Friday, May 29, 2009

Video Cabinet: Sister Ray meets Larry W

Darn that Hugh Toob anyway, for yanking this silly old mash-up favorite...

Fortunately it can still be found elsewhere - - for now.
Enjoy it while you can, and beware of pop-ups...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ira Ironstrings Plays: With Matches (1959)

Here's the second LP by Ira Ironstrings; The name was a pseudonym used on a string of albums recorded by bandleader / guitar innovator Alvino Rey.

In the earliest days of Warner Bros. Records, the label had something of an 'anything goes' attitude while they were establishing themselves.

Alvino Rey was brother-in-law to WB exec
Jim Conkling, and had the idea for recording campy, light-hearted (though not quite 'novelty') hi-fi Dixieland music.

The pseudonym was used because Rey was still under contract to Capitol Records, but the name and the mystery around it added to the fun.

Produced and arranged by Warren Barker, the quality of the music surpassed many expectations.

As part of the label's initial round of releases, the first album ('Ira Ironstrings Plays for People with $3.98') sold surprisingly well.

From the LP
'Ira Ironstrings Plays:
With Matches'
(Warner Bros. Records, 1959),
Listen to:

Ivory Rag
Twelfth Street Rag
Johnson Rag
Guitar Boogie
Third Man Theme

(click for audio)

- - OR download the full album (12 tracks) in one 57.6 Mb zipfile.

Click here to read back cover liner notes and full track listing.

The following year, Warner Bros. Records signed The Everly Brothers and released two Grammy-winning stand-up comedy LPs
by Bob Newhart.

See also:
- A previous post; from 1946, the Alvino Rey and his orchestra's recording of 'Sepulveda'.

- Alvino Rey featured in a post at Visual Guidance, Ltd.

- Speaking of the early days of Warner Bros Records, the previously-posted
'Music To Read Stan Cornyn's Liner Notes By'.

- Thanks to The Space Age Pop Music Page for valuable info.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Horlick's: Why? (1930 print ad)

(click on image to enlarge in a new window)

Elegant composition in this 1930 magazine advertisement.
Simple but striking.

- - And not the first time that Horlicks had used the memorable
cow-as-billboard motif...

- example one (via)
- example two (via)

Horlicks malted milk powder is still popular in India and a few other parts of the world, but in the U.K. and the U.S. has mostly become a fond memory, a 'comfort food' relic of a bygone era.

In the 1870s, brothers William & James Horlick had emigrated from England and were manufacturing their milk drink as an artificial food for infants, and soon established a large factory in
Racine, Wisconsin.

By the early part of the 20th century, Horlicks (then spelled as Horlick's) was well-established internationally (including an early foothold in India), though in the U.S. it was outsold by its rival, Ovaltine.

Whether touted as a sleep-aid, a 'restorative', or nutrition supplement, Horlicks was used in interesting ways as an advertising sponsor over the years, associating itself at different times with radio programs like 'Lum and Abner' or in films with George Pal's animated Puppetoons or even by sending along crates of their product on a few polar expeditions.

More bits and pieces of Horlicks history (including the name standing in as a milder substitute for the British profanity 'bollocks') can be found via the Horlicks Wikipedia entry...

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

Stolen Sweaters at large in Europe! (1962 print ads)

Stolen Sweaters you say?!? Alert Interpol!

Oh, no wait - - okay, I get it.

Helen Harper sweaters made of 'Acrilan' acrylic fibers manufactured by Chemstrand (a division of Monsanto), and fashioned to look like authentic regional garb from Ireland, Greece, Austria, Spain, England and Portugal.

This series of advertisements ran in the August, 1962 issue of Seventeen magazine.

As staged as these international location shoots were, it could have been interesting to see the 'outtakes' from these photo sessions...

(click on images to enlarge text)

Return of the podcast

Happy to report the return of a semi-regular rotating feature - -

There's a link to a new In Crowd podcast posted atop the lovely brown sidebar.

The schizophonic mix of music represents samplings of things I've heard recently, and some other favorites that needed a good airing...


(Update: This particular podcast has rotated out, replaced by a new one. But you might try taking a look over in the Audio Annex...)

'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