Monday, October 31, 2011

TCM IN NOVEMBER: MY TOP PICKS

Hard to believe it is another month. It is another month to see what cinema classics Turner Classic Movies will be showing. This month my picks are heavy into musicals, but there are a lot of goodies on the television this month...

NOVEMBER 3 - 6:30 AM
Jolson Sings Again (1949)

After a premature retirement, the legendary singer revives his career to entertain the troops during World War II. This sequel to the 1946 film is even more enjoyable than the first one, but again there is not much fact to this bio pic. (Cast: Larry Parks, Barbara Hale, William Demarest)


NOVEMBER 4 - 3:45 AM
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

A crazed, aging star torments her sister in a decaying Hollywood mansion. This is one of my favorite movies of all time, and I never get tired seeing Bette Davis and Joan Crawford going at it! (Cast: Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Victor Buono)


NOVEMBER 6 - 6:00 PM
Trouble Along the Way (1953)

A famous football coach uses underhanded means to turn a bankrupt college's team into winners. John Wayne did not make many comedies, but this one is one of his best. He has a lot of chemistry with Donna Reed as well. (Cast: John Wayne, Donna Reed, Charles Coburn)


NOVEMBER 12 - 11:00 PM
The Producers(1968)

A Broadway producer decides to get rich by creating the biggest flop of his career. Mel Brooks can do no wrong in my eyes, and this film is a true classic. Only Brooks can get away with writing a song about Adolf Hitler! (Cast: Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Dick Shawn)


NOVEMBER 14 - 6:00 PM
Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman (1947)

A singer's wife turns to the bottle when she fears she's lost her husband to success. Reportedly when this movie came out it causes quite a sensation because it is reportedly the story of Dixie Lee Crosby, Bing Crosby's first wife. (Cast: Susan Hayward, Lee Bowman, Marsha Hunt)


NOVEMBER 21 - 6:00 PM
Ada (1961)

A call girl weds an easygoing politician and helps him against corrupt state officials. I wish Dean Martin would have done more dramas. This movie has been on my list to see again for years. (Cast: Susan Hayward, Dean Martin, Wilfrid Hyde-White)


NOVEMBER 23 - 8:00 PM
Sweet Rosie O'Grady (1943)

When a reporter exposes her past in burlesque, a musical theatre star sets out for revenge. Since AMC stopped showing classic movies, it is hard to see Betty Grable films on television, so this is a rare treat. (Cast: Betty Grable, Robert Young ,Adolphe Menjou)


NOVEMBER 24 - 8:00 PM
Anything Goes (1956)

The members of a song-and-dance duo promise the lead in their next show to two different women. This movie was the second version of the Cole Porter musical, and it would be the last movie Bing made for Paramount after twenty plus years with the studio. (Cast: Bing Crosby, Donald O'Connor, Mitzi Gaynor)


NOVEMBER 27 - 10:15 PM
Strike Me Pink (1936)

An assertiveness course gets a shy guy mixed up with racketeers at an amusement park. Eddie Cantor movies are hard to come by on television, and even though this is not his best effort, it is worth watching. (Cast: Eddie Cantor, Ethel Merman, Sally Eilers)


NOVEMBER 30 - 3:45 AM
Garbo Talks (1984)

A young man risks everything to help his dying mother meet Greta Garbo. Any movie with Anne Bancroft is worth watching, and this is a great movie to just relax on the couch with. (Cast: Anne Bancroft, Ron Silver, Carrie Fisher)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

DORIS DAY WINS LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Doris Day Wins Lifetime Achievement Award from L.A. Film Critics
By Steve Pond

Doris Day has been named recipient of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association's 2011 Career Achievement Award, the critics group announced on Saturday.

"Decades on from the main body of her work, Doris Day is still arguably the template to which Hollywood turns when trying to quantify and capture ‘girl-next-door’ appeal,” said LAFCA president Brent Simon in a release announcing the honor.

“Equally at home in snappish romantic comedies and more dramatic fare, Day was the biggest female star of the 1960s, giving a series of delightfully perceptive performances."

Day's has often been a subject of speculation when the Academy meets to choose its honorary Oscar winners, though she has a long-running and well-known reluctance to attend ceremonies.

The association also announced that it will vote for the winners of its 2011 awards on Sunday, Dec. 11. While the New York Film Critics Circle, which usually chooses its winners the day after the Los Angeles critics, decided to move its voting into November, LAFCA opted not to change its voting date.


From the LAFCA press release:

"Still one of the top box office performers of all time, Doris Day starred onscreen alongside some of the biggest male stars of her day, including Clark Gable, James Stewart, Cary Grant, Jack Lemmon, David Niven and of course Rock Hudson. Her screen credits include 'Calamity Jane,' 'The Man Who Knew Too Much,' 'The Tunnel of Love,' 'Pillow Talk,' 'Lover Come Back' and 'That Touch of Mink.' Her career as a singer was just as impressive; indeed, Day received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award in 2008. She released more than two dozen albums, experiencing Billboard chart success and in 1957 winning an Academy Award for Best Original Song for 'Que Sera Sera,' which would become her signature tune. A passionate animal rights activist for several decades, Day just this year released an album of jazz standards and cover tunes produced by her late son, Terry Melcher, her first new material in more than four decades.

"Founded in 1975, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA) is comprised of Los Angeles-based, professional film critics working in the Los Angeles print and electronic media. Each December, LAFCA members vote on the year’s Achievement Awards, honoring screen excellence on both sides of the camera. Plaques of recognition are then presented to winners during LAFCA’s annual awards ceremony, held in mid-January.

"Aside from honoring each year’s outstanding cinematic achievements, LAFCA has also makes a point to look back and pay tribute to distinguished industry veterans with its annual Career Achievement Award, which is announced in October, as well as to look forward by spotlighting fresh, promising talent with its annual New Generation Award. In addition, over the past three decades, LAFCA has sponsored and hosted numerous film panels and events and donated funds to various Los Angeles film organizations, especially where film preservation was concerned...


SOURCE

Friday, October 28, 2011

MUSIC REVIEW: BOBBY DARIN AND JOHNNY MERCER

I am trying to get my son, who is going on two years old, into the music that I love - the great standards. So far, he shows some promise! Anyways, last night he picked a CD from my collection to listen to. It was a great duet album - Bobby Darin and Johnny Mercer: Two Of A Kind!

Two of the all-time giants of American popular music come together in this delightful album originally released in the early sixties on Atlantic. According to the liner notes, written by Stanley Green, it was Bobby Darin's idea to undertake this project, and Mercer "was excited about the idea right from the start." Listening to the finished product, there is no doubt about that. The two are really enjoying themselves in the studio, which means that we, as listeners, are allowed to share in the fun. Johnny Mercer, who was one of the few songwriters who could sing, was in fine voice on this record. I personally think it was one of his best singing efforts.


As Green notes, there are hardly any standards in the album: "For this recital, both men decided that though the accent would be on the old-timers, the all-too-familiar warhorses would be kept carefully locked up in the stable." Thus, Darin and Mercer go through a great selection of old tunes, from "Indiana" to "East of the Rockies" to "Jellyroll," all delivered with a casualness that makes them irresistible. They also unearth a couple of obscure gems like "My Cutie's Due at Two to Two," "Paddlin' Madelin' Home," or "Caretaker's Daughter," and they even have time to throw in a classic written by Harry Barris and originally performed by Bing Crosby with the Rhythm Boys, "Mississippi Mud."

Some of Johnny Mercer's own compositions are also highlighted in this project, proving once more (as though it were really necessary!) that he is one of the most gifted, poetic songwriters of all time. For instance, "If I Had My 'Druthers" is given an enjoyable, laid-back treatment, while the reading of "Bob White" is among the best ever committed to wax.


Finally, the title track, "Two of a Kind," a tale of friendship and camaraderie, is a splendid collaboration by Bobby and Johnny, complete with ad-libbed asides that remind us of the timeless comic tradition of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Just like Bing and Bob, Johnny Mercer and Bobby Darin are, indeed, two of a kind...

MY RATING: 10 OUT OF 10

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

ISLAND OF LOST SOULS RETURNS

CLASSIC ISLAND OF LOST SOULS ON DVD
By David Colton, USA

A pouty Charles Laughton cracks a whip at animal men outside the House of Pain. A gruesome Bela Lugosi asks, "Are we not men?" And a sultry "Panther Woman'' longs to mate with the man who came from the sea. These and other pre-Hollywood Production Code perversities fill the 1932 Paramount film Island of Lost Souls, which has been out of circulation for more than a decade, an unholy grail for cult and classic horror fans.

Today, just in time for Halloween, Criterion releases a fully restored version on DVD ($29.95) and Blu-Ray ($39.95), including digitally enhanced footage, more than two hours of extras, and bits of dialogue unheard since censors descended on the film as late as the 1950s.

"In the pantheon of horror films, Island of Lost Souls is the most audacious, ferocious and subversive shocker of the 1930s," says horror historian Gregory William Mank. "It's 'Golden Age Horror' at its most magnificently amok, the lurid tale of a mad doctor who, via vivisection, transforms a panther into a woman, and then hopes to mate her with a human male.

"No wonder 11 nations banned it in 1933."

So influential was the film that audiences rarely forgot its dark Darwinian horrors. The 1970s rock group Devo even adopted its name and theme of "de-evolution" from the movie's attempt to create a race of beast-men.

"Island had a long-lasting impact on filmmakers, authors, musicians, anyone who saw it in their formative years," says Criterion producer Susan Arosteguy. "It still has so many modern sensibilities."

"It made the most huge impression,'' Devo's Gerald Casale says on the disc. "That's how we saw the world anyway. We were in the House of Pain."

Based on H.G. Wells' Island of Dr. Moreau (Wells hated the film, by the way), the movie "fully reflects the Darwinian anxieties that fueled the great Victorian horror novels as well as the horror film cycle (Frankenstein, Dracula) of the Great Depression,'' says film historian David J. Skal. "Both eras were obsessed with the idea of evolutionary degeneration, as well as fears of an underclass uprising in a politically unstable time.


"Island of Lost Souls still delivers these anxieties with an especially raw wallop."

The cast is especially noteworthy: "Laughton's Moreau is one of the all-time iconic mad scientists,'' says Skal. "Mesmerizing. An amazing performance,'' agrees Mank.

Laughton, then 33, was married to Elsa Lanchester, who went on to play the shock-haired Bride of Frankenstein in 1935. Unknown Kathleen Burke was recruited after a nationwide contest to be the Panther Woman.

"Paramount Studios kept Burke on contract for a while, but she always bore the curse of the Panther Woman,'' says Mank. "In her next film, Murdersin the Zoo, Lionel Atwill fed her to alligators."

As for Lugosi, who just the year before had triumphed in Dracula, his role as Sayer of the Law accelerated a spiral into B-movie typecasting. "A desperate move at the time,'' says Mank, "but he gives a striking, savagely bestial portrayal. And today, his performance is part of Lugosi legend and lore.''

SOURCE

Monday, October 24, 2011

VAUGHN MONROE AT 100

The name Vaughn Monroe might not be known much to the average Joe on the street. However, to fans of the music of the 1940s and 1950s, Vaughn's booming and soaring voice made many records of that era very enjoyable. This month Vaughn Monroe celebrated what would have been his 100th birthday. He died many years ago, but his memory lives on with the hundreds of songs he recorded for RCA, and the great appreciation society which helps to keep his memory alive.

Monroe was born in Akron, Ohio on October 7, 1911. He graduated from Jeannette High School in Pennsylvania in 1929 where he was senior class president and voted "most likely to succeed." After graduation, he attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology, where he was an active member of the Sigma Nu Fraternity. Monroe attended New England Conservatory for one semester in 1935, studying voice with Clarence B. Shirley.

He formed his first orchestra in Boston in 1940 and became its principal vocalist. He began recording for Victor's low-priced Bluebird label. That same year, Monroe built The Meadows, a restaurant and nightclub on Route 9 in Framingham, Massachusetts, west of Boston. He hosted the Camel Caravan radio program from there starting in 1946. It burned to the ground in December 1980.


Monroe was tall and handsome which helped him as a band leader and singer, as well as in Hollywood. He was sometimes called "the Baritone with Muscles", "the Voice with Hair on its Chest", "'ol Leather Tonsils", or "Leather Lungs".

He recorded extensively for RCA Victor until the 1950s and his signature tune was "Racing with the Moon" (1941). Among his other hits were "In the Still of the Night" (1939), "There I Go" (1941), "There I've Said It Again" (1945), "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" (1946), "Ballerina" (1947), "Riders in the Sky" (1949), "Someday (You'll Want Me To Want You)" (1949), "Sound Off" (1951), and "In the Middle of the House" (1956).
Monroe also wrote a number of songs ranging from "Army Song" to less-known ones like the "Jeannette High School Alma Mater".

Movies also beckoned, although he did not pursue it with vigor. Monroe appeared in 1944's Meet the People, Carnegie Hall (1947), Singing Guns (1950), and The Toughest Man in Arizona (1952). He co-authored The Adventures of Mr. Putt Putt, a children's book about airplanes and flying, published in 1949.

He hosted The Vaughn Monroe Show on CBS television from 1950–51 and from 1954–55, and also appeared on Bonanza and The Mike Douglas Show, as well as The Ed Sullivan Show, Texaco Star Theatre, The Jackie Gleason Show, The Tonight Show, and American Bandstand. He was a major stockholder in RCA and appeared in print ads and television commercials for the company's TV and audio products.


Like most big bands of the 1940s, a number of well-known artists got their start with Vaughn Monroe. Ray Conniff, guitar legend Bucky Pizzarelli, and songstress Georgia Gibbs all performed with the orchestra. Although most of the big bands broke up after the 1947 musician's union strike, Monroe kept on chugging, and went on to record his biggest hit in 1949: Ghost Riders In the Sky. Eventually the same fate befell Monroe's orchestra. With the band still at the height of its popularity, concert attendance began to drop.

Monroe himself attributed the decline to increased expenses, and above all, television. When expenses drove ticket costs to the breaking point in 1952, the violins were dismissed. More attrition followed, and Monroe called the orchestra business quits in 1953. Of the top orchestras from the 1940s, only Guy Lombardo and Count Basie would continue with a sizable show into the 1960s and 1970s.

With the loss of his touring band, the hit records stopped. But Monroe's personal popularity was as strong as ever; he continued to be successful touring as a solo act, using whatever band or orchestra was on the bill. He was also popular as a pitchman, promoting everything from Camel cigarettes and RCA radios to the US Forest Service's Smokey the Bear campaign. Monroe was a spokesman for RCA televisions well into the 1960s. He continued to headline decent sized showrooms and theatres until his passing in 1973.

Monroe died on May 21, 1973 at Martin County Memorial Hospital, shortly after having stomach surgery. He was buried in Fernhill Memorial Gardens and Mausoleum in Stuart, Florida...



For more information on singer Vaughn Monroe please visit:The Vaughn Monroe Appreciation Society

Saturday, October 22, 2011

CAROL BURNETTT: SO GLAD WE HAD THIS TIME TOGETHER

I was watching the ending of an episode of Law And Order SVU yesterday where Carol Burnett was playing a black widow aunt who got her nephew to do all her killings, and I was reminded what a great talent Carol Burnett is. There has been many funny women in entertainment like Zasu Pitts, Margaret Dumont, and Lucille Ball, but Carol Burnett is more than just a funny lady. She can sing the heck out of a song (I have two of her albums to prove that), she is a wonderful actress, and of course she can make us laugh. I grew up watching The Carol Burnett Show and almost every skit of the long running variety show was funny - although I never liked the Mama's Family skits. There are not many stars today who can be a triple threat like that, and Carol Burnett has been doing it now for nearly 55 years.

Burnett was born in San Antonio, Texas on April 26, 1933, the daughter of Ina Louise (née Creighton), a publicity writer for movie studios, and Joseph Thomas Burnett, a movie theater manager. Both of her parents suffered from alcoholism, and at a young age she was left with her grandmother, Mabel Eudora White. Her parents divorced in the late 1930s, and Burnett and her grandmother moved to an apartment near her mother’s in an impoverished area of Hollywood, Los Angeles, California. There, they stayed in a boarding house with her younger half-sister Chrissy.

After spending her first year in New York working as a hat check girl and failing to land acting jobs, Burnett along with other girls living at The Rehearsal Club, a boarding house for women seriously pursuing an acting career, put on The Rehearsal Club Revue on March 3, 1955. They mailed invitations to agents, who showed up along with stars like Celeste Holm and Marlene Dietrich, and this opened doors for several of the girls. Burnett was cast in a minor role on The Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney Show in 1955. She played the girlfriend of a ventriloquist’s dummy on the popular children’s program. This role led to her starring role opposite Buddy Hackett in the short-lived sitcom, Stanley, from 1956 to 1957.


After Stanley, Burnett found herself unemployed for a short time. She eventually bounced back a few months later as a highly popular performer on the New York circuit of cabarets and night clubs, most notably for a hit parody number called "I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles" (Dulles was Secretary of State at the time). In 1957, Burnett performed this number on both The Tonight Show, hosted by Jack Paar, and The Ed Sullivan Show. Burnett also worked as a regular on one of television's earliest game shows, Pantomime Quiz, during this time. Burnett's mother died in 1957 just as she was achieving her first small successes.

Burnett's first true taste of success came with her appearance on Broadway in the 1959 musical Once Upon a Mattress. In the same year, she became a regular player on The Garry Moore Show, a job that lasted until 1962. She won an Emmy that year for her "Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series" on the show. Burnett portrayed a number of characters, most memorably the put-upon cleaning woman who would later become her signature alter-ego. With her success on the Moore show, Burnett finally rose to headliner status and appeared in the 1962 special Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall, co-starring her friend Julie Andrews. The show was produced by Bob Banner, directed by Joe Hamilton, and written by Mike Nichols and Ken Welch. Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Program Achievement in the Field of Music. Burnett also guest-starred on a number of shows during this time, including The Twilight Zone and a recurring role as a tough female Marine in Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.. Burnett became good friends with the latter show's star Jim Nabors, who would later be her first guest every season on her variety show.


In 1963, Lucille Ball became a friend and mentor to Burnett, and after having the younger performer guest star on The Lucy Show a number of times, Ball reportedly offered Burnett her own sitcom called "Here's Agnes", to be produced by Desilu Productions. Burnett declined the offer, however, deciding instead to put together a variety show. The two remained close friends until Ball's death in 1989. Ball sent flowers every year on her birthday. When Burnett awoke on the day of her 56th birthday in 1989, she discovered via the morning news that Ball had died. Later that afternoon, the flowers Ball had arranged arrived at Burnett's house, with the note "Happy Birthday, Kid. Love, Lucy".

The hour-long Carol Burnett Show, which debuted in 1967, garnered 23 Emmy Awards and won or was nominated for multiple Emmy Awards every season it was on the air. Its ensemble cast included Tim Conway (who was a guest player until the 9th season), Harvey Korman, Lyle Waggoner, and the teenaged Vicki Lawrence (who was cast partly because she looked like a young Burnett). The network did not want her to do a variety show because they believed only men could be successful at variety but Burnett's contract required that they give her one season of whatever kind of show she wanted to make. She chose to carry on the tradition of past variety show successes.


Burnett became known for her acting and talent, and for ending each show by tugging her ear, which was a message to her grandmother who had raised her. This was done to let her know that she was doing well and that she loved her. The Carol Burnett Show ceased production in 1978, and is generally regarded as the last successful major network prime-time variety show.

Burnett starred in a few films while her variety show was running, including Pete 'n' Tillie (1972). After the show ended, Burnett assumed a number of roles that departed from comedy. She appeared in several dramatic roles, most notably in the television movie Friendly Fire. She appeared as Beatrice O'Reilly in the film Life of The Party: The Story of Beatrice, a story about a woman fighting her alcoholism. Her other film work includes The Four Seasons, Annie, and Noises Off. She also returned to star in a different role as Queen Aggravain in the movie version of Once Upon a Mattress.

Burnett also made occasional returns to the stage: in 1974, she appeared at The Muny Theater in St. Louis, Missouri in I Do! I Do! with Rock Hudson and eleven years later, she took the supporting role of Carlotta Campion in the 1985 concert performance of Stephen Sondheim's Follies.


Burnett made frequent appearances as a panelist on the game show Password, an association she maintained until the early 1980s. She was also the first celebrity to appear on the children's series, Sesame Street, on that series' first episode on November 10, 1969.

In the 1980s and 1990s, she made several attempts at starting a new variety program. She also appeared briefly on The Carol Burnett Show's "The Family" sketches spinoff, Mama's Family, as her stormy character, Eunice Higgins. She played the matriarch in the cult comedy miniseries Fresno, which parodied the primetime soap opera Falcon Crest. She returned to TV in the mid-1990s as a supporting character on the sitcom Mad About You, playing Theresa Stemple, the mother of main character Jamie Buchman (Helen Hunt).

Burnett has long been a fan of the soap opera All My Children. She realized a dream when Agnes Nixon created the role of Verla Grubbs for her. Burnett suddenly found herself playing the long-lost daughter of Langley Wallingford (Louis Edmonds) and causing trouble for her stepmother Phoebe Tyler-Wallingford (Ruth Warrick). She hosted a 25th anniversary special about the show in 1995 and made a brief cameo appearance as Verla Grubbs on the January 5, 2005 episode which celebrated the show's 35th anniversary. It was announced in June that Burnett will reprise her role as Grubbs in September 2011 as part of the series' finale.


In 2008, she had her second role as an animated character, in Horton Hears a Who!. Her first was in The Trumpet of the Swan. In 2009, she made a guest appearance on the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, for which she was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series. In November 2010, she guest starred on an episode of Glee as cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester's mother.

I often profess my love and admiration about these great entertainers, but with Carol Burnett, I have got to say she is a national treasure. Carol Burnett's life was truly a rags to riches story. Watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies with her grandmother in the late 1930s, I am sure a young Carol could never imagine that she would have a life like she has had in Hollywood. Lucky for her and very lucky for us...

Friday, October 21, 2011

MOVIE REVIEW: NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS

I was a young movie fan when I first saw No Time For Sergeants. I grew up a rereuns of The Andy Griffith Show, and at the time I thought Griffith was one of the best actors out there. Griffith's performance as Will Stockdale reminds me a lot of Gomer Pyple, which would be a spinoff from Griffith's show in the 1960s.

No Time For Sergeants is a 1958 American comedy film directed by Mervyn LeRoy starring Andy Griffith and featuring Myron McCormick, Don Knotts and most of the original Broadway cast. Warner Brothers contract player Nick Adams joined the cast as Stockdale's fellow military draftee Benjamin B. Whitledge, as did Murray Hamilton as Irving S. Blanchard. The film is based on a play inspired by the original novel.

Will Stockdale is a backward, backwoods rube from Georgia who may or may not be smarter than he looks. Accused by the government of being a draft dodger, it turns out that Stockdale's draft notices have been hidden from him by his father, who doesn't want the boy to leave home and be ridiculed.

Wrongfully shackled by handcuffs, Stockdale joins a group of new U.S. Air Force draftees being transported to basic training. They include the obnoxious bully Irving S. Blanchard, who having undergone ROTC training, volunteers to be in charge. (Stockdale hears that Irving had ROTC and thinks it's a disease.)

They report to boot camp, where Stockdale and his equally dim, but smarter friend, Ben Whitledge, begin the struggle to join the infantry (In real life, the Air Force does not have an infantry.).

Stockdale is incredibly strong and can drink any man under the table, but beyond that he is a hayseed who makes one idiotic mistake after another. He proceeds to make life miserable for the man in charge, Sergeant King, who is approaching retirement and likes his barracks to be quiet and calm. In exasperation, the sergeant places the country bumpkin on full-time washroom duty. Stockdale believes his new position of "P.L.O." (Permanent Latrine Orderly) to be a promotion.

The happy-go-lucky Stockdale feels that King must be "the best dang sergeant in whole dang Air Force." The totally unhappy Whitledge wants no part of it, lamenting that the rank of "Airman" is "like something from a funny book." Ben wants to be assigned to the infantry instead. He says, "In the War Between the States, it was the infantry that did the fighting," which is understandable, airplanes not having been invented yet.

A company inspection takes a surprising turn when Stockdale's immaculately clean latrine is what impresses King's superiors most. King gets into hot water, however, when Stockdale opens his big mouth and reveals that the sergeant kept him on bathroom duty on a permanent basis while also neglecting to have the recruit complete all the required military exams and paper work.


Rushing him through testing, King bribes Stockdale by promising to give him his wristwatch if he can pass. Stockdale flummoxes and frustrates the various officers who make him take a manual dexterity test (conducted by Don Knotts), a psychiatric test, and an eye exam, amazingly managing to get by after driving them all crazy. Stockdale gets the wristwatch as a reward.

Blanchard tells King to get three passes to go to a local bar, "The Purple Grotto" where Sgt. King and Pvt. Blanchard try to get Stockdale drunk in order to make him look bad and King look good. He admits he has never drank...store bought liquor. King and Blanchard are inebriated, but Will is still sober. Stockdale says the only alcohol he previously had was what his father made with corn, grain and kerosene. Blanchard buys Lighter Fluid from a cigarette girl. Mixing gin and bourbon with kerosene ... Will drinks it and says "it's familiar." Then a drunken Army infantryman walks by and a barroom brawl begins. Stockdale leaves behind a fighting Blanchard and King; as he walks past the Air Police, he tells them that upstairs is the bar.


The colonel and captain later inspect the latrine and barracks. Will has mechanically rigged all the toilet seats to open simultaneously in a "salute". While Blanchard is arrested and detained by the Air Police, M/Sgt. King is found filthy in a torn uniform, later in the latrine, and is summarily reduced to private rank, while Whitledge was blamed for King's appearance and is also placed in disgraced status. As King goes back to his office dejected, he admits to Stockdale that he and Blanchard had been trying to trick Stockdale to get him out of the way so that King would not look bad, but their effort backfired. King also admits he had grown to like Stockdale and became his reluctant and inadvertent mentor to success in the Air Force.

The story ends with Stockdale and Whitledge (who now has disdain for Stockdale for ruining his image in front of the captain back in the barracks) flying to Denver in an obsolete B-25 medium bomber. Stockdale's assignment is tail gunner on the bomber. After putting the plane on Autopilot, the lazy pilots fall asleep, and the airplane soon becomes lost at night over what the navigator thinks is the Gulf of Mexico. They really are flying over Nevada Test Site|Yucca Flats, Nevada during an A-bomb test called "Operation Prometheus". The radio operator on the plane was left behind at the base, so Stockdale and Whitledge must radio to obtain their real position, however, the radio is inoperatable. Stockdale remembers that back home in Georgia, his father would spit into the radio and smack it to make it work. Stockdale repeats the method, and the radio works. Military radiomen on the ground, confused by Stockdale's folksy, clownish speech, frantically rouse a general from his sleep to confirm that Stockdale is not a prankster, and to give Stockdale emergency flying instructions. Meanwhile, a fire breaks out in the aft of the plane. The Air Force and Army are put on full alert. Stockdale and Whitledge bail out of the plane just before it crashes, and are declared dead by the promoted-back-to-Sgt. King. During an Air Medal ceremony honoring them as fallen heroes, they reappear, and the Air Force has to cover up that the pair are alive to avoid an international public humiliation.

Stockdale suggests both he and Ben (who finally forgives Stockdale for his unintentionally innocent flaws, as he thought he and Stockdale were to be executed for being deserters, inadvertently faking their deaths and for perpetrating a public fraud at the ceremony) be transferred to become infantrymen. An agreement is reached by two former West Point classmates, General Vernon I. Pollard, USA and General Eugene Bush, USAF, who also heartily approve of Stockdale's last request—to have Sgt. King transferred with them to the infantry.

The movie, which is shown on TCM from time to time, is a just good old clean old funny comedy. It's a great movie to watch on a rainy Sunday or a lazy Saturday afternoon. The movie made the careers of Andy Griffith and Don Knotts, and No Time For Sergeants is one of the movies that Hollywood can not or do not make anymore...

MY RATING: 8 OUT OF 10

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: LEGENDS OF VAUDVILLE

Does anyone in this American Idol generation even know what vaudville was? It was the X Factor of its day, except with real talent. Vaudville pretty much died with the coming of radio and television, but the legends it produced should be remembered. Here are some great pictures with a few true legends of vaudville...


GEORGE JESSEL(1898-1981), GEORGE BURNS(1896-1996), EDDIE CANTOR(1892-1964), JACK BENNY(1894-1974)




AL JOLSON(1886-1950)




SOPHIE TUCKER(1886-1966)




JIMMY DURANTE(1893-1981)




FANNY BRICE(1891-1951)




THE MARX BROTHERS

GROUCHO(1890-1977), HARPO(1888-1964), CHICO(1887-1961), ZEPPO(1901-1979)

Monday, October 17, 2011

60TH ANNIVERSARY OF I LOVE LUCY

Somebody, somewhere, doesn't love Lucy.

But we don't want to hear from them.

Not during the 60th anniversary celebration of the Oct. 15, 1951 TV premiere of "I Love Lucy" -- the simple comedy that cemented the sitcom template, made an enduring icon of star Lucille Ball, built a Hollywood studio and changed the "business" part of show business, for better or worse, by advancing the concept of reruns.

"I Love Lucy" would run on CBS for six seasons totaling 179 half-hour episodes, then another three years adding up to 13 occasional hour specials. Then it ran on CBS network daytime, in local station syndication and around the world -- as it still does -- before becoming one of the first shows released on VHS and DVD.

The half-hour series never ranked lower than No. 3 in the Nielsen ratings, finishing No. 1 four times. Its 1953 having-a-baby outing "Lucy Goes to the Hospital" -- aided by the near simultaneous birth of Ball's real-life son, Desi Arnaz Jr. -- still ranks as Nielsen's highest-rated episode of all time.

And all CBS wanted was to move Ball from her CBS radio hit "My Favorite Husband" to the burgeoning TV medium that had already welcomed radio favorites like Jack Benny and Groucho Marx.

Ball wanted to stay close to home to start a family, and insisted on starring with her husband, Cuban-born bandleader Desi Arnaz. CBS wasn't crazy about the heavily accented Arnaz until the couple did live stage shows to prove audiences bought them as a couple. The network objected even more to the couple planning to produce the show in Hollywood. With the use of videotape still years away, TV programs then aired live from New York for the much larger audience in the country's Eastern half.


The story has become legend -- behind-the-scenes boss Arnaz turned a Hollywood soundstage into the kind of theater used by New York shows, bringing in bleachers for a live audience and playing before three film cameras, editing together the results for high-quality recordings to ship east. With "I Love Lucy" episodes preserved this way, they could be repeated -- and Arnaz was smart enough to retain ownership rights. Other shows soon wanted to tap this expertise, and Lucy and Desi's Desilu studio eventually took over the RKO lot where Ball had once made movies, churning out TV classics from Danny Thomas' "Make Room for Daddy" to "The Untouchables" to "Star Trek." (Desilu was sold to become Paramount Television in 1967.)

Sixty years later -- and 100 years after Lucille Ball's birth -- "I Love Lucy" continues to entertain audiences day after day, generation after generation. And it stands as one of TV's most influential series ever -- both on-screen and off.


SOURCE

Saturday, October 15, 2011

MY FIVE FAVORITE MUSICALS OF ALL TIME

When my grandfather first introduced me to classic movies when I was young, the first type of movies I watched were musicals. My grandfather was big on Eddie Cantor and Bing Crosby movies. Musicals were the 1930s and 1940s idea of fantasy movies where an emotion or mood could be conveyed through the art of a song. Looking back at old musicals they weren't very realistic, but boy are they fun to watch!

My favorite musicals are different that is what on most people's list. There is no Singin In The Rain or My Fair Lady on my list. Here are my five favorite musicals of all time:

5. SILK STOCKINGS (1957)
This was the last musical Fred Astaire made at MGM, and what a great movie to end a long association with. Astaire and Cyd Charisse were great partners in this adaptation of the Cole Porter broadway show. By 1957, musical tastes were changing, and Astaire even spoofed the changes in the show topper "Ritz, Roll, And Rock". This movie is a must to see for any Astaire or MGM musical fan.


4. BLUE SKIES (1946)
Bing Crosby saved Paramount Studios from bankruptcy in the 1930s, and by 1946 he was one of the biggest stars in the world. This movie may be corny and sentimental by today's standards, but that is what I love in a musical. The pairing of Bing and Fred Astaire is great too, and this movie also boasts a massive Irving Berlin score. My favorite number in this film is the ballad "You Keep Coming Back Like A Song", which was nominated for an Oscar for Best Song. I keep coming back to watch this musical time and time again.

3. THE MUSIC MAN (1961)
When I was in seventh grade we had a music teacher who for one whole semester taught us about The Music Man. I will never forget that class. We disected and analyzed this great musical inside and out. We though Robert Preston is not a great singer, he is the Professor Harold Hill. The studios had discussed stars like Bing Crosby or Dan Dailey for the role. Preston originated the role on Broadway, and this movie not only gives me an appreciation for traveling salemen, but also it makes me want to visit Iowa and/or Gary, Indiana! The supporting cast of Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, Paul Ford, and a young Ronnie Howard make this movie too.


2. WORDS AND MUSIC (1948)
In the 1940s, song writer biographical movies were popular. However, they bore little resemblance to the writer's actual lives. Words And Music was the story of my favorite song writers Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers. In the movie they were played by Mickey Rooney and Tom Drake respectively. The plot of the story was nothing like their real lives, but what makes the movie for me is the music as well as the great stars that appear. Everyone from Judy Garland to Perry Como appeared in the movie. If you are a fan of good music then this movie is for you. If you are a fan of accurate biographies then read a book on Rodgers and Hart. Lorenz Hart is a fascinating character and Mickey Rooney plays him well.

1. SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET (2007)
I never thought I would have a modern musical as my favorite musical of all time. However, I am a huge fan of the movies of director Tim Burton, and Johnny Depp rarely makes a bad movie. Depp is not a singer, but he pulls of the role of Sweeney Todd perfectly. Tim Burton films the movie in such a way that you are transported back in time to the slums of London, and he uses colors in a way that the movie is nearly black and white. I am not a fan of the music of Stephen Sondheim, but they are presented in a way that they are woven effortlessly into the fabric of the movie. The movie is a little bit violent of course, but the story and the film itself is flawless - for a modern musical that is saying a lot.

Friday, October 14, 2011

REMEMBERING: THE DAY BING CROSBY DIED

When Bing Crosby died in 1977, I was only three years old - so I did not appreciate the significance of what Crosby did for popular music and other genres of entertainment. However, now that he has been my favorite singer and entertainer for years now, I remember his death, October 14, 1977, more than I do some of my own relatives. Bing's passing left a huge hole in the entertainment world that has never been filled. Bing was a busy man in his final days, and days before his death no one would know what was about to happen.

Bing had just completed a two-week engagement at the London Palladium on October 8, 1977. He gave one more concert on October 10 at the Conference Center in Brighton, England. On October 11, he recorded eight songs and an interview for BBC radio in the morning, along with a photo shoot that afternoon for the album jacket of his recently completed "Seasons" album.

Also on October 11, he dealt with the police, upon discovering his London flat had been broken into and robbed during his concert in Brighton. On October 12, he played 11 holes at the Cranbrook golf course in Kent (a course which he was interested in buying) before returning to his London flat for a late afternoon interview with a journalist.

Then early on the morning of Thursday, October 13, he flew from London to Madrid for a four-day recreational weekend of golf and hunting.

La Moraleja golf course is located in the La Moraleja residential complex, 8.8 kilometers (5 1/2 miles) from Spain's capital along the Madrid-Burgos national highway. The club was founded in 1975 and originally comprised an 18-hole golf course, a smaller itinerary of nine par-3 holes, and a putting green and practice ground, all designed and supervised by the famous American golfer Jack Nicklaus.

Bing wasted no time upon arriving at La Moraleja on October 13 in getting out on the links. he was paired with the World (at the time) and Spanish Gold Champion Manuel Pinero. Their opponents were Cesar de Zulueta, President of La Moraleja, and Valentin Barrios. Pinero and Bing lost to de Zulueta and Barrios for that match, with Bing carding a 92, but they were confident the 14th would be their "lucky day."

The manager of the golf course, Valentin Barrios, lunched with Bing, Manuel Pinero and Cesar de Zulueta prior to the golf match on Friday, October 14. For Bing's last meal, he ordered only a cup of chicken broth, a ham-lettuce-tomato sandwhich, and a glass of water.


He said that most of the conversation during that lunch centered around Saturday's planned partridge hunt. Bing was very particular about the type of rifle he wanted to use for the shoot. Several different types were shown to him, but Bing would only settle for a 20-gauge. It had to be this or nothing!

Bing took this partridge hunt seriously; he even bought a $700 wardrobe for it, including a jacket, pants, hat, leather lace-up boots, thick handwoven socks and a full range of accessories. Sadly, he would never get a chance to wear them. Following the partridge hunt, Bing had planned on flying to the island of Majorca for more golf before returning to California. He was planning to meet with record producer Ken Barnes upon his return home to routine songs for a planned duet album with Bob Hope.

Following lunch, Bing spoke to journalists in the clubhouse in what turned out to be his final interview. He was in good spirits and reminisced freely about his long show business experience. He said the move High Society, in which he starred with Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, and Louis Armstrong was "the most satisfying one of my career." He described his trip to Spain as a test of his recovery from the back injury he had suffered March 3 (a ruptured disc caused by a 20-foot fall from a Pasadena, CA stage). He went on to say he was looking forward to teaming again with Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour in The Road to the Fountain of Youth.


Valentin Barrios recalled Bing's final round of golf for Francisco: "He played very well, and I know he enjoyed it very much. He told us he was feeling much better after his fall in California a few months earlier-and better still for being out on this beautiful golf course. He told me about some of his golf games as we played, about games with great pros like Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Gene Littler, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus. He told a lot of little stories about each of them.

"Jack Nicklaus was his favorite, and I remember him telling me they planned a father and son match between them in a few weeks. Mr. Crosby said he was glad to have known all these great golfers. He was in good spirits; we joked about his white sun hat and old red cardigan. He was very relaxed, even at the second to last hole, when the score was even and he hit one into the sand trap. But he never lost his cool-still humming and whistling at the last hole.

"I remember he scored an 85; he and Manuel won by one stroke because of Bing's handicap, which was a 13, I believe. Bing collected his ten dollar prize before headed back to the clubhouse. I remember, too, that he had a new set of Ben Hogan golf clubs for the round, but still used an ancient Hogan putter, which must've been his favorite."

Mr. Barrios then offered a never before told story, recalling that last song Bing ever sang: "There were some construction workers building a new house just off from the 9th hole. The workers recognized Bing and motioned for him to come over to them. Bing was very happy to be recognized and walked over to the men, who asked for a song. The last song Bing Crosby sand, which I remember vividly, was 'Strangers In the Night.'"


It is unclear whether Bing voluntarily chose to sing this song or if he asked the workers what they would like to hear and they chose it.

"It's been widely quoted that Bing's last words were 'That was a great game of golf, fellas' or something to that effect. Well, he did say that in the golf cart heading up the hill, but afterwards, while we were walking towards the clubhouse entrance-just seconds before his collapse-he spoke his real last words to me. He turned and said, 'Let's go have a Coca-Cola.'

"The next minute (around 6:30 p.m.), he fell face down on the red-brick path, landing on my foot when he fell. We turned him over; he was very pale and had a large red bruise on his forehead from where he hit the ground. He died at my feet. I knew he was dead right away-died instantly.

"We carried him into the clubhouse and summoned the house doctor (Dr. Laiseca). We called for an ambulance, just to make it look like he died en route to the hospital and not at the golf course. We all knew he was gone before the ambulance ever arrived.

"Dr. Laiseca showed me how to massage his heart while he prepared an adrenalin injection, which was put directly into his heart. I messaged his heart for over half an hour, but nothing could be done. He was dead-on-arrival at the hospital. (Reports at the time say it was the Red Cross Hospital, but Mr. Silvela and Mr. Barrios believe he was taken to the Rena Victoria, as it is the closest to La Moraleja.)

"I couldn't believe it. I never would've imagined he would have a heart attack. He showed no signs of being tired or in pain or anything. All at once, he dropped dead. I'll never forget it."

Bing Crosby (1903-1977)...



SOURCE

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

SHIRLEY MACLAINE RECEIVES AFI LIFETIME AWARD

Oscar winning actress Shirley MacLaine will be honored with the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award, the group announced on Sunday.

MacLaine, 77, will be presented with the prestigious honor from the Los Angeles-based U.S. film arts and education institute on June 7 in a ceremony to be broadcast later on TVLand, AFI said in a statement. She will be the award's 40th recipient.

"Shirley MacLaine is a powerhouse of personality that has illuminated screens large and small across six decades," Howard Stringer, chairman of AFI's board of trustees, said in a statement.

"From ingenue to screen legend, Shirley has entertained a global audience through song, dance, laughter and tears, and her career as writer, director and producer is even further evidence of her passion for the art form and her seemingly boundless talents."

MacLaine, who won a best actress Oscar in 1984 for "Terms of Endearment," is also an outspoken activist, writer and believer in reincarnation and extra-terrestrial beings. Her views have won her both respect and a good measure of ribbing.

She made her Hollywood debut at age 19 with Alfred Hitchcock in "The Trouble With Harry."

MacLaine was first nominated for an Academy Award for best actress in 1958, for "Some Came Running." Nominations for "The Apartment" in 1960, "Irma La Douce" in 1963 and "The Turning Point" in 1977 followed, before she finally won in 1984.

Last year's AFI honoree was Morgan Freeman. MacLaine's half-brother, Warren Beatty, received the award in 2008. Director John Ford was the first AFI honoree in 1973.


SOURCE

Monday, October 10, 2011

WHERE ARE THEY NOW: ELEANOR PARKER

Growing up I can remember my grandfather saying that my grandmother looked like Eleanor Parker. Although I can not see the resemblance, both women were extremely beautiful. Parker was an actress that could change her look with every role or every movie she made. It is sad that she left Hollywood so soon, and she has not made hardly any appearances since. Now at the age of 89, Parker is a mysterious figure of Hollywood history - a beautiful woman who has lived her post-Hollywood life on her own terms.

Eleanor's first role was Nurse Ryan in Soldiers in White in 1942. By 1946, she had starred in Between Two Worlds, Hollywood Canteen, Pride of the Marines, Never Say Goodbye, and Of Human Bondage. She broke the champagne bottle on the nose of the California Zephyr train, to mark its inaugural journey from San Francisco, California on March 19, 1949.

In 1950, she received the first of three nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress for Caged, in which she played a prison inmate. For this role, she won the 1950 Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival. She was also nominated for the Oscar in 1951 for her performance as Kirk Douglas's wife in Detective Story and again in 1955 for her portrayal of opera singer Marjorie Lawrence in the Oscar-winning biopic Interrupted Melody. She followed Detective Story by playing a fiery actress in love with Stewart Granger's swashbuckling nobleman in Scaramouche. Parker then performed with Charlton Heston as a 1900s mail-order bride in George Pal's The Naked Jungle.


That same year, Parker appeared in Otto Preminger's film adaptation of the National Book Award-winner The Man With The Golden Arm, in which she plays Zosh, the supposedly invalid wife of a morphine addicted, would-be jazz drummer Frankie Machine (Frank Sinatra). In 1956, she was billed above the title alongside Clark Gable for the Raoul Walsh-directed western comedy The King and Four Queens. A year later, she starred in another W. Somerset Maugham novel, a remake of a The Painted Veil in the role originated by Greta Garbo, released as The Seventh Sin. She also appeared in Home from the Hill, A Hole in the Head and Return to Peyton Place. Possibly her most famous screen role is as Baroness Elsa Schraeder, the second female lead in the 1965 Oscar-winning smash hit The Sound Of Music.

She played an alcoholic widow in Warning Shot in 1966; a love-starved talent scout in the all-star but unsuccessful The Oscar; and a rich, alcoholic estranged wife in An American Dream. From then on, her big screen roles were fewer, and television would occupy more of her energies.

In 1963, Parker appeared in the NBC medical drama about psychiatry The Eleventh Hour in the episode "Why Am I Grown So Cold?" for which she was nominated for an Emmy Award as Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. In 1964, she appeared in the episode "A Land More Cruel" on the ABC drama about psychiatry, Breaking Point. In 1968, she portrayed a sultry spy in How to Steal the World -- a film originally shown as a two-part episode on NBC's The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. In 1969-70 she starred in the television series Bracken's World, for which she was nominated for a 1970 Golden Globe Award as Best TV Actress - Drama. She also appeared in several made-for-television movies, including "Ghost Story: Half a Death," (1973) where she plays a wealthy matron who must reconcile the lives of her two daughters in a suspense-thriller.


Parker has also starred in a number of theatrical productions, including the Lauren Bacall role in musical Applause. In 1976, she quit the Circle in the Square Theatre revival of Pal Joey during previews. She wrote the preface to the book "How Your Mind Can Keep You Well," a meditation technique developed by Roy Masters.

By the mid 1980s Eleanor was completely leaving Hollywood behind. She made an appearance on "Murder She Wrote" in 1986 and one final movie called "Dead on the Money" in 1991. Now twenty years later, Eleanor Parker lives in quiet retirement in Palm Springs. She has done a few radio interviews in 2009 and 2010, but she refuses to make public appearances. Eleanor left the Hollywood scene years ago to live the life she wanted. Doing that is more important than any Hollywood party or movie premiere...

UPDATE: Eleanor Parker passed away at the age of 91 on December 9, 2013. You can read more about it here.
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Saturday, October 8, 2011

RIP: ROGER WILLIAMS

Roger Williams, Pianist Known for Sentimental Songs, Dies at 87
by Dennis Hevesi

Roger Williams, the pianist whose lush versions of familiar tunes like “Autumn Leaves” and “Born Free” became hit recordings in the 1950s and ’60s and who continued to perform in concerts into his 80s, died on Saturday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 87. The cause was complications of pancreatic cancer, his former publicist Rob Wilcox told The Associated Press.

Seven singles by Mr. Williams made it onto the Billboard Top 40, perhaps the best known of which — and the one that brought him stardom — was “Autumn Leaves.” Over his long career he recorded more than 100 albums, among them “Roger Williams Plays Your All-Time Favorites” and “The Greatest Popular Pianist.”

Mr. Williams “virtually transformed the piano into a harp,” Joseph Lanza, a music historian, wrote in 1994 in his book “Elevator Music,” adding that he “cultivated a flair for making dramatic sweeps from classical to jazz to country to soft rock-and-roll.”

He performed on stages across the United States, from Carnegie Hall to the Hollywood Bowl, and headlined for many years at the MGM Grand and the Tropicana in Las Vegas. Nine presidents, including Harry S. Truman and George W. Bush, brought him to the White House to provide soothing sounds for dinner guests.

Certainly “Autumn Leaves” was among his most soothing, with its cascading arpeggios evoking falling leaves. Mr. Williams’s instrumental version of that 1940s song, originally known as “Les Feuilles Mortes” (“The Dead Leaves”), with music by Joseph Kosma and French lyrics by Jacques Prévert (Johnny Mercer wrote the English lyrics), was No. 1 on the Billboard singles chart for four weeks in 1955 and stayed in the Top 40 for 26 weeks.


Accompanied by orchestra and chorus, Mr. Williams captured the expanse of the African savanna with his version of the theme from the 1966 movie “Born Free,” about a lioness raised as a pet in Kenya, and the No. 7 spot during the record’s 14 weeks in the Top 40 in 1966. His other Top 40 hits were “Wanting You” (1956); “La Mer,” or “Beyond the Sea” (1956); “Almost Paradise” (1957); “Till” (1957); and “Near You,” which reached the Top 10 in 1958.

In 1960, Mr. Williams was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

When he performed at Philharmonic Hall in New York in 1970, Robert Sherman of The New York Times wrote of his “sumptuous piano settings” and noted that he “held his large audience enthralled” by playing one old favorite after another. “The concert’s promise of ‘Easy Listening,’ ” Mr. Sherman concluded, “was faithfully kept.”

Though his musicality was apparent even when he was a toddler, he was not always Roger Williams.

He was born Louis Jacob Weertz in Omaha on Oct. 1, 1924, and grew up in Des Moines, the only child of Frederick and Dorothea Weertz. His father was a Lutheran minister who had once been a professional boxer; his mother was a music teacher. (It was only after the founder of Kapp Records, David Kapp, signed him to a contract in 1954 that he changed his name, at Mr. Kapp’s insistence.)

“I could play ‘Home Sweet Home’ on the harmonica when I was 3,” Mr. Williams told The Daily Mirror in 1955. By the time he was in high school he was proficient on 12 other instruments. “Everything but the oboe and bassoon,” he said, “but I finally settled for what I liked best — the piano.”

Mr. Williams graduated from Idaho State University in 1949, earned a master’s degree in music from Drake University in Des Moines a year later and then came to New York to study at the Juilliard School, where the renowned jazz pianist Teddy Wilson took him under his wing.

At Mr. Wilson’s urging, he competed on Arthur Godfrey’s “Talent Scouts” in 1952, and won. That led to many nightclub bookings and his first album for Kapp, which did not sell very well. Then came his hit single, “Autumn Leaves.”

What followed was a meandering path through many of the most nostalgia-inducing melodies of the last half of the 20th century, among them “A Time for Us,” “The Impossible Dream,” “On a Clear Day,” “Hello, Dolly!” “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” and “Lara’s Theme” from “Dr. Zhivago.”

He is survived by two daughters, Laura Fisher, of Carmel, Calif., and Alice Jung, of New York; and five grandchildren.

Mr. Williams was unabashed about his inclination for sentimentality.


“If a song’s lyrics say, ‘I love you,’ then I mean just that when I play the notes,” he told The Christian Science Monitor in 1970. “The audience, live or at home, can sense if an artist really means what he plays. I purposely choose music which is warm and which I know I can get across. I know myself.”