Wednesday, December 31, 2014

RIP: EDWARD HERRMANN

Edward Herrmann -- perhaps best known for playing Richard Gilmore on "Gilmore Girls" -- died this morning in a hospital in New York. He was 71.

Edward Kirk Herrmann was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Jean Eleanor (née O'Connor) and John Anthony Herrmann. He is of German and Irish descent. Herrmann grew up in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and graduated from Bucknell University in 1965, where he was a member of Phi Kappa Psi. He studied acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art on a Fulbright Fellowship.

Herrmann's family tells the Press he had been battling brain cancer and had been in ICU for the last 3 1/2 weeks. Ultimately, things did not improve and his family decided to take him off the respirator. Herrmann was married twice and and his second wife Star tells the Press the actor leaves behind 3 children.

Herrmann was on "Gilmore Girls" for its entire run and recently appeared in several episodes of "The Good Wife." He also famously starred alongside Macaulay Culkin in "Richie Rich."

Edward Herrmann was born on July 21, 1943 in Washington, District of Columbia, USA. He is an actor, known for Gilmore Girls on television, and the movies The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) and The Aviator (2004). Edward also was the voice of the History Channel.Early in his career he also played President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1982 movie musical Annie.

He has been married to Star Benson since 1992. They have two children. He was previously married to Leigh Curran...


THE PASSING SCENE OF 2014

This is the fifth year now that I have written a story on some of the entertainment personalities that have died during the year. Every year there are great losses on the list as well as forgotten entertainers that deserve to be remembered more than they were. This year is no different, and here are just some of the talented people who left us in 2014…


Legendary comedian Robin Williams died on August 11th at the age of 63. Williams gained recognition firstly on the television sitcom "Mork And Mindy", which aired from 1978 to 1982. He made his film debut in 1980's musical Popeye. he starred or co-starred in widely acclaimed films including The World According to Garp (1982), Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Dead Poets Society (1989), Awakenings (1990), The Fisher King (1991), Aladdin (1992), Good Will Hunting (1997), and One Hour Photo (2002), as well as financial successes such as Hook (1991), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Jumanji (1995), The Birdcage (1996), and Night at the Museum (2006). On a personal note, this death has hit me harder than all the other deaths in 2014. Williams death, of a suicide, is also especially sad because he made millions of people laugh through the years, but Williams could not find the happiness in his own life.

Actor and director Richard Attenborough died on August 24th at the age of 90. As an actor, he is perhaps best known for his roles in Brighton Rock, The Great Escape, 10 Rillington Place, Miracle on 34th Street and Jurassic Park.He won the 1982 Academy Award for Best Director and as the film's producer, the Academy Award for Best Picture for his historical epic Gandhi. Attenborough also directed the screen version of the musical A Chorus Line (1985) and the anti-apartheid drama Cry Freedom (1987). He also directed Robert Downey Jr in the acclaimed biography Chaplin (1992).

Screen legend Mickey Rooney died on April 6th at the age of 93. He began his film career in silent movies as a child actor. In the 1930s, he was signed to MGM Studios where he became the most popular movies star from 1939 to 1940. He made a series of movie musicals with Judy Garland as well as some beloved classics like Boy’s Town (1938), The Human Comedy (1943), and National Velvet (1944). Rooney left MGM in 1948, but he continued to make movies and television appearances until his death. Weeks before his death he shot scenes for Night And The Museum III, which was just released. My personal favorite role he played was as songwriter Lorenz Hart in the 1948 musical Words And Music. He died after choking on food.

Comedian Jan Hooks died on October 9th at the age of 57. She best known for her work on NBC's Saturday Night Live (SNL), where she was a repertory player from 1986 to 1991 and continued making cameo appearances until 1994. Her subsequent work has included a regular role on the final two seasons of Designing Women, a recurring role on 3rd Rock From the Sun, and a number of roles in film and television.

Voice actor Dick Jones died at the age of 87 on July 7th. He worked for Disney Studios and was the voice of Pinocchio in the 1940 movie.

Actress Sheila MacRae died at the age of 92 on March 6th. She appeared in such films as Caged (1950), Backfire (1950) and Sex and the Single Girl (1964). Sheila also played Alice Kramden on 52 episodes of The Jackie Gleason Show from 1966 to 1970. She also was married to singer Gordon MacRae from 1941 to 1967. She had been suffering from dementia.

Singer and actor Herb Jeffries died on May 25th at the age of 100. He began his career working with Erskine Tate and his Vendome Orchestra when he moved to Chicago from Detroit at the urging of Louis Armstrong. His widest fame as a singer came when he sang with the Duke Ellington Orchestra from 1940 to 1942. Herb also played a cowboy in a number of movies of the 1940s and 1950s. Even though he retired in 1995, he remained active and performed occasionally up until 2010.

Child star Shirley Temple died on February 10th at the age of 85. Temple began her film career in 1932 at the age of three. In 1934, she found international fame in Bright Eyes, a feature film designed specifically for her talents. She received a special Juvenile Academy Award in February 1935 for her outstanding contribution as a juvenile performer to motion pictures during 1934, and film hits such as Curly Top and Heidi followed year after year during the mid-to-late 1930s. Licensed merchandise that capitalized on her wholesome image included dolls, dishes and clothing. Her box office popularity waned as she reached adolescence. She appeared in a few films of varying quality in her mid-to-late teens, and retired completely from films in 1950 at the age of 22. She was the top box-office draw in Hollywood for four years in a row (1935–38) in a Motion Picture Herald poll

Television actress Ann B Davis died at the age of 88 on June 1st. She gained worldwide fame for playing Alice on the TV comedy “The Brady Bunch”, but she won her two Emmys for her role of the secretary on “The Bob Cummings Show” in the 1950s. She died after a fall.

French actor Jacques Bergerac died at the age of 87 on June 15th. He appeared in films like Les Girls (1957) and Gigi (1958) or MGM Studios, but he was more famous for his ex-wives. He was married to actress Ginger Rogers from 1953-1957 and to actress Dorothy Malone from 1959-1964. He left show business to run the Paris office of Revlon Make-up in 1969.


Actors James Garner died on July 19th at the age of 86. On television Garner starred on the popular shows "Maverick" from 1957 to 1962 and "The Rockford Files" from 1974 to 1980. Garner's acting ability and good looks made him a natural in movies as well. Garner also starred in more than fifty films, including The Great Escape (1963), The Americanization of Emily (1964), Grand Prix (1966), Blake Edwards' Victor Victoria (1982), Murphy's Romance (1985), for which he received an Academy Award nomination, Space Cowboys (2000), and The Notebook (2004).

British character actor Bob Hoskins died on April 29th at the age of 71 of pneumonia. He was a popular actor in films for decades and appeared in such beloved classics as Mona Lisa (1986), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1989), and Hook (1991). He also appeared as Bobby Darin’s uncle in the movie biography Beyond The Sea (2004). He made his last movie in 2012.

Buddy DeFranco, who played the great clarinet solo on "Opus One" with Tommy Dorsey -- and was one of the finest clarinetists in modern jazz -- died on December 24th at the age of 91. He was bandleader of the Glenn Miller Orchestra from 1966 to 1974, under the name, "The World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra, Directed By Buddy DeFranco". He made his last record in 2006.

Director and actor Harold Ramis died on February 24th at the age of 69 of vasculitis. He was a legendary writer and director who made his best films in the 1980s and 1990s. His best-known film acting roles are as Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters (1984) and Russell Ziskey in Stripes (1981); he also co-wrote both films. As a writer-director, his films include the comedies Caddyshack (1980), National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), Groundhog Day (1993) and Analyze This (1999). Ramis was the original head writer of the television series SCTV, on which he also performed, and one of three screenwriters of the film National Lampoon's Animal House (1978).

Songwriter Mary Rodgers died at the age of 83 on June 26th. She was a composer who wrote the score for the Broadway musical Once Upon A Time On A Mattress. She also was a children’s author, and she wrote “Freaky Friday”. Mary was the daughter of famed songwriter Richard Rodgers (1902-1979).

German born actress Luise Rainer died at the age of 104 on December 30th.  She was the first actor to win multiple Academy Awards and the first person to win them consecutively. She was discovered by American studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer talent scouts while acting on stage in Austria and Germany and after appearing in Austrian films. She is as of yet the longest-lived person ever to have received an Academy Award

Actress Mona Freeman died at the age of 87 on May 23rd. She started out as a child actress in the 1940s, but soon moved on to adult roles. Some of her famous movies included Mother Wore Tights (1947), Dear Wife (1949), and Jumping Jacks (1952). She dated Bing Crosby briefly in 1954, and she left Hollywood in 1961 to raise a family and become a painter.


Singer Jerry Vale died on May 18th at the age of 83 after a lengthy illness. He specialized in Italian songs, and some of his greatest hits included: “Have You Looked Into Your Heart”, “Two Purple Shadows”, and “Pretend You Don’t See Her”. Vale had to retire from singing after suffering a stroke in 2002. He also appeared as himself in the movies Goodfellas (1990) and Casino (1995).

Actress Lauren Bacall died on August 12th at the age of 89. A popular actress that was married to Humphrey Bogart from 1945 to 1957, she had a distinctive husky voice and sultry looks. She first appeared as a leading lady in the Humphrey Bogart film To Have and Have Not (1944) and continued on in the film noir genre, with appearances in Bogart movies The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947), and Key Largo (1948). Her performance in the movie The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) earned her a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination.

Actress Patrice Wymore died on March 22nd at the age of 87. Wymore's first film appearance was in the 1950 film Tea for Two, opposite Doris Day and Gordon MacRae, where she made an impression with the Latin flavoured rendition of “Crazy Rhythm”. She was signed to Warner Brothers, but never really appeared in a huge role. She played Frank Sinatra’s girlfriend in the 1960 film Ocean’s 11. She left Hollywood in 1967. She also was the last wife of actor Errol Flynn. They were married from 1950 until his death in 1959.

The last of the original von Trapp children, Maria Franziska von Trapp, died at the age of 99 on February 18th. She was a member of the Trapp Family Singers, whose lives inspired the musical and film The Sound of Music (1964). She was portrayed as the character "Louisa".

Actress and activist Ruby Dee died at the age of 91 on June 11th. Her first major Hollywood movie was The Jackie Robinson Story (1950), and she received wide acclaim for her film version of the play A Raisin In The Sun (1961). Dee was married to actor Ossie Davis from 1948 until his death in 2005. She was nominated for an Oscar for playing Denzel Washington’s mother in American Gangster in 2007. Dee was also an Emmy and Grammy winner.

Actress Elaine Stritch died at the age of 89 on July 17th. She was mostly known for her Broadway and live performance work. The actress's notable Broadway credits include her Tony Award nominated roles in the original production of William Inge's 1955 play Bus Stop, and musicals by Noël Coward (Sail Away, 1961) and Stephen Sondheim (Company, 1970), the latter included her performance of the song "The Ladies Who Lunch", plus the 1996 revival of the Edward Albee play A Delicate Balance and her 2001 Tony Award winning one-woman show Elaine Stritch at Liberty. She won an Emmy Award in 1993 for her guest role on "Law & Order" and another in 2004 for the television documentary of her one woman show. From 2007 to 2012, she had a recurring role as Alec Baldwin's mother  on NBC's "30 Rock", a role that won her a third Emmy in 2007.

Silent film star Carla Laemmle died on June 12th at the age of 104. Her first movie was in 1925’s Phantom Of The Opera. She also starred in The Broadway Melody (1929) and Dracula (1931). She is one of the last surviving silent screen actresses and Carla was a favorite at classic movie convention shows throughout the country.


Legendary comedian Sid Caesar died at the age of 91 on February 12th. He was one of the last surviving pioneers of early television which also included Bob Hope, Milton Berle, and Steve Allen.  He starred on Your Show of Shows from 1950 to 1954. The show gave such writers as Neil Simon, Mel Brooks, and Woody Allen their first breaks. Sid also appeared in such popular movies as It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad Mad World (1963), Grease (1978), and History of the World Part 1 (1981). Sid was also married to his wife for 66 years. They met and married in 1943 and remained married until Florence Caesar died on March 3, 2010.

Troubled actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died on February 2nd at the age of 46 of a drug overdose. He won an Oscar for his role as author Truman Capote in Capote (2005). His three other Oscar nominations came for his supporting work playing a brutally frank CIA officer in Charlie Wilson's War (2007), a priest accused of pedophilia in Doubt (2008), and the charismatic leader of a nascent Scientology-type movement in The Master (2012).  

Actress Polly Bergen died on September 20th at the age 84. She won an Emmy Award in 1958 for her performance as Helen Morgan in The Helen Morgan Story. Her film work included 1962's Cape Fear and 1963's The Caretakers, for which she was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. 

Character actor Eli Wallach died at the age of 98 on June 24th. He was a prolific actor that worked well into his 90s. Wallach’s debut film was a huge role for him in 1956’s Baby Doll. He also starred in The Magnificent Seven (1960), The Misfits (1961), and The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly (1966). Wallach was married to actress Anne Jackson from 1948 until his death. His last movie was the 2010 film Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

Actress Juanita Moore died on January 1st at the age of 99. She was the fifth African American to be nominated for an Academy Award in any category, and the third in the Supporting Actress category at a time when only a single African American had won an Oscar. Her most famous role was as Annie Johnson in the movie Imitation of Life (1959).

Actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr. died on May 2nd, 2014 at the age of 95. He was known for his starring roles in the television series 77 Sunset Strip and The F.B.I.  He is also known as recurring character "Dandy Jim Buckley" in the series  Maverick. He was the father of actress Stephanie Zimbalist and the son of Efrem Zimbalist Sr (1890-1985), who was a famous violinist.



Female trumpeter and jazz pioneer Billie Rogers died at the age of 96 on January 18th. She was one of the first female musicians to play in an all-male band. She was with the Woody Herman Orchestra from 1941 to 1944. She led her own band briefly in 1944, and then she played with the Jerry Wald Orchestra from 1945 to 1947. She retired in 1948 to raise a family.

These entertainment legends, pioneers, and personalities are gone now, but hopefully the fans will see to it that they are never really forgotten…


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

RIP: LUISE RAINER

Actress Luise Rainer, who became the first winner of consecutive Oscars in the 1930s, has died at the age of 104. The German-born star was named best actress in 1936 and 1937 - a feat achieved by only five actors in Academy Awards history to date.

Her achievement made her a force in the golden age of Hollywood cinema, but was also a curse, making her last major film in 1943.

She settled in London and made occasional appearances on film and TV.

Rainer appeared in US small screen series The Loveboat in 1984, while her last substantial film role came in 1998, playing opposite Michael Gambon and Dominic West in The Gambler.

The actress appeared in a number of German films before being talent-spotted by Hollywood studio MGM and making her debut in 1935. Just a year later she scooped an Academy Award for her performance in The Great Ziegfield, playing the legendary theatrical impresario's wife.

In one famous scene, her face was tear-stained as she congratulated her former husband on his marriage to another actress.

The following year, her portrayal of a Chinese peasant in The Good Earth won her a second statuette, at a time when Oscar winners were disclosed some time before the ceremony.

The actress told the BBC in 2003 the awards ceremony "was not as elaborate" as it is today.

Rainer later said that "nothing worse could have happened to me," explaining two awards meant the studio could "throw me into anything".

After clashing with MGM over a lack of artistic freedom and losing out to Ingrid Bergman in Ernest Hemingway's For Whom The Bell Tolls, she broke her contract with them.

"I was a machine, practically - a tool in a big, big factory, and I could not do anything. And so I left. I just went away. I fled. Yes, I fled," she later said in an interview.

Other actors to have collected consecutive acting awards are Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Jason Robards and Tom Hanks.

Rainer was married twice, and second husband Robert Knittel died in 1989 after their marriage of 44 years.

The couple had one daughter, Francesca Knittel-Bowyer, who said her mother had died from pneumonia at her London home.

"She was bigger than life and could charm the birds out of the trees," she said. "If you saw her, you'd never forget her.''


Monday, December 29, 2014

COMING IN 2015


It is hard to believe that we are at the end of another year. 2014 is pretty much just a distant memory, and I want to thank everyone for making this past year such a wonderful year for my blog. We are well over 1 million views to my blog (no, they are not family members), and I am excited for what the new year will bring.

I have been busy researching and working on stories for the new year, and here are some of the coming attractions for the new year:

-February will be black history month (all stories will have a African-American theme)

-three part story on the comedy team The Three Stooges

-three part story on one of the first acting superstars Sarah Bernhardt

-a photo series of Hollywood stars and their offspring

-100th birthday of Frank Sinatra

AND MUCH MUCH MORE!!!!!


Friday, December 26, 2014

MICKEY ROONEY AND HIS LAST ROLE

Mickey Rooney was 93 when he shot his final scene as the diminutive night security guard Gus in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.

The former child star, who was the greatest box office draw of the 1930s and '40s, was far from his vibrant prime on the Vancouver set earlier this year.

"Yes, he was in a wheelchair, and yes, sometimes I had to cue a line for him," says director Shawn Levy. "But Mickey was so energetic and so pleased to be there. He was just happy to be invited to the party."

Six weeks later, on April 6, Rooney died.

Levy says Rooney never counted on his showbiz pedigree to earn the Gus role for the original Night at the Museum in 2006. He auditioned for the part.

"This is in an industry now where, if someone has a two-episode arc on a CW show, they don't want to ever audition," Levy says. "So the fact that this legend came in and actually showed what he could do to get the part, that's kind of remarkable and awesome. And it speaks to a love of the work. Mickey really wanted to be in this."

Rooney triumphed, and the part was written around him co-starring with fellow night guards played by Dick Van Dyke and Bill Cobbs. The trio also shot scenes for the franchise's second film, 2009's Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, but that footage was cut.


Levy wanted to bring the three back for the final installment.

"When we told Mickey about the role in the third film, his face just lit up like it was Christmas morning," says his daughter-in-law Charlene Rooney. "He was so excited he immediately wanted to work on his lines."

It became clear on the Vancouver set, however, that Rooney was not going to be able to stand effectively for his part. Levy called for a wheelchair.

"Mickey was a proud guy. He was aware of his legendary status," Levy says. "But he was still a 93-year-old man for whom standing up and walking was really challenging. I wanted to make that part easy so he could focus on his performance. He was great as a result."

Levy assured Rooney the chair would make the scene even funnier, since he confronts lead actor Ben Stiller while still being vibrant and pugnacious
.
"Mickey was all of those things, but sitting in a wheelchair," Cobbs says. Rooney, he adds with a laugh, was the "sweetest man in the world," who could be "a real curmudgeon, there's no question about that."

But, at the end of his filming stint, Rooney called for silence on the set to poignantly thank everyone, from the director to the crew.

"From that wheelchair, he made this expression of appreciation to everyone there. It was like he wanted everyone to know how hard they all worked," Cobbs says. "It was very touching. Was that his goodbye? I think you could read that into that. If it was his final statement, it was a great final statement."



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

BORN ON THIS DAY: MICHAEL CURTIZ

For some reason, I find it funny that the director of 1954’s White Christmas was actually born on Christmas Eve. Through Curtiz career he directed many of the greatest movies ever put on film. Curtiz was born Kertész Kaminer Manó to a Jewish family in Budapest, Hungary (then Austria-Hungary) on December 24, 1886. Curtiz loved to tell stories and he claimed he had been a member of the Hungarian fencing team at the 1912 Olympic Games. In reality, Curtiz had a conventional middle-class upbringing; he studied at Markoszy University and the Royal Academy of Theater and Art, Budapest, before beginning his career as an actor and director as Mihály Kertész at the National Hungarian Theater in 1912.

Details of his early experience as a director are sparse, and it is not clear what part he may have played in the direction of several early films, but he is known to have directed at least one film in Hungary before spending six months in 1913 at the Nordisk studio in Denmark honing his craft. While in Denmark, Curtiz worked as the assistant director for August Blom on Denmark's first multi-reel feature film, Atlantis. On the outbreak of World War I, he briefly served in the artillery of the Austro-Hungarian Army, but he had returned to film-making by 1915. In that or the following year he married for the first time, to actress Lucy Doraine. The couple divorced in 1923. Curtiz left Hungary when the film industry was nationalized in 1919, during the brief Hungarian Soviet Republic, and soon settled in Vienna. He made at least 21 films for Sascha Films, among them the Biblical epics Sodom und Gomorrha (1922) and Die Sklavenkönigin (1924). The latter, released in the US as Moon of Israel, caught the attention of Jack Warner, who hired Curtiz for his own studio with the intention of having him direct a similar film for Warner Brothers, Noah's Ark, eventually produced in 1928. When he left for the United States, he left behind at least one illegitimate son and one illegitimate daughter.

Curtiz arrived in the United States in 1926 (according to some sources on the fourth of July, but according to others in June). He took the anglicized name "Michael Curtiz". He had a lengthy and prolific Hollywood career, with directing credits on over 100 films in many film genres. During the 1930s, he was often credited on four films in a single year, although he was not always the sole director on these projects. In the pre-Code period, Curtiz directed such films as Mystery of the Wax Museum, Doctor X (both shot in two-strip Technicolor), and The Kennel Murder Case. In the mid-1930s, he began the successful cycle of adventure films starring Errol Flynn that included Captain Blood (1935), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Dodge City, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), The Sea Hawk and Santa Fe Trail (1940).


Prime examples of his work in the 1940s are The Sea Wolf (1941), Casablanca (1942) and Mildred Pierce (1945). During this period he also directed the pro-Soviet propaganda film Mission to Moscow (1943), which was commissioned at the request of president Franklin D. Roosevelt in order to aid the wartime effort. Other Curtiz efforts included Four Daughters (1938), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Life With Father (1947), Young Man with a Horn and The Breaking Point (1950).

While Curtiz himself had escaped Europe before the rise of Nazism, other members of his family were not as lucky. His sister's family was sent to Auschwitz, where her husband died. Curtiz paid part of his own salary into the European Film Fund; a benevolent association which helped European refugees in the film business establish themselves in the U.S.

In the late 1940s, he made a new agreement with Warners under which the studio and his own production company were to share the costs and profits of his subsequent films. These films did poorly, however, whether as part of the changes in the film industry in this period or because Curtiz "had no skills in shaping the entirety of a picture". Either way, as Curtiz himself said, "You are only appreciated so far as you carry the dough into the box office. They throw you into gutter next day". The long partnership between director and studio descended into a bitter court battle.


After his relationship with Warners broke down, Curtiz continued to direct on a freelance basis from 1954 onwards and he made many films for Paramount from White Christmas (1954), starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye to King Creole (1958), starring Elvis Presley. His final film, The Comancheros, was released six months before his death from cancer on April 10, 1962, aged 75…


Monday, December 22, 2014

MY FIVE FAVORITE CHRISTMAS MOVIES

Awwww...Christmas is almost here. Time to dust off the remote control and watch some holiday movies to get me in the Christmas spirit. I figured I would take a look at my five favorite holiday movies. Before anyone comments or throws burning eggnog on my house, I did not include It's A Wonderful Life on the list. I didn't include it because I have never seen the movie all the way through! However, that is another story for another time...
 
 
                              5. A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983)
I believe this nostalgic film used to be my favorite holiday movie. For years now there has been a marathon on cable channel TBS, and over the past few years I have gotten a little bored of the movie. It is a great comedy, and a great look at Christmas in American in the late 1940s. Like so many movies, when it first came out in 1983 it was a bomb. However, over the last thirty years it has become a beloved holiday classic. From the leg lamp to the line “You’ll shoot your eye out”, the movie has taken on a life of its own. I’ll still watch the movie over the holidays, but I just may not try to watch 24 hours of it in a row anymore.


                                     4. SCROOGED (1988)
Many of the versions of Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” are dry and dull, so I have always liked this contemporary comedy based on the beloved Christmas story. Bill Murray makes this movie with his funny and charming version of “Ebenezer Scrooge”. The movie is about Christmas and changing your life for the better, but I loved the additional cast in the movie like: Robert Mitchum, John Houseman, and Buddy Hackett, and John Forsythe among others. Bill’s version of Ebenezer works as the head of a television studio, and as the station puts on an ambitious live version of “A Christmas Carol”, Bill Murray is changed through visits from three ghosts. One of the ghosts was played by the funny Carol Kane. It’s a great movie to get rid of the humbugs in anyone!

 
3. ELF (2003)
I don’t really watch Saturday Night Live anymore, but one of the funniest people to come out of that show is Will Ferrell. Early in his movie career, Will made this movie about a human raised as an elf. The elf goes to New York to find his dad. You can imagine what happens next. This movie has truly become a holiday classic, and I never get tired of the movie and can recite many of the lines. I use the line “smiling is my favorite” in my every day conversations I think! A surprising bit of casting was serious actor James Caan as Will’s dad. He is a great part of the movie, as is Bob Newhart as Will’s foster elf father. I am not sure if the movie was intended to become such a part of Christmas, but all I have to do is watch the film once to feel good inside and feel the Christmas spirit.


2. HOLIDAY INN (1942)
Even though I am a supposed fan of classic movies, this is the only truly classic holiday movie to make the list. Like so many holiday classics, this fim was not really intended as a holiday film, and there is very little about Christmas in the movie. The movie did introduce the world to one of the greatest holiday songs of all time “White Christmas”, and really a movie can not get any better with Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, and Irving Berlin songs in it. The movie was so popular that the Holiday Inn chain of motels and hotels were named after the movie. The song “White Christmas” would go on to be the biggest hit Bing Crosby ever recorded, and it would often be dubbed the most popular song of all time. I like the movie because the great Irving Berlin songs are woven around all of the holidays, and I feel the movie is as watchable in 2014 as it was 72 years ago when it debuted.


 1. NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION (1989)
Many holiday movies give you warm and fuzzy feelings on how wonderful the holidays are. This comedy starring Chevy Chase reminds you what Christmas and the holiday season is really like. The movie is not afraid to show you that the holiday season often sucks! I don’t always find Chevy Chase funny, and this movie was pretty much the last good movie he made, but he is great as Clark Griswald. Griswald wants to have a huge family Christmas together like he remembers as a kid. He gets what he wishes for and so much more. From the Christmas tree catching fire to a squirrel running loose in the house to an unwanted family guest that just will not leave, we have all been there. There is a little bit of Clark Griswald in all of us. Of course in the end everything works out, but not until their house is destroyed and a swat team visits them on Christmas Eve! This movie does not paint a beautiful Norman Rockwell painting of Christmas, but it does portray a pretty accurate depiction of what the holidays are like. It is noisy and annoying and tiresome but keep on celebrating the holidays every year. I would not miss it for the world!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: THE CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD HOLIDAY SEASON

I love the holiday season with all the sights and sounds of Christmas - especially at this time of the year you actually hear Bing Crosby being played on the radio and in stores. I also love the great old pictures of classic Hollywood stars celebrating the yuletide festivities...

AVA GARDNER

FRED ALLEN and JACK BENNY

JAYNE MANSFIELD

BOB HOPE and DORIS DAY

CAROL LOMBARD

DEAN MARTIN and FRANK SINATRA and family

Thursday, December 18, 2014

HOLLYWOOD URBAN LEGEND: VERA-ELLEN

URBAN LEGEND: Vera-Ellen neck had to be covered at all times in the film White Christmas because her neck was ravaged by the effects of anorexia.

STATUS: I would say false.
Vera-Ellen was a popular musical actress during the 1930s, 40s and 50s. She appeared in such legendary musicals as On The Town (1949) and White Christmas (1954).


As you might notice, Vera-Ellen’s neck is covered in many pictures. In fact, her neck is covered up in the entirety of White Christmas. Vera-Ellen was an extremely thin woman who died in 1980 (at the age of 61). While never officially diagnosed during her lifetime (heck, the term itself was barely around during her lifetime), Vera-Ellen is alleged to have suffered from anorexia nervosa.
Anorexia nervosa is a mental illness pertaining to a distorted view of how skinny a person is that results in many different effects in people, most specifically, the physical problems of having their body waste away due to their belief that they are too fat.

Vera-Ellen was an EXTREMELY skinny woman for the rest of her life, and biographers of her have made it pretty clear that she suffered from the disease (it was perhaps exacerbated by studio weight requirements, something that afflicted Judy Garland, as well).

While it has not been proven, I do agree that the circumstantial evidence is probably there enough that I would tend to agree that she had SOME sort of eating disorder.


Bill Dennington, a friend of Vera-Ellen, had the following to say on the matter:
"Vera-Ellen was a friend for 20 years until her death. I was in L.A. and had lunch with her 2 weeks prior to her death. If you’ve read David Soren’s book Vera-Ellen: The Magic and The Mystery you would have seen my personal photographs of Vera-Ellen. The photographs were taken in the 60’s and 70’s and she looked fine. All of her life she wore something around her neck, a necklace,a choker, a scarf, a collar, etc., etc. It was her “trademark” like Van Johnson wore red socks. I saw her neck many times it was lovely…..like Audrey Hepburns. Hate that people think of her as “the dancer with anorexia” and not just the FABULOUS DANCER WHO HAS BEEN SO OVERLOOKED !!!!!!!!!!!!"
In any event, to the matter at hand – the story is that Vera-Ellen’s neck had to be covered up in White Christmas because the costumes were designed to cover her neck, which was aged beyond her years due to her eating disorder. If you search around, you’ll get that basic story in lots of places.

However, while I would agree that it seems to be too much of a coincidence that they happened to cover her neck in EVERY shot in White Christmas, I differ about the reason behind it. It may be none of our business what Vera-Ellen was suffering from, but regardless what is not disputed is that she was a wonderful and talented dancer...


RIP: STUART ERWIN JR

Stuart Philip Erwin Jr., a development executive at Universal Studios, among other companies, who was instrumental in bringing shows including “Hill Street Blues,” “Remington Steele” and “St. Elsewhere” to television, died on November 22 after a brief illness at his home in Solana Beach, Calif. He was 82.

Erwin had a long, successful career in the entertainment industry, beginning
as an assistant director on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in New York City, running the advertising division at Ralston Purina in St. Louis, then moving on to long stints as a development executive at Universal Studios, MTM Enterprises and GTG Entertainment.

Erwin was born in Los Angeles, the son of actors Stuart Erwin (1903-1967) and June Collyer (1906-1968). His parents were married for thirty six years. When his father died of a sudden heart attack in 1967, his mother never recovered, and she died of pneumonia a few months later.

After attending Brown University, Stuart Jr served as a lieutenant in the Navy.

During his retirement he remained very active at Brown University and was always a big supporter of the arts.

Stuart Erwin Jr was married to actress Julie Sommars from 1971-1980.

He is survived by his 3rd wife, Diane; his five children; and his six grandchildren. He is also survived by a younger sister Judy Erwin...



Monday, December 15, 2014

70 YEARS AGO: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF GLENN MILLER

It was a cold day on December 15, 1944, when Major Glenn Miller boarded a Noorduyn 'Norseman' C-64 aeroplane. Since joining the war, the great American bandleader's Army Air Force Band had been performing for Allied troops all over England; now he was flying to Paris to make final arrangements to bring his musicians in for a Christmas concert for the Allied troops there.

Glenn Miller was a national darling. The famous Glenn Miller Orchestra, formed in 1938, had soared out of nowhere to incredible success, creating over 70 top ten records in four years, selling over a million records, and dominating the American airwaves. When America was dragged into the war at the end of 1941, Miller decided that he would best serve his country by being in uniform and promptly enlisted. There he was transferred to the Army Air Corps, promoted to the rank of captain1, and given free rein to set up his own wartime band.

Miller's Army Air Force Band would prove to be every bit as successful as his civilian one, despite all the close shaves that had almost wiped them out of air force history. Now that Christmas was approaching and the Allied troops needed every morale boost they could get, Miller was preparing a concert for them at the Olympia.

The original plan was for manager Don Haynes to fly with Miller to Paris; however, fate interceded and sent a Lt Col Norman Baessell his way. Miller had bumped into him at an officers' mess at Milton East near Northampton on 14 December and had struck up a conversation with the officer. Baessell happened to mention that he would be departing for Paris the next day from an RAF airfield at Twinwood Farm2, and upon hearing of Miller's plans, offered him a seat on the plane. Miller gladly accepted, and whiled away the night eating dinner and playing poker with Haynes and Baessell.


The morning of  December 15th found Bedford heavily fogged in. A concerned Haynes called up Baessell to find out if the flight was still on; Baessell assured him that by the time they took off after lunch the fog would be gone.

It was bitterly cold outside when Baessell contacted pilot John Morgan, who confirmed that he would be arriving soon. Miller, who had been waiting in the car with Haynes, quipped that Morgan would fail to locate the field as it was 24° F and 'even the birds were grounded'; he was forced to eat his words minutes later when an aircraft appeared through the dense fog and landed on the airstrip.

The trio left the control tower and drove to the Noordwyn Norseman C-64 on the tarmac where Morgan, waiting for them, apologised for being late. Miller must have had some last minute doubts about flying into the fog in the single-engine plane when he muttered: 'Where the hell are the parachutes?' In a twist of irony Baessell replied: 'What's a matter with you Miller, do you want to live forever?' Charles Lindbergh had made it across the whole Atlantic on one engine; their C-64 would only be going as far as Paris. Miller made no further comment.

Don Haynes watched as the Norseman sped down the runway and took to flight. He was the last person to see them alive.


What had exactly happened to the passengers of the Norseman has been the subject of much speculation for the past half a century. The official report was that the Norseman aircraft had crashed into the channel due to either iced-over wings or engine failure; however, this explanation would prove unsatisfactory for the majority of the populace, thus causing multiple theories and speculations to mushroom over the years.

In 1985 British diver Clive Ward found what seemed to be the remains of the ill-fated Norseman off the coast of France. Aside from the ordinary corrosive effects of the sea, Ward found no damage to the plane and, more interestingly, no signs of the plane's registration number or human remains. This inevitably led to unanswered questions regarding the fates of Miller and the two other officers, and encouraging even more speculation to spread.
Theories have be raised for the last 70 years with everything from Miller dying in a bordello to him dying in a hospital of lung cancer. Even his brother Herb Miller (1912-1987) claimed in 1983 that Miller did not die in a plane crash but of lung cancer in 1945. Herb says Glenn created the story of the plane crash himself because Miller wanted to die a hero and not dying in a bed. While romantic speculations of Miller having been the unfortunate victim of a vicious conspiracy may be appealing to those with rose-tinted glasses, the fact is that his death is far more likely attributed to a series of unfortunate accidents than it is to him having been silenced or the government having covered up an embarrassing situation.


However, we may never know for sure what happened in the final minutes of Miller's life. All we know is that he and his companions had boarded a plane, never to be seen again, and the world of swing music is a much poorer place for his passing…


Saturday, December 13, 2014

TELEVISION REVIEW: BING CROSBY REDISCOVERED

I was born in 1974, so my life was decades after the Great Depression and World War II. However, I learned to appreciate the music of that generation due to a close friendship I had with my Grandfather. He instilled in me a love of great music and more importantly a love of Bing Crosby. Young people today do not really know who Bing Crosby is. People in my generation barely know who he is.

Thankfully PBS television on their "American Masters" program presented a great documentary on Bing called Bing Crosby Rediscovered. The documentary debuted on December 2nd, but it did not air in the Pittsburgh area until December 10th.

Of course the documentary presented the facts that Bing's fans have known for years: Bing Crosby was much more than the White Christmas crooner. Crosby established his name on radio and stage throughout the 1920s. By the early 1930s, he had become a superstar. For more than two decades, his name was at or near the top of record charts, radio ratings and the movie box office. He won an Academy Award as best actor for his performance inGoing My Way (1944). He received an honorary Grammy in 1963. His later career included a series of highly rated TV specials, a format he helped to pioneer.

Half way through the documentary, it gets very interesting as Bing's private life is examined. As the documentary tells it, Crosby and his wife, actress Dixie Lee, were alcoholics, and, although he managed the disease, she did not. She died at age 40 after a battle with ovarian cancer. Crosby wasn’t around much for his family because of work, but when he was present, he was a strict father. Six years after Crosby’s death, son Gary Crosby published the memoir Going My Own Way, which claimed that Bing beat his kids severely. It is a claim that Gary later recanted on his deathbed.

For fans of Bing, the music is all familiar, but what is even more fascinating is some of the photos of Bing Crosby that I have never seen before. Even my wife was amazed at how Bing looked without his toupee. There are even sad pictures of Bing at the funeral of his wife Dixie Lee, deep in mourning. I believe the death of Dixie was a turning point for Bing, both personally and professionally.


The documentary lets viewers draw their own conclusions about Bing Crosby’s personal life.

But the film’s perspective on his professional legacy is clear: He was a landmark entertainer, a technological maverick, a colleague who stood up for pals in need. He came to the aid of such fellow performers as Judy Garland and Mildred Bailey. Back to his sons, there is also audio showing how concerned Bing was with his boys, and how they were basically out of control.

Does Bing Crosby need rediscovered? He certainly does. Without Bing Crosby even many of these so-called singers would not be around today. Bing Crosby may have been the most widely recorded human voice in the history of mankind! The statistics are mind boggling, and although it is hard to cover Bing's career in a 90 minute documentary, Bing Crosby Remembered definitely does Bing justice...

MY RATING: 9 OUT OF 10



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

SINGER SPOTLIGHT: HARRY BABBITT

 
Here is another wonderful article from The Geezer Music Club. This one is on vocalist Harry Babbitt. I had the pleasure of seeing Babbitt in concert in 1988. He was a wonderful entertainer even then. For more great articles from The Geezer Music Club, please see SOURCE

From Crooning To Cartoons – ‘Handsome’ Harry Babbitt Although our mental image of a big band era crooner is of a suave, velvet-voiced charmer who could purr into the microphone while the ladies swooned, it wasn’t always like that. Harry Babbitt, who could certainly fill the bill as a traditional crooner – his boss, bandleader Kay Kyser, usually introduced him as ‘Handsome Harry’ – was sometimes called upon for something a little different. Like doing Woody Woodpecker’s maniacal laugh.Kyser’s outfit could generate some solid music but it was also known for novelties, so when a special new song came along in the late 1940s Babbitt was enlisted to help. The St. Louis native had been with the band for a decade by then (minus a couple of years of WWII military service) and was an important part of the popular band’s many activities, including its numerous movie appearances.

He’d also sung on many of the hits, like “Who Wouldn’t Love You,” but he was just as good with whimsical songs like “Three Little Fishies.” So when “The Woody Woodpecker Song” came along he was ready to tackle it. Songstress Gloria Wood actually did most of the conventional singing in the song, but it was Babbitt’s crazy-sounding woodpecker laugh that sold it. The record became a best-seller for the band and led to the song’s use in later cartoons, which made it a part of every kid’s memories of those days. (Including mine.) As for Babbitt, he eventually built up quite a list of hit records with the band, with songs like “I’ll Get By,” and “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” among his best. But he also had a lot of fun with other novelty pieces like his best-seller “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.” (Another record I remember being around our house.) By the 1960s he was ready for something else, and he spent a couple of decades in private business. However, when Kyser died in 1985 Babbitt bought the rights to his musical legacy and for many years led a reconstituted outfit on tour. He eventually retired for good and died at age 90 in 2004...



Sunday, December 7, 2014

AL JOLSON AND WORLD WAR II

Al Jolson was one of the greatest entertainers for the good part of two decades. However, by 1940 he was a faded star. Audiences swooned singers such as Bing Crosby and newcomer Frank Sinatra. Even though he was forgotten, Jolson lobbied to entertain the troops overseas and in June of 1942 arrangements were made to send him to Alaska, via Seattle and Washington. As Al reported in a dispatch to Variety: “We arrived in Anchorage at 9:10 p.m., Anchorage time, and stayed at the Westward Hotel. When they told me to observe the blackout regulations and put my lights out I had to laugh, for in this part of Alaska at midnight you can thread a needle on Main Street. We gave two performances in Anchorage, each for an audience of 1,500 soldiers. Each show lasted an hour and I almost wore out the knees of my pants singing ‘Mammy’.

Al didn’t mention that rumours had swept the camp at Anchorage that Lana Turner was coming. “No she wasn’t - it was Dorothy Lamour,” some one else had said. When Jolson arrived on stage the soldiers’ disappointment expressed itself in the silence.

“Hello boys - I’m Al Jolson. You’ll see my name in the history books.” One soldier laughed, then another. Al told a joke, and another, and the laughter grew. He chatted about home, told them what he thought of Hitler and Hirohito and the laughter spread all round. Someone called for a song. Al gave them what they asked for and he was swamped by whistling applause. Al Jolson had found a new audience; and the soldiers had discovered Al Jolson.

Jolson: “Don’t you feel well, son?”
Soldier: “Oh, yessuh, Mista Jolson. It was on’y when you got to singin’ about Dixie. Well, Mista Jolson, it jest kinda got me - thass all . . . You know Mista Jolson, dis heah Arctic Ocean is an awful long way f’m tu-tty miles t’other side of Bummin’ham, Alabama.”

“Until now,” Al reported to Variety, “the transporting of our small piano had been an overture to an aspirin tablet, but from here on in it became a major headache. In order to entertain all the boys detailed in the vicinity of Anchorage, it became necessary to give shows in foxholes, gun emplacements, dugouts, to construction groups on military roads, in fact, any place where two or more soldiers were gathered together, it automatically became a Winter Garden for me and I gave a show. Imagine carting the piano to these locations. Sometimes it was by truck, once on a side car and once on a mule pack.”



It was during the Alaskan tour that one young soldier called out: “Kiss my wife for me when you get back to New York, will yer Al?”

“I’ll do better than that,” Al called back. “I’ll take her out to dinner. What’s her name?”

After writing her name down with her telephone number, he called out: “Any more?”

Everyone shouted at once and Al wrote down as many names as he could.

“I’ll call them all when I get back,” he said. And he did, informing mothers, wives and girlfriends that their loved ones were in fine shape. Jolson spent time talking to the servicemen, establishing a relationship, till his arrival in a jeep was always met by a collective: “Hiya, Al!”

Stopping soldiers in the street, Jolson would say: “My name’s Jolson. Do you wanna hear me sing?”

‘Next Town Reilly’ was a one man Department of Morale Boosting. “Those guys wouldn’t exactly be immune to a shapely dish once in a while, too,” Al told the USO, “whether she could sing or not.”

Jolson: “We woulda brought Lana Turner but she’s busy with the Second Front.”




In July 1942 Jolson and Fried toured all the US bases in the Caribbean before the USO flew them, along with actress Merle Oberon and singer Patricia Morison, to England and Northern Ireland. Singing whatever was wanted, wherever he wanted, even to troops on street corners, he enjoyed every round of applause. He told servicemen what he had told their fathers about English beer: “It should have been put back into the horse.”

The troupe had been scheduled to appear at the London Palladium with Ben Lyon and Bebe Daniels but Merle Oberon refused to appear. “We are here to entertain the troops, not the general public,” she said. Jolson was furious and announced he was returning to the United States - alone. “I just feel that I could better on my own than I could as a member of a troupe,” Jolson explained to the New York Times. “If I want to crowd in an extra show for defence workers in factories, I’d be able to do it.”

Jolson hadn’t ‘gone over’ as well as he hoped with some of the English audiences and as he sat depressed in the bar of the Savoy Hotel, Ralph Reader walked in whistling ‘Keep Smiling at Trouble’.

“English, English!” he excitedly greeted Ralph and they reminisced about their days at the Winter Garden. “They were great days, English, great days,” he said with a tear in his eye.

New York Times: “There were few jokes in his talk. The comedian was playing a straight part . . . For, like many other comedians, at heart, Jolson is serious and sentimental.”
New Yorker: “We’ve just heard from a soldier who was fortunate enough to be on hand at one of the entertainments presented before the troops in Ireland by Jolson and some of the other performers from the States. Jolson, our soldier reports, concluded the entertainment with what was obviously considered to be the best number in his repertoire. It was ‘Brother Can You Spare a Dime?’ - and Jolson gave it, as the people say, everything. No other happening in recent weeks has given us such a sense of this significant moment in history.”

‘The Colgate Show Starring Al Jolson’, a weekly radio show that CBS signed Jolson to do, ran until June 1943. Usually opening the show with an up-tempo number like ‘The Yankee Doodle Blues’, or “I’m Sitting On Top of the World’, he usually ended with a sentimental ballad like ‘Sonny Boy’. The show’s female vocalist was Jo Stafford and the musical director was Gordon Jenkins.

Gordon Jenkins commenting on Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra: “Neither one, I have to tell you, had the electricity that Al had.”


In July 1943, Al left on an overseas tour to entertain the troops. Since Martin Fried had been drafted, Al needed a pianist to accompany him and asked his friend Harry Akst. At their first stop, Georgetown, British Guiana, Al found he couldn’t reach the high notes at the close of ‘Swanee’. In a panic, he was ready to give up the whole tour. Harry had to convince him that he didn’t have to cash in on high finishes - Crosby didn’t. “They died with vaudeville,” Harry explained.



The new Al Jolson voice was born - not so light and breezy but deeper and more mellow.

Jolson had already cancelled his thirteen Colgate radio shows programmed for the fall when he suddenly began to feel bad. In an emergency flight, Al and Harry flew home to Miami Beach on 21 September 1943. Less than two weeks later while standing in a hotel lobby in New York, Jolson suddenly collapsed. Jolson woke up in a hospital bed to find he had picked up malaria from overseas and it had turned into pneumonia. His temperature reached 105F and doctors had to contact a military hospital for the proper serum before he began to recover. “No more overseas tours for you,” the doctors told him. After recuperating in Miami he went back to work playing himself in a film biography of George Gershwin called Rhapsody in Blue.

In October, Al and Harry began another tour of army hospitals. Winding up in Florida, they then drove up to New York, before driving west playing to a string of hospitals en route to California. By the time they reached Los Angeles, Al was complaining of feeling run down. Suddenly struck down by severe chest pains, Al was rushed into the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital. Malaria had struck again and this time with a malignant strain to it.

The Warner brothers, Harry and Jack, were gravely concerned and requested General Arnold, head of the Army Air Services, to fly two of his top physicians to Los Angeles. Because of Al’s tremendous war work the request was granted. The doctors saved his life but had to remove parts of two ribs and cut a malignant slice out of his left lung. Not allowed any visitors for a week, Jolson told his nurse: “I’ll never sing again.” Fortunately for soldiers and the world, Jolson would sing again...