Monday, October 31, 2022


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


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...

Friday, October 14, 2022


The Road to Bingdom began in 1903, in Tacoma, Washington. Bing was the son of a devout Roman Catholic. His real name, Harry Lillis Crosby, refused to stick. According to one legend, he so loved a comic strip called the Bingville Bugle that he became Bing himself. He also became a dedicated sportsman (football, baseball, fishing), a good singer in a house full of singing, and a conspicuous truant. He nevertheless went to Gonzaga University in Spokane as a law student. The only useful part of the course, which ended with his first amateur musical success, was public speaking. Said he, "I owe all to elocution."

Wide recognition came after a few years of modest success as one of the Rhythm Boys featured by Paul Whiteman -- this before the King of Jazz fired him for not taking his work seriously enough. Nor was Whiteman the only early employer that Crosby disenchanted by drinking and carousing too much. He became a national name only after a medical fluke -- the sudden occurrence of nodules on his vocal cords -- caused him to lose his voice just before his first scheduled radio network show in 1931. When the voice came back, it had, thanks to the nodules, what Crosby called "the effect of a lad with his voice changing singing into a rain barrel."

The effect was just what the Crosby sound needed. In earlier work he sang with much jazzier effects. An artist in search of a personal style, he listened hard to Al Jolson, Mildred Bailey and Louis Armstrong. Finally Bing developed that mellifluous tone, a mere phrase of which causes millions of Americans to imagine the gold of the day meeting the blue of the night. Here was the voice that has sold more records than any other on earth save that of Elvis.

There was also the voice, suddenly made famous on radio, that inspired Hollywood to cast Crosby in the feature picture (Paramount's) The Big Broadcast that was to launch the flip side of Bing's career. In the movies as onstage, Crosby seemed always to come on singing happy, upbeat, don't-worry songs that the trouble-weary public loved during the Depression. He scored successees in such movies as Pennies from Heaven and Waikiki Wedding, but it was as the lazy, goodhearted ne'er-do-well in Sing You Sinners, in 1938, that he found the casual acting mode the public relished.

Crosby's biggest critical success was Country Girl, but his personal favorite among his movies was High Society (1956). It found him singing and dancing with Frank Sinatra at an "elegant swellegant" party and playing a concertina and crooning True Love, as only the first crooner could croon, to not-yet-royal Grace Kelly. Unlike many stars, Crosby surrounded himself with other big talents. He worked with Fred Astaire in Holiday Inn (in which he sang White Christmas), with Ethel Barrymore in Just for You and with Ingrid Bergman in Bells of St. Mary's.

It may be absurd to attribute modesty to anyone in the egomaniacal world of show biz. Yet a certain diffidence adhered to Crosby even as a celebrity. In his artistry, he owned the natural jazzman's gift of blending with, rather than blaring against, an ensemble of fellow performers -- a knack never used better than in the scatty and mellow duets (Gone Fishin, for one) that he recorded with Armstrong. A similar trait made his private life seem actually private in contrast to the typical Hollywood star's. He had his troubles, heartbreak at times in his first marriage to hard-drinking Dixie Lee, who died of cancer in 1952, and again in dealing with his four sons with a penchant for mischief. In 1957 he married Kathryn Grant, 30 years younger than he, and started another family. Crosby never claimed to be an exemplary singer or exemplary anything else, and once he attributed his good reputation to his practice of admitting his sins only to the "father confessor."

He had slowed down in recent years but had proclaimed an intent never to retire completely: "I'll keep singing as long as they'll have me." A grieving Bob Hope noted that the two old Roadsters, along with Dorothy Lamour, had just finished working up plans to try one more for the Road. The film, said Hope, was to be called The Road to the Fountain of Youth...


Tuesday, October 11, 2022


Angela Lansbury, who enjoyed an eclectic, award-winning movie and stage career in addition to becoming America’s favorite TV sleuth in “Murder, She Wrote,” has died, according to a statement from her family provided to NBC, whose parent company produced the long-running series. She was 96.

“The children of Dame Angela Lansbury are sad to announce that their mother died peacefully in her sleep at home in Los Angeles at 1:30 AM today, Tuesday, October 11, 2022, just five days shy of her 97th birthday,” her family said in a statement.

CNN has contacted representatives of Lansbury for comment.

Not yet 20 years old, Lansbury garnered her first Oscar nomination for her movie debut, “Gaslight,” in 1944. Her second came the next year for “The Portrait of Dorian Gray,” and again in 1962 as the mother who betrays her son and her country in “The Manchurian Candidate.” (She received Golden Globes for the latter two films.)

The actress accepted an honorary Oscar in 2013, to go with the five Tony Awards she collected over a 40-plus-year span – beginning with “Mame” in 1966, and finally for a revival of the Noel Coward play “Blithe Spirit” in 2009. Lansbury also amassed 11 Emmy nominations for her role as Jessica Fletcher in “Murder, She Wrote,” but never won.

Lansbury went from ingenue to playing more middle-aged roles practically overnight. She was just 37, for example, when she portrayed Laurence Harvey’s conniving mother in “Manchurian Candidate,” even though her co-star was just two years younger than her.

Born in London, her mother, Moyna MacGill, was an actress, and father Edward Lansbury a politician. He died when she was just nine years old, and not long after the onset of World War II the family moved to the US in 1940, settling in New York.

Lansbury studied drama before moving at her mother’s urging to Los Angeles, where she briefly worked in a department store until landing her breakthrough role as the young maid in “Gaslight,” starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer.

Other films included “National Velvet” (playing Elizabeth Taylor’s sister), “The Harvey Girls,” “The Three Musketeers,” the Danny Kaye comedy “The Court Jester” and the Elvis Presley vehicle “Blue Hawaii.”

Lansbury made her Broadway debut in 1957, later starring in iconic Tony-winning roles in “Mame,” “Gypsy” and “Sweeney Todd.” 

Generations of children revered Lansbury for her Disney roles, first in the 1971 movie musical “Bedknobs and Broomsticks,” and later as the voice of Mrs. Potts in the 1991 Oscar-nominated animated film “Beauty and the Beast.” She also played a small role in the 2018 sequel “Mary Poppins Returns.”

“Oddly enough, children recognize my voice,” she told The Huffington Post in 2012. “They’ll hear me and say, ‘Mom, that’s Mrs. Potts!’”

After a short-lived marriage to actor Richard Cromwell, Lansbury wed British actor Peter Shaw in 1949. They stayed together until his death in 2003 and had two children, Anthony – who directed many episodes of “Murder, She Wrote” – and Deirdre. Shaw eventually became her manager, and was instrumental in the deal that made them the producers of the series which premiered in 1984.

Lansbury achieved her greatest fame in her 60s for her starring role in “Murder, She Wrote” as a crime-solving mystery writer. Of all her roles, Lansbury said Jessica Fletcher was most like her. 

 ”I had a lot of say in it, and I didn’t want the character to be quirky,” she told The New York Times in 2009.  ”I wanted her to be real. I didn’t want to have to put on any kind of veneer for 24 hours a day, which is what a television schedule sometimes feels like.”

Despite “Murder, She Wrote’s” success, the audience skewed older, and CBS irritated Lansbury by moving the series to Thursday night opposite NBC’s “Friends” in 1995, in what turned out to be the mystery’s final season.

“I’m shattered,” Lansbury told the Los Angeles Times, adding, “I really feel angry for all the people who watched us” on Sunday, where the show had consistently delivered big ratings following “60 Minutes.”

After the series ended, Lansbury starred in several “Murder, She Wrote” TV movies. She continued to work into her 80s and 90s, including a 2017 miniseries version of “Little Women” and starring in a 2015 Great Performances production of “Driving Miss Daisy,” opposite James Earl Jones.

 “I love this industry and I love being in it,” Lansbury said in a 1998 interview with the Archives of American Television, adding in regard to the “Murder” audience, “They loved it, and they were loyal.”

Monday, October 10, 2022


Here is the Time Magazine article that was published on October 24, 1977 - 10 days after Bing died in Spain. Today marks 45 years since Bing died, and I figured it was fun to revisit the article...

The sound of him was always unmistakable. To many, and surely to most Americans beyond a certain age, his voice was one of the few verities of popular entertainment. It seemed to dance out as irresistibly as a whimsical sigh of relief, full of fluid and breezy resonances perfectly suited to the fragile and often sticky sentiments of the romantic era that swept him to superstardom. His way of crooning was, as well, exactly attuned to the easygoing personality he projected onstage and in most of his 60 movies. His style was so relaxed -- almost sleepy -- that it was hard to remember he won an Oscar for skillful acting as a priest in Going My Way (1944). Only at golf, which he often appeared to take more seriously than his career, did he ever publicly show tension. Indeed, when Bing Crosby died of a heart attack at 74 last week, nobody who knew him well could be surprised that the end came on the links.

Crosby collapsed after carding an 85 on the suburban La Moraleja Golf Club on the outskirts of Madrid. Only the day before, he had arrived in Spain from England after a successful tour climaxed by a sellout performance at London's Palladium. The tour, he told reporters in Madrid, had been a reassuring test of his recovery from the back injury he got last March when he fell from the stage in Pasadena, Calif., during a celebration of his 50th year in show business.

Crosby will of course sing on and on. And not just in records of White Christmas, the tinselly ballad that Crosby, with the help of World War II's general homesickness, transformed into a national holiday anthem. Echoes of Crosby's voice have passed into the style of every important prerock balladeer in the U.S. Long before his personal style was submerged by Elvis Presley and all his musical progeny, Crosby had become not only one of the world's richest entertainers, worth tens of millions, but perhaps the most influential pop singer of his time. Last week Frank Sinatra was one of a troupe of show-biz giants who affirmed not merely their sorrow but Crosby's enduring significance. Said Sinatra: "He was the father of my career, the idol of my youth and a dear friend of my maturity. Bing leaves a gaping hole in our music and in the lives of everybody who loved him. And that's just about everybody."

True. Not the least remarkable aspect of Crosby's career was that once it waxed big in the early 1930s, it never waned. He aroused unusual affection in his public. Bing outstripped both General Dwight Eisenhower and President Harry Truman in one popularity poll of the late 1940s. Any one of a variety of casual nicknames -- Der Bingle, Old Dad, the Groaner -- was enough to identify him in a newspaper headline. In a cartoon his image could be evoked with merely a nonchalant tilted smile, or by one of the pipes or hats or gaudy sports shirts he affected as part of a studiously insouciant manner.

Many of the names got pinned on him by his pal Bob Hope. Crosby and Hope became linked by the sequence of seven Road pictures made with Dorothy Lamour. Indeed, they were coupled ever after the very first in 1940, The Road to Singapore. Bing and Bob were frequently engaged onstage in a gibing dialogue that was itself like the soft shoe they also did together -- once while singing, hands joined, Mairzy Doats. "People will think we're in love," Crosby sang to a throng of troops during World War II -- and worked in the line, "Don't laugh at Hope's jokes so much." Out popped Hope, barbing: "Keep crooning, Bing, you make a great target."

The Road shows were rummage sales of stuff out of vaudeville, burlesque -- marvelously shoddy masterpieces of farce and fantasy, stitched together with cliches and ad libs. The series proved, if nothing else, that Crosby was nearly as deft a comedian as Hope. But by then Bing was a giant with or without Hope...


Thursday, October 6, 2022


I think I have only stopped watching a movie two or three times without finishing it. Even the worst movies like Jaws 3, I am usually able to suffer through. However, for the Marilyn Monroe biography Blonde, which was shown on Neflix, I had to turn it off. It is an unwatchable piece of film garbage. The film is a fictionalized take on the life and career of American actress Marilyn Monroe, played by Ana de Armas. The cast also includes Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale, Xavier Samuel, and Julianne Nicholson.

Along with shifting aspect ratios, most of the film is presented in black and white. Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Tracey Landon, Brad Pitt, and Scott Robertson produced the film, which, after a lengthy period of development that began in 2010, entered production in August 2019 in Los Angeles. Production wrapped in July 2021, following the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The film also garnered controversy and notoriety for its lead casting, graphic sexual content, and status as the first NC-17-rated film to be released via a streaming service.

Blonde premiered at the 79th Venice International Film Festival on September 8, 2022, and began a limited theatrical release in the United States on September 16, 2022, before its streaming release on September 28, by Netflix. The film received mixed reviews from critics, with De Armas's performance being praised, while Dominik's depiction of Monroe's life was criticized as being exploitative, sexist, and dehumanizing.

Real footage from Monroe's filmography is used in this movie mixed in with scenes recreated by Ana de Armas, who was placed in the films All About Eve (1950), Don't Bother to Knock (1952), Niagara (1953), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), and Some Like It Hot (1959). Andrew Dominik said that he initially didn't get permission from MGM to use footage from their films, so he had to shoot backup versions, such as for the scene with de Armas and Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot, which he shot with an actor playing Curtis in case he couldn't get permission to use the original footage. Dominik was allowed to use the footage after an MGM executive got fired and was replaced by Michael De Luca, who finally gave him permission to use it.

The only good part about this movie was Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe. She was perfect in the role, but the plot is horrible, and the movie was graphic just for the sake of being graphic. Don't waste your time on this horrible film. It will be 166 hours of your life that you will never get back...


Tuesday, October 4, 2022


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Country music legend Loretta Lynn has passed away at age 90.

She died Tuesday at her home in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee.

Her family released a statement, which reads:

“Our precious mom, Loretta Lynn, passed away peacefully this morning, October 4th, in her sleep at home at her beloved ranch in Hurricane Mills.”

Her family has asked for privacy during this time, as they grieve. An announcement regarding a memorial will be released later in a public announcement.

The coal miner’s daughter from Kentucky became an icon for her progressive lyrics about life and love and growing up in rural Appalachia.

She was the first woman ever named entertainer of the year by the Country Music Association in 1972 and then by the Academy of Country Music three years later.

Her biggest hits came in the 1960s and ’70s, including “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” “The Pill,” “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” “Rated X” and “You’re Looking at Country.” She was known for appearing in floor-length, wide gowns with elaborate embroidery or rhinestones, many created by her longtime personal assistant and designer Tim Cobb.

“Coal Miner’s Daughter,” also the title of her 1976 book, was made into a 1980 movie of the same name. Sissy Spacek’s portrayal of Lynn won her an Academy Award and the film was also nominated for best picture.

She and her husband “Doo” or “Doolittle, were married nearly 50 years before he died in 1996. They had six children: Betty, Jack, Ernest and Clara, and then twins Patsy and Peggy. She had 17 grandchildren and four step-grandchildren...

Monday, October 3, 2022


This past week I had the pleasure of watching the long awaited sequel to 1993's Hocus Pocus - simply called Hocus Pocus 2. The witches are back, and although they are a lot older, it was a cute movie to watch with my daughter. Filming took place from October 2021 to January 2022 in Rhode Island, replacing Salem, Massachusetts. It was released on Disney+ on September 30, 2022. Like the original, the film received mixed reviews from critics, who praised the cast, humor, and nostalgia, but criticized the plot.

In 2022, twenty-nine years after the Sanderson sisters were resurrected by the Black Flame Candle, Salem teenagers Becca and Izzy prepare to celebrate both Halloween and Becca's sixteenth birthday but turn down a party invitation from their estranged friend Cassie Traske. Becca and Izzy visit a magic shop (formerly the Sanderson cottage) run by Gilbert, who gifts Becca a candle for their annual birthday ritual. Becca and Izzy light the candle and discover that it is another Black Flame Candle. As there is a full moon and the girls are both virgins, the candle resurrects the Sanderson sisters once again.

The girls manage to outwit the sisters in a local Walgreens and then escape to the magic shop where they discover that Gilbert tricked them into reviving the sisters, having seen them on Halloween back in 1993 and been taught how to make the candle by Book. The sisters catch up to the girls and see a campaign flyer belonging to Mayor Traske, Cassie's father and Reverend Traske's direct descendant. Winifred decides they will cast the Magicae Maxima spell to eliminate Traske and take revenge on Salem. The sisters trap Izzy and Becca in the basement and leave to hunt down Traske, whose blood is needed to complete the spell. They force Gilbert to collect the other ingredients.

The girls escape and head to the Traske house to warn the mayor while the sisters find their way to the town's Halloween carnival and enchant the citizens to help them find the mayor. Meanwhile, Gilbert digs up Billy Butcherson, who has been awake but entombed since 1993. Gilbert needs Billy's head for the spell but tricks Billy into helping him collect the other ingredients first.

The girls reunite with Cassie and manage to trap the sisters within a salt circle in Cassie's garage before Mayor Traske returns home. The three teenagers make amends with one another but their reunion is short-lived when the sisters escape the circle and kidnap Cassie to use her blood instead. Becca and Izzy follow them to the forbidden forest where Gilbert has assembled the ingredients and soon discover that Becca is also a witch. The sisters partially cast the spell and increase their power, but Becca distracts them while Izzy rescues Cassie. Becca manages to convince Book that it does not have to answer to Winifred, and Becca and Book flee further into the forest. Book shows them a warning about the Magicae Maxima spell, stating that whoever casts it must give up what they cherish most.

The girls agree to warn Winifred of the price of the spell but are too late: Winifred becomes all powerful as Mary and Sarah fade to dust. Winifred grows despondent and begs the teenagers to use their newfound powers to save her sisters. While they cannot save the two, Becca, Cassie and Izzy join together in a coven and cast a reuniting spell and Winifred happily fades away to be reunited with her sisters.

The girls are joined by Gilbert and Billy while Billy starts to fade away, realizing that all of Winifred's spells have been undone and relieved to finally be headed to his eternal rest. The girls decide to give Book a new home and continue practicing their magic as they walk off into the night in a similar manner as the Sanderson sisters. As they leave, a bird identical to the one that Mother Witch had shapeshifted into flies overhead. Don't forget to stay tuned for a post credit scene!

Bette Midler looks great as the head witch still, but Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker look too thin if that is possible in Hollywood. The end of the movie has more a message than the prior movie, but the movie is fun, nostalgic and perfect to start the Halloween season with...


Sunday, October 2, 2022


The late great movie reviewer Bruce Kogan returns to our blog with a look at the courtroom drama - Twelve Angry Men (1957). Kogan, being a political activist, was well aware of all facets of the judicial system...

When I was younger I thought 12 Angry Men was a near perfect ensemble film with a great group of male players. At that time in those sexist fifties women had an automatic out from jury duty. It was not unusual to have all male juries as we have here.

Then I served on a few juries and my concepts changed. One of the key scenes of the film is when Henry Fonda produces a switchblade knife exactly like the weapon the young perpetrator allegedly used in the stabbing death of his father. The second that Fonda produced that knife, someone should have yelled for a mistrial.

In all 50 states of the United States of America, a standard jury instruction is that the jury is to decide the guilt or innocence of a defendent on the evidence presented at trial. Jurors are free to come and go until they are sequestered for the verdict. But they are instructed not to go near the crime scene or gather ANY independent evidence.

I remember being on jury duty and assigned on a case where the crime took place in an apartment that was one block away from one of two routes to a BMT subway stop that took me to work. And those same subways also took me to downtown Brooklyn and the court house. I made it a point to take the IRT to court for the next two weeks while the trial went on to avoid the temptation of going over to the crime scene.

It was a great dramatic effect, but totally at odds with our legal system. I can't believe that something that elementary was left in a film that was purported to be a realistic look at jury deliberations.

The juries I was on did debate and in some cases quibble over all the points of the trial. They were a good cross section of the breed Brooklynus Americanus just as in 12 Angry Men. If you watch Law and Order you know how hard the prosecutors job is to get 12 people to convict.

Still it's a wonderful group of players that participated here. Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb are the biggest names in the cast. But others like Robert Webber, John Fiedler, Martin Balsam, and Jack Klugman got their first real notice in this film.

Jack Klugman's portrayal was a particular favorite of mine among the group. He's from the same slum background as the defendent and some of the knowledge he has from that environment makes for the most compelling argument for the defendent's innocence.

We should be thankful that Sidney Lumet assembled and directed the find cast he did...

BRUCE'S RATING: 6 out of 10
MY RATING: 7 out of 10