Saturday, November 25, 2023


As we entered a new decade in 1950, movie audiences were beginning to change as well. Who they were going to see on the movie screen was changing as well. Here are the biggest box office draws in 1950...



Wednesday, November 22, 2023


The great Boris Karloff was born in England, found fame as Frankenstein’s monster (and also played Frankenstein, thank you, readers, for the correction) in Hollywood, and finished his career in Mexico (awesome example at the end of this post). Somewhere along the way he developed a strong affinity for Mexican food. His recipe for guacamole has an English twist, with a dash of sherry thrown in along with more common ingredients:

2 avocados

1 medium tomato, finely chopped

1 small onion, minced

1 tbsp. chopped canned green chiles

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp sherry

Dash cayenne (optional)

Salt, pepper

Peel and mash avocados. Add onion, tomato and chiles, then stir in lemon juice, sherry and seasonings to taste, blending well. Serve as a dip for tortilla pieces or corn chips or as a spread. Makes 10 to 12 appetizer servings.


 I  lost a dear friend this week with the passing of Nick Nardella of Chicago. A fan of all things nostalgia, his favorite singers were Bing Crosby and Al Jolson. I personally met him in 1999, and we started a taping correspondence. He never even had a computer, but we met through our love of music. He was there in my life for all of the important points of my life like my marriage and birth of my children. I have known Nick longer than I have known my wife. He always had encouraging words for me, and he was a geniune and good person. His music collection was as big as his heart.

Nick passed away peacefully on November 19, 2023. Nick is survived by his loving wife of 44 years, Laverne M. Nardella nee Peterson; caring brother of John Nardella and Geraldine Kruger; cherished brother-in-law to the late Jim (Kathy) Peterson, Marilyn (James Sr.) Nemecek, the late Eileen Tomazin; fond uncle to Michael and Richard (Kim) Kruger, James Jr. (Michelle) Nemecek, Tracy (Joseph) Buchholz, Eric Peterson, Julie (David) Westerman, TJ Tomazin; caring great-uncle to Brooke (Cody) Mudd, Seth and Emily Kruger, Justin, Jacob, Jared, and Makayla Buchholz, Charlie and Danny Westerman; devoted great-great-uncle to Amberleigh Mudd. He is preceded in death by his parents Henry and Antoinette Nardella.

Nick proudly served in the Army as an Administrator, stationed in Germany during the Vietnam War era. Upon returning from his time in the service he fondly worked at World Book, and several years later went on to meet the love of his life, Laverne. Music and sports were Nick’s second love, being a devout fan of artists from the 1940’s and all sports teams from Chicago. He also was a member of "The Browsers", a Chicago based record collector group that shared their knowledge on local radio. 

I am a better person because I had the honor of knowing Nick Nardella....


Monday, November 20, 2023


There were so many great entetainers in the 1930s and 1940s that it is easy to lose track of one. One such singer that I listened to when my Grandfather was alive, and then I lost track of her was Rose Murphy. Murphy was born in Xenia, Ohio, United States on April 28, 1913. Described by AllMusic's Scott Yanow as having "a unique place in music history", Murphy was known as "the chee chee girl" because of her habit of singing "chee chee" in many of her numbers. She was also known as "the girl with the pale pink voice".

Murphy began her musical career in the late 1930s, playing intermission piano for such performers as Count Basie, and became popular in the United States and United Kingdom in the late 1940s. She is best known for her high-pitched singing style, which incorporated scat singing, giggling, and percussive sound effects. "Busy Line", one of her most well-known songs, made use of perhaps her most famous vocal sound effect: the 'brrp, brrrp' of a telephone ring.  A version of the song was later used in 1990 by BT Cellnet in a television commercial, which was such a success that RCA reissued the original recording. Princess Margaret became a fan after "Busy Line" became a hit in England. She attended Murphy's concerts in London, imitated her while playing the piano and sang "Busy Line" at parties. Murphy was known for her highly personalized rendition of ''I Can't Give You Anything but Love.''

From the 1950s to the 1980s, Murphy continued to play at many of the top clubs in New York, such as the Cookery, Michael's Pub and Upstairs At the Downstairs. She was normally accompanied by bassist Slam Stewart or Morris Edwards. These were interspersed with engagements in London and tours of Europe.

During a two-week engagement at Hollywood Roosevelt's Cinegrill in June 1989, Murphy became ill and returned to New York City. She died in New York aged 76 on November 16, 1989, and, though married four times, left no direct descendants. Her final marriage, from 1950 to 1977, was to Eddie Matthews,  a businessman who, from 1928 to 1933, had been married to Ethel Waters. Rose Murphy and her radio broadcasts in the UK are referred to in the novel, Under the Pink Light, by the British author Brian Hurst. Rose Murphy is now forgotten, but she doesn't deserve to be...

Friday, November 17, 2023


 Here is how some classic Hollywood celebrated Thanksgiving (aka turkey day)...

Andy Devine

Shirley Temple

Lillian Harvey

Howard Keel

Jeanne Crain

Alfred Hitchcock

Thursday, November 16, 2023


Villa Collina, a Mediterranean Revival masterpiece nestled in the hills of Los Feliz in the shadow of Griffith Observatory, has a historic Hollywood pedigree stretching back almost a century. Designed by architect Henry Harwood Hewitt in 1927, the four-bedroom, four-bath estate was built for Olympian Clement E. Smoot, who was part of the 1904 gold medal-winning golfing team. A later resident was Artur Rodzinski, famed Polish conductor of the LA Philharmonic.

But Villa Collina became famous as the home of legendary English director James Whale in the 1930s.

One of the most prolific directors of the decade, Whale — portrayed by Ian McKellen in the 1998 feature Gods and Monsters — directed horror classics including Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, Bride of Frankenstein and appropriately, The Old Dark House. He also directed classics including Showboat and The Man in the Iron Mask. “A director must be pretty bad if he can’t get a thrill out of war, murder, robbery,” he once said.

The extensively refurbished home features handmade tiles, a chef’s kitchen with glass Sub Zero refrigerator, a half-acre of gardens with a Roman pool and gazebo, a private tower room and a newly redesigned hotel-style guest apartment that doubles as a spa with a marble steam shower.

Previously sold in 2021 for $5.62 million, the house has been co-listed by Nourmand & Associates agent Konstantine Valissarakos and Richard Yohon at Sotheby’s. For $7.24 million, a buyer can become the owner of a true Hollywood classic. But knowing Villa Collina’s history, they might have to share it with a ghost or two...

Monday, November 13, 2023


Barbra Streisand is opening up about her experience working with Gene Kelly. In one chapter of the Academy Award winner's new memoir My Name Is Barbra, Streisand peels back the curtain on her impressions of Kelly when he directed her in 1969's Hello, Dolly!

In the memoir, Streisand, 81, recalls that she felt a disconnect between herself and Kelly, himself a Hollywood star famous for his roles in Singin' in the Rain, among other Golden Age of Hollywood films.

Streisand, who describes Kelly as a childhood celebrity crush, writes that she did not spend any significant amount of time discussing her character Dolly Levi with her director, though she notes she later discovered the filmmaker felt the whole project was pressed for time, while researching her new memoir.

"I was disappointed when the reality of the man didn’t live up to the fantasy I had from watching him on‑screen," Streisand writes. "One day he was so rude to a female dancer that I asked him privately, 'Why were you so mean to her?' And he basically laughed it off and said, 'Yeah, I was pretty tough on her, but that’s okay. I used to yell like that at another dancer, and she became my wife.' "

Streisand writes that Hello, Dolly!'s co-screenwriter and producer Ernest Lehman "was always receptive" to her ideas and questions on-set. She considered Lehman, who died in 2005 at 89, one of her few allies on the 20th Century Fox production.

"I don’t think I’m paranoid, but I felt as if Gene and Walter [Matthau] had an attitude toward me, and it was not positive . . . especially on Walter’s part," she writes in the memoir. "In fact, he was overtly hostile, and I couldn’t figure out why."

"He closed his eyes and yelled, 'Who the hell does she think she is? I’ve been in this business thirty years, and this is only her second movie . . . the first one hasn’t even come out yet . . . and now she’s directing?' " Streisand recalls Matthau saying. "And then he looked at me with pure venom and said, 'You may be the singer in this picture, but I’m the actor! I have more talent in my farts than you have in your whole body!' "

Streisand writes that she was "stunned" by his comments. "I had no defense," she writes. "I had no words. I just stood there and was so humiliated that I ran off the set, crying. I’m not proud of that."

"I wish I could have answered him back. But I never want to be mean or malicious," Streisand adds in the memoir. "That’s not who I am. I want to be strong, not unkind."

Hello, Dolly! went on to win three Academy Awards at the 1970 Oscars (Best Art Decoration-Set Decoration, Best Sound and Best Score). The film was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design and Best Film Editing.

My Name Is Barbra is now available for purchase...

Saturday, November 11, 2023


The late great Bruce Kogan is back with another review for these pages...

Curiously enough after I viewed my VHS copy of Love Me or Leave Me, I went to the movies and saw Walk the Line. One of the things that struck me was that while Joaquin Phoenix had a much tougher job because Johnny Cash was performing almost up to the end and had a distinctive sound that I didn't think anyone could match, Phoenix did a very good job in capturing him.
On the other hand Ruth Etting had not been seen in films for over 20 years, nor had she made a record in that length of time either. She was living very quietly in retirement. So except with older members of the public, Doris Day did not have to compete with an image people had in their minds.

Also people left out of this story include Martin Snyder's first wife and his daughter from that marriage. Also the fact that Snyder was Jewish. My guess is that MGM did not want a false issue of anti-Semitism raised.

There sure were enough issues anyway. Ruth Etting, a girl from the sticks with lots of singing talent, is determined to succeed. So she latches on to a small time Chicago hood named Martin Snyder who gets her career started and in gear.

I remember reading that in her life with Snyder, Etting found it impossible to socialize due to Snyder's boorish behavior. One of the few other show business personalities that she did socialize with was her co-star in Kid Boots on Broadway, Eddie Cantor. Cantor who was brought up on the Lower East Side of New York, lived with guys like Snyder in his youth so he was used to it and put up with him. Very few others would.

Incidentally the title tune Love Me or Leave Me comes from the score of Kid Boots.

In Love Me or Leave Me, we don't have Doris doing an imitation of Ruth Etting, we have Doris singing like Doris which is just fine for me. She sings the songs that were identified with Etting very well. The album for this film sold very well for her.

James Cagney made his third and final trip to the Oscar Derby with his portrayal of Martin "the gimp" Snyder. In its way Snyder is as complex a role as Cagney's Cody Jarrett. He's an uneducated kid from the slums who made it in the rackets, but feels terribly inferior around all the show business creative types that his wife now by necessity has to associate with, where ironically due to his drive has pushed her there. Cagney lost the Oscar race to Ernest Borgnine for Marty. Ain't that a piece of irony itself.

Cameron Mitchell as Johnny Alderman (real first name Myrl) does very well as the man who eventually became her second husband as does the rest of the cast.

All three of the people that Day, Cagney, and Mitchell portray were still alive at the time that Love Me or Leave me was being filmed. All signed off on the picture, I assume all parties were satisfied with it.

And so should you...

BRUCE'S RATING: 8 out of 10
MY RATING: 10 out of 10

Wednesday, November 8, 2023


Jane Froman died in 1980, but she very much is alive in Carol Peck’s home on Hilton Head Island. Inside the Sea Pines home, a variety of framed photos of Froman, one of America’s finest female singers from the 1930s to the 1960s, have prominence. If you ask the exuberant, golden-haired Carol “Why Froman?” her answer is simple: “She was a wonderful example to me, and if I could have had a second mother, I’d have chosen her.” Ask more questions and the story unwinds of Froman, a brave and determined woman, and her friendship with a fan such as Carol.

The story of this friendship begins on an April day in 1952 in Colorado Springs, Colo., where Carol, a high-school teenager from Chicago, was vacationing with her family. She couldn’t go golfing with her parents because walking for Carol was difficult due to the cerebral palsy she had been born with, so that day she decided to go to a movie.

She chose “With a Song in my Heart,” a screen biography of Jane Froman, a choice that would affect her life deeply.

Before seeing the movie, Carol knew nothing about Froman, a woman whose life had been nearly ruined by massive injuries from a plane crash. During World War 11, on Feb. 22,1943, the amphibious Pan American Yankee Clipper carrying her and other USO entertainers to Europe, landed badly in the Tagus River near Lisbon, Portugal. It topsy­turvied and split apart.

Of the 39 aboard, 15 survived, including Froman. The injuries included a broken arm, a nearly severed leg, a dislocated pelvis, broken ribs and pieces of wood and metal imbedded in her skin.

Through bravery and determination, she returned to the world of entertaining less than a year after the crash with the help of specially constructed stage settings to help her stand.

As Carol watched the movie, she formed an empathetic connection to Froman’s world of medical difficulties because she, too, had persisting physical difficulties. For two years, the teenager read everything she could find about Froman. From her home near Chicago, Carol also started a lengthy and informative correspondence with a group of similarly aged and impacted fans in New York who had baptized themselves the “Fromanettes.”

Carol pieced together more than the movie told about Froman, whose mother, a music teacher, recognized early that her daughter had a rare singing voice. From the St. Louis area, they settled in Columbia, Mo., where Jane attended Christian (now Columbia) College. After graduation, in 1928 Froman went to the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, sang in programs over that city’s powerful radio station WLW and got a contract to sing for three years with the Paul Whiteman orchestra. Helped by Don Ross, a public relations man who would become her first husband, by 1934 she was on Broadway in that year’s Ziegfeld Follies, sharing the stage with the famous Fanny Brice.

Recordings and radio appearances brought her national fame, such that when the famed Broadway producer Billy Rose was asked to name the 10 best female vocalists, he replied: ”There is Jane Froman and nine others.” Naturally, Hollywood called, but her movie appearances were few because of a significant problem: she stuttered. Strangely enough when she performed on stage, her stuttering disappeared.

For Carol, all the information she gathered about the singer solidified her determination to see Froman in person.

The opportunity arose when, on Oct. 18, 1952, only six months after Carol had seen “With a Song in My Heart,” Froman began a weekly television program, which Carol watched religiously. She finally convinced her mother to go with her to see the “Jane Froman Show” in New York and hopefully even meet Froman.

On April 1, 1954, Carol and her mother were in the show’s audience. Earlier in the day they had met many of the Fromanettes. But meeting the singer was not to be; that would occur three years later.

While Carol attended college, she continued her correspondence with the Fromanettes. In their long letters they decried the end of Froman’s TV show after three years, as well as their surprise that the singer’s second marriage was now over. Carol also joined a Chicago Froman fan club and early in 1957 the club’s president, Jack Lewis, found out that Froman would be appearing at The Beverly Hills Country Club in Covington, Ky., not far away.

Carol, Jack and Carol Kennedy, another longtime fan, arranged to attend two nights in a row. During those two evenings, carol recalls, “Magic happened, and we never got over that magic.”

Froman welcomed them backstage both nights. She wanted to know all about them. On the second night, she arranged for them to sit at a front-row table. After announcing that her encore would be “I Believe,” the song that had been written for her, she also announced it was dedicated to “three friends of mine who came all the way from Illinois.”

After that, there was no doubt in Carol’s mind of the affection Froman had for her closest fans.

During the next two years, Froman withdrew from all performing for more back surgeries and rehabilitation. In 1959, she returned to performing at Chicago’s famed Chez Paree. Carol, now out of college and working near Chicago, set a record by seeing Froman’s show 13 times, with more than a few visits backstage with the singer.

Two years later in 1961, Froman surprised everyone by announcing her retirement. She sought quiet time back in Columbia and stayed for a year at the home of her mother. Then a new friend came into her life: Rowland Smith, a journalist and longtime resident of Columbia.

The two Carols and Jack got a pleasant surprise in June 1962 — an invitation to Froman’s wedding to Smith. It was at the reception that Froman’s Columbia friends were heard to ask: “Who are these young people?” Unknown to so many there, Jane, who never had any children, had relied on her special fans, her “children,” for emotional support during many of her numerous medical difficulties.

Throughout the 1960s, the two Carols visited Froman and Smith in their new home. She told them of the joy of renewing a supporting role for her alma mater, Columbia College. Unhappily in some visits, they found Froman bedridden from cardiac issues and lung problems, constant off-shoots of the airplane crash, but she always welcomed them, even if they had to sit around her bed as they chatted.

When Carol and her father and mother moved to Hilton Head Island in 1972, she continued to fly out to Columbia to visit Froman at least a couple times a year. Carol’s new friends on Hilton Head, learning that her visits were to Jane Froman, were puzzled.

“My friends,” Carol remembers, “thought of fans as the kind that frenetically grabbed at their idols as they passed by. They couldn’t realize what a wonderful example she had been for me.”

Nor could these friends understand what the fans meant to Froman. An episode helped explain that bond.

After one of the few shows that Jane gave in the Columbia area during her retirement, Esther Griswold, a local broadcast reporter, went to speak to Froman. She found the singer chatting comfortably with Carol and four other longtime “children.” In the interview, Esther questioned Froman about her closeness with the fans. As Esther was leaving, Carol introduced herself and told her how important Froman had been to her over the years. The reporter, reflecting on what she heard from Froman, told carol the simple truth: “Don’t forget that it’s a two-way street.” Few statements made it clearer to Carol what she and others meant to their close friend.

On April 22, 1980, Jane Froman died. Carol and several others of the “children” attended the funeral. Smith, Froman’s husband, decided against a eulogy and only the playing of “I Believe” by the organist brought something of Jane alive to the mourners.

During the service, Carol recalled that several years before she died, Froman had brought her “children” face to face with that eventuality. During a visit with them, she asked them not to grieve when she died. One of them ran out of the room crying, but Carol looked directly at the woman who had been her strong guide and inspiration and said: “I promise I won’t grieve, but we will miss you.”

Carol, whose life has been transformed by a movie and a resulting friendship with Jane Froman, often wonders how many others in the years ahead will be affected by this story of the woman whose beautiful voice and resurgent life shows the human spirit at its finest. Meanwhile, she treasures the memories of the time spent in a “two-way street” with a most heroic woman...

Saturday, November 4, 2023


Bea Arthur was a television icon. From her days on "All In The Family" and her own 70s show "Maude" to her crowning performance on "The Golden Girls", she is remembered for these roles from the middle to late stage of her life. However, she had an interesting early years of her life. Bernice Frankel was born on May 13, 1922, in Brooklyn, New York City, to Rebecca (born in Austria) and Philip Frankel (born in Poland). Arthur was raised in a Jewish home with her older sister Gertrude and younger sister Marian (1926–2014).

In 1933, the Frankel family relocated to Cambridge, Maryland, where her parents subsequently operated a women's clothing shop. At age 16, Bernice developed a serious condition, coagulopathy, in which her blood would not clot. Concerned for her health, her parents sent her to Linden Hall, an all-girls' boarding school in Lititz, Pennsylvania, for her final two years of high school. Afterwards, she studied for a year at Blackstone College for Girls in Blackstone, Virginia.

During World War II, Frankel enlisted as one of the first members of the United States Marine Corps Women's Reserve in 1943. After basic training, she served as a typist at Marine headquarters in Washington, D.C. In June 1943, the Marine Corps accepted her transfer request to the Motor Transport School at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Frankel then worked as a truck driver and dispatcher in Cherry Point, North Carolina, between 1944 and 1945. She was honorably discharged at the rank of staff sergeant in September 1945.

After serving in the Marines, Frankel studied for a year at the Franklin School of Science and Arts in Philadelphia, where she became a licensed medical technician. After interning at a local hospital for the summer, she decided against working as a lab technician, departing for New York City in 1947 to enroll in the School of Drama at The New School.

From 1947, Beatrice Arthur studied at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York City with German director Erwin Piscator.  Arthur began her acting career as a member of an off-Broadway theater group at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City in the late 1940s. Onstage, her roles included Lucy Brown in the 1954 Off-Broadway premiere of Marc Blitzstein's English-language adaptation of Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera, Nadine Fesser in the 1957 premiere of Herman Wouk's Nature's Way at the Coronet Theatre, Yente the Matchmaker in the 1964 premiere of Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway.

In 1966, Arthur auditioned for the title role in the musical Mame, which her husband Gene Saks was set to direct, but Angela Lansbury won the role instead. Arthur accepted the supporting role of Vera Charles, for which she won great acclaim, winning a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical the same year. Her role in Mame propelled her to the stardom that she deserved, and she never looked back...