Friday, March 16, 2018


Here is my 5th episode of my You Tube web series. This time around I spotlight the songs of the great Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers. I hope you enjoy it, and please keep the requests and comments coming...


One of my favorite movie musicals growing up was 1962's The Music Man. The stars of the film of course were its stars Robert Preston and Shirley Jones, but an unexpected fun part of the film was any scene that character actor Paul Ford was in. He played the part of the town's clueless mayor. He attacked the role the way he did any of his other film work. Ford even made the smallest part a memorable part of any movie.

Ford was born Paul Ford Weaver in Baltimore, Maryland in 1901. His father was described as "a well-to-do businessman" who lost his fortune when his investment in a soft drink company failed. At an early age, he showed an adept talent for performance, but was discouraged when directors thought he was tone-deaf. After attending Dartmouth College for one year, Ford was a salesman before he became an entertainer.

He took his middle birth name, which was his mother's maiden name, as his stage last name. The change occurred after he failed an audition as Paul Weaver but was successful when he auditioned again as Paul Ford. In later years, Ford made his hollow, reverberating voice one of the most recognized of his era. His success was long in the making, and he did little acting, but instead raised his family during the Great Depression.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Public Works programs provided Ford with work, and to the day he died, he was a passionate Democrat. He first ventured into entertainment, however, in a puppet theater project that the Works Progress Administration sponsored. Years later, he said of that opportunity: "I got on the puppet project of the W.P.A. and helped write and put on shows for the Federal Theater. We did puppet shows at the World's Fair in 1939 and 1940, and 1 served as narrator, a kind of Hoosier cornball in beard."

Following his experience with puppets, Ford worked as an attendant at a gas station before turning to acting for a career. His first professional acting job was in an Off-Broadway production in 1939. In 1955, Ford played the bank president in the NBC comedy series Norby. He became an "overnight" success at age 54 when he played Colonel John T. Hall opposite Phil Silvers on Silvers' The Phil Silvers Show TV show (often known as Sergeant Bilko or just Bilko).

His signature role may well be the part of Mayor George Shinn, a befuddled politico in the film adaptation of the Broadway show The Music Man. Ford played the role straight and received glowing reviews. The other role he is most identified with is that of Horace Vandergelder opposite the Dolly Levi of Shirley Booth in the 1958 screen version of The Matchmaker. Ford had an active career in both films and television until his retirement in the early 1970s.

Despite being a respected Broadway character actor, Ford was notorious for being unable to remember his lines. This would alternately cause difficulty forcing him and those around him to improvise. This became especially notable on The Phil Silvers Show.

Most actors who worked with Ford claimed he was a kindly and very funny man. He was known for his quotes about the Depression in later years, including, "My kids used to think everyone lived on peanut butter sandwiches." His final role prior to his death was a Washington doctor in Richard. In 1976, Ford died of a heart attack at Nassau Hospital in Mineola, New York. He was 74. He was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California. He was survived by his wife, two daughters, and two sons...

Sunday, March 11, 2018


This coat that Robert Preston wore in 1961's The Music Man sold for $2500 in November of 2013...

Warner Bros., 1961. Reversible jacket, exterior is green wool blazer-style with sewn-down lapels and collar, and three buttons, the reverse is a drum major style red collarless jacket with olive green panels and gold trim. No labels present. Preston wears this jacket at the town hall meeting when he convinces the people that he should start a boys' marching band, changing into his drum major jacket and singing "76 Trombones."

The Music Man was written by Meredith Wilson and began its Broadway run in 1957, becoming a critical and commercial success, and winning five Tony Awards including Best Musical. Preston originated the role of Harold Hill on Broadway and the stage show's director, Morton DaCosta, also produced and directed the film version. The Music Man was nominated for six Academy Awards®, including Best Picture and Best Costume for Dorothy Jeakins. In 2005, it was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry...

Saturday, March 3, 2018


Indefatigable Ray McDonald was born to dance and dance he did. A New York City native born June 27, 1921, Ray was still in grade school when he and older sister (by three years) Grace McDonald (1918-1999) formed a popular vaudeville tap dancing act. By the age of 16 Ray had made it to Broadway in the musical "Babes in Arms", in which he and Grace made quite an impression with the song "I Wish I Was In Love Again."

Talent scouts took both of them to Hollywood, but not as a duo. Grace went to Paramount and later Universal, while Ray was signed by MGM. He seemed to have all the ear markings of a star. Dark and boyishly handsome with energy to spare, he first played a leading role as a youth in the low-budget programmer Down in San Diego (1941), then kicked up his heels a bit in the Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland musical Babes on Broadway(1941), where he danced to "By the Light of the Silvery Moon." He appeared with Rooney again in the star's vehicle Life Begins for Andy Hardy (1941).

After that, things stopped clicking. The momentum of his career was not helped by war service, where he at least managed to appear in both the stage and film versions of Winged Victory (1944). Unable to rise above the secondary ranks, the June Allyson/Peter Lawford collegiate musical Good News (1947) would prove to be Ray's last feature for MGM. Divorced from actress Elisabeth Fraser whom he met while appearing in the stage show of "Winged Victory" in 1943, he met and subsequently married fellow dancer/singer Peggy Ryan while freelancing in films. McDonald can be spotted in the Dane Clark film noir Whiplash (1948) and the David Brian film Inside Straight (1951). Among his unworthy film roles were Flame of Youth (1949) His films with Ryan included Shamrock Hill, There’s a Girl in My Heart (both 1949), and All Ashore (1953), which re-teamed him with Mickey Rooney. McDonald and Ryan divorced in 1958.

During the subsequent lean years, he and Peggy toured stages and nightclubs until their divorce. Ray popped up on TV variety shows as well and in 1959, while in New York to appear on a show, he died after choking on food in his hotel room. He was only 37. Not remembered well today, as is the case with sister Grace, Ray McDonald nevertheless had a great musical talent and ingratiating presence, which certainly deserves a mention.

The cause of his death has been a matter of contention for decades. Hollywood hearsay has it that he took his own life by overdosing on sleeping pills, depressed over the state of his career. His daughter Liza, however, maintains that his career was thriving, having done the Ed Sullivan variety show.At the time of his death, in fact, he was in New York preparing to do a Chuck McCann comedy show. He died in his hotel room apparently of visceral congestion (choking to death on food). Because sleeping pills were found in his room, reporters assumed it was suicide and the rumor caught on. According to the Medical Examiner, Liza says, no drugs were found in her father's system and the death certificate supports her claim.

Likeso many Hollywood hopefuls, Ray McDonald faded in obscurity. Do yourself a favor and check out his performance in Good News. It was excellent. McDonald should have been a much bigger star than he was...

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Fats Waller (1904-1943) was one of the true greats of jazz. He lived life to the fullest, and he lived large. I guess that is why he died so young at 39. His memory lives on in all of his wonderful recordings, and in these wonderful pictures of him through the years...

with Willie Smith (1910-1967)

Friday, February 23, 2018


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Nanette Fabray, the vivacious actress, singer and dancer who became a star in Broadway musicals, on television as Sid Caesar's comic foil and in such hit movies as The Band Wagon, has died at age 97.

Fabray died Thursday at her home in Palos Verdes Estates, her son, Dr. Jamie MacDougall, told The Associated Press. He said the cause was old age.

"She was an extraordinary woman. Many people referred to her as a force of nature and you could feel it when she walked into the room," her son said Friday. "She just exuded warmth, wit, charm, love, and she touched so many people in so many ways. I hope all of us can look back on our lives and be able to say that at the end of our lives."

Fabray was just 3 when she launched her career as Vaudeville singer-dancer Baby Nanette. She went on to star on Broadway in such musicals as Bloomer Girl, High Button Shoes and Mr. President, playing first lady to Robert Ryan's commander-in-chief. Love Life, a 1948 show with songs by Alan Jay Lerner and Kurt Weill, won her a Tony in 1949 as best actress in a musical. Mr. President brought her a second nomination

After another musical, Make a Wish, MGM brought her to Hollywood to co-star with Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse and Jack Buchanan in the 1953 film The Band Wagon.

The Comden and Green musical, satirizing artistic pretentiousness vs. old-fashioned show business, features such classic numbers as That's Entertainment and Triplets, in which Fabray, Astaire and Buchanan dress up as babies.

"Unfortunately, I was coming in when big musicals were going out," Fabray would say later. "So the buildup didn't go anywhere except to lead me back to New York."

Back on the East Coast, she found her biggest audience as a co-star in the pioneering television show Caesar's Hour, which brought her three Emmy awards.

She won them despite a hearing disability that had plagued her from childhood into her late 40s.

"In school I would try my best but I would fail course after course," she said in a 1967 interview. "I thought I wasn't very bright, but actually that wasn't it at all. I just wasn't hearing."

She managed to get by in adulthood by making her family and friends speak up.

Finally, her husband, screen writer-director Ranald MacDougall, persuaded her to get a hearing aid. She wore it offstage and on and talked openly about her disability on behalf of organizations concerned with hearing loss.

In 1967 she underwent surgery that gave her normal hearing for the first time in her life.

"She had such an amazing life professionally, but I think if she could say what she wanted to be remembered for it would be more for her humanitarian work," said her son. "She was very instrumental in advocating for the rights of the deaf and hearing impaired."

In addition to Caesar's Hour, Fabray appeared in such popular 1950s television anthologies as Playhouse 90 and The Alcoa Hour.

Later TV roles included that of Bonnie Franklin's mother in the hit 1980s sitcom One Day at a Time.

And in the 1990s Fabray played mother to Shelley Fabares, her real-life niece, in the hit sitcom Coach.

Born Ruby Bernadette Nanette Fabares in San Diego on Oct. 27, 1920, Fabray changed the spelling of her last name to match the way it was pronounced. After launching her career in Vaudeville, she studied drama and voice for several years before winning the role of the lady in waiting to Bette Davis' queen in her first film, 1939's The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex.

She went to New York soon after with the Hollywood revue, Meet the People, remaining there to become one of Broadway's most versatile stars.

High Button Shoes, was one of her best-known Broadway shows, and a New York Times review of the time singled out Fabray in particular, saying she "sings the principal songs with a good voice and in a jaunty manner." The show also featured a complex, lengthy dance scene choreographed by Jerome Robbins that parodied Mack Sennett silent film comedies. The Times described it as "swift and insane, like a jiggly old film," calling it an inspired bit of animated entertainment.

Fabray's first marriage, to TV executive David Tebet, ended in divorce. In 1957 she married MacDougall, whose writing credits include the 1963 Elizabeth Taylor film Cleopatra. He died in 1973. Their only child survives her. He said Friday that memorial services would be private...