Friday, December 30, 2022

THE PASSING SCENE OF 2022

 As we bid this year a fond farewell, we can not help but also say goodbye to the entertainers and icons that we have lost in 2022...

Angela Lansbury

Entertainer ANGELA LANSBURY died at the age of 96 on October 11th. She was a star of stage, screen, and television for 80 years. To escape the Blitz, she moved to the United States in 1940, studying acting in New York City. Proceeding to Hollywood in 1942, she signed to MGM and obtained her first film roles, in Gaslight (1944), National Velvet in 1944, and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), earning her two Academy Award nominations and a Golden Globe Award. She appeared in eleven further MGM films, mostly in minor roles, and after her contract ended in 1952 she began supplementing her cinematic work with theatrical appearances. Although largely seen as a B-list star during this period, her role in the film The Manchurian Candidate (1962) received widespread acclaim and is often cited as one of her career-best performances, earning her a third Academy Award nomination. Moving into musical theatre, Lansbury finally gained stardom for playing the leading role in the Broadway musical Mame (1966), which won her her first Tony Award. She reached a new audience as Jessica Fletcher on TV's Murder She Wrote from 1984 to 1996. She also moved into voice work, contributing to animated films like Disney's Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Don Bluth's Anastasia (1997). She toured in a variety of international productions and continued to make occasional film appearances such as Nanny McPhee (2005) and Mary Poppins Returns (2018). Her last work was a cameo appearance in Rian Johnson's 2022 detective drama Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.

Singer LORETTA LYNN died at the age of 90 on October 4th. In a career which spanned six decades in country music, Lynn released multiple gold albums. She had hits such as "You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man)", "Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)", "One's on the Way", "Fist City", and "Coal Miner's Daughter". In 1980, the film Coal Miner's Daughter was made based on her life. Loretta suffered a stroke in 2017 and broke her hip in 2018. She released her last album in 2021.

Actress ESTELLE HARRIS died on April 2nd at the age of 93. She was best known as George Costanza's mother on the television show Seinfeld from 1992 to 1998. Estelle also provided the voice of Mrs. Potato Head in the Toy Story cartoon franchise. She did not start acting until her children was grown up, and her first role was in 1977. Her last role was in 2019's Toy Story 4.

Singer BOBBY RYDELL died at the age of 79 on April 5th of pneumonia. He was a singer and actor who mainly performed rock and roll and traditional pop music. In the early 1960s he was considered a teen idol. His most well-known songs include "Wild One" and "Volare". In 1963 he appeared in the musical film Bye Bye Birdie as Ann-Margret's love interest. In the 1980s, he joined a trio called The Golden Boys with fellow former teen idols Frankie Avalon and Fabian Forte and he continued to tour up until his death.

Comedian LOUIE ANDERSON died of cancer at the age of 68 on January 21st.  Anderson created the cartoon series Life with Louie and wrote four books, including Hey Mom: Stories for My Mother, But You Can Read Them Too, which was published in 2018. He was the initial host of the third revival of the game show Family Feud from 1999 to 2002. For his performance on the FX comedy television series Baskets, Anderson received three consecutive Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series nominations and won once in 2016. Anderson performed a stand-up show called Louie: Larger Than Life in Las Vegas, Nevada, from 2003 through 2012.Louie's last role was in 2021's Coming 2 America with Eddie Murphy.

Sidney Poitier

Actor SIDNEY POITIER died on January 7th at the age of 94.   In 1964, he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, becoming the first Black male and Bahamian actor to win the award. He received two further Academy Award nominations, ten Golden Globes nominations, two Primetime Emmy Awards nominations, six BAFTA nominations, eight, and one Screen Actors Guild Awards nomination. Poitier was one of the last surviving major stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema, and after the death of Kirk Douglas in 2020, was the oldest living and earliest surviving male Academy Award winner until his own death in 2022. He continued to break ground in three successful 1967 films which dealt with issues of race and race relations: To Sir, with Love; Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and In the Heat of the Night. He retired from acting in 1997, but continued to be involved in the cinema and in his homeland of the Bahamas. 

Actor CARLTON CARPENTER died on January 31st at the age of 95. Carpenter signed with MGM in 1950, where he starred in a bunch of supporting roles. He he made eight films in three years: Father of the Bride, Three Little Words, Summer Stock, Two Weeks With Love, Vengeance Valley, Fearless Fagan (his one-of-two leading roles there), Sky Full of Moon (his other leading role there) and Take the High Ground!. He gained fame when teamed in 1950 with Debbie Reynolds in Three Little Words and Two Weeks with Love. In a guest sequence in Three Little Words, they perform “I Wanna Be Loved by You” as vaudeville players Dan Healy and Helen Kane, with Reynolds dubbed by Kane. In Two Weeks with Love, where they have featured roles, their duet "Aba Daba Honeymoon" was the first soundtrack recording to become a top-of-the-chart gold record, reaching number three on the Billboard chart. He worked as a stage actor through 2015.

Actress PAT CARROLL died of pneumonia on July 30th at the age of 95. She was known for voicing Ursula in The Little Mermaid and for appearances in CBS's The Danny Thomas Show, ABC's Laverne & Shirley, and NBC's ER. Carroll was an Emmy, Drama Desk, and Grammy Award winner, as well as a Tony Award nominee. She largely retired from acting in 2014.

Child star and voice actor PETER ROBBINS died at the age of 65 on January 25th of suicide. At the age of nine, Robbins provided the voice of Charlie Brown, whom he considered to be his childhood hero, in one television documentary, six Peanuts television specials and one movie from 1963 to 1969, including the film A Boy Named Charlie Brown and the television specials A Charlie Brown Christmas and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. At the age of fourteen, Robbins was replaced by younger child actors in the Peanuts specials produced after the 1960s, but his trademark scream of "AUGH!!", first used in It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, continued to be used in later specials for Charlie Brown and other Peanuts characters. Peter suffered from mental illness and was arrested numerous times and jailed from 2015 to 2019.

Actor RAY LIOTTA died at the age of 67 on May 26th. His best-known roles include Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams (1989), Henry Hill in Goodfellas (1990) and Tommy Vercetti in the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002). His other roles included Ray Sinclair in Something Wild (1986), for which he received a Golden Globe nomination, as well as starring in Unlawful Entry (1992), Cop Land (1997), Hannibal (2001), Blow (2001), John Q (2002), Identity (2003), Observe and Report (2009), Killing Them Softly (2012), The Place Beyond the Pines (2012), and Marriage Story (2019), as well as the drama series Shades of Blue (2016–2018). Ray was currently shooting a movie in the Dominican Republic when he passed away in his sleep.

Robert Morse

Actor ROBERT MORSE died at the age of 90 on April 20th. He best known as the star of both the 1961 original Broadway production, for which he won a Tony Award, and the 1967 film adaptation of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and as Bertram Cooper in the critically acclaimed AMC dramatic series Mad Men (2007–2015). He won his second Tony Award for playing Truman Capote in the 1989 production of the one-man play Tru. He reprised his role of Capote in an airing of the play for American Playhouse in 1992, winning him a Primetime Emmy Award. Robert made his last movie and television appearances in 2019.

Singer JONI JAMES died on February 20th at the age of  91. Signed at MGM records in the early 1950s, James had numerous hit records like: "Why Don't You Believe Me?" (No. 1 in 1952) "Have You Heard?" (No. 4 in 1953) "Your Cheatin' Heart" (No. 2 in 1953) "Almost Always" (No. 9 in 1953) "My Love, My Love" (No. 8 in 1953) "How Important Can It Be?" (No. 2 in 1955) and "You Are My Love" (No. 6 in 1955) as well as sixteen other Top 40 hits from 1952 to 1961. She left the music scene in the mid 1960s, but returned to performing in the 1990s.

Actress LOUISE FLETCHER died at the age of 88 on September 23rd. She was best known for her portrayal of Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), which earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress, a BAFTA Award, and a Golden Globe Award. She was also well-known for her recurring role as the Bajoran religious leader Kai Winn Adami in the television series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993–99), as well as for her role as Helen Rosemond in the movie Cruel Intentions (1999). She was nominated for two Emmy Awards for her roles in the television series Picket Fences (1996) and Joan of Arcadia (2004). Her final role was as Rosie in the Netflix series Girlboss (2017).

Comedian BOB SAGET died at the age of 65 on January 9th. His acting roles included Danny Tanner on the sitcom Full House (1987–1995), its sequel Fuller House (2016–2020), and the voice of narrator Ted Mosby on the sitcom How I Met Your Mother (2005–2014). From 1989 to 1997, he was the original host of America's Funniest Home Videos. Saget was also known for his adult-oriented stand-up comedy, and his 2014 album That's What I'm Talkin' About was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album. He passed away in his hotel room where he was performing in Orlando, Florida.

Actress MARSHA HUNT died on September 7th at the age of 104. She was blacklisted by Hollywood film studio executives in the 1950s during McCarthyism. She appeared in many films, including Born to the West (1937) with John Wayne, Pride and Prejudice (1940) with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier, Kid Glove Killer (1942) with Van Heflin, Cry 'Havoc' (1943) with Margaret Sullavan and Joan Blondell, The Human Comedy (1943) with Mickey Rooney, Raw Deal (1948) with Claire Trevor, The Happy Time (1952) with Charles Boyer, and Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun (1971). She appeared in a documentary of her life that was made in 2014.

Olivia Newton-John

Actress and singer OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN died of cancer at the age of 73 on August 8th. She was a four-time Grammy Award winner whose music career included five number-one hits and many other Top Ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100, and two number-one albums on the Billboard 200. In 1978, Newton-John starred in the musical film Grease, which was the highest-grossing musical film at the time and whose soundtrack remains one of the world's best-selling albums. It features two major hit duets with co-star John Travolta: "You're the One That I Want"—which is one of the best-selling singles of all time—and "Summer Nights". She made a handful of movies, and she is concerned one of the great recording artists of the 2nd half of the 20th century.

Actor WILLIAM HURT died of prostate cancer on March 13th at the age of 71. Hurt garnered three consecutive nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actor, for Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985), Children of a Lesser God (1986), and Broadcast News (1987), winning for the first of these. After playing character roles in the following decade, Hurt earned his fourth Academy Award nomination for his supporting performance in David Cronenberg's crime thriller A History of Violence (2005). His later career films roles include turns in A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), The Village (2004), Syriana (2005), The Good Shepherd (2006), Mr. Brooks (2007), Into the Wild (2007), Robin Hood (2010), and the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, in which he portrayed Thaddeus Ross.

Comedian GILBERT GOTTFRIED died on April 12th of muscular dystrophy at the age of 67. His persona as a comedian featured an exaggerated shrill voice and emphasis on crude humor. His numerous roles in film and television include voicing the parrot Iago in the Aladdin animated films and series, Digit LeBoid in Cyberchase, Kraang Subprime in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the Aflac Duck. He appeared in the critically panned but commercially successful Problem Child in 1990. Gottfried hosted the podcast Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast (2014–2022), which featured discussions of classic movies and celebrity interviews, most often with veteran actors, comedians, musicians, and comedy writers.

Actor JAMES CAAN died at age of 82 on July 6th. After early roles in Howard Hawks's El Dorado (1966), Robert Altman's Countdown (1967) and Francis Ford Coppola's The Rain People (1969), he came to prominence playing Sonny Corleone in Coppola's The Godfather (1972) – a performance which earned him Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actor. He reprised his role in The Godfather Part II (1974). Caan gained acclaim for his portrayal of Brian Piccolo in the 1971 television movie Brian's Song for which he received a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie nomination. Caan received Golden Globe Award nominations for his performances in the drama The Gambler (1974), and the musical Funny Lady (1975). He remained a popular actor in films like Misery (1989) and Elf (2003). He continued making movies until the end of his life.

Actor LESLIE JORDAN died on October 24th at the age of 67 in a car crash. Leslie was on countless TV shows and movies. His television roles included Lonnie Garr on Hearts Afire (1993–1995), Beverley Leslie on Will & Grace (2001–2006, 2017–2020), for which he won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series in 2006, several characters in the American Horror Story franchise (2013–2019), Sid on The Cool Kids (2018–2019), and Phil on Call Me Kat (2021–2022). In theater, he played Earl "Brother Boy" Ingram from Sordid Lives, and also portrayed the character in the popular cult film of the same name.

Louise Tobin

Big band singer LOUISE TOBIN died at the age of 104 on November 26th. She appeared with Benny Goodman, Bobby Hackett, Will Bradley, and Jack Jenney. Tobin introduced "I Didn't Know What Time It Was" with Goodman’s band in 1939. Her biggest hit with Goodman was "There'll Be Some Changes Made", which was number two on Your Hit Parade in 1941 for 15 weeks. Tobin was the first wife of trumpeter and bandleader Harry James, with whom she had two sons. She helped to discover Frank Sinatra in the late 1930s.

Actor TONY DOW died of cancer at the age of 77 on July 27th.Tony was an actor, film producer, director and sculptor. He portrayed Wally Cleaver in the iconic television sitcom Leave It to Beaver from 1957 to 1963. From 1983 to 1989, Dow reprised his role as Wally in a television movie and in The New Leave It to Beaver. He largely retired from acting in the 1990s, but he directed many TV shows.

Actress KIRSTIE ALLEY died on December 5th at the age of 71 of cancer. Her breakout role was as Rebecca Howe in the NBC sitcom Cheers (1987–1993), for which she received an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe in 1991. From 1997 to 2000, she starred as the lead in the sitcom Veronica's Closet, earning additional Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Alley appeared in various films, including  Look Who's Talking (1989) and its two sequels (1990–1993), It Takes Two (1995), Deconstructing Harry (1997), For Richer or Poorer (1997), and Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999). She won her second Emmy Award in 1994 for the television film David's Mother. Her last appearance was on TV's "The Masked Singer" in 2022.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

MUSIC BREAK: BING CROSBY - WHITE CHRISTMAS (1943)

Friday, December 23, 2022

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD CHRISTMAS

It's the Holidays again! Hard to believe we are celebrating Christmas 2022! I hope your holiday season is healthy and happy, and here is how some of the classic Hollywood celebrated Christmas in the past...



Carole Lombard



Burl Ives & Dinah Shore


Humphrey Bogart & Lauren Bacall


Eddie Cantor


Jayne Mansfield


June Haver    


Monday, December 12, 2022

RECENTLY VIEWED - MATILDA THE MUSICAL

My daughter currently goes to a local acting school. They have children from 6 to 13. It was just announced that their yearly peformance will be Matilda The Musical. It was perfect, because this new version of the Roald Dahl's novel has just been released to movie theaters, and we went this past weekend. The complete title is complete title: Roald Dahl's Matilda the Musical. An adaptation of the 2011 stage musical of the same name by Warchus, Kelly, and Tim Minchin, which itself is based on the 1988 novel Matilda by Roald Dahl, the film, co-produced by TriStar Pictures, Working Title Films, and Netflix, is also the second film adaptation of the novel, after the 1996 American film (also produced by TriStar). The film stars Alisha Weir as the title character, alongside Lashana Lynch, Stephen Graham, Andrea Riseborough, and Emma Thompson.

A film adaptation of Matilda the Musical was first announced in November 2013, with Warchus and Kelly reportedly attached to return as director and writer, respectively. In January 2020, the project was officially announced, and Warchus and Kelly's returns were confirmed, as well as Minchin, who revealed he was returning to write new songs for the film. Christopher Nightingale, who had written background music for the musical, was also hired to return as composer of the film's incidental score. The cast was filled out between January and April 2021, including Weir, Lynch, Thompson, Graham, and Riseborough. Principal photography took place beginning in May 2021 in Ireland.


The plot of this new incarnation has mostly remained the same. Matilda is an exceptional girl living a sad and lonely life. Then she meets a caring teacher who really turns her life around. Matilda is played by newcomer Alisha Weir, and for the most part the whole cast is new to me. The one excpetion is Emma Thompson, who steals the movie away as Agatha Trunchbull. Her acting in this role is a definite improvement on the 1996 film which had Pam Ferris as Miss Trunchbull. The movie is a little slow at times, but the music livens things up. 

My daughter loved the movie, and I am so glad to have had the opportunity to see this in a move theater. However, Netflix will begin streaming the movie on Christmas Day. I could have saved money by waiting two weeks to see the film, but there is just something about seeing a movie musical on the screen. It was an enjoyable movie, and I recommend this movie to anyone who has read and loved the story of Matilda Wormwood. It was not the greatest movie musical by any stretch, but it was a good one...

MY RATING: 8 OUT OF 10



Sunday, December 11, 2022

BORN ON THIS DAY: MARIE WINDSOR

On this day, screen actress Marie Windsor was born. She was born on December 11, 1919. The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lane Bertelsend, she graduated from Marysvale High School in 1934, doing a "musical reading" as part of the graduation exercises. She attended Brigham Young University, where she participated in dramatic productions. She was described in a 1939 newspaper article as "an accomplished athlete ... expert as a dancer, swimmer, horsewoman, and plays golf, tennis and skis."

In 1939, Windsor was chosen from a group of 81 contestants to be queen of Covered Wagon Days in Salt Lake City, Utah. She was unofficially appointed "Miss Utah of 1939" by her hometown Chamber of Commerce, and trained for the stage under famed Hollywood actress and coach Maria Ouspenskaya.Voluptuous and leggy, but unusually tall for a starlet of her generation, Windsor felt that she was handicapped when playing opposite actors of average stature (claiming that she had to progressively bend at the knees walking across the room in scene with John Garfield). As she later recalled, a production with Forrest Tucker as co-star made her happy with finally getting male lead who was her 'own size'.


After working for several years as a telephone operator, a stage and radio actress, and a bit part and extra player in films, Windsor began playing feature parts on the big screen in 1947.

Her first film contract, with Warner Bros. in 1942, resulted from her writing jokes and submitting them to Jack Benny. Windsor said she submitted the gags under the name M.E. Windsor "because I was afraid he might be prejudiced against a woman gag writer". When Benny finally met Windsor, "he was stunned by her good looks" and had a producer sign her to a contract. After a tenure with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in which the studio "signed her, put her in two small roles and then promptly forgot her", she signed a seven-year contract in 1948 with The Enterprise Studios.

The actress' first memorable role in 1948 was with John Garfield in Force of Evil playing seductress Edna Tucker. She had roles in numerous 1950s film noirs, notably The Sniper, The Narrow Margin, City That Never Sleeps, and the Stanley Kubrick heist film, The Killing, in which she played Elisha Cook, Jr.'s, scheming wife. She also made her first foray into science fiction with the release of Cat-Women of the Moon (1953). Windsor co-starred with Randolph Scott in The Bounty Hunter (1954). Marie never became a huge star but she continued to make movies in the 1990s. She died in 2000...






Sunday, December 4, 2022

SEVEN THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT VERA-ELLEN

 Every year we post a story about Vera-Ellen. Around this time, people start watching her in the 1954 musical White Christmas so it's a good time to remember this talented entertainer. Here are some things you might not have known about her...


1. Although Vera-Ellen only made 14 films, she was paired with all the famous Hollywood dancers of her day: Fred Astaire (Three Little Words; The Belle of New York); Gene Kelly (On the Town); Donald O’Connor (Call Me Madam); and Danny Kaye (White Christmas and others). Her singing voice was usually dubbed (including her numbers in White Christmas).


2. Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney, who famously played sisters in White Christmas, both grew up near Cincinnati. Vera-Ellen was raised in the Cincinnati suburb of Norwood, Ohio (making her a “Norwooder” as the locals say). Rosemary was from Maysville, Kentucky, located about an hour southeast of Cincy.

3. As a teen-ager she won the Major Bowes Amateur Hour and toured New York theaters, dancing for $50 a week in the late 1930's. She also toured with the Ted Lewis Band and eventually broke into Broadway musicals, dancing with Ray Bolger in ''By Jupiter'' in 1942 and in the revival of ''A Connecticut Yankee'' in 1943.


4. Her movie career began in 1945, when she appeared with Danny Kaye in Wonder Man.

5. She was a Radio City Rockette (and one of the youngest) but was fired after two weeks because she showed too much individuality on stage.

6. In 1963, her three-month-old daughter died, and she withdrew from public life. “I stopped when I was ahead. I don’t need my work anymore, and I don’t need the applause,” she told a reporter.

7. Victor Rothschild and Vera-Ellen were married for 11 years. They dated for 1 year after getting together in 1953 and married on 13th Nov 1954. 11 years later they divorced in 1966.



Wednesday, November 30, 2022

CELEBRITY ADS: MAUREEN O'HARA

 As the holidays are approaching, it was always important for the classic Hollywood ladies to look their best, Here is screen beauty Maureen O'Hara and a 1947 advertisement showing Max Factor lipstick....




Tuesday, November 29, 2022

RIP: LOUISE TOBIN

Louise Tobin, the big band singer and ex-wife of Harry James, who helped to discover a young Frank Sinatra died on November 26th at her grand-daughter's home. She was 104. Tobin began singing professionally in her teens in the 1930s, working with notable bandleaders including Bobby Hackett (1915–1976) and Jack Jenney (1910–1945).

In 1939, she joined Benny Goodman’s (1909–1986) band, singing on hits including “I Didn’t Know What Time it Was” and “There’ll Be Some Changes Made.” She married bandleader Harry James (1916–1983) in 1935; the marriage didn’t last long, but it did result in one important musical partnership. Tobin was listening to the radio in 1939 and heard a broadcast from the New Jersey club the Rustic Cabin. Their young emcee, Frank Sinatra, was singing, and she told James he should tune in another night to hear Sinatra’s skill. James was impressed and hired Sinatra as part of his band. The gig with James was the steppingstone to Sinatra’s meteoric rise to fame.


After their divorce, Ms. Tobin spent several years working in Los Angeles with bands led by pianist Emil Coleman and trumpeter Ziggy Elman before returning to Texas. Tobin took time off from her singing career to raise her children with James, but she returned to performing in the 1960s, including at the Newport Jazz Festival. In 1960 Tobin ran into Peanuts Hucko, a clarinetist who had played on her first recording in 1939 with Jack Jenney’s band. When Hucko opened his jazz club in Denver in 1967, he hired Tobin as his vocalist and she became his wife. They sold the restaurant in 1969 and Hucko led the Glenn Miller band in the early ‘70s and was also a favorite performer on the Lawrence Welk show. In the ‘80s the pair performed together in Hucko’s own band.

Although Tobin did not become the star that other singers did with Goodman’s band, she can be heard on several of the early recordings.Survivors include two sons, Harry James Jr. and Jerin Timothyray “Tim” James; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren...



Saturday, November 26, 2022

A TRIBUTE TO STEPHEN SONDHEIM: ONE YEAR LATER

  Hard to believe that this musical genius was silenced one year ago today...


 

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

WHERE ARE THEY NOW: MELINDA DILLON

Melinda Dillon is perhaps best known for her role as the mother of Ralphie and Randy in Bob Clark's 1983 movie A Christmas Story. The film was based on a series of short stories and novels written by Jean Shepherd about young Ralphie Parker (played by Peter Billingsley) and his quest for a Red Ryder BB gun from Santa Claus.

Four years later, Dillon co-starred with John Lithgow in the Bigfoot comedy Harry and the Hendersons. She continued to be active in stage and film throughout the 1990s, taking roles in the Barbra Streisand drama The Prince of Tides, the low-budget Lou Diamond Phillips thriller Sioux City, and the drama How to Make an American Quilt.


In 1999 she appeared in Magnolia, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, as Rose Gator, the estranged wife of terminally ill television game-show host Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall). In 2005, she guest-starred in the episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit titled "Blood".

Melinda retired from acting in 2007 after appearing as Ginger Timpleman in the movie Reign Over Me. She also appeared that year in television series Heartland as character Janet Jacobs on three episodes. Even though it has been close to 40 years since her most famous role as the mother in A Christmas Story, her role in that film will never be forgotten. Sadly, she could not be persuaded to come back for the upcoming sequel (her role is being racast with Julie Haggerty, Melinda is now 83 and living in quiet retirement...



Saturday, November 19, 2022

RECENTLY VIEWED: FALLING FOR CHRISTMAS

 The whole family was home this past weekend, and with a busy family it was nice to not have anything to do. I wanted to watch a classic movie like White Christmas (1954), but I was outvoted, and instad we put on a Netflix movie called Falling For Christmas. The movie is a 2022 American Christmas romantic comedy film directed by Janeen Damian, in her directorial debut, from a screenplay by Jeff Bonnett and Ron Oliver. The film stars Lindsay Lohan, with Chord Overstreet, George Young, Jack Wagner and Olivia Perez appearing in supporting roles. Lohan plays a spoiled heiress who loses her memory in a skiing accident and lands in the care of a lodge owner widower (Overstreet) at Christmastime.

It marked Lohan's first role in a major production in over a decade following a series of career setbacks while recovering from addiction and legal issues. Brad Krevoy and Michael Damian serve as producers on the film, which was first announced in May 2021. It began production in Utah in early November 2021 and wrapped the following month.

Spoiled hotel heiress Sierra Belmont has been newly appointed as "vice president of atmosphere" at her father's flagship resort in Aspen despite having no interest in the business. When her influencer boyfriend Tad proposes to her at a mountain top, she suffers a skiing accident, after which she becomes separated from Tad and loses her memory. As the hotel staff at the Belmont think Sierra and Tad are away on a trip, nobody comes looking for them.


As her identity cannot be verified at the hospital, Jake Russell, who discovered her and whom she bumped into earlier just after his failed business pitch to her father, offers her a place at his bed and breakfast hotel, the Northstar Lodge. Sierra, taking up the name of Sarah, adjusts to normal life and bonds with Russell and his family. As the hotel is struggling, Sierra comes up with a party to raise funds for the hotel. Meanwhile, Tad gets lost in the woods and finds shelter with recluse Ralph, who takes him to town on foot.

After 4 days, Sierra's father realizes she is missing and informs the Sheriff, who has just retrieved Tad and Ralph. At the party, the town comes together to support the Northstar Lodge, which is declared a historic site. Before Jake can thank Sierra, Tad and her father rush in to take her home, restoring her memory. Sierra decides she will do things for herself going forward and resigns from the position her father created for her realizing the hotel business is not for her. Meanwhile, Jake's daughter Avy reveals that her wish was for Jake to find love and convinces him to seek out Sierra. Jake confesses his love to Sierra who in turn breaks off her engagement with Tad to be with him. Sierra's father believes he owes Jake a debt of gratitude for finding her and so decides to invest in Northstar Lodge. They end with a very happy Christmas all together.


Sure the movie is predictable, and it follows a movie 101 formula, but I found myself rooting for Lindsay Lohan's character in the film. Her character got a second chance on a happy life, just like Lohan is getting. There was a cute nod to "Jingle Bell Rock" in the movie which is a reference to Lindsay's most popular film 2004's Mean Girls. At one point in the film we also see that Lindsay has a mic on her, but nevertheless it is a cute Christmas movie. It's not as corny as I thought it would be, and who cares! Christmas is meant to be corny. I am rooting for Lindsay Lohan too, and I hope her life is back on track now. Falling For Christmas was a surprise Christmas present that I didn't think I would like, but I am happy that I opened...

MY RATING: 7 OUT OF 10




Monday, November 14, 2022

RECENTLY VIEWED: THE GIVER

 My son had to read a novem in his 7th grade English class, and although he is not a big reader he really enjoyed "The Giver", written by Lois Lowry. The book came out in 1993 so I was already in college and never read it. After reading the book, I discovered it was a movie so my son and I watched it together this past week. The movie version of this dystopian novel was directed by Phillip Noyce and starred Jeff BridgesBrenton ThwaitesOdeya RushMeryl StreepAlexander SkarsgårdKatie HolmesCameron MonaghanTaylor Swift, and Emma Tremblay. The Giver premiered on August 11, 2014, and was released theatrically in the United States on August 15, 2014. It grossed $67 million on a $25 million budget and received a People's Choice Award nomination for "Favorite Dramatic Movie".

Following a calamity referred to as "the Ruin", society has been reorganized, taking away any sense of emotion, good or bad. Babies are brought into being through genetic engineering, and sexual desire is chemically suppressed. All memories of the past are held by one person, the Receiver of Memory, to shield the rest of the community from reviver of Memory and his protégé are the only people able to see in color, which is otherwise eliminated from the community to prevent envy. 

The community is ruled by elders, including the Chief Elder. Jonas is an 18-year-old boy whose best friends are Asher and Fiona. On graduation day, Jonas is told that he will become the next Receiver of Memory and will progressively receive memories of history from his predecessor, the Giver. During his training with the Giver, Jonas gradually learns about the past and about joy, pain, death, and love. He stops taking his daily injections (which stop him from dreaming and thinking about Fiona, for whom he has feelings) and begins to experience emotion. Those who leave the community are said to have been "released to Elsewhere", but Jonas learns that to be a euphemism for murder by lethal injection. Jonas also learns that the Giver's daughter, Rosemary, had preceded Jonas as Receiver of Memory. When she began her training, however, Rosemary became so distraught from the memories that she received that she asked to be "released".

Jonas learned the memories received from the Giver and accidentally shares his memories with a baby, Gabriel, who was brought home by his father. He develops a close relationship with Gabriel upon discovering that they share a birthmark, the mark of a potential Receiver of Memory, and both can see in color.

Appalled by the deception of his community and the Elders' disregard for human life, Jonas comes to believe that everyone should have memories of the past. Eventually, the Giver and Jonas decide that the only way to help the community is for Jonas to travel past the border of their land to "Elsewhere". Doing so would release memories and color back into the community. When Jonas tries to leave his neighborhood, he encounters Asher, who tries to stop Jonas but is punched by Jonas. Jonas retrieves Gabriel, who is to be "released" for having failed to meet a developmental marker, at the Nurturing Center.


Meanwhile, Jonas' mother and Asher go to the Chief Elder to say that Jonas is missing. Jonas steals a motorcycle and drives away with Gabriel. Asher is assigned by the Chief Elder to use a drone to find Jonas and "take" him. When Asher finds Jonas and Gabriel in the desert, Jonas beseeches Asher to trust him and to let them go. Instead, Asher captures them with the drone but sets them free by dropping them into a river. When he is questioned by the Chief Elder, Asher lies and says that he has followed her orders.

Fiona is condemned to be "released" for helping Jonas. Just as she is about to be "released" by Jonas' father, the Giver tries to persuade the Chief Elder that the Elders should free the community. Unmoved by the Giver's arguments, the Chief Elder asserts that freedom is a bad idea because when they are left to their own devices, people make bad choices.Jonas and Gabriel enter a snowy area. Jonas falls to the ground and is overcome by the cold weather. However, he sees a sled like the one that he rode in a memory that he had received from the Giver. Jonas and Gabriel ride the sled downhill and cross the border into Elsewhere, which frees their community and also saves Fiona's life as Jonas' father stops short of "releasing" her upon realizing his intentions. Jonas realizes that he has succeeded in his quest.


Jeff Bridges initially wanted to film the movie in the mid-1990s, and a script was written by 1998. Various barriers marred the production of the film, including when Warner Bros.bought the rights in 2007. The rights then ended up at The Weinstein Company and Walden Media. Bridges originally intended that his own father, Lloyd Bridges, would play the title character, The Giver, but he died in 1998.

The movie itself seems rushed, like it could be twenty mintues longer. Katie Holmes spends the whole movie frowning, but is good as the mother. Taylor Swift has a small role, which she is horrible in. Someone must have owed her a favor for her to get this role. Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges are the rocks of this movie, and I would have loved to have seen some of their back story. The movie I actually preferred a little bit more than the novel, but I recommend both...

MY RATING: 7 OUT OF 10



Sunday, November 13, 2022

THE LAST DAYS OF DICK POWELL

Dick Powell’s ability to reinvent himself made the television-movie giant a legend of Hollywood who died before his time.

“The Conqueror,” got filmed in 1954 among the red bluffs and white dunes close to Saint George, Utah. An area handpicked by the director/producer of the film, Dick Powell.

Due to its similarity to the central Asian steppes, Dick thought it the perfect place for the sappy love story between Genghis Khan and a captive princess to play out.

With reassurances from the federal government, no one knew that the atomic testing range only 137 miles away at Yucca Flat in Nevada posed a health hazard to those in Saint George.

With a cast and crew of over 220, an astonishing 91 developed cancer shortly after the movie got shot — one of those being Dick Powell.

When Dick went to St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica on September 13, 1962, to get treated for what he thought to be an allergy, doctors discovered cancer in his neck and chest.

Seven days and several cobalt treatments later, Dick went home and returned to his studio a few days later to continue work on six television shows.

Dr. Jason Stein at the UCLA Medical Center treated Dick felt happy with his reaction to the treatment and reported a vast reduction in the size of the tumor. “Dr. Stein is pleased with my progress and told me he expects to eliminate the condition,” Dick said at the time.


A few months later Dick’s condition took a turn for the worst when he slipped into a coma on the cusp of 1963. On January 2, 1963, with his third wife, June Allyson by his side, Dick passed away during the early afternoon at the age of 58.

A People magazine article in 1980 reported that of 220 cast and crew, 91 had contracted cancer, with 46 of them dying. No bombs were tested during the filming, but the article quoted Robert Pendleton, director of radiological health at the University of Utah, saying radioactivity from previous blasts probably lodged in Snow Canyon.

In addition to director Dick Powell succumbing to cancer - the major stars in the film: John Wayne, Susan Hayward, and Agnes Moorehead all died of cancer as well. As Agnes lay dying, she told Debbie Reynolds, her best friend, “I should never have taken that part.” Her co-star on “Bewitched,” Sandra Gould recalled that Agnes ones told her that “everybody in that picture has gotten cancer and died.”

Whether it was the location of that film that killed Dick Powell or not, his final days were not happy, and Powell died way too young...



Sunday, November 6, 2022

WHAT A CHARACTER: MARY WICKES

Mary Wickes' name you may not remember, but you will definitely remember her face. She was in countless movies for decades. I remember her most as the snooping housekeeper in 1954's White Christmas as well as the older nun in 1992's Sister Act

Wickes's first Broadway appearance was in Marc Connelly's The Farmer Takes a Wife in 1934 with Henry Fonda. She began acting in films in the late 1930s and was a member of the Orson Welles troupe on his radio drama The Mercury Theatre on the Air; she also appeared in Welles's film Too Much Johnson (1938). One of her earlier significant film appearances was in The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942), reprising her stage role of Nurse Preen.

A tall (5'10") woman with a distinctive voice, Wickes would ultimately prove to be an adept comedian. She attracted attention in Now, Voyager (1942) as the wisecracking nurse who helped Bette Davis's character during her mother's illness. She had already appeared earlier that year with Davis in The Man Who Came To Dinner, and joined her again six years later in June Bride. (Wickes and Davis also reteamed in 1965 when Wickes played a supporting role to Davis in a television pilot, The Decorator.

In 1942, she also had a large part in the Abbott and Costello comedy Who Done It? She continued playing supporting roles in films during the next decade, usually playing wisecracking characters. Wickes moved to the new medium of television in 1949, starring in the title role of a Westinghouse Studio One version of Mary Poppins. In the 1950s, Wickes played the warm yet jocular maid Katie in the Mickey Mouse Club serial Annette and regular roles in the sitcoms Make Room for Daddy and Dennis the Menace. She also played the part of a ballet teacher, Madame Lamond, in the I Love Lucy episode "The Ballet" (1952). Wickes also served as the live-action reference model for Cruella De Vil in Walt Disney's One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), and played Mrs. Squires in the film adaptation of Meredith Willson's The Music Man (1962). 

Wickes' career had a resurgence in the late 1980s and 1990s. She was cast as the mother of Shirley MacLaine's character in the film Postcards from the Edge (1990) and portrayed Marie Murkin in the television movie and series adaptations of The Father Dowling Mysteries (1989–91). One of her most notable roles happened in this time frame, when she was cast as Sister Mary Lazarus in Sister Act (1992) and in the sequel Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993). She appeared in the 1994 film version of Little Women before she became ill.

Wickes suffered from numerous ailments in the last years of her life that cumulatively resulted in her hospitalization, where she fell and broke her hip, prompting surgery. She died of complications following the surgery on October 22, 1995 at the age of 85 at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.


Her final film role, voicing Laverne in Disney's animated feature The Hunchback of Notre Dame, was released posthumously in 1996. Wickes reportedly had only one voice recording session left for the film when she died. Jane Withers came in to finish the character's remaining six lines of dialogue. Whether doing the voices for a Disney movie or being a wisecracker housekeeper, Mary Wickes was quite a character in all of her movies...



Monday, October 31, 2022

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: SOME MORE FINAL PICTURES OF THE STARS

Some of these pictures are hard to look at, but even though these stars are bigger than life it goes to show that we are all just human...


Charlie Chaplin - October, 1977. He died on December 25, 1977


Buddy Holly - February 3, 1959. He died later that night in a plane crash.


Tiny Tim - November 30, 1996. He died shortly after this photo was taken.


Johnny Carson - January 4, 2005. He died on January 23, 2005.


President Lyndon Johnson - January 17, 1973. He died on January 22, 1973.


Henry Fonda - March 29, 1982. He died on August 12, 1982.



Thursday, October 27, 2022

Sunday, October 23, 2022

XANADU: A 1980 REVIEW

Here is a review of the campy musical Xanadu from famed film critic Roger Ebert. He published this on September 1, 1980...


"Xanadu" is a mushy and limp musical fantasy, so insubstantial it keeps evaporating before our eyes. It's one of those rare movies in which every scene seems to be the final scene; it's all ends and no beginnings, right up to its actual end, which is a cheat.

There are, however, a few - a very few reasons to see "Xanadu," which I list herewith: (1) Olivia Newton-John is a great-looking woman, brimming with high spirits, (2) Gene Kelly has a few good moments, (3) the sound track includes "Magic," if you haven't heard it enough already on the radio, and (4) it's not as bad as "Can't Stop the Music."

It is pretty bad, though. And yet it begins with an inspiration that I found appealing. It gives us a young man (Michael Beck) who falls in love with the dazzling fantasy figure (Newton-John) who keeps popping up in his life. Beck works as a commercial artist, designing record album covers, and when he tries to include Olivia in one of his paintings he gets into trouble at work.


That's ok, because he's met this nice older guy (Gene Kelly) who's very rich and wants to open a nightclub like the one he had back in New York in the 1940s. Kelly used to be a sideman in the Glenn Miller Orchestra (and also in the Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey bands, having apparently missed the Miller band's fatal last flight). In a quietly charming fantasy scene, he sings a duet with his old flame, the girl singer in the old Miller band-and, lo and behold, it's Olivia Newton-John.

That means both men are in love with the same dream girl, who, we discover, is not of this earth. They team up to convert a rundown old wrestling amphitheater into Xanadu, a nightclub that will combine the music of the 1940s and 1980s. And that is the whole weight of the movie's ideas, except for a scene where Michael Beck visits Olivia in heaven, which looks like a computer-generated disco light show.

Well, Hollywood musicals have been made with thinner plot lines than this one, but rarely with less style. The movie is muddy, it's underlit, characters are constantly disappearing into shadows, and there's no zest to the movie's look. Even worse, I'm afraid, is the choreography by Kenny Ortega and Jerry Trent, especially as it's viewed by Victor Kemper's camera. The dance numbers in this movie do not seem to have been conceived for film.


For example: When Beck and Kelly visit the empty amphitheater, Kelly envisions a '40s band in one corner and an '80s rock group in another. The movie gives us one of each: Andrews Sisters clones in close harmony, and the Electric Light Orchestra in full explosion. Then the two bandstands are moved together so they blend and everyone is on one bandstand, singing one song. It's a great idea, but the way this movie handles it, it's an incomprehensible traffic jam with dozens of superfluous performers milling about.

The Ortega-Trent choreography of some of the other numbers is just as bad. They keep giving us five lines of dancers and then shooting at eye level, so that instead of seeing patterns we see confusing cattle calls. The dancers in the background of most shots muddy the movements of the foreground. It's a free-for-all.

The movie approaches desperation at times in its attempt to be all things to all audiences. Not only do we get the 1940s swing era, but a contemporary sequence starts with disco, goes to hard rock, provides an especially ludicrous country and Western sequence, and moves on into prefabricated New Wave. There are times when "Xanadu" doesn't even feel like a movie fantasy, but like a shopping list of marketable pop images. Samuel Taylor Coleridge dreamed the poem "Xanadu" but woke up before it was over, a possibility overlooked by the makers of this film...