“Funny thing about show people or just plain fans,” she told Shay at one point, offering insights into the appeal of her nomadic life. “They think if you’re not in Hollywood or on Broadway making a couple of thousand a week taking guff from everybody and his cousin in the west, and sweating out poor crowds on Broadway you’re not doing well. [But] I’ve been touring the country playing nightclubs and making twice as much as I made in the movies, and having more fun! I get a lot more fishing done, for one thing, and I can live in my trailer and see the country.”
Gypsy Rose Lee died in April, 1970, of lung cancer. She was 59 years old...
Friday, November 12, 2021
DANA PLATO: ANOTHER TORTURED CHILD STAR
Tuesday, November 9, 2021
FORGOTTEN ONES: GARY CROSBY
Gary Crosby was born on June 27, 1933 in Los Angeles and graduated from Stanford University. He entered the entertainment business and performed in a harmony singing group, The Crosby Boys, with his three brothers, Philip, Lindsay, and Dennis, during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. As a teenager, he sang with his father on numerous records songs, and two of them "Sam's Song" and "Play a Simple Melody", became the first double-sided gold record in history. He also recorded duets with Louis Armstrong and at least one 45-single with Sammy Davis Jr.. He also performed on several variety programs, including ABC's The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom and NBC's The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford. In the mid-1950s, Gary also had his own radio program, the Gary Crosby Show on CBS. The musical variety program debuted June 6, 1954, as a summer replacement for Bing Crosby's show.
As an actor, Crosby appeared in many television programs. On March 20, 1955, he appeared on the Jack Benny Program Season 5, Episode 13. Later, he was briefly under contract to 20th Century-Fox in the late 1950s. He appeared in a number of supporting roles for the studio, normally comedies in which Crosby played a soldier: Mardi Gras (1958) with Pat Boone; Holiday for Lovers (1959), as Carol Lynley's love interest; A Private's Affair (1959), with Sal Mineo; The Right Approach (1961) with Frankie Vaughan. Gary spent a small stint in the military where he was stationed with Elvis Presley whom he would make Girl Crazy with in 1965.
He is perhaps best-remembered for his recurring roles as Eddie the scheming bellhop on The Bill Dana Show and Officer Edward "Ed" Wells on NBC's Adam-12 from 1968–75, as well as appearances on several other shows produced by Jack Webb's Mark VII Limited (including an episode of Dragnet 1969 and five episodes of Emergency!). In addition to the aforementioned, he also appeared in three episodes of The Rockford Files.
In the 1970s, he appeared occasionally on game shows such as Match Game and Tattletales as a guest panelist. He married and divorced three times; he had one stepchild as a result. A lifelong alcoholic, Gary jumped at the change to write about his famous father. The children of other famous stars such as Christina Crawford (daughter of Joan Crawfrod) had made millions off of the tell-all tales of growing up famous.
In 1983, six years after his father's death, Crosby published an autobiography, Going My Own Way, which revealed the effects of his alcoholism and his difficult childhood as a result of his mother's alcoholism and his father's emotional and physical abuse. Some, especially his brother Phillip, said the abuse was not as severe as Crosby described. Gary himself reportedly admitted the book was a big exaggeration to make money.
In the late 1980s, Gary gained peace in his life and became sober. At the time of his death, he was planning a duets album with his father like Natalie Cole had done with her father Nat King Cole. Gary Crosby died of lung cancer in Burbank, California on August 24,1995, and is interred at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills Cemetery. Just like Gary Crosby made peace with his father, I feel I need to make peace with Gary's book. Who know how anyone would have turned out if they had Gary's life. The important thing is that he finally had peace at the end...
RIP: DEAN STOCKWELL
Sources representing the actor say that he died peacefully, in his sleep at home.
Among his best credits were a leading role in the sci-fi series “Quantum Leap,” “Air Force One” and David Lynch films “Dune” and “Blue Velvet.”
Born as Robert Dean Stockwell in March 1936, Stockwell began his career as a child actor under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. His first know film appearance was in “Valley of Decision” in 1945. Other early titles included “Anchors Aweigh” and “The Green Years.”
The role earned Stockwell multiple nominations for the Primetime Emmys and for the Golden Globes, with a Golden Globe win in 1990 for “best performance by an actor in a supporting role in a series, miniseries or motion picture made for television.” Stockwell received a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame on Feb. 29, 1992.
Stockwell earned a supporting actor Oscar nomination for 1988 film “Married to the Mob.” Before that he was twice named best actor at the Cannes film festival in 1959 and 1962. The first of these was for “Compulsion,” in which Stockwell reprised a role he had earlier played on Broadway.
What followed were roles in some of the era’s defining movies. These included Wim Wenders’ “Paris, Texas,” “To Live and Die in L.A.,” “The Rainmaker,” “Robert Altman’s “The Player,” “Married to the Mob” and the two Lynch movies.
He went on to have recurring roles in “Battlestar Galactica” series and “The Tony Danza Show.”
Thursday, November 4, 2021
THE MOVIES OF KAY KYSER
1. THAT'S RIGHT-YOU'RE WRONG
Kay Kyser Adolphe Menjou, Lucille Ball.
Kay and the band's radio show success brings a Hollywood movie offer in this movie-in-a-movie. It's fresh and entertaining with Menjou as the evil producer. Great songs, great energy. Ok, I'm biased.
2. YOU'LL FIND OUT
Kay Kyser, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Peter Lorre, Helen Parrish, Dennis O'Keefe.
This, the 2nd KK film, is now a cult classic. People buy bootleg copies off EBAY all the time. But, a-ha! They're not restored copies. Kay and the band in a haunted house. Swing numbers one minute, Ish disappearing behind secret panels the next. The ONLY time (perk up, you experts) Karloff, Lugosi and Lorre appeared together in the same film. I love it, but Kay's a bit too over the top in first scene. Incredible songs! "Like The Fella Once Said", "You've Got Me This Way", "I'd Know You Anywhere", "One Track Mind", Ish's "Bad Humor Man (rumor has it that the song was to have been sung by the "3 Boogie Men"!! as print ads described them). A MUST for Halloween.
Kay Kyser, John Barrymore, Lupe Velez, Ginny Simms.
Ginny gets co-star billing in her last film before leaving the band. Also known for being Barrymore's last film. (And yes, he did indeed read his lines off a sign or blackboard just off-camera). Publicity stunt goes awry, with Barrymore having to teach Kay to perform Shakespeare. Patsy Kelly, Peter Lind Hayes are memorable, JB cartoonish.
4. MY FAVORITE SPY
Kay Kyser, Ellen Drew, Jane Wyman.
Not the Bob Hope film of the same name! Kay gets married and is drafted to become an American spy! Silly and funny. Gives you that goofy 40s feeling. Harry sings "Just Plain Lonesome", Sully sings "Got the Moon in My Pocket".
5. AROUND THE WORLD
Kay Kyser, Joan Davis, Mischa Auer.
Kay and band fly around the world to entertain the troops. Band has now updated style to harder swing. Check out song "Roodle-ee-doo". Georgia Carroll and Harry Babbitt featured on "Candlelight and Wine".
6. SWING FEVER
Kay Kyser, Marilyn Maxwell.
Kay plays Lowell Blackford, a hayseed composer in the big city w/ strange hypnotic power.. Gets mixed up w/ corrupt boxers and well, enough said. MGM had no clue what to do with him. Great posters, though!
7. CAROLINA BLUES
Kay Kyser, Ann Miller, Victor Moore.
Kay and band can't stop turning down camp show requests even though they're overdue for a vacation. Moore trys to scam Kay into using Miller as singer when Georgia leaves band for matrimony. The last Kay Kyser feature. Rumor has it one was in development in 1949, but never appeared. Out of Kay's seven features, I rate this a seven.
Kay and his band also appeared in 2 other films:
Stage Door Canteen
(1943 UA) performing "A Rookie & His Rhythm".
(1943 MGM) performing medley "I Dug a Ditch- Should I?". It's Kay and the gang in glorious color for the first (and only) time!
Kay and the band did several short subjects as well, the exact number not confirmed.
It should be noted that these were, in effect, pop movies of the time, and though they're certainly not Gone With The Wind, they are for the most part fun, funny and entertaining. It's also important to remember that the stories always revolved around Kay, unlike most bandleader's films of that time. For example, the two Glenn Miller movies, though entertaining, seldom feature Glenn for more than a line or two unless the band's performing...