Monday, September 25, 2023

HEALTHWATCH: SOPHIA LOREN

Sophia Loren has been rushed to hospital to undergo emergency surgery after suffering a bad fall at her home in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Hollywood star, 89, was left with several fractures to her hip and and a series fracture to her femur after she fell in the bathroom of her home this weekend.

Sophia's sons, Carlo Jr., 55, and Edoardo, 50, have been by her side throughout the ordeal and her time in hospital, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

News about Sophia's condition was shared by the team at her self-titled restaurant chain, who shared the news on their Instagram page.

The statement read: 'A fall at her home in Geneva today caused Ms Loren hip fractures. Operated with a positive outcome, she will now have to observe a short period of recovery and follow a road to rehabilitation.

'Thankfully everything worked out for the best and the Lady will be back with us very soon. The whole team at Sophia Loren Restaurant takes this opportunity to wish her a speedy recovery.'

The post announcing Sophia's surgery news was flooded with support from her devoted fans, wishing the star a speedy recovery.

Sophia had been due to open a fourth branch of her restaurant chain in Bari, Italy, on Tuesday. The Italian native was also due to receive honorary citizenship from the city.

The events have been cancelled along with her other upcoming public engagements, according to the publication.


It reported that Sophia will have a short a convalescence before undergoing a long rehabilitation process in order to recover from the surgery.

Sophia most recently appeared in the 2020 Netflix film The Life Ahead, directed by her son Edoardo, which won her a David di Donatello Award for best actress. Sophia plays a Holocaust survivor who bonds with a 12-year-old Nigerian immigrant.

Speaking to Ew.com, she explained: 'I love cinema so much. I want to keep doing it forever. I know it's difficult to find good stories, but sometimes I fall in love with the right ones. I intend to make movies forever.'

Earlier this year, Sophia was named as one of the AFT 50 greatest movies of classical Hollywood cinema. She is the only living actress on the list.

Some of her most iconic films include Two Women (1961) and Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (1963).



Friday, September 22, 2023

THE TRUTH ABOUT DON'T FENCE ME IN

Originally written in 1934 for Adios, Argentina, an unproduced 20th Century Fox film musical, "Don't Fence Me In" was based on text by Robert (Bob) Fletcher, a poet and engineer with the Department of Highways in Helena, Montana. Cole Porter, who had been asked to write a cowboy song for the 20th Century Fox musical, bought the poem from Fletcher for $250. Porter reworked Fletcher's poem, and when the song was first published, Porter was credited with sole authorship. Porter had wanted to give Fletcher co-authorship credit, but his publishers did not allow it. The original copyright publication notice dated October 10, 1944 and the copyright card dated and filed on October 12, 1944 in the U.S. Copyright Office solely lists words and music by Cole Porter. After the song became popular, however, Fletcher hired attorneys who negotiated his co-authorship credit in subsequent publications. Although it was one of the most popular songs of its time, Porter claimed it was his least favorite of his compositions.

Porter's revision of the song retained quite a few portions of Fletcher's lyrics, such as “Give me land, lots of land”, “... breeze ... cottonwood trees”, “turn me loose, let me straddle my old saddle,” “mountains rise ... western skies”, “cayuse”, “where the west commences,” and “... hobbles ... can’t stand fences,” but in some places modified them to give them “the smart Porter touch”. Porter replaced some lines, rearranged lyric phrases, and added two verses. (Porter's verses about Wildcat Kelly are not included in any of the hit recordings of the song but are used in the Roy Rogers film of the same title. Roy Rogers sings the first verse with the lyric "Wildcat Willy" when he performed it in 1944's Hollywood Canteen. Both verses are included in the Ella Fitzgerald and Harry Connick Jr. versions of the song.).




Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters with Vic Schoen and his Orchestra recorded it in 1944, without having seen or heard the song. Crosby entered the studio on July 25, 1944. Within 30 minutes, he and the Andrews Sisters had completed the recording, which sold more than a million copies and topped the Billboard charts for eight weeks in 1944–45. This version also went to number nine on the Harlem Hit Parade chart. Reportedly, Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters didn't care for the song as well...



Wednesday, September 20, 2023

RECENTLY VIEWED: ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING

I recently discovered a new show that I think will appeal to many people. Since there are not any worthwhile shows on the broadcast channels, the streaming channels have really stepped up their game. If you like murder mysteries with great comedy then check out "Only Murders In The Building". The show is an American mystery comedy-drama television series created by Steve Martin and John Hoffman. The plot follows three strangers, played by Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez, with a shared interest in true crime podcasts who become friends while investigating suspicious deaths in their affluent Upper West Side apartment building, and producing their own podcast about the cases. Its three 10-episode seasons premiered on Hulu in August 2021, June 2022, and August 2023.

The series has received critical acclaim for its comedic approach to crime fiction, as well as the performances and chemistry of the lead cast. It has received nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series and for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for Martin and Short.


It amazing that Steve Martin is now 78 and Martin Short is 73, and they have not lost any of their comedic timing. Steve Martin has said he will retire after this show, but he is still as brilliant in this show as he was as a rising comic in the early 1970s. In season one, Steve really did some great physical comedy that just was hilarious. Recently, a report came out blasting Martin Short, and making it out that he was not a good actor, but everything Martin Short does is amazing. Selena Gomez, for being a younger actress, really meshes good with the powerhouse comedic legends. Her voice is kind of annoying at times, but she is likeable as well. The supporting cast is excellent as well and guest stars such as Tina Fey, Nathan Lane, Paul Rudd, and Meryl Streep really add to this top notch comedy. 


On September 3, 2021, it was reported that Only Murders in the Building set a record for the most-watched comedy premiere in Hulu history. On October 28, 2021, Hulu Originals president Craig Erwich said in an interview with Vulture that the show had become the most-watched comedy ever on Hulu "by a good measure." I have just started season 3, but I hope there are more seasons. There has been no announcement for a season 4, and it all depends on the writer and actor's strike, but I hope we see more seasons. The writing, the acting - and just the overall program is amazing. There's not many good comedies on television today, so this show is an exception. To see Steve Martin and Martin Short banter together is worth the cost of Hulu alone!

MY RATING: 10 OUT OF 10



Saturday, September 16, 2023

HOLLYWOOD URBAN LEGEND: MAE WEST

URBAN LEGEND: Was Mae West really a man?

ANSWER: NO! 

Before Mae West's death in 1980, at the age of 87, there were rumours of a dark, deep secret which would be revealed only posthumously. The received wisdom, based in part on the drag-act appeal of her screen persona, was that she had really been a man. Watts authoritatively dismisses this on page one as an unworthy canard: 'Her death certificate, signed by a physician and an undertaker, confirms that she was all woman.' But she spends the next 373 pages insinuating another deep, dark secret in its place: that whiter-than-white Mae West was really black.

Professor Watts adduces no genealogical evidence for this startling claim, beyond the fact that the 'ethnicity' of West's paternal grandfather, a hardy seafarer named John Edwin West, is 'harder to pinpoint' than those of her other three 'undisputedly European' grandparents....



Tuesday, September 12, 2023

JERRY LEWIS AND MEMORIES OF DAMN YANKEES

 I had the honor of seeing Jerry Lewis in Damn Yankees when the touring show came to Pittsburgh in 1995/1996. We had great seats, and as a naive kid of 21 when, I could have sworn Lewis and I made eye contact. Here is an article in Playbill which came out around that time...


Jerry Lewis pops out of the revolving door at Carmine’s, across West 44th Street from the Marquis where he’s currently holding court as the Devil in Damn Yankees. Not a ta-dah—not even a boing boing—marks the moment, but “A Star” moves among us all the time. He moves with an almost musical self-assurance, via a gait that he got from Bob Hope—the easy-breezy amble that says you know a lot about either gags or golf—and, on him, it looks swell. Really swell.

He kibitzes with the cashier until a waiter signals the table’s ready; then, slipping into automatic star stride, he’s off. “Goin’ amongst ‘em” has never been a chore for Jerry Lewis—a star’s gotta do what a star’s gotta do—and, as usual, smiles of recognition line his path like falling dominoes. Along the way an older, bolder soul stands up, utters the generic, “Howzit going, Jer?” and extends his hand as a friend might. Lewis takes the hand in the manner it’s offered, presses it warmly and chides, “You don’t write,” then saunters on, letting the laughs explode behind him and follow him to his seat.

Mitchell Maxwell, a producer of Damn Yankees, didn’t “paper” Carmine’s with Central Casting just to get that response either—no matter how well it illustrates why he hired Lewis to play the show’s soul-swapping Satan.


“The thing we’re most excited about,” Maxwell admits, “is we’re bringing a great star to Broadway. Other than Glenn Close, we don’t have a great star on Broadway—an international star where you say, ‘You gotta see this guy’—and Broadway needs grandeur. Apart from his performance and the fact he’ll sell tickets, I think he’s going to bring an aura of star power back to Broadway.”

On the surface of it, Lewis might an unlikely choice to follow Victor Garber’s fiendishly funny Applegate. For starters, they’re 23 years apart in age—exactly: on the same day this month Garber (a younger-than-springtime) will be 46, Lewis turns (a just-as-astonishing) 69—“69, going on nine,” he likes to say.


According to Lewis’ own clock, his comedy comes from the kid inside, alive and kicking after all these chronological years. “I’m really, basically, nine, and I’ve always been that. I’ve never, ever allowed the child within me to die. I love the fact that the mischief in me is alive and that next year, I will celebrate my 70th birthday on the stage of Damn Yankees somewhere in America.”

When the press pressed him for the “special quality” he’ll bring to the role that wasn’t there before, Lewis went for the easy laugh—in one modest word: “brilliance!” Actually, it looks as if he’s taking the Peck’s Bad Boy approach to deviltry, playing it mischievous and child-like, a tact he took “for most of my career. The beauty of Applegate—what I saw in the character, when I saw the show—was that if I can bring mischief to this character, it’s going to be fun for everyone. That quality wouldn’t fit with Victor, but I’m going to play with it. In rehearsal, I’m hoping to find places for these little pieces that have been going through my brain. If my director says, ‘Let’s go for that,’ then it goes in and we see how it works. If it doesn’t, we dump it. But this show doesn’t need anybody to come in and change it. It just needs a little spark of difference. You can have a full plate without hurting the essence of what you’re doing. That won’t be touched.”


Lewis is plainly putting script over shtick. “Broadway theatre demands discipline, particularly in this show, which has a lot of cues and pyrotechnics involved. Somebody would get hurt. You can’t knock around. For a comic to put a public performance in jeopardy for a snickering little laugh—no no no, I don’t believe in it. I’d fire the son of a bitch in a heartbeat.”

Not only is Lewis’ Lucifer younger than Garber’s, in a strange way he’s older as well—closer to Ray Walston’s original Tony-winning design (Satan as Showbiz Veteran). Garber characterized Applegate as “the vaudevillian from Hell” and acted it accordingly (to Tony-nominated effect, in fact), but Lewis is the authentic article—and the vaudevillian from Hellzapopin, his previous (1977) Broadway assault that got only as far as Boston. Its title is no longer in his lexicon and its major players no longer in his Rolodex. What did he learn from this experience? “I learned not to think about it.” Period. Paragraph.

“Most performers are used to the highs and the lows,” he says. “If you can let a low stop you, that would be a sad commentary. Nothing can stop anyone who has a love and passion about their work. Babe Ruth got to plate and struck out 1,330 times. I struck out one time. I just wanted to play it again.”

Establishing this belated Broadway beachhead is not a light thing for Lewis. “I’m very focused on the responsibility of Broadway—more than ever in my career—because I’m finally getting to that place I’ve been dreaming about. You remember that old thing about ‘be careful what you dream because you might get it’? It doesn’t work that way with me. This dream coming true is something I have to really be certain I’m terrific at. I need that for me. And I’ve been thrown a helluvah set of dice. Nobody gets this chance. With a body of work like mine, then all of a sudden—hey, Broadway! This just doesn’t happen to a guy in the autumn of his life. To have done as much as I’ve done and still get a shot at something that I’ve never done, I mean, it’s really incredible!”

Danny Lewis can take a bow, too. “Everything I do that’s been good I learned from my father. I started watching him when I started working with him at five—vaudeville, burlesque, Catskills. He was star material, but he didn’t have what you need to be a star. He didn’t have the passion. There was no one in the business as good as he was—mime, singing, pratfalls—but all he needed to be happy was to feed and clothe his family and to perform when he could. So, when I hit it big with Dean [Martin], he was in the spotlight every gig I did—in his mind. He’d say, ‘When you’ve played Broadway, you’ve done it all.’ He’d tease me about it, but he wanted to see that more than anything.”


Saturday, September 9, 2023

PAST OBITS: VIVIAN BLAINE

Here is the obituary for the great Vivian Blaine. This was originally published in The Independent in Great Britain. The British had more of an appreciation of past stars so their obituarties were always more detailed...


Death of Vivian Blaine
by Tom Vallance - The Independent

A fine singer with an acerbic sense of humour rarely given full reign by Hollywood, the red-headed Vivian Blaine starred in several musical films of the Forties including Rodgers and Hammerstein's State Fair before finding greatest fame when she made her Broadway debut as Adelaide, the "perennial fiancee" of the classic musical Guys and Dolls.

Born Vivian Stapleton in Newark, New Jersey, in 1921, she started her career as a band singer with Art Kassel (and his "Kassels in the Air"). Given a contract by 20th Century-Fox in 1942, she played four minor roles before being launched as their new singing discovery in Jitterbugs (1943), starring Laurel and Hardy. Publicised as "the Cherry Blonde", she was then given the romantic lead in two Technicolor musicals, Greenwich Village and Something for the Boys (both 1944), but they were second-league fare. The former had a mediocre score (though Blaine warbled the standard "Whispering" prettily), while Something for the Boys, from Cole Porter's Broadway musical, kept only Porter's title-song and a fanciful plot strand involving a tooth filling which picked up radio broadcasts.

Her next film, Nob Hill (1945), entertainingly reworked one of the studio's favourite story-lines - a Barbary Coast saloon-owner falls for a society beauty and ruinously tries to move out of his class. Blaine was effective as the faithful singer waiting in the wings, and introduced two popular Jimmy McHugh / Harold Adamson ballads, "I Don't Care Who Knows It" and "I Walked In (With My Eyes Wide Open)".


The enormously successful State Fair (1945) followed, with Blaine as the midway performer who leaves the farm-boy Dick Haymes sadder but wiser. The score included three big hits and Blaine introduced one of them, "That's For Me", though her studio, alas, had a policy which forbade its stars from making recordings.

Blaine's Doll Face (1945) was a lower-budget affair in black-and-white, a sign that Fox were losing interest. Betty Grable was still their reigning musical star, the response to Blaine's first two major musicals had been disappointing, and she lacked the sweet ingenuousness of other rising contract stars such as Jeanne Crain and June Haver. Haver was top-billed in Three Little Girls in Blue (1946), the story (another studio favourite) of three girls who masquerade as an heiress, her secretary and maid in order to ensnare a millionaire. Blaine introduced a lovely Josep Myrow / Mack Gordon ballad, "Somewhere in the Night", in an exquisitely orchestrated and filmed sequence.

If I'm Lucky (1946), a pleasant but low-budget musical political satire co-starring Carmen Miranda (also about to leave the studio) and Perry Como, was Blaine's last Fox film, but four years later she was to have the biggest triumph of her career when Guys and Dolls opened on Broadway. The show was immediately recognised as a masterwork, and Blaine's sympathetically droll performance as the adenoidal showgirl, engaged for 14 years to the gambler Nathan Detroit, won her the Donaldson Award for best debut performance. She had three show-stopping numbers, the farmyard pastiche, "A Bushel and a Peck" (initially the show's most popular song), the wryly cynical "Take Back Your Mink", and best of all her description of the "psychosomatic" cold she has developed due to her unmarried status, "Adelaide's Lament".


After two years on Broadway Blaine came to London to recreate her role at the Coliseum, and while here appeared in the Royal Variety Show. She played Adelaide in the 1955 film version, but there was little chemistry between Blaine and a miscast Frank Sinatra (as Nathan).

She had returned to Hollywood to appear with Esther Williams in Skirts Ahoy! (1952), but her career was now concentrated on the theatre and night- clubs. In 1956 she replaced Shelley Winters in a strongly dramatic play about drug addiction, A Hatful of Rain. She returned to the musical theatre with Say Darling (1958, score by Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green), starred in Carl Reiner's comedy Enter Laughing (1963), and replaced Jane Russell (who in turn had replaced Elaine Stritch) in the original production of Sondheim's Company in 1971, lending her own brand of acerbity to "The Ladies Who Lunch".

During the last two decades she worked in television, including a continuing role in the soap-opera parody Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, in clubs and in touring productions of both plays and musicals, including Gypsy, Follies, The Glass Menagerie, Zorba, A Streetcar Named Desire and Hello Dolly...




Sunday, September 3, 2023

BAD CINEMA: WICKED STEPMOTHER

One of the worst movies that I remember seeing is 1989's Wicked Stepmother. The film is a poorly made black comedy film written, produced, and directed by Larry Cohen and starring Bette Davis and Barbara CarreraWicked Stepmother is best known for being the last film of Bette Davis, who withdrew from the project after filming began, citing major problems with the script, Cohen's direction, and the way she was being photographed. Cohen later claimed she really dropped out due to ill health but avoided publicizing the truth for fear it would affect potential future employment. Davis disputed this claim.

The original plot cast Davis as the title character, a chain-smoking witch named Miranda, who has married Sam while his vegetarian daughter Jenny and son-in-law Steve are on vacation. They return to find their new stepmother has filled their refrigerator with meat and played havoc with their collection of herbs. To explain Davis' absence, the script was rewritten to introduce Miranda's daughter Priscilla, a witch who inhabited Miranda's cat. They both share one existence in human form and while one is human the other must live in the form of a cat the rest of the time. Priscilla takes on a human form while Miranda's spirit inhabits the body of the cat. Priscilla then sets out to defeat Jenny who has figured out that there is something going on. Priscilla uses witchcraft and deception to convince everyone Jenny is wrong. The entire time she refuses to switch bodies with Miranda. Jenny then figures out that they're witches and tries to stop them from ruining her family.


The cast included some familiar faces in addtion to Bette Davis. Old supporting actors like Lionel Stander, Evelyn Keyes, and Seymour Cassel make appearances in this dreadful film. Joan Crawford appears in a photo as the deceased wife of Sam and mother of Jenny. The estranged relationship between Jenny and her late mother is a reference to the exposĂ© memoir Mommie Dearest, written by Crawford's adopted daughter, Christina Crawford. Crawford was also known for her feud with Davis during the filming of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?.

The movie surprisingly cost $2.5 million to make and initially only took in $44,000. Had Bette Davis stayed in the film, it might have been different. Sadly, this is the last movie that Bette Davis was a part of, and it ranks up there as one of the worse movies of all time...

MY BAD RATING: 10 OUT OF 10



Wednesday, August 30, 2023

A SPECIAL REQUEST

This blog has been in existance since 2010. Since that time, I have loved to share my love of nostalgia. I often say I was born too late, but I love remembering the past era. To produce this blog takes a lot of time and money to do research, etc. At this point 13 years later, to help defray the cost of creating a continuing blog like this, I have to ask for some help.

Any donations will be glady accepted. You can venmo the funds to me. My venmo name is @David-Lobosco-2. To send the donation the classic Hollywood way, please send it to David Lobosco, 107 Wetzel Road, Glenshaw, PA 15116.

I appreciate your continued support through the years. Keep the comments and suggestions coming as we take a stroll down memory lane...




Sunday, August 27, 2023

THE FAILURE OF LIFE WITH LUCY

I remember as a young boy watching Lucille Ball's last sitcom "Life With Lucy" on ABC, and even as a boy I realized how bad it was. The show aired for one season on ABC from September 20 to November 15, 1986. It is the only Lucille Ball sitcom to not air on CBS and the very last sitcom she starred in before her death in 1989. Only 8 out of the 13 episodes produced were aired before ABC cancelled the series. Unlike Ball's previous sitcoms, Life with Lucy was a failure in the ratings and poorly received by critics and viewers alike.

Ball plays a widowed grandmother who has inherited her husband's half interest in a hardware store in South Pasadena, California, the other half being owned by his business partner, widower Curtis McGibbon (played by Gale Gordon). Lucy's character insists on "helping" in the store, even though when her husband was alive, she had taken no part in the business and hence knows nothing about it. The unlikely partners are also in-laws, her daughter being married to his son, and all of them, along with their young grandchildren, live together.

During the 1984–1985 television season, NBC had experienced a huge success with its Bill Cosby comeback vehicle The Cosby Show, following it up the next year with The Golden Girls, which likewise revitalized the careers of Bea Arthur and Betty White. ABC, looking to stage a similar resurgence for an older sitcom star and to boost Saturday night ratings, approached 75-year-old, five-time Emmy award winner and cultural icon Lucille Ball. Producer Aaron Spelling had been in talks with Ball and her second husband Gary Morton since 1979 about possibly doing another series; the popular success of her dramatic turn in the television film Stone Pillow had proved she was still popular with audiences. Ball was initially hesitant about returning to television, stating that she did not believe she could top the 25-year run of success she had had with I Love Lucy, The Lucy Show and Here's Lucy, especially without Vivian Vance, who was deceased. She eventually agreed, conceding she had missed having a regular project to work on daily, on the condition of having total creative control.


ABC offered Ball the writers from the critical and ratings hit M*A*S*H, but Ball insisted on hiring her longtime writers Bob Carroll Jr. and Madelyn Pugh (credited as Madelyn Davis). Both had worked for Ball since her 1948 radio show My Favorite Husband and had written over 500 television and radio episodes for Ball, plus the occasional TV special and feature film. Ball also called in crew members who had worked for her since the days of I Love Lucy. The most notable was sound man Cam McCulloch, who joined the crew during I Love Lucy’s third season in 1954. By 1986, however, McCulloch was 77 years old and quite hard of hearing (he was still working actively in Hollywood at the time, mixing audio for WKRP in Cincinnati, Square Pegs and select episodes of Newhart). Ball also insisted on hiring her former co-star Gale Gordon, who by that time was retired from acting and living in Palm Springs. Gordon had worked with Ball on Jack Haley's radio show and more consistently on My Favorite Husband. He was the first choice for the character of Fred Mertz and had guest starred on I Love Lucy and The Lucy–Desi Comedy Hour before becoming a main cast member on The Lucy Show in its second season and acting on all six seasons of Here's Lucy.


Gordon agreed to do the show with the promise of a full season's pay for all 22 episodes regardless of whether the show was picked up. According to cast and crew members, the then 80-year-old Gordon never once flubbed a line on the set during the 13-episode duration. Ball was reportedly paid $100,000 an episode. Ball’s husband Gary Morton, carrying the title of executive producer, negotiated for $150,000 per episode. The pilot was created and shot, all without network interference or even test screenings. ABC and producers believed Life with Lucy would be a critical and ratings success that would run for many years, just as Ball's previous shows had been.

Fourteen episodes were written, thirteen filmed, but only eight aired. On the day of the last filmed (but unaired) episode, producer Aaron Spelling learned of the show's cancellation by ABC; he decided to tell Ball's husband Gary Morton, who decided not to reveal the news to her until after filming ended. The last episode to be aired, "Mother of the Bride", featured Audrey Meadows, who was offered to be cast as a regular to give the show a new direction and Ball's character a comic foil and partner, similar to the role of Vivian Vance in Ball's previous series. (This was the only Ball sitcom in which Vance, who had died in 1979, never appeared.) Meadows turned down the offer. The show destroyed Lucille Ball, whose health went downhill after the cancellation. Lucille Ball died in 1989. Everyone always loved Lucy, just not the show "Life With Lucy"...




Tuesday, August 22, 2023

HOLLYWOOD MYSTERIES: THE DEATH OF THELMA TODD

There are a million unsolved mysteries of classic Hollywood. One such mystery involving one of the most beautiful starlets was of the 1930s was the mystery of Thelma Todd. Throughout the late '20s and early '30s, Thelma Todd was one of the most prominent comedic actresses in film. She is perhaps best remembered for her roles in the Marx Brothers' Monkey Business and Horse Feathers, as well as a slew of Charley Chase's short comedies and Laurel & Hardy films.


On the morning of Monday, December 16, 1935, Todd was found dead, wearing a mauve and silver gown, mink wrap and expensive jewelry in her chocolate-colored 1934 Lincoln Phaeton convertible inside the garage of Jewel Carmen, a former actress and former wife of Todd's lover and business partner Roland West. Carmen's house was approximately a block from the topmost side of Todd's restaurant. Her death was determined to have been caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. West is quoted in a contemporaneous newspaper account as having locked her out, which may have caused her to seek refuge and warmth in the car. Todd had a wide circle of friends and associates and a busy social life.

Police investigations revealed that she had spent the previous Saturday night (December 14) at the Trocadero, a popular Hollywood restaurant, at a party hosted by entertainer Stanley Lupino and his actress daughter Ida. She had a brief but unpleasant exchange there with her ex-husband, Pat DiCicco. However, her friends stated that she was in good spirits and were aware of nothing in her life that suggested a reason for her to commit suicide. She was driven home from the party in the early hours of December 15 by her chauffeur, Ernest O. Peters.


LAPD detectives concluded that Todd's death was accidental, the result of her either warming up the car to drive it or using the heater to keep herself warm. A coroner's inquest into the death was held on December 18, 1935. Autopsy surgeon A. P. Wagner testified that there were "no marks of violence anywhere upon or within the body" with only a "superficial contusion on the lower lip." There are informal accounts of greater signs of injury. The jury ruled that the death appeared accidental, but recommended "further investigation to be made into the case, by proper authorities."

A grand jury probe was subsequently held to determine whether Todd was murdered. After four weeks of testimony, the inquiry concluded with no evidence of foul play. The case was closed by the Homicide Bureau, which declared the death "accidental with possible suicide tendencies." However, investigators found no motive for suicide, and Todd left no suicide note.

Todd's memorial service was held at Pierce Brothers Mortuary at 720 West Washington Blvd in Los Angeles. The body was cremated. After her mother's death in 1969, Todd's remains were placed in her mother's casket and buried in Bellevue Cemetery in her hometown of Lawrence, Massachusetts...



Saturday, August 19, 2023

THE BOX OFFICE STARS: 1949

 After five years at the top of the box office powerhouses, Bing Crosby was dethroned as king of the box office in 1949 by none other than Bob Hope!



Here are the top box office stars of 1949...

1. Bob Hope
2. Bing Crosby
3. Abbott & Costello

4. John Wayne
5. Gary Cooper
6. Cary Grant
7. Betty Grable
8. Esther Williams
9. Humphrey Bogart
10. Clark Gable







Monday, August 14, 2023

RECENTLY VIEWED: GHOSTBUSTERS - AFTERLIFE

This weekend I was just looking at the movies on cable, and I decided to watch Ghostbusters: Afterlife finally. I was 10 when the original Ghostbusters came out, and I enjoyed the movie but I never thought it was a great as people said it was. Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a 2021 American supernatural comedy film directed by Jason Reitman from a screenplay he co-wrote with Gil Kenan. It is the sequel to Ghostbusters (1984) and Ghostbusters II (1989), and the fourth film in the Ghostbusters franchise. The film stars Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, and Paul Rudd, alongside Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, and Sigourney Weaver reprising their characters from the earlier films. Set 31 years after the events of Ghostbusters II, it follows a single mother and her children who move to an Oklahoma farm they inherited from her estranged father Egon Spengler, a member of the original Ghostbusters.

A third Ghostbusters film was in development since the release of Ghostbusters II, but production stalled because Murray refused to return to the series. After cast member Harold Ramis died on February 24, 2014, Sony produced a female-driven reboot that was released in 2016. In 2019, Jason Reitman confirmed a sequel to the original films, the new cast was announced by July, and the original cast signed on two months later. Filming took place from July to October. This was the final film to be produced by and involve the franchise's co-creator Ivan Reitman before his death in February 2022.

Produced by Columbia Pictures in association with Bron Creative, Ghostbusters: Afterlife was screened unannounced during the CinemaCon event in Las Vegas on August 23, 2021, and was then released in the United States on November 19, after being delayed four times from an original July 2020 date due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The film received praise for the cast's performances, Reitman's direction, nostalgic tone, and its respectful tribute to Ramis, with criticism mostly being directed towards its screenplay and fan service. It grossed $204.4 million worldwide against a production budget of $75 million. A sequel is set to be released on March 29, 2024.

I won't tell you the whole plot of the film, but there are a lot of great moments honoring the original film as well as the memory of Harold Ramis. The new cast of Ghostbusters are excellent, and even the the original Ghostbusters appeared, it was sad to not really have Harold Ramis among them. If you liked the orignal Ghostbusters, you will like this movie. Even if you are a new viewer, the movie has a sort of Stranger Things vibe to it, and you will still like the film. As a movie to watch on a lazy Saturday evening, Ghostbusters: Afterlife really fit the bill...


MY RATING: 8 out of 10




Wednesday, August 9, 2023

THE LAST DAYS OF LORENZ HART

One of the most compelling figures for me in the world of musicals is Lorenz Hart. Since I was little, I have loved the lyrics that came from his pen. Sadly, Hart did not have a happy life, and he died very young. Recently his nephew Larry Hart talked about the lyricist's final days. Hart,  a political consultant in Washington, D.C. read an essay on his famous uncle filled with falsehoods.

The essay repeated the oft-told tale of how Hart arrived at the opening of a revival of the show in 1943 drunk and unruly. Ejected from the theater at intermission, he “wandered off into the snow, apparently passed out in a snowdrift, and was taken to the hospital on the early morning of Nov. 18 . . . Four days later, he died of acute pneumonia,” the program said.

(Alan Jay Lerner once claimed his writing partner, Fritz Loewe, was the person who found Hart drunk and sitting in a gutter, not a snowdrift, outside a bar on Eighth Avenue.) But Hart’s nephew says this story is inaccurate. It is, he says, “a myth” that was created for “Words and Music” – the 1948 MGM biopic about Rodgers and Hart – “and has been perpetuated ever since.”


What the nephew believes happened, as told to him by his mother, Dorothy, Hart’s sister-in-law, is this:

By 1943, Hart was suffering from acute alcoholism brought on by years of depression (he was gay at a time when that was unacceptable, he was short and thought himself ugly, and he was desperately lonely).

While rewriting of the show for the new production, he was in and out of Doctor’s Hospital “and in fact wrote some of the lyrics for the revival while there,” says his nephew.

Hart was sloshed on opening night and started singing along with the chorus, “which he had a tendency to do when he was drunk.”



Rodgers had him thrown out of the theater, but he did not leave alone. He was with his sister-in-law.

“My mother poured him into a cab and they got out at my parents’ apartment,” Larry Hart says. “My uncle passed out on the couch. He was never found lying in the street or in a snowdrift. I’m a weather buff and I’ve checked the records: There was no snow in New York in November of 1943.”

After Hart sobered up, he left the apartment and was not heard from for two days. On Nov. 19, gravely ill with pneumonia, he was taken from his apartment on Central Park West to Doctors Hospital, where he died on Nov. 22.

Larry Hart says he wants to set the record straight because his mother and father, Teddy (Hart’s brother), “have been cut out of the record. People have tried to portray my uncle as this guy who was all alone in the world. But he had my parents, and they tried to take care of him.”

Lorenz Hart could express himself lyrically in countless songs he wrote, but unfortunately could never get over the demons that plagued his life...



Saturday, August 5, 2023

FORGOTTEN ONES: BOB CHESTER

Just like there was a lot of big band singers from the 1930s and 1940s, there were a lot of big band leaders. Sadly some of those big band leaders are forgotten even more of their singers. I think one such band leader was Bob Chester,a great bandleader and tenor saxophonist.

He was born in Detroit, Michigan, United States. Chester's stepfather ran General Motors's Fisher Body Works. He began his career as a sideman under Irving Aaronson, Ben Bernie, and Ben Pollack. He formed his own group in Detroit in the mid-1930s,with a Glenn Miller-influenced sound. This band was unsuccessful in local engagements and quickly dissolved. He then put together a new band on the East Coast under the direction of Tommy Dorsey and with arrangements by David Rose. This ensemble fared much better, recording for Bluebird Records.

Chester's group, billed "The New Sensation of the Nation," had its own radio show on CBS briefly in the fall of 1939. The twenty-five-minute program aired from the Hotel Van Cleve in Dayton, Ohio late on Thursday nights (actually 12:30 am Friday morning, Eastern Time); the September 21, 1939 edition can be heard on the One Day In Radio tapes, archived by Washington D.C. station WJSV.

Chester's Bluebird records have proved excellent sellers, both for retail dealers and coin phonograph operators such as "From Maine to California"; "Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie"; "Madeliaine"; and two songs from "Banjo Eyes" - "Not a Care in the World" and "A Nickel to My Name". His only national hit was "With the Wind and the Rain in Your Hair" (b/w "I Walk With Music"; Bluebird 10614), which featured Dolores O'Neill on vocals and went to No. 18 on the chart in April 1940.


Chester's orchestra included trumpeters Alec Fila, Nick Travis, Lou Mucci, and Conrad Gozzo, saxophonists Herbie Steward and Peanuts Hucko, drummer Irv Kluger, and trombonist Bill Harris. His female singers included Dolores O'Neill, Kathleen Lane, and Betty Bradley; among his male singers were Gene Howard, Peter Marshall, Bob Haymes, and Al Stuart.

The orchestra disbanded in the mid-1940s, due in part to the shrinking market for big band sound. After a stint as a disc jockey at WKMH radio, Chester assembled another band for a short time in the early 1950s, but after it failed he retired from music and returned to Detroit, to work for the rest of his life in auto manufacturing. Bob Chester died in October 1966, at the age of 58. Forgotten in 1966, he is even more forgotten today...


Tuesday, August 1, 2023

KEEFE BRASSELLE: TINSEL TOWN HOPEFUL AND HOLLYWOOD FAILURE

Not many people remember the name Keefe Brasselle. In the 1950s, he was supposed to do for Eddie Cantor what Larry Parks did for Al Jolson in their respective bio pics. This was not meant to be for Keefe, and his career suffered for it. Keefe Brasselle broke into motion pictures while serving in the U. S. Navy. His first co-starring role was opposite singing star Gloria Jean in the waterfront mystery River Gang (1945). His dark, chorus-boy looks landed him featured roles in movies through the early 1950s.

He was groomed for stardom in The Eddie Cantor Story, filmed in response to the wildly successful The Jolson Story and Jolson Sings Again starring Larry Parks as Al Jolson, one of Cantor's musical-comedy contemporaries. The Eddie Cantor Story could not equal the success of the Jolson films, largely because Brasselle didn't fit the role physically. Standing almost a foot taller than the real Cantor, and unable to convey Cantor's natural warmth, Brasselle's performance became a caricature: the actor played most of his scenes with bulging eyes and busy hands, which was effective in the musical numbers but awkward in the dramatic scenes. Ultimately, Brasselle's career did not launch as anticipated. In 1954, he was a guest on an episode (season 4, episode 21, Feb. 21, 1954) of The Colgate Comedy Hour with host Gene Wesson, as a promotional tie-in for the film.

Eddie Cantor commented on his bio pic that if that was his life that "he hadn't really lived at all". I could find no mention of what Eddie thought of Keefe's performance though. Brasselle turned to nightclubs, where he appeared as a singer and comedian. In 1961, an Edison Township, New Jersey, nightclub owned by Brasselle burned under suspicious circumstances. Fire officials came across six empty cans of gasoline at the scene, while their caps and spouts were found separately in a paper bag.

Keefe was later blackballed in Hollywood for writing a novel which was a thinly disguised account of his dealings in Hollywood called The Barracudas (1973). In 1974, Brasselle signed on as director of the low-budget sex comedy If You Don't Stop It... You'll Go Blind (released 1975; shown in Britain as You Must Be Joking). This was a feature-length parade of burlesque blackouts, double-entendre jokes, and bawdy song-and-dance numbers. Brasselle staged the musical numbers himself and even appeared as a specialty act, embellishing his performance with Eddie Cantor's gestures and mannerisms. The film was booked into hundreds of theaters for midnight shows and, despite scathing reviews from mainstream critics, was very popular with college students; it earned more than four million dollars.

Keefe Brasselle died forgotten in 1981 at the age of 58 of liver disease. Hollywood was never his friend, and it probably contributed to his early demise...



Wednesday, July 26, 2023

RECENTLY VIEWED: BARBIE

Okay, you readers will probably laugh at me but this past weekend I just saw the best movie I have seen this year - Barbie! Yes, it is a girl's movie and a kid's movie, which is sometimes is, but it also has some adult themes, and the message behind the movie is pretty profound. Barbie is a 2023 American fantasy comedy film directed by Greta Gerwig and written by Gerwig and Noah Baumbach. Based on the Barbie fashion dolls by Mattel, it is the first live-action Barbie film after numerous computer-animated direct-to-video and streaming television films. The film follows Barbie (Margot Robbie) and Ken (Ryan Gosling) on a journey of self-discovery following an existential crisis. It features an ensemble cast that also includes America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon, Issa Rae, Rhea Perlman, and Will Ferrell.

A live-action Barbie film was announced in September 2009 by Universal Pictures with Laurence Mark producing. Development began in April 2014, when Sony Pictures acquired the film rights. Following multiple writer and director changes and the casting of Amy Schumer and later Anne Hathaway as Barbie, the rights were transferred to Warner Bros. Pictures in October 2018. Robbie was cast in 2019, and Gerwig was announced as director and co-writer with Baumbach in 2021. The rest of the cast were announced in early 2022. Filming took place primarily at Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden, in England and on the Venice Beach Skatepark in Los Angeles from March to July 2022.


Barbie premiered at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on July 9, 2023, and was theatrically released in the United States on July 21, 2023, by Warner Bros. Pictures. Its simultaneous release with Oppenheimer led to the "Barbenheimer" phenomenon on social media, which encouraged audiences to see both films as a double feature. The film received positive reviews, and has grossed $382 million worldwide to date.

Margot Robbie is also a producer on the film and had pitched the film to Warner Bros early on. During the green-light meeting, Robbie had compared the film to Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park (1993) and had also jokingly suggested that it would gross over a billion dollars. Later on, she approached Greta Gerwig as the screenwriter as she enjoyed Gerwig's previous films, particularly Little Women (2019). Gerwig was in post-production for another film, and accepted the role on the condition that her partner, Noah Baumbach, would also write the screenplay. Gerwig signed on to also direct the film in July 2021. Robbie said that the film's aim was to subvert expectations and give audiences "the thing you didn't know you wanted".


The film could very well make a billion dollars. As a father of a beautiful daughter, I try to instill her that women can do anything but also making her aware of the harsh world she'll be facing. This movie does a great job of not only being optimistic but realistic as well. The movie theather was full of young children, but some of the adult jokes will go over their head so be prepared to explain some of the jokes afterwards, but this film had it all - fun, tears, laughs, and an important message to not only young girls but society in general...

MY RATING: 10