Showing posts with label movies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label movies. Show all posts

Sunday, January 24, 2010

(link:) 'I Love Ethel' - A trove of scrapbook photos, memorabilia and other treasures from the estate of Vivian Vance

Follow link to read an article that ran last week in SF Gate:

"I Love Ethel - A Vivian Vance Archive Uncovered"

The photos posted here are taken from the large online gallery linked to the article.

Writer Bob Bragman's column, The Collective Mind is a regular feature geared to
Bay Area antique hunters and anyone who enjoys a good find.

In this installment, Bragman tells an interesting and circuitous tale of an antique dealer friend's connection to
New York publisher John Dodds, the husband of actress Vivian Vance, and of various items from the Vance/Dodds estate that were passed along after Dodds' death in 1986.

Furniture, artwork, and a scrapbook filled with clippings and personal photographs taken from various points in Vance's life and career - - all steeped in showbiz history.

Also included (and excerpted) is the manuscript for Viv's unpublished autobiography, including tales of troubled portions of her life and rumors about the nature of her relationship with co-star Lucille Ball.

Fascinating and well worth a look. Check it out!

(Big thanks to Joe Sixpack for the link)

Reasons To Be Cheerful: A triumphant return for The Castro Theatre's NOIR CITY Film Festival

As I write this it's after midnight in the wee hours of Sunday morning, and I'm still buzzing from the superb double-feature I caught earlier this evening in the City at the historic Castro Theatre on the second night of NOIR CITY, The 8th Annual
San Francisco Film Noir Festival

I'm hoping to get back over once or twice this next week to catch more of the festival before it's gone for another year...

Kicking off tonight's program was the impressive short embedded below, which intercuts clips from a few dozen classic Noir films, synched perfectly with Massive Attack's 'Angel' used as background score.

It was a huge crowd-pleaser for the packed house of Film Noir fanatics at The Castro...

'The Endless Night: a Valentine to Film Noir' was assembled by Serena Bramble, a 20-year-old studying psychology at Santa Rose Junior College.

Click here to read more about Ms. Bramble, the festival and its highlights.

Follow the video to its posting at YouTube, for notations listing all the films used as source material.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Arnold Stang, 1918 - 2009

Upon the recent news of his death at age 91, a moment please to celebrate the life and career of character actor and voice artist Arnold Stang.

A small round-up of links from the web:

- A New York Times obituary.

- A wonderful, rambling profile posted in 2007 at WFMU's Beware of the Blog.

- A remembrance, showbiz anecdotes and an old 'Herman and Katnip' cartoon at
Mark Evanier's News From Me.

- Click over to Flickr for
LORAC!'s Arnold Stang photoset.
Publicity shots, advertising, record covers, etc. A great collection.

- Mr. Stang's screen credits listed at IMDb.

- An entry at TV Party includes a RealPlayer clip from an unsold late-'50s TV pilot for 'The Arnold Stang Show'.

- The 1960 kiddie record 'Arnold Stang's Waggish Tales' found him telling the tales of Peter and The Wolf and Ferdinand the Bull with orchestral accompaniment.

As of this writing, the LP may be heard via
Do You Speak English ?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

'Percy' (magazine photo spread, 1971)

Another early 1970s photo-feature (below) from the pages of the Brit movie magazine Film And Filming, this time from the March, 1971 issue.

The film is 'Percy', a racy & ribald comedy fairly typical of the era, starring Hywel Bennett as the recipient of the
first-ever penis transplant.

(click on images to engorge in a new window)

Co-starring Denholm Elliott, Elke Sommer and Britt Ekland, 'Percy' was for many years a notable curiosity, known primarily for its soundtrack by The Kinks, their final album recorded for the Pye record label.

As of this writing, you can hear a few of those Kinks soundtrack selections at YouTube;
-God's Children
-The Way Love Used To Be
-Animals In The Zoo
(You may also be able to find the rest of the album here.)

Both the soundtrack and the film itself were out-of-print rarities for many years, and so became much sought-after, each in their own way - - though in the case of the film itself, the general consensus has been that maybe it's best to remain curious, rather than actually viewing the thing...

- Follow links to read essays about the film at The Auteurs and at Mondo Digital.

- Photos of the film's cast can be seen at The Actors Compendium .

(click on images to enlarge in a new window)

Regardless of any of Percy's shortcomings, it didn't deter the filmmakers from coming back with a sequel, 'Percy's Progress' (a.k.a. 'It's Not the Size That Counts'), in 1974.

Hywel Bennett bowed out the second time around, but Elke Sommer and Denholm Elliott were back to reprise their roles, joined by no less than Vincent Price and Barry 'Dame Edna' Humphries.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Not enough people are talking about Judy Canova

It's possible that not enough people are still talking about actress / singer Judy Canova, and maybe that situation can change...

While lying awake late the other night, unable to sleep again, as often happens in that situation I pulled my laptop close to me and dialed up the Old Time Radio library at Internet Archive. Wanting a break from my customary late-night streaming of old Jack Benny shows or Fibber McGee & Molly, this time I stumbled onto their stash of 1940s episodes of The Judy Canova Show.

The realization soon came to me that perhaps there hasn't been enough Judy Canova in my life.

Sure, I knew of her - - I could recognize the comedienne from old photos, remembered a bit about her country cornball schtick and its context - - But in hearing her vintage radio comedy, it dawned on me that I'd not actually witnessed much of her in performance over the years, and certainly not in a long while.

You are encouraged to investigate the
The Judy Canova Show for yourself. (follow link)

As of this writing, The Internet Archive has almost three dozen episodes available for listening, dating from 1943 to 1948.

The half-hour radio sitcom revolves around Judy, playing 'herself' as an uncultured bumpkin uprooted to Hollywood life as a popular actress and singer.
Broad but gentle humor that still engages, despite its dated or non-PC moments.

The supporting cast includes Ruby Dandridge (mother of Dorothy Dandridge) as Geranium, the maid, and Mel Blanc as Pedro, the Mexican gardener / chauffeur, speaking with the same comic accent he'd use occasionally on The Jack Benny Program that would eventually evolve into the cartoon voice of Speedy Gonzales. (Not surprisingly, Blanc also doubles for other character voices and sound effects)

In the episodes I've heard so far, I recognized voices of radio veteran Verna Felton, as well as
Sheldon Leonard. Great voices!

The program ran for twelve years, first airing on CBS in 1943 on Tuesday nights, before moving to Sunday nights on NBC in 1945. Other cast members during the show's run included Hans Conried, Joseph Kearns and Gale Gordon (the latter two who, among other roles, would both go on in later years to play Mr. Wilson opposite Jay North's 'Dennis The Menace' on television).

Prior to her own show on radio,
Judy Canova (1913 - 1983) had made regular appearances on many radio programs during the 1930's, most notably The Chase & Sanborn Hour with
Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.

She'd also had several supporting roles in films during that time, while working as a contract player for Warner Bros. and Paramount.

Her show business career had begun while still a teenager in Florida, performing in a singing trio with her sister, Anne, and older brother, Zeke.
The vaudeville circuit led them from Florida to New York, where 'The Three Georgia Crackers' were 'discovered' by singer Rudy Valee.

Radio, stage and film appearances soon followed, eventually paring the act down to a solo.

Though Judy had originally intended to pursue a more serious singing career, her talent and personality mixed with her unconventional looks to type-cast her into a good-natured yokel persona that she honed during the vaudeville years and played to perfection for decades following.

Below, ▼ appearing in a scene with her siblings in the 1937 film 'Artists & Models',
it's easy to see why she stood out...

- Follow this link to the Turner Classic Movies website to view Judy singing in a bathtub scene from the same film, before sharing dialogue with a young Ida Lupino.

- Follow link to other Judy Canova film clips at TCM.

Though 'Hillbilly Humor' was nothing new, there's a quality to
Judy Canova (including and beyond the 'hick' factor) that can be seen in the performances of comediennes who followed after her in the 1940s, '50s and beyond, from Minnie Pearl and Dorothy Shay, to Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett.

In 1940, Judy Canova was offered a movie contract by
Republic Pictures.

'Scatterbrain' provided her first leading role, and she would star in 17 films in fifteen years while working for Republic.

- Follow this link to Judy Canova's IMDb listing.

It was the popularity of those 'B-movies' that helped to land her the radio series, which led her to greater popularity than her films.

(click on images to enlarge in a new window)

Below, ▼ a 1941 publicity shot (via Flickr) shows Canova posing with fellow Republic Pictures star, actor Tom Tyler, decked out for the adventure film serial Adventures of Captain Marvel, the very first film adaptation of a comic book super-hero.

Speaking of comic books, Judy starred in just a few issues of her own, published by Fox Comics in 1950.

Below left, ▼ issue #3 features cover art by
(then soon-to-be) comics legends Wally Wood and
Joe Orlando, just prior to their heyday producing artwork for EC Comics.

- Learn more at Hooray For Wally Wood! and at Oddball Comics.

Radio, film and numerous records made for
RCA-Victor and other labels made Canova a star throughout the 1940s and early '50s, as did a business sense that belied her standard performance persona.

Her contract with Republic Pictures ceased in 1955, the same year that her radio show ended.

Judy did transition to TV in the '50s, but through numerous guest appearances rather than starring vehicles. In addition, nightclub appearances and theatrical stage roles filled out the rest of her performance career, throughout the 1960s and into the '70s.

Below, ▼ In Hollywood with Liberace on
'The Colgate Comedy Hour', November 11, 1952.
(via LIFE Magazine)

- See also:
Articles at Brian's Drive-In Theater and at St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture.

◀ At left, Judy Canova at age 65, attending the National Film Society convention, May 1979, accompanied by her daughter, actress Diana Canova, Diana's partner, actor Steve Landesberg, and (on the right) Landesberg's mother.
(Photo by Alan Light,
click on image to enlarge in a new window)

UPDATE, 6.25.09: Big, big thanks to Matt for sending along a nice note that included 4 of his favorite tracks from an old 10-inch LP, 'Favorite Songs of Judy Canova'.

Sad but not terribly surprising, none of Judy's music is currently in print, at least here in the U.S. - -

- - And these great western-swingy tracks that Matt has provided weren't included on the last readily available CD collections of her work, so that makes them an extra-special treat for all of us!

Thanks for sharing, Matt!
It's kinda like Xmas or something...

Listen to:
Never Trust A Man
Bananas Ain't Got No Bonies
I Ain't Got Nobody
Twenty-five Chickens Thirty-five Cows

(click for audio)

UPDATE, 7.6.09: Thanks also to normadesmond for sending along a YouTube link to a video clip of
Judy Canova appearing on TV's 'What's My Line?' in 1954.
Norm uploaded it after seeing this post. Thanks for sharing!

Monday, June 8, 2009

David Essex in 'That'll Be The Day' & 'Stardust' (magazine photo spreads, 1973/74)

The magazine articles below spotlighted a pair of British films that have largely remained underappreciated in the many years since their release.

The two-part gritty Rock & Roll fable helped to propel actor / singer David Essex to super-stardom in the U.K.

Released in 1973 and set in the late 1950s and early '60s (and featuring plenty of great period music), 'That'll Be The Day' tells the story of young
Jim McClain, who yearns for a glamorous life beyond the dead-end existence in which he lives.

The movie co-starred Ringo Starr (looking just right in Teddy Boy finery) as Jim's friend, Mike.
Also featured in the cast were 'genuine' musicians, singer Billy Fury and The Who's Keith Moon.

David Essex had his breakout success as a stage performer in 1971, when he starred in the London cast production of 'Godspell'.

During production of 'That'll Be The Day', Essex wrote his song 'Rock On', envisioning it for use in the film's soundtrack. After the song was rejected for the movie, he recorded and released a version that became a huge chart hit.
'Rock On' subsequently was added to the end credits of the American release of 'That'll Be The Day'.

The magazine piece below ▼ appeared in the May, 1973 issue of Films and Filming.
(click on images to enlarge in a new window)

In the 1974 sequel, 'Stardust', McClain's
Rock & Roll dreams are realized in the late 1960s and early '70s, but the accompanying hazards of fame and excess cause his life to implode.

Ringo Starr opted out of the second film, the role of Mike (now McClain's manager) taken over by British pop star Adam Faith.

Keith Moon returned to reprise his role, and performed on the soundtrack as a member of
The Stray Cats, McClain's band in the film.
Also appearing and performing in the band was Dave Edmunds, who'd had his earliest solo hits a couple of years prior, following his departure from Love Sculpture.
Edmunds' efforts in the film and on the soundtrack helped lead him further into his career as a record producer.
In a curious coincidence, Edmunds would go on to produce the first singles and albums by the 'other' Stray Cats, Brian Setzer's rockabilly revival group, in the early '80s.

Edmunds also spins some good stories about the perils of 'being taken under Keith Moon's wing' during production.

Read an interview;
'Dave Edmunds on Keith Moon' at Tony Fletcher's iJamming!

The magazine piece below ▼ appeared in the October, 1974 issue of Films and Filming.

(click on images to enlarge in a new window)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Does anyone remember 'Omicron'?

Maybe you can help me to remember more about this old movie, or point towards a way to see it again - - ?

This is a film that I haven't seen in something like 35 or more years.
Several times since then I've wanted to watch it again, and I'm very curious if it's even half as entertaining as I remember it.

'Omicron' is an Italian science-fiction comedy that was first released in 1963.

It was directed by Ugo Gregoretti and starred Renato Salvatori as an alien being who's come to Earth and is inhabiting the body of a dead factory worker.
The alien (Omicron) is an advance scout for an invasion force, here to learn about humans and our way of life.

Until finding a few images (mostly here) I've seen very little mention of this movie over the course of several decades of 'film buffery'. Whatever happened to it?

My memories are a little dim. I saw it a couple times on TV when I was a kid, which means it probably aired on a weekend afternoon on a local station. It probably also means that the version I saw was dubbed into english.

- - And as this was all so long ago, it could likely mean that it's really not as good as what I'm remembering.

I recall Omicron being able to do everything very quickly.
Lots of racing around at top speed to comedic effect.
Omicron sitting down with a stack of books, flipping through the pages and quickly reacting with laughter and tears as he absorbs the text.
Omicron smoking entire cigarettes in one quick draw.

The few small descriptions of the film that I've found corroborate the vague memory that much of the story's draw comes from familiar 'fish out of water' formulas that we're accustomed to seeing anytime a naive outsider character is confronted with the complications and hypocrisy of modern life.

Omicron at work, Omicron falling in love, Omicron learning what it is to be human.

Over the years I've flashed on this film while viewing things like 'Starman', or 'Brother From Another Planet', or 'K-PAX' or even the sitcom '3rd Rock From The Sun'.
You know what I'm talking about.

Other assorted review snippets (and broken translations) about 'Omicron' mention the political backdrop of its humor, specific to Italy in the '60s and specific to the plotline of the resurrected factory worker becoming involved in a labor dispute.
Perhaps this has something to do with the film being so hard to find now? Maybe it hasn't aged well?

Is there a good reason that it's not available on video?

I also recall 'Omicron' having some sort of fun
"The End - - or is it?"-type of ending, always a good sign in an old sci-fi movie, if you ask me.

What can you tell me about 'Omicron'?
Researching it isn't easy when there seems to be so little information available and you don't read Italian.

I'd love to hear from anyone who remembers this movie, especially if you've seen it more recently than the early 1970s.
Is there something there? Should I see it again - - and hey, where/how would I do that?

Please leave a comment or drop an e-mail.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

'Blythe Danner On The Rise' (1970 magazine spread)

Actress Blythe Danner had been performing on stage for about five years when the magazine article below appeared in the March, 1970 issue of Show magazine. She was just turning 27.
At the time she was receiving much acclaim for her Broadway debut in 'Butterflies Are Free', which had premiered the previous Fall.

She was still a newlywed, having married producer/director Bruce Paltrow on December 14, 1969 (see photo below), before he'd made the transition from theater to TV and film.

Soon after this article ran, Danner won a Tony Award for 'Butterflies Are Free', on April 19th, 1970.
The show finally closed on July 2nd, 1972, after 1128 performances.

(Click on images to enlarge and read text)

(Click on images to enlarge and read text)

Yes, magazines are curious things, and so were the 1970s.
Ms. Danner's rationale for avoiding nude scenes stands on the same page as a photo of her standing in her underwear.

Her 'upcoming film debut' mentioned in the article - - an adaptation of Walker Percy's 'The Moviegoer' - - never happened. The production fell through, and the film was never made.

During that time she had a few appearances in some
made-for-TV productions, and then made her film debut in 1972 in a dramatic thriller, 'To Kill a Clown', in which Alan Alda played a crazed Vietnam vet.

Having seen Blythe Danner on TV and in many films over the years, it's hard not to enjoy watching her.
She shines in meaty roles in high-quality productions, and she typically transcends the material she's given in the lesser ones.

Her prolific career has remained fairly well divided between stage, film and television over the years, though these days it seems like she's best known for being Gwyneth Paltrow's Mom.

Her husband, Bruce Paltrow, passed away in 2002.

- See also:
Blythe Danner listed at IMDb

Freshly-stirred links