Friday, April 27, 2012

RIP: PAULA KELLY JR

Our friend, Alan Glasscock, posted this very sad news about Paula Kelly Cole on Facebook this morning:

"I am saddened to report that Paula Kelly Cole (Paula Kelly Jr.) passed away peacefully at 8:25pm (PST), according to her sister, Julie Dickinson Lancaster."

For those of you who did not know Paula, she was the daughter of two of the greatest vocal group singers of all time, Paula Kelly Sr. and Hal Dickinson, founders of The Modernaires. The Modernaires were long associated with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, racking up dozens of hit recordings before embarking on a solo career which took them into radio, television and motion pictures.

Paula Jr. took over her mother's place as lead singer in The Modernaires in the late-'70s, a position she held until just a few months ago when she was sidelined due to surgery on her vocal cords. Sister Julie stepped in to sing lead, and Ginger Berglund was brought on board to fill out the quartet. Paula Jr. became ill about a week ago with a brain aneurysm, followed by other complications, and was removed from life support earlier this afternoon, with family at her bedside...

"I can say will all certainty that Paula was one of the most gracious, cheerful and funny people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. She was full of enthusiasm for big band music (my kind o' people!), and I enjoyed many conversations with her over the past few months. Her only concern she expressed to me as of late was worrying about not being able to sing again after her surgery. That is no longer a concern of hers, as she is surely singing in an all-star vocal group above!" George Spink

More about Paula;

PAULA KELLY Jr was born in Grove City, PA, the middle daughter of Hal Dickinson and Paula Kelly. Early on she sang in church choirs. Educated in San Fernando Valley, CA schools, she majored in music. Singing with “The Modernaires” from 1966 through 1971 she traveled most of the world learning the lead part from her Mother. Hal, her father passed in 1970 and in 1971 she retired to marry. 1972 brought her a beautiful red haired daughter, Jennifer Holly Cole.

Previously Paula had performed with her two sisters, Julie and Martha in a trio called “The Kelly Sisters”. They made several appearances on the Bob Crosby and Dean Martin television shows. When her Mom, Paula Kelly retired in 1978, the natural replacement was her daughter, Paula Kelly Jr. She was so privileged to have worked with most of the great acts of the 40’s and 50’s. These were her parent’s friends and colleagues.

They were great Entertainers such as, Helen Forrest, Tex Beneke, Helen O’connell, Bob & Ray Eberle, Peter Marshall, Tony Martin, Count Basie, Les Brown, The Mills Brothers, Rosemary Clooney and yes, even Louie Armstrong. “The Modernaires” toured six times in Australia. Three of the tours were with surviving members of the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Billy May, an original, actually took trumpet lessons to do the tour. Among others on the tour were Paul Tanner, Wilbur Schwartz, John Best, Jimmy Priddy, Al Klink and Zeke Zarchy...


SOURCE

ERNEST BORGNINE SETS SAIL

McHale's Navy star Ernest Borgnine to sail again -- on a cruise
By Gene Sloan, USA TODAY

Film and TV legend Ernest Borgnine is heading back to sea in December, this time on a cruise ship.

Theme cruise organizer Sixthman says the star of the 1960s television show McHale's Navy will be among the headliners on the first TCM Classic Cruise, scheduled to kick off on Dec. 8.

The four-night sailing on Celebrity Cruises' 1,950-passenger Celebrity Millennium is aimed at classic movie fans and also will include appearances by Tippi Hedren, Norman Jewison and Eva Marie Saint.

The Academy Award-winning Borgnine is no stranger to the high seas, having served for 10 years in the U.S. Navy before moving on to acting. In addition to McHale's Navy (1962-1966), Borgnine appeared in dozens of other TV shows and movies including From Here to Eternity (1953), Marty (1955), The Dirty Dozen (1967) and The Wild Bunch (1969).

Also onboard the sailing will be Turner Classic Movies primetime host Robert Osborne and weekend-daytime host Ben Mankiewicz. The voyage will include performances by the Alloy Orchestra, a three-man musical ensemble that has written and performed live accompaniment to classic silent films for more than two decades.

The Celebrity Millennium will be sailing from Miami to Key West, Fla. and Cozumel, Mexico, and the trip will include movie-themed events such as screenings, panel discussions and trivia contests...

SOURCE

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

RECENTLY VIEWED: MA AND PA KETTLE GO TO TOWN

One of the great memories I had as a child were of Sunday mornings when the local television station would rerun old comedy movie series. Each Sunday they would rotate a series so I remember seeing Abbott and Costello, Blondie, and of course Ma and Pa Kettle. Like so many many things in life, when I get a chance to catch a Ma and Pa Kettle movie, it takes me back to a simpler and less stressful time. I recently got the chance to watch Ma and Pa Kettle Go To Town (1950). Of course, I could not stop watching the film.

The second of Universal's "Ma and Pa Kettle" series, Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town stars, as ever, Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride. This time, the Kettles win a letter-writing contest, which offers as first prize an all-expense-paid trip to New York City. Once in Manhattan, the huge Kettle brood raises all sorts of Holy Ned, culminating in an episode involving stolen bank money. Somehow this all ends with a riotous, slapstick-laden square dance. The film's romantic subplot is handled by Richard Long as oldest son Tom Kettle and Meg Randall as his high-society wife Kim. Also carried over from the first Kettle entry are Ray Collins and Barbara Brown as the Kettle's wealthy in-laws. A winner at the box-office, Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town helped pay for many of Universal's "prestige" releases of 1950.


Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride are the only actors I could ever picture in the Ma and Pa Kettle roles, and they make the film. If the movies were just them two talking back and forth, I would watch it. However, in this film there were some good character roles. I liked Charles McGraw (1914-1980) as the gangster that Pa has "good feelings" about so he watches their children. McGraw was a very dependable character actor, who sadly died relatively young when he fell in shower. The plot line of a stranger watching someone's children is kind of far feteched, but the story does take place in a backwards town in 1950. Times were different then. Also in a surprisingly straight role, Jim Backus (1913-1989) played one of the other gangsters.

Ma And Pa Kettle Go To Town is no great cinema masterpiece, but it made a lot of money for Universal in 1950. It is also a movie you can just sit back and relax. The movie is simpler so it helps you to hark back to maybe a simpler time in your life. I know whenever I watch a Ma and Pa Kettle movie my mind is not only watching the movie, but I see myself as a young boy laying on the floor and enjoying an uneventful Sunday morning. Those were the days...

MY RATING: 7 OUT OF 10

Monday, April 23, 2012

KIM NOVAK AND MENTAL ILLNESS

For a time in the 1950's and 1960’s she was a major Hollywood movie star and famous around the world. She appeared on screen with the some of the biggest names in movies, starring in such films as Hitchcock’s classic “Vertigo,” “Pal Joey” and “Picnic.”

One day at the zenith of her career she turned her back on Hollywood and left show business. Now former actress and movie star Kim Novak reveals she was mentally ill at that time.

Novak told an audience at the TCM (Turner Classic Movies) Classic Film Festival Friday that during those days she was suffering from a bipolar disorder and sometimes now regrets her decision to leave Hollywood in the late 1960s at the height of her fame, according to a new report in the Los Angeles Times.

The report says Novak was teary-eyed at times and emotional when she told Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne before an audience of about 300 people at the Avalon in Hollywood that she was actually suffering from mental illness when she made those movies saying, "I'm bipolar ... but there's medicine you can take for this now," Novak said. "I was not diagnosed until much later. I go through more of the depression than the mania part."

Novak is now 79 years old. She was in Los Angeles to have her handprints and footprints enshrined in the forecourt at the famous Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Saturday.

The former actress, who lives in Oregon with her husband, an equine veterinarian, and their five horses said her father suffered from depression and she had a difficult childhood in Chicago which oddly prepared her, in a way, for Hollywood.

"I was used to having conflict in the home, so having conflict on a set ... felt normal," she said.


Perhaps due to her illness Novak was branded as “difficult” by studio executives who tried to micro manage her image up to and including stopping a friendship with a major black star at the time, Sammy Davis Junior.

Finding the emotional pressures of Hollywood too much to handle she moved to Big Sur to paint, according to the report.

She has acted a bit since then but her career never regained its early success...

SOURCE

Friday, April 20, 2012

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: SPENCER TRACY AND HIS LEADING LADIES

Without question Spencer Tracy is considered one of the greatest actors of all time. This past month was his birthday. He would have been 112 years young. Tracy has left behind some great cinema magic with some of the most beautiful co-stars of all time...

with BETTE DAVIS (1908-1989)


with JEANETTE MACDONALD (1903-1965)


with JEAN HARLOW (1911-1937)


with MYRNA LOY (1905-1993)


with KATHERINE HEPBURN (1907-2003)


with ELIZABETH TAYLOR (1932-2011)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

DICK CLARK AND PAYOLA

Dick Clark, "the oldest living teenager" has died at the age of 82. I never fully understood his appeal, but I remember my grandfather truly disliked him. My grandfather blamed Clark for ruining music and being involved in payola in the 1950s. It is where Clark first made his fortune...

He's been called America's Oldest Living Teenager, but behind his famously boyish demeanor, Clark was a razor-sharp businessman—sharp enough to be accused of questionable practices during the early years of rock and roll, yet smart enough to set those practices aside when public scrutiny demanded it. On April 2, 1960, Dick Clark concluded his second day of testimony in the so-called Payola hearings—testimony that both saved and altered the course of his career. If Alan Freed, the disk jockey who gave rock and roll its name, was Payola's biggest casualty, then Dick Clark was its most famous survivor.

It may be difficult for those who first encountered Dick Clark in his TV Bloops and Blunders days to understand the power he once wielded from his platform on American Bandstand, but it was great enough in the late 1950s to make a star out of nearly anyone he chose, from Connie Francis to Fabian. It was also great enough to attract the attention of the House Committee on Legislative Oversight—the congressional subcommittee investigating the Payola scandal. At the Payola hearings, Clark would testify to holding an ownership stake in a total of 33 different record labels, distributors and manufacturers that all profited handsomely from the rise of Clark-anointed stars like Danny and the Juniors and Frankie Avalon. One of the companies in which Clark had a financial interest was Jamie Records, the label that made Duane Eddy famous and returned a tidy profit of $31,700 to Clark on an initial $125 investment. "Believe me this is not as unusual as it may seem," Clark told the Payola committee. "I think the crime I have committed, if any, is that I made a great deal of money in a short time on little investment. But that is the record business."
More important than any denials issued by Dick Clark during his Payola testimony was the fact that over the preceding months, he had—at the direction of his network, ABC—divested himself of all of his ownership interest in music-related businesses and in the roughly 150 pop songs from which he earned royalties as a credited "songwriter." This action, in combination, perhaps, with his good looks and famously ingratiating demeanor—the New York Times called the then-30-year-old Clark "smooth, slim and youthful on the witness stand"—led Congress to give Clark a pass while encouraging prosecution of the uncooperative Alan Freed. "Obviously you're a fine young man," is how committee the committee chairman, Representative Oren Harris (D-Arkansas), concluded the hearings held on this day in 1960. "I don't think you're the inventor of the system, I think you're the product."

SOURCE

WHERE ARE THEY NOW: LYDIA REED

If you are a fan of Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra or great musicals, then you have probably seen MGM's "High Society" (1956). No other movie then or now could boast a cast of Crosby, Sinatra, and Louis Armstrong.

However, a child star in the cast nearly stole the movie away from those titans of music. Lydia Reed played Grace Kelly's younger sister in the movie who had a devoted crush on Der Bingle. Mutual Bing collector and friend David Shelton gave me the idea for this article and made me wonder what happened to Lydia Reed? No much is known about Reed after the 1960s, and I searched for a couple months to find some more about Reed, but very little is available.

Reed was born on August 23, 1944, at Mitchel Field on Long Island, New York. She was best known for her role as Tallahassee "Hassie" McCoy from 1957 to 1963 in 145 episodes of the ABC situation comedy The Real McCoys, starring Walter Brennan in the title role of Grandpa Amos McCoy. Irving Pincus was the creator, and Hy Averback the first principal director.


The pilot episode of the series "Sweet Fifteen," which aired on April 9, 1957, centers on Grandpa's determination to keep Hassie's looming fifteenth birthday party a secret. After its five-year run on ABC, The Real McCoys switched to CBS for its final season in 1962-1963 without the services of Kathleen Nolan as Kate McCoy. Reed appeared less frequently in the final year, as did Michael Winkelman (1946–1999) as Little Luke McCoy, who played Reed's younger brother on the series.

Reed's first performances were in 1952 episodes of two NBC anthology series, Hallmark Hall of Fame (the second episode of the series entitled "Dr. Serocold") and Robert Montgomery Presents. In 1955, she played Mary Foy in the Bob Hope film, The Seven Little Foys. That same year, she played another "Mary" in the episode "Ride with the Executioner" of the anthology Jane Wyman Presents the Fireside Theatre. In 1956, she appeared in the role of Caroline Lord in High Society, with Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Grace Kelly, and in the episode "Hit and Run" of the NBC series Big Town. Her last role other than that of Hassie McCoy was as Betsy Beecher in a horror film The Vampire.


Reed left acting after her role on The Real McCoys ended and did not appear in a 2000 cable television reunion special (The Nashville Network) with Nolan, Tony Martinez, who portrayed farmhand Pepino Garcia, and Richard Crenna, who played the role of Luke McCoy, Hassie's older brother, for the entire duration of the series. Reed has left entertainment completely to raise a family in the San Fernando Valley area of California...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

2012 TCM FESTIVAL IN PICTURES: PART TWO

The stars keep coming for the TCM festival. As a little side note, TCM has turned 18 years old. I don't know what we did before the channel started...


KIM NOVAK


PEGGY MONTGOMERY with LEONARD MALTIN


RHONDA FLEMING


DEBBIE REYNOLDS


MARGE CHAMPION with LEONARD MALTIN


MEL BROOKS

MOVIE REVIEW: THE FACE BEHIND THE MASK

When I first started really collecting movies, back in the day of Beta and VHS tapes, I managed to tape a short movie that was long forgotten. I think it was actually on Cinemax at the time.

The movie is not even 90 minutes long, but this little movie has been one of my favorite movies all these years. The Face Behind the Mask is a minor B-movie crime-drama released by Columbia Pictures in 1941. It starred Peter Lorre and Evelyn Keyes and was directed by Robert Florey and Wallace MacDonald. To date, it has never been released on DVD or video.

Based on the radio play by Thomas Edward O'Connell, The Face Behind the Mask was not a film that Lorre held in high esteem. His co-star Don Beddoe, who plays the police officer who befriends Janos in the film, once said, "I don't think Peter was very much impressed with The Face Behind the Mask. His other successes, such as M, made him pretty blasé about this particular venture."

The film is the story of a hopeful new immigrant, Janos Szaby (Peter Lorre), who, on his first day in New York City, is trapped in a hotel fire that leaves his face hideously scarred. Refused employment due to his appearance although he possesses tremendous skill as a watchmaker, the only way he can survive is by turning to theft, using his skilled hands to disable alarms. Eventually he becomes the leader of a gang of thieves, and raises enough money to commission and wear a realistic latex mask of his own face.


Janos then falls in love with Helen (Evelyn Keyes) a blind woman who sees only the good in him, and attempts to leave his life of crime behind him. Unfortunately, his gang come to believe that he has betrayed them to the police, and attempt to kill him by car bomb, an attempt on his life that he survives but that Helen does not. In retaliation, Janos disguises himself as the pilot of the private plane the gang is flying out of the city with, which he lands in the Arizona Desert and lets out the fuel, suicidally stranding both the gang and himself without food or water, dooming them all to a slow death. At the film's end, Janos's body and that of his enemies are discovered by the police. The climax, set in a desolate stretch of desert with Janos tied to an abandoned plane, is a bleak counterpoint to the immigrant's hopeful beginnings. More than anything, The Face Behind the Mask is a vision of the American dream gone horribly wrong but under the artful direction of Robert Florey along with Franz F. Planer's atmospheric cinematography and Lorre's sensitive performance, it becomes a rich, multi-layered character study, a gem among the Columbia Pictures programmers of the forties.


If you are a fan of Peter Lorre or the understated performances of Evelyn Keyes, then I recommend The Face Behind The Mask. This movie deserves to be remembered and preserved on DVD. I was lucky to catch an airing of the forgotten film on TCM, and my copy is one of my prized possessions in my movie collection. This fine character study is not one that should be missed...

MY RATING: 10 out of 10

Friday, April 13, 2012

2012 TCM FESTIVAL IN PICTURES: PART ONE

It looks like another amazing turnout for the TCM Movie Festival. One day I'll get to make the pilgrimage to this wonderful festival...

ROBERT OSBORNE WITH LIZA MINNELLI AND JOEL GRAY


MARSHA HUNT


MICKEY ROONEY


PATRICIA WARD KELLY (widow of Gene Kelly)


KIRK DOUGLAS


MICKEY ROONEY AND LIZA MINNELLI

CLARK GABLE'S SON'S GIRLFRIEND FOUND DEAD


Clark Gable has been dead over fifty years, but news and scandal still are centering around this legend.

ABC is reporting that Clark Gable’s son’s girlfriend was found dead in the couple’s Malibu home Wednesday morning. The cause of death is unknown, and the LA County Coroner’s Office says there is no reason to suspect foul play.

John Clark Gable, 51, is the only son of the Hollywood legend, known for such roles as Rhett Butler in “Gone with the Wind” (“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”) The younger Gable’s partner, 41-year-old Christiane Candice Lange, was a make-up artist and hairdresser who specialized in professional makeovers, according to ABC. The cause of death has not been released, but authorities think that prescription drugs might have played a part in the young death.

Authorities told KABC “that Lange told Gable she wasn’t feeling well before going to bed Tuesday night. When Gable checked on her about 10 a.m. the next day, he was unable to rouse her.”

In January, Clark Gable's grandson, Clark Gable III, was sentenced to 10 days in jail for pointing a laser at a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter...


SOURCE

UPDATE APRIL 2013 - Clark Gable's son was just arrested for DUI, and hit and run. He was driving under the influence and hit six parked cars. You can read more about the continuing sad events of his life here.

BORN ON THIS DAY: HOWARD KEEL

I am not a huge fan of the movie musical opera singers of the 1950s like Marlo Lanza or Kathryn Grayson. I recognized their talents and abilities, but for the most part, their singing was not for me. However, I have always enjoyed talented singer and actor Howard Keel. He was born on this day, April 13th in 1919. Keel was born Harold Clifford Keel in Gillespie, Illinois, to Navyman-turned-coalminer Homer Keel and his wife, Grace Osterkamp Keel. (It is often erroneously stated—by the MGM publicity department of the 1950s—that Keel's birth name was Harold Leek).

Young Harold spent his childhood in poverty. One of his teachers, Miss Rosa Burke, noticed one day that he was not eating his lunch. From that day forward, Miss Burke would pack two lunches - one for herself and one for Harold. When he became famous and would perform near Gillespie, Burke always received tickets to attend his performances.After his father's death in 1930, Keel and his mother moved to California, where he graduated from Fallbrook High School at the age of 17. He worked various odd jobs until finally settling at Douglas Aircraft Company as a traveling representative.

At the age of 20, Keel was overheard singing by his landlady, Mom Rider, and was encouraged to take vocal lessons. One of Keel's musical heroes was the great baritone Lawrence Tibbett. Howard would later remark that learning that his own voice was a basso cantante was one of the greatest disappointments of his life. Nevertheless, his first public performance occurred in the summer of 1941, when he played the role of Samuel the Prophet in Handel's oratorio Saul (singing a duet with bass-baritone George London).


In 1943, Keel met and married his first wife, actress Rosemary Cooper. In 1945, Keel briefly understudied for John Raitt in the Broadway hit Carousel before being assigned to Oklahoma!, written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. When performing this play during this period, Keel accomplished a feat that has never been duplicated; he performed the leads in both shows on the same day.

In 1947, Oklahoma! became the first American postwar musical to travel to London, England, and Harold joined the production. On the opening night, April 30, at the Drury Lane Theatre, the capacity audience (which included the future Queen Elizabeth II) demanded fourteen encores. Keel was hailed as the next great star, becoming the toast of London's West End. During the London run, his marriage to Rosemary ended in divorce and Keel fell in love with a young member of the show's chorus, dancer Helen Anderson. They married in January 1949 and, a year later, Harold - now called Howard - celebrated the birth of his daughter, Kaija.

In 1950, Keel made his MGM movie debut in "Annie Get Your Gun" (1950). More classics followed like "Kiss Me Kate" (1953), and "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers" (1954), and the rest as they say is history...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

JOAN DAVIS: FUNNY AND TRAGIC

Joan Davis was one of those rubber faced comedians of the 1930s and 1940s, that highlighted any film she was in. Many comedians led tragic lives, but Davis' life was relatively happy. The sad tragedy happened after Joan Davis died at a young age.

Born Madonna Josephine Davis in St. Paul, Minnesota, on June 29, 1907, zany comedienne Joan Davis began her show business career in vaudeville as a child. In the summer of 1931, Davis married vaudeville veteran straight man Si Wills, with whom she had become a comedy act; two years later their daughter Beverly was born. By the mid 1930s, Davis made her way to California in an attempt to break into films. She was almost immediately successful, securing a role in the Mack Sennett short Way Up Thar in 1935. Upon the release of the short in 1935, RKO signed Davis to a contract, but Davis and RKO parted ways soon after. In 1937, 20th Century-Fox put her under contract with much greater success.

As Davis' success grew, her marriage faltered. The couple parted ways in 1947. There were also reports that Davis was having an affair with vaudville comedian and singer Eddie Cantor. Cantor and Davis made two movies together - "Show Business" (1944) and "If You Knew Susie" (1948). Davis continued making movies through 1952, when her final film Harem Girl was released.


Leaving movies for television, Davis started her own production company, which produced Davis's NBC comedy I Married Joan from 1952 through 1955. Somewhat surprising is that she hired ex-husband Si Wills to write for the series. Davis also cast her daughter Beverly Wills in the role of Joan's younger sister. After I Married Joan left the air in 1955, Davis more or less retired.

Unknown to audiences the retirement was brought on by a growing heart problem. On May 22, 1961, Davis suffered a heart attack and died in Palm Springs at the age of 53. Her daughter and ex-husband made headlines after her death, wrangling over the million-dollar estate of Joan Davis, which was eventually settled in favor of her daughter. Tragically, on October 24, 1963, Davis's daughter Beverly Wills fell asleep smoking a cigarette; her Palm Springs home caught fire, killing her, her two sons, and Davis's mother. It was a tragic post script to an entertainer that delighted audiences in nearly every medium of entertainment...

Monday, April 9, 2012

JULIE ADAMS AT 85

Julie Adams nearly turned down the role that has made her a legend among sci-fi and horror films fans: Kay Lawrence in 1954's "Creature From the Black Lagoon."

But who could blame her? As a contract player at Universal six decades ago, she had played opposite Arthur Kennedy in 1951's "Bright Victory," Jimmy Stewart in the 1952 western "Bend of the River" and heartthrob Tyrone Power in 1953's "Mississippi Gambler." And now the studio wanted her for a black-and-white 3-D horror film that was sort of a fishy version of "Beauty and the Beast."

"I thought 'Creature From the Black Lagoon'! What?"' recalled the 85-year-old actress during a recent interview at her comfortable Los Feliz home. "I thought about turning it down and then I thought if I do that I'll go on suspension and I won't get paid. Then I thought it might be fun, and of course it was."

It was more than just fun. Adams is much in demand at conventions and autograph shows because of her iconic role as the girlfriend of ichthyologist Dr. David Reed (Richard Carlson) who, while on a scientific expedition down the Amazon, becomes the object of affection of a tall, amphibious creature called the Gill-Man. Adams recalled that her form-fitting one-piece white bathing suit caused quite a stir because it "pulled up a little bit on the upper leg," she said laughing. "We were quite risqué."

The actress recently released her autobiography, "The Lucky Southern Star: Reflections From the Black Lagoon," which she wrote with Mitchell Danton, her youngest of two sons with her late former husband, actor-director Ray Danton.

This Friday through Sunday, she'll be appearing at the "Monsterpalooza" convention at the Marriott Burbank Airport Hotel and Convention Center and the following weekend she'll be back at the same location for the "Hollywood Show." In May, Adams is heading to Louisville, Ky., for "WonderFest" and in June it's off to "Monster Bash" in Butler, Pa.


In attending these conventions, she's realized that the film appeals to all age groups. "One man came up one day with his little girl. He said, 'She wants a picture of the creature. She loves the creature.' I said 'Wasn't she scared? And he said, 'Oh, no. She plays creature in the bathtub!'"

Born Betty May Adams in Waterloo, Iowa, she grew up in Arkansas. An only child, she and her alcoholic parents moved from small town to small town until she finally had some stability in her life when she went to live with her aunt and uncle in Little Rock, Ark.

The movies were an escape for her, but that wasn't the reason she caught the acting bug. When she was in the third grade production of "Hansel and Gretel," someone forgot their lines. "I ad-libbed and saved the day," she said. "I felt this flush of power. I had this wonderful feeling and I thought I wanted to have more of that feeling."

It wasn't long after she moved from Little Rock to Long Beach to live with an aunt following high school that she got her chance. She was working as a secretary when her aunt, who had bathing suit stores in Long Beach and knew some talent scouts, arranged an interview with one atWarner Bros.She didn't get a job, but was given some sage advice: Lose the Southern twang.

She landed a tiny, uncredited role in the 1949 Betty Hutton musical, "Red, Hot and Blue." Adams segued to doing seven quickie westerns starring James Ellison and Russell Hayden before getting signed to Universal, where she joined such young contract players as Piper Laurie, Rock Hudson and Tony Curtis.

"Who could have asked for anything better? I was cast in movies with great actors, with great leading men," she said of her career.

"It was a great learning experience to work with James Stewart," said Adams, who nearly 20 years after "Bend of the River" played his wife on the actor's short-lived NBC sitcom, "The Jimmy Stewart Show."

"I remember so vividly playing a scene with Jimmy Stewart. I was in the back of a covered wagon and we were doing this little talk in the wilderness. They did his close-up first. I was looking at him and thinking, 'How does he do that?' He is not 'doing' anything and yet everything is there."

After leaving Universal, she continued acting in films including, Dennis Hopper's controversial 1971 "The Last Movie," and guest-starred in such popular TV shows as "Bonanza" and "Murder, She Wrote" (she played the role of Angela Lansbury's friend, real estate agent Eve Simpson).

She also does theater across the country, including Eugene O'Neill's masterwork, "Long Day's Journey Into Night," in which she played the morphine-addicted wife of an actor. "I really thought with that character I kind of said to my mother, 'Come on out and have your say.' She did. It was kind of cathartic in a way."


SOURCE

Saturday, April 7, 2012

HISTORY OF A SONG: EASTER PARADE

There are hundreds and even thousands of songs written and dedicated to Christmas. However, there is not many written in honor of Easter. Not only is Easter a religious holiday in Christianity, but for me it always signaled the true start of spring when everything was in bloom and the world became alive again. Probably the most famous Easter song though was written way back in 1917 by one of the best songwriters of all time, Irving Berlin.

Berlin originally wrote the melody in 1917, under the title "Smile and Show Your Dimple." The song flopped but the composer filed away the melody for later use. The song was introduced by Marilyn Miller and Clifton Webb in the Broadway musical revue As Thousands Cheer (1933), in which musical numbers were strung together on the thematic thread of newspaper headlines.

The song was first sung in the movies in Bing Crosby's "Holiday Inn" (1942). Bing sings the song riding a carriage in the easter parade with co-star Marjorie Reynolds. Bing also recorded the song commericially in 1942, but unfortunately Bing had a cold when the song was recorded. Sadly, the take they used was the one where Bing sounded quite nasally. He sang the song on his radio show as well but never made another record of the song.


The next time the song appeared in a film was the movie musical "Easter Parade" (1948). "Easter Parade" was an MGM musical starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire and featuring music by Irving Berlin, including some of Astaire and Garland's best-known songs, such as "Steppin' Out With My Baby" and "We're a Couple of Swells." It was the most financially successful picture for both Garland and Astaire as well as the highest-grossing musical of the year.

The song "Easter Parade" was also featured in the Rankin/Bass special The First Easter Rabbit in 1976 and has since become a standard. Unfortunately, almost hundred years after the song was first written it is fading into tin pan alley obscurity. (Are there even still actual Easter Parades?) However, with the great recordings by Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, and others - songs like "Easter Parade" are never truly forgotten...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD TO AIR ON USA NETWORK


The president will make his comments for USA Network’s broadcast of the iconic film about racial tolerance on April 7. It’s the first time Mockingbird will be nationally shown after being digitally remastered and restored, and marks the film’s 50th aniversary. USA’s corporate cousin, Universal Pictures, recently released the restored version of Mockingbird — as well as three hours of bonus materials including two full-length documentaries — on Blu-ray as part of a series that includes 12 other classic films. “I’m deeply honored that President Obama will be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of To Kill A Mockingbird by introducing it to a national audience,” the book’s author Harper Lee says. “I believe it remains the best translation of a book to film ever made, and I’m proud to know that Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus Finch lives on – in a world that needs him now more than ever.”

SOURCE

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

FORGOTTEN ONES: PHIL CROSBY

I published this story on my Bing Crosby blog last month, but I figured it would be of interest to some of the readers here...

Any fan of singer Bing Crosby or even anyone acquainted with his work or life know that the sons from his first marriage had a hard time in adulthood. Being the son of Bing Crosby, especially during the height of his fame in the 1940s and 1950s, was very hard. The four boys that Bing Crosby and Dixie Lee had all had tough lives. They had their personal demons that they dealt with - and unfortunately only one of the sons seemingly overcame the demons. Sadly, even though Phil Crosby overcame the turmoil of being the child of a superstar, he died in 2004 at the relatively young age of 69.

Born on July 13, 1934 - Phillip Crosby and his twin brother Dennis Crosby were born in Los Angeles, California. After attending a strict, Jesuit-run boarding school south of San Francisco, Phil served a stint in the Army in the mid-1950s and attended what is now Washington State University in Pullman, where he was a guard on the football team.

Chuck Morrell, the team's star fullback who shared a house with Crosby at the time, recalled that when Philip needed a car in college, his father had a driver deliver him a brand-new Chevrolet.

"He wasn't snooty or anything," Morrell, who remained lifelong friends with Crosby, told The Times on Friday. "He was a good, friendly guy and everybody liked him. You wouldn't know he was Bing Crosby's son."


Like his other brothers, Phil never succeeded in entertainment like his father did. Phil sang with his brothers in an act for awhile, but the group broke up as rock 'n' roll took its hold on audiences. Phil appeared with his father in a couple of movies like "Duffy's Tavern" (1945) and "Robin And The Seven Hoods"(1964), and he had more substantial roles in dramas like "Sergeants 3" (1962) and "None But The Brave"(1965). Phil appeared as a solo singer on The Ed Sullivan show in the late 1960s where he sang a great version of "Let There Be Love". He also appeared with papa Bing on a Hollywood Palace show on April 5, 1969 where he sang with Bing and recreated the songs that Bing and brother Gary had recorded 15 years earlier. Phil also later started a country music label named after his mother Dixie Lee, and recorded some great country western songs.



Like his brothers, Phil Crosby was also married numerous times. He was married four times and had five children - his youngest son, Phil Crosby Jr, is an accomplished musician and singer - who is quite talented in his own right. I recently talked to Phil Jr. and he said that his father should be remembered as "a loyal son, who loved and admired his parents very much. He had a great voice that was unique amongst the Crosbys. He had many friends that appreciated even his late night calls and would receive them and talk for hours and considered him a good conversationalist."


On October 14, 1977 Bing Crosby died. Tragedy struck Phil again a year later when his oldest son Brian Patrick Crosby was killed in a motorcycle crash at the age of 18. Phil remained on good terms with his brothers after Bing died with the exception of Gary. Phil has been quoted as saying that "My dad was not the monster my lying brother said he was, he was strict, but my father never beat us black and blue and my brother Gary was a vicious, no-good liar for saying so. I have nothing but fond memories of dad, going to studios with him, family vacations at our cabin in Idaho, boating and fishing with him. To my dying day, I'll hate Gary for dragging dad's name through the mud."

Phillip gave his final performance at an Elk’s Club party in Burbank in 1983. Phil's youngest brother Lindsay died in 1989, and his twin brother Dennis followed in 1991. (Gary later died in 1995). Despited outliving his brothers, son Phil Jr said his father's health was not good: "His last years were not good. His death could have been avoided if anyone had looked in on him and saw to it that he was taking his prescribed heart medication. But he had pretty much insulated himself and become a shut-in."


There has been rumors through the years that the Crosby boys from Bing's first marriage did not get along with Kathryn Crosby and Bing's second family. Phil Jr wanted to settle the record on that: "My father never spoke ill about Kathryn, that I know of. I don't believe he blamed her for not being in his Fathers will. She was very congenial to me when I met her, introducing me from the stage at Bing's Academy Centennial and standing by my side holding my hand at my fathers funeral. I thought that was very good of her. She also told the audience in Beverly Hills that she thought Phil had the best voice of the boys."


Even though Phil Crosby did not get the fame that I think he deserved, he passed down a lot of talent to his youngest son Phil Jr, who is carrying on the Crosby legacy in music. Phil Jr says that "growing up Crosby was a unique experience. I enjoyed watching the road pictures and every Christmas was a little more special for me. Sometimes it could be strange when I was little and didnt understand peoples reaction to my last name, though."

Phil Crosby Jr is currently working on some new exciting projects: "I'm producing my show 'Finding My Way' a jazz swing, cabaret, song and story, dance and musical history journey and personl reflection on my grandfather and his family and famous friends and the music of the twentieth century. Should be good." It is definitely something that would make his grandfather and his father proud...

I WANT TO EXPRESS MY GRATITUDE AND HONOR TO BE ABLE TO TALK TO PHIL CROSBY JR. FOR MORE INFORMATION ON HIS CAREER AND WORK, I RECOMMEND HIS WEBSITE: WWW.PHILCROSBY.COM