Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Summer was a different movie season before 'Jaws'
by Susan King

Besides scaring swimmers everywhere, "Jaws" changed the summer movie landscape.

Before the release of the Steven Spielberg-directed thrill ride on more than 400 screens on June 20, 1975, about a great white shark on a feeding frenzy around fictional Amity Island (Martha's Vineyard), the summer blockbuster didn't really exist. The studios' major films, such as "Lawrence of Arabia" and "The Sound of Music," would play in a big city's movie palace sometimes for more than a year before heading to the neighborhood theaters.

The studios knew, though, that the box office was stronger during the summer and released several now-classic movies during those summer months, but they were of a much wider variety than the diet of comic-book, sequel, animated and teen fare we see now. Here's a sampling of some of the seminal movies that were introduced during the summer:

"Blood and Sand"

Moviegoers couldn't get enough of superstar heartthrob Rudolph Valentino 89 years ago in this silent epic in which he plays a bullfighter whose successful career is derailed when he is torn between two women. "Blood" was a huge box-office hit and solidified Valentino's status in Hollywood. But sadly, his success was short-lived; he died four years later at the age of 31.

"The Wizard of Oz"

Most moviegoers got their first chance to see Dorothy and the gang in this beloved musical that made a superstar out of Judy Garland on Aug. 25, 1939, though it opened earlier that month in a few places, including Hollywood, New York and Oconomowoc, Wis. The most expensive MGM production of the time — its budget was a whopping $2.7 million — it didn't recoup its cost until after several reissues.

"Miracle on 34th Street"

Along with "It's a Wonderful Life," this delightful holiday fantasy is one of the top Christmas movies of all time. Ironically, the film, which won three Academy Awards, including one for supporting actor Edmund Gwenn, as the Macy's Santa Claus who insists he's the real deal, didn't open during the yuletide season. This "Miracle" arrived on May 2, 1947. It was 20th Century Fox head Darryl F. Zanuck who insisted it come out during the summer to attract bigger audiences. The studio's promos kept the fact that it was set during Christmas a secret.

"Stalag 17"

William Holden won his only Oscar in Billy Wilder's dark World War II comedy, which arrived in July 1953. The film is set in a German POW camp where one of the prisoners is considered a German traitor. The No. 1 suspect is the slick Sefton (Holden), a cynical, gruff prisoner who barters with the Germans for all sorts of goodies. Charlton Heston was the original choice to play the role of Sefton, but as the character got darker, Wilder went to Holden, who had starred in his 1950 classic "Sunset Boulevard."


Movie audiences probably didn't have a clue what to expect if they attended opening day — June 16, 1960 — of this Alfred Hitchcock masterwork. Filmgoers were accustomed to being scared by the master of suspense's films, but this black-and-white thriller about an innkeeper, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), with a mother fixation, was a shock to audiences. It ended up being Hitch's best-known film, and Janet Leigh earned an Oscar nomination as the ill-fated Bates Motel guest.


Roman Polanski had been living in Europe since the brutal murder by the Manson family of his pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate, in 1969. But he agreed to return to Hollywood to direct this classic, which was released on June 20, 1974. Nominated for 11 Academy Awards — ultimately winning for Robert Towne's screenplay — "Chinatown," set in L.A. circa 1937, starred Jack Nicholson as private detective Jake Gittes and Faye Dunaway as the mysterious and beautiful Evelyn Mulwray.


Sunday, May 29, 2011


On the MGM Recording Stage with Nelson and Jeanette
by Jerry Frebowitz

It took some doing to get Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald out of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer vaults and into viewers' homes. At this point, it should be said that both Naughty Marietta (1935), their first movie together, and Sweethearts (1938), their first in Technicolor, did have some deterioration in the film stock; not unusual for films that are over 70 years old. Going in, it was known it was going to take a lot of work to get these classics cleaned up and ready for distribution. When film elements are problematic, they are usually rejected at the outset of the process. In the case of both of these classics, their source elements were newly manufactured, and there was no indication that there would be any hold-up in moving along.

As it turned out, both films had their own set of problems which required a great deal more work, and therefore more time, than originally anticipated. Teams of experts put hours and hours into this project, including night shifts and weekends, in order to get them ready for release. The finished product is actually available, and we are all optimistic that the extra efforts will yield impressive results for collectors.

Now that Eddy and MacDonald are finally making their debut on DVD, the team at Warner Home Video wanted to make these new releases unique, and one of the ways they have done so is to give fans an opportunity to experience these two legendary stars at work... making music as only they could.

As is generally well-known today, movie musicals have, with rare exception, all been created with songs pre-recorded prior to filming. This was done to insure greater excellence in the final performance, ease of editing, mixing, etc. Pre-recording of musical numbers was usually the very first phase of active production for these films, while other aspects of scenes or dances or routines were being rehearsed simultaneously. Most studios did not retain these pre-recordings in the ensuing years, considering them worthless. Thankfully MGM was one of the few studios that DID make an effort to keep their recording sessions, and in recent decades the Warner team has been fortunate enough to share those recordings with fans through dozens of never-before-released soundtrack album CDs, and/or as supplementary material first on laserdiscs, and later DVDs.

Virtually all of the MacDonald/Eddy pre-recording sessions have been locked firmly in the vault... until now, as Warner has decided to share some of these session recordings with fans by including them as AUDIO VAULT special features on the new DVD releases. For Naughty Marietta you will hear MacDonald’s attempt to sing "Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life" stop virtually before it starts, much to the laughter of her co-workers and of course, the lady herself. Then the listener can experience the kinship and warmth that was already evident between the two stars as they go through multiple versions and takes of what is arguably their most famous duet.

For Sweethearts, there are several songs presented, including some only partially heard in the finished film, such as "Mademoiselle". The title song is presented in several different iterations, and there is an unused performance by Miss MacDonald singing "Angelus." Exciting to hear? You bet! But these are more than just rare recordings. That’s because most of these performances are heard in stereophonic sound. Not bogus stereophonic sound, but actual stereo mixes that have recently been created from the original 1938 pre-recordings which were made using four discrete channels of music. MGM began experimenting with multi-channel pre-recordings as early as 1929. Overall this kind of recording was done for no other purpose than to create a meticulously balanced monaural track, usually made with 2 or 3 channels at the most.

For the release of Sweethearts, (the studio’s first feature film in the then-new three-color Technicolor process), Metro seized on the opportunity to get even more aggressive with their use of multiple microphonic recording techniques, and their experimentation has led to Warner's ability, decades later, to mix these recordings into a true stereophonic environment. As with Naughty Marietta, the listener will hear fascinating banter between Nelson and Jeanette, and experience the incredible amount of minute details all the performers had to attend to as part of such extravagantly produced motion pictures.

These added features are something unique that only the folks at Warner can offer us. So there you have it...beautiful new prints, far superior than what we've ever seen on TV -- plus additional audio content that is sure to delight collectors. We're hoping the wait is worth it and we're confident viewers will be as excited as we are with these timeless classics.


Saturday, May 28, 2011


When I bring up the movie THE ACCUSED, most people think I am talking about the 1988 Oscar winning drama starring Jodie Foster. However, there is a forgotten film gem also called THE ACCUSED from 1949. This movie I had on videotape at one time from when AMC showed classic movies. I don't have the copy anymore, but my recollection of this film is still vivid. I hope one day the movie gets released on DVD or at least shown on TCM.

The Accused (1949) is an American film noir directed by William Dieterle and written by Ketti Frings, based on Be Still, My Love, a novel written by June Truesdell. The drama features Loretta Young, Robert Cummings, Wendell Corey, Sam Jaffe, and Douglas Dick among others. The stunning musical score was composed by the underappreciated Victor Young, and when the movie was released by Paramount Pictures on January 14, 1949 it did very well at the box office.

In the movie, Wilma Tuttle (Loretta Young) is college professor who arouses the sexual interest of her student Bill Perry (Douglas Dick). When Perry tries to rape Tuttle, she beats him to death with a tire iron. She covers up her crime by making it seem as though Perry was killed while diving into the sea from a precipitous cliff. As she follows the police investigation of Perry's death, Wilma realizes that she'll never be able to escape her conscience, especially when she falls in love with Warren Ford (Bob Cummings), the dead boy's guardian and a detective.

Bob Cummings and Wendell Corey are detectives who know some foul play is involved but then Cummings, who gets increasingly annoying in here, falls in love with Young. He then winds up defending her in the short courtroom finale. Cummings gives a good example how "love is blind."

Corey, meanwhile, plays the determined cop who doesn't care what people think of him so long as he solves the crime. He is by far the most interesting of the characters in this film. Sam Jaffe also entertains in a supporting role as a crime doctor.

In THE ACCUSED, Loretta Young plays a psychology professor who kills an amorous male student in self-defense, then spends the rest of the movie covering up her crime. William Dieterle does an excellent job with the familiar material, and Miss Young gives a sympathetic performance. This is one of several crime pictures that Hal Walls produced in the late forties and early fifties, many of which fall into the noir category. Most of these films concern people with conflicted or tortured sexual urges, dysfunctional families, inadequate or just barely adequate men, with the women often hysterical or scheming. At the time this must have seemed daringly modern and contemporary. Now it just seems quaint, a waystation in the breakdown of small-town American values, with the action taking place in a netherworld between Andy Hardy and Tennessee Williams.

The New York Times gave the film a positive review, and wrote, "Murder is a common and salable screen commodity...The Accused, ...is a super-duper psychological job, well spiced with terminology which sounds impressive, if not always crystal clear in meaning, and the performers go about their business with an earnestness which commands attention. Under William Dieterle's assured direction, the story flows smoothly and methodically builds up suspense to a punchy climax which leaves it to the audience to determine whether the defendant should be punished or go free."

The staff at Variety magazine gave the film a good review. They wrote, "The Accused exploits fear and emotional violence into a high grade melodrama...Director William Dieterle, with a solid story foundation and an ace cast upon which to build, marches the melodrama along with a touch that keeps punching continually at audience emotions...Loretta Young's portrayal of the distraught professor plays strongly for sympathy. It's an intelligent delineation, gifting the role with life. She gets under the skin in bringing out the mental processes of an intelligent woman who knows she has done wrong but believes that her trail is so covered that murder will never out."

Thursday, May 26, 2011


On Sunday, May 29th comedian Bob Hope would have turned 108 years old. I was never a huge Bob Hope fan especially his later work, but he was an American legend - even though he was born in England. He died at the age of 100 in 2003, and here are some great moments with Bob Hope captured in pictures...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Where are today's Hollywood triple threats?
By Chelsea Miles

The film industry seems to have lost the creativity and joie de vivre of the classic film era.

Every summer, we see a couple of comic book superhero movies made, at least two sequels to previous blockbusters and a countless number of film adaptations of novels. We rarely see triple-threat actors and actresses anymore (unless you count the cookie-cutter Disney Channel stars) who would sing and dance to a great melody. Now, we mostly see people being blown up, lovers having affairs and sparkling vampires.

The 1940s to the 1960s was the time of the singer/dancer/actors. Of the best male triple threats of the era, the most common names that pop up in the schema are Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. Both danced their way across the silver screen, capturing the hearts of the ladies and leaving the men envious.

There have been countless arguments comparing Astaire and Kelly, trying to decide who was the better dancer.

Both Astaire and Kelly succeeded in making regular tap dancing into a fantastic feat. Astaire drummed around a toy store in the 1949 film “Easter Parade.” In the 1951 film “Royal Wedding,” he danced his heart out across the floor, walls and ceiling of a room — aided by some tricky camera work and a rotating set. But the fact that he was able to keep his balance and still look graceful while the room rotated is phenomenal.
Kelly danced alongside the popular cartoon character Jerry Mouse in the 1944 film “Anchors Aweigh,” tap roller-skated in the 1955 “It’s Always Fair Weather” and, most famously, danced in rain puddles for “Singing in the Rain.”

What made these two dancers different was their approach and attitude. Astaire danced with grace and finesse, while Kelly attacked the dance with athleticism. This is evident in the 1946 film “Ziegfeld Follies,” when the two men danced side by side in the number “The Babbit and the Bromide.” It isn’t hard to see that both knew what they are doing when it comes to tapping a beat with their feet.

But compared side by side, Astaire looks more in control of his moves, which look effortless. Kelly has more energy, which makes the dance look a little sloppier but still entertaining to watch.
Both men succeeded in performing unbelievable dancing feats and delighting audiences for years, which makes them both kings of tap dance.

Why we do not have more men like Astaire and Kelly on the big screen today is the real question. Maybe the answer to a great summer blockbuster is not big explosions and romances, but a touch of old Hollywood song and dance, Astaire and Kelly style.


Sunday, May 22, 2011


I grew up watching the movies of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. Their antics in their old movies are still timeless, and generations of film lovers still watch them. Growing up watching them, I never realized that beyond the laughter there was also great personal tragedy...especially Lou Costello. Costello suffered a tragedy that no one should suffer.

In 1943, Costello and his family were living at 4124 Longridge Ave., in Sherman Oaks. On the afternoon of Nov. 4, 1943, while Costello was at NBC rehearsing for his first radio show in a year, his wife, Anne, had put their son, Lou "Butch" Costello Jr., in a playpen in the backyard. Anne Costello said she looked out and saw Butch in his playpen about 2:30 p.m. and when she looked out again a few moments later, he was gone.

"She pulled him from the water and screamed for help. Two neighbors, Mrs. Bert Gutterman and Mrs. William Holmes, rushed to her aid and Mrs. Gutterman began giving artificial respiration. Mrs. Holmes called for an inhalator and Firemen Alvin M. Hull and Paul S. Johnson worked over the boy for more than an hour before Dr. Vincent Kovner pronounced him dead."

Costello rushed home, arriving just as the firefighters were leaving. "Grief-stricken, he wandered to the swimming pool and stood looking at the pale blue waters for an hour until Dr. Kovner persuaded him to enter the home and rest," The Times said.

Although Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope, Mickey Rooney and Red Skelton volunteered to take his place, Costello insisted that the show must go on. He returned to the studio and did the radio show with Abbott and Lana Turner. At the end of the program, Costello rushed from the stage, his face streaked with tears. Then Abbott announced Butch Costello's death.

Here is how Lou Costello dealt with the tragedy in his own words (taken from a 1954 interview):

"The afternoon I went to final rehearsal, Ann gave me a present from Lou Jr. It was a gold identification bracelet. I put it on my wrist and it has never been off since that time. Kissing Ann goodbye, I said. "Have Lou listen to the broadcast and see if he recognizes my voice." Then I left my home feeling that I was mighty lucky man.

At the broadcasting station, Bud and I were in the midst of rehearsing a comedy routine when I was called to the telephone. Even now, thinking back to those moments at the telephone, I find it hard to keep back the tears, for I was told that my baby son was dead. He had fallen into the swimming pool and drowned.

I left the rehearsal in a daze and drove home. All the time I was thinking, "It's impossible." Only two hours ago the boy and I had been romping on the floor together. Now they said he was dead. I told myself, "It can't be true. There is some mistake." But when I arrived home, Ann in tears told me what had happened. I knew then that it was all too true - our son was dead.

After comforting my wife the best I could, I went back to the broadcasting station to do my radio show that night. Not because I was following the tradition of show business that "the show must go on." No, indeed. I wanted to do the radio show so that my voice would go out into the air, with the hope that Lou, Jr., might hear it wherever he was.

Again I asked myself, "Why did this have to happed to me?" This time I confess I found it difficult to keep my thoughts upon counting my blessings. The baby was constantly on my mind. Every little boy that I saw reminded me of the many things I had planned to do for my son. There was sadness in my heart. How I managed to be funny man in pictures and on the radio, I will never know.

Then gradually, as the time passed, I began to realize that though I had been deprived of doing things for Lou, Jr., there still were a lot of children in the world I could help. So Bud Abbott and I created the Lou Costello, Jr., Youth Foundation, for underprivileged children. Its facilities include libraries, medical clinics, gymnasiums and play grounds.

Each and every child meant something to us. At Christmas time we didn't just bring a lot of toys to the Foundation. Instead, weeks before the holidays, we visited each child and asked him what he or she wanted for Christmas. Whatever they requested, within reason, was there for them under the tree on Christmas.

Here again I learned another prescription for sorrow. By giving myself to these underprivileged children, I found happiness again."

Despite what Lou said in that 1954 interview, he never fully recovered from the loss. The team of Abbott and Costello officially broke up in 1957. Costello made one solo movie, before passing away from a heart attack in 1959 at the age of 52. His wife Anne died a few months later at the age of 47. It is so sad that Lou Costello gave laughter and enjoyment to millions and yet his own life was full of sadness and tragedy...

Friday, May 20, 2011


The history of classic Hollywood is full of great talents that never made it. Talent often times did not mean you would be making the next blockbuster or winning the next Academy Award. The African-American community was full of talent that never made it. In their case it was extreme prejudice and lack of roles past being a mammy or butler. One great actor that really rose above it and was a renaissance man was Clarance Muse.

Clarence Muse was an actor, screenwriter, director, composer, and lawyer. He was inducted in the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame in 1973. Muse was the first African American to "star" in a film. He acted for more than sixty years, and appeared in more than 150 movies.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1889 he studied at Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania and received an international law degree in 1911. Muse was acting in New York by the 1920s, during the Harlem Renaissance with two Harlem theatres, Lincoln Players and Lafayette Players. Muse moved to Chicago for a while, and then moved to Hollywood and performed in Hearts in Dixie (1929),the first all-black movie.

For the next fifty years, he worked regularly in minor and major roles. While with the Lafayette Players, Muse worked under the management of producer Robert Levy on productions that helped black actors to gain prominence and respect. In regards to the Lafayette Theatre's staging of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Muse said the play was relevant to black actors and audiences "because, in a way, it was every black man's story. Black men too have been split creatures inhabiting one body.". Muse appeared as an opera singer, minstrel show performer, vaudeville and Broadway actor; he also wrote songs, plays, and sketches.

He was the major star in Broken Earth (1936), related the story of a black sharecropper whose son miraculously recovers from fever through the father's fervent prayer. Shot on a farm in the South with nonprofessional actors (except for Clarence Muse), the film's early scenes focused in a highly realistic manner on the incredible hardship of black farmers, with plowing scenes. Muse and Langston Hughes wrote the script for Way Down South (1939). The film was notable for its casting of African American actors in central roles, and for tackling racial issues in the South.

Muse also performed in Broken Strings (1940), as a concert violinist who opposes the desire of his son to play "swing". From 1955 to 1956, Muse was a regular on the weekly TV version of Casablanca, playing Sam the pianist, and in 1959, he played Peter, the Honey Man, in the film Porgy and Bess, with Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge and Sammy Davis Jr. Other film credits include Buck and the Preacher (1972), and Car Wash (1976), as "Snapper". His last acting role was in The Black Stallion (1979), with Mickey Rooney and Teri Garr.

He received an honorary doctor of humanities degree from Bishop College, Dallas, Texas, in 1972, and was a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., Omega Chapter. Clarence Muse died in Perris, California, October 13, 1979 from a cerebral hemorrhage. He was survived by his second wife and three children...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


1939 was an epic year for the American cinema. So many top notch performances were given in that year, it is a shame that the movie industry of today is not looking back at what was done right in 1939. One movie released in 1939 that had everything going for it was OF MICE AND MEN. The film was based on the novella of the same title by American author John Steinbeck. It stars Burgess Meredith, Betty Field, Lon Chaney, Jr., Charles Bickford, Roman Bohnen, Bob Steele and Noah Beery, Jr. It was unfortunately remade in 1992.

The film tells the story of how the lead characters, George and Lennie, try to pursue their dream of owning their own ranch instead of working always for other people.

The film, produced by the Hal Roach Studios, was adapted by Eugene Solow and directed by Lewis Milestone. It was nominated for four Oscars. The musical score was by American composer Aaron Copland.

Two migrant field workers in California during the Great Depression—George Milton (Burgess Meredith), an intelligent and cynical man, and Lennie Small (Lon Chaney, Jr.), an ironically-named man of large stature and immense strength but limited mental abilities—come to a ranch near Soledad southeast of Salinas, California to "work up a stake." They hope to one day attain their shared dream of settling down on their own piece of land. Lennie's part of the dream, which he never tires of hearing George describe, is merely to tend to (and touch) soft rabbits on the farm. George protects Lennie at the beginning by telling him that if Lennie gets into trouble George won't let him "tend them rabbits." They are fleeing from their previous employment in Weed where they were run out of town after Lennie's love of stroking soft things resulted in an accusation of attempted rape when he touched a young woman's dress.

At the ranch, the dream appears to move closer to reality. Candy (Roman Bohnen), the aged, one-handed ranch-hand, even offers to pitch in with Lennie and George so they can buy the farm by the end of the month. The dream crashes when Lennie accidentally kills the young and attractive wife (Betty Field) of Curley (Bob Steele), the ranch owner's son, while trying to stroke her hair. A lynch mob led by Curley gathers. George, realizing he is doomed to a life of loneliness and despair like the rest of the migrant workers and wanting to spare Lennie a painful death at the hands of the vengeful and violent Curley, shoots Lennie in the back of the head before the mob can find him after George gives him one last retelling of their dream of owning their own land.

When the film was first released Frank S. Nugent, the film critic of The New York Times praised the film and the acting, writing, "And New York, unless we have miscalculated again, will endorse its film version, at the Roxy, as heartily as it has endorsed the film of the Joads. The pictures have little in common as narrative, but they have much in common as art; the same deft handling of their material, the same understanding of people, the same ability to focus interest sharply and reward it with honest craftsmanship and skill...No small share of that credit belongs to the men and the one young woman Hal Roach has recruited for his production. Miss Field has added stature to the role of the foreman's wife by relieving her of the play's box-office-conscious order that she behave like a hoyden.

The staff at Variety magazine also reviewed the film favorably, writing, "Under skillful directorial guidance of Lewis Milestone, the picture retains all of the forceful and poignant drama of John Steinbeck's original play and novel, in presenting the strange palship and eventual tragedy of the two California ranch itinerants. In transferring the story to the screen, scripter Eugene Solow eliminated the strong language and forthright profanity. Despite this requirement for the Hays whitewash squad, Solow and Milestone retain all of the virility of the piece in its original form."

The 1939 classic was was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Sound Recording, Best Musical Score, and Best Original Score, but it did not win a single award. The movie is some 72 years old, but for the acting of Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney Jr alone it is worth dusting off this old movie, making some popcorn, and enjoying a truly great movie of classic cinema...

Sunday, May 15, 2011



Hollywood movie stars: Can't live with them, can't live without them. Every generation has them. They haunt our dreams and shape our style and fashion. They inspire us to see the latest release. But, in a bitter irony that eludes most stars until the glitter is gone and it's too late, most are forgotten when the next wave hits.

That's why the age of digital and DVD releases creates unique possibilities. Thanks to catalogue releases and a parade of box sets devoted to individual stars and name directors, we can easily revive the movie stars from Hollywood Golden Era and re-examine why those stars of earlier eras made an impact.

OK, it's a challenge. I realize it is difficult, sometimes impossible, to make young audiences believe or care that Jean Harlow was as sexy and sensational in the 1930s as Angelina Jolie is today. Or that, for decades, Bette Davis carried even more gravitas than the sublime Meryl Streep does now. Or that Marlon Brando re-defined the art of acting in the 1950s. Or that Olympic swimming champion Johnny Weissmuller made the same impact playing the title character in Tarzan the Ape Man in 1932 as Chris Hemsworth is doing now as the title character in Thor. Or that Tracy & Hepburn remains one of the greatest and most complicated romances in Hollywood history.

Yet I am emboldened. When youths are open-minded enough to see the classics -- even those in black-and-white -- strange things happen. One young gal I know developed enormous crushes on both Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart while eagerly devouring their movies. Yummmm.

With that in mind, among others, I am recommending the Turner Classic Movies collections. There are several series, including the Greatest Classic Legends releases and the Greatest Classic Films series. They come in waves. There are always four titles offered on two discs in each box. Many are recycled releases available separately or in other collections (frustrating some collectors who want more obscure titles resuscitated). Meanwhile, not all titles live up to the "greatest" hype but they are all interesting and/or inspirational. The latest wave, in April, brought us the following:

- Greatest Classic Legends -- Bette Davis: Jezebel (1938), Dark Victory (1939), Now, Voyager (1942 and Old Acquaintance (1943).

- Greatest Classic Legends -- Marlon Brando: A Streetcar Named Desire: Original Director's Cut (1951), Julius Caesar (1953), The Teahouse of the August Moon (1956) and Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967).

- Greatest Classic Films -- Tarzan: Volume One and Tarzan: Volume Two: Eight of the 12 Tarzan flicks Weissmuller starred in during the 1930s and '40s are here. Volume One leads off with the only one that could safely be called "classic" and only for adventure and exotic feel. By the time Weissmuller got to Tarzan and the Leopard Woman (1946), the plot was running thin.

- Earlier waves in the Turner Classic Movies collections include sets featuring Jean Harlow (highly recommended), Errol Flynn (Hollywood's best swashbuckler before Johnny Depp teetered into Pirates of the Caribbean), John Ford Westerns (he was a grumpy genius) and a collection featuring four Lassie movies (Elizabeth Taylor was just 11 in the 1943 family classic, Lassie Come Home).

- Tracy & Hepburn: The Definitive Collection: This classy box set is a 10-disc offering with nine collaborations between one-time superstar Spencer Tracy and the real love of his life, Katharine Hepburn. This collection truly is definitive, from Woman of the Year in 1942 to Guess Who's Coming to Dinner in 1967. That was their final film together before Tracy died, just 17 days after shooting was completed. Their energy together is still thrilling throughout.


Saturday, May 14, 2011


Bobby Darin died way too young. Had he lived, he would have only turned 75 today. Darin was born on May 14, 1936 in The Bronx to a poor, working-class family of mostly Italian descent. The person he believed to be his father (who was actually his grandfather) died in jail a few months before he was born. It was the height of the Great Depression, and Darin once remarked that his crib was a cardboard box, then later a dresser drawer.

He was initially raised by his Anglo-American mother Polly and his sister Nina, subsisting on Home Relief until Nina later married and started a family with her new husband, Charlie Maffia. It was not until Darin was an adult that he learned that Nina, 17 years his senior, was in fact his birth mother, and that Polly, the woman he thought was his mother, was really his grandmother. He was never told the identity of his real father, other than that his birth father had no idea Nina was pregnant, and thus never knew that Bobby was even born. Polly mothered him well, despite her own medical history resulting in her addiction to morphine. It was Polly who took the young Bobby to what was left of the old vaudeville circuit in New York and places like the Bronx Opera House, and the RKO Jefferson in Manhattan, where he received his first show business inspiration, and where he saw performers like Sophie Tucker, whom he loved.

Darin was frail and sickly as an infant and, beginning at the age of 8, was stricken with recurring bouts of rheumatic fever, an illness that left him with a seriously weakened heart. Overhearing a doctor tell his mother he would be lucky to reach the age of 16, Darin lived with the constant knowledge that his life might be short, which further motivated him to use his talents. He was driven by his poverty and illness to make something of his life and, with his innate talent for music, by the time he was a teenager he could play several instruments, including piano, drums and guitar. He later added harmonica and xylophone.

Darin performed in a range of music genres, including pop, rock, jazz, folk and country. Although unknown to the public, his health was dangerously fragile and strongly motivated him to succeed within the limited lifetime he feared he would, and ultimately did, have.

Darin married Sandra Dee; they met while making the film Come September (1961). They made a few more movies together at Universal Studios that were moderately successful. They had one son, Dodd Mitchell Darin (also known as Morgan Mitchell Darin). Darin and Dee divorced in 1967.

He was also an actor, singer/songwriter and music business entrepreneur. His wish for a legacy was "to be remembered as a human being and as a great performer." Among his many other contributions, he became a goodwill ambassador for the American Heart Association.

In 1973, Darin's ill health took a turn for the worse. After failing to take medication to protect his heart before a dental visit, he developed blood poisoning. This weakened his body and badly affected one of his heart valves. On December 11, Darin entered Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for surgery to repair two artificial heart valves he had received in the previous heart operation back in January 1971. On December 19, a five-man surgical team worked for over six hours to repair Darin's damaged heart. Although the surgery seemed initially successful, Darin died minutes afterward in the recovery room without regaining consciousness on December 20, 1973, at age 37....


Known to many as the “Champagne Lady” and for years the premiere female singer on the “Lawrence Welk Show”; soprano Norma Zimmer died peacefully at her home in Brea, California on Tuesday, May 10 at the age of 87.

She was born Norma Beatrice Larsen on a dairy farm in Larsen, Idaho on July 13, 1923; the daughter of a violin teacher. The family moved to Seattle when Zimmer was five years old. Zimmer married husband Randy Zimmer in 1945 and remained with him until his death in 2008. The couple had two sons Mark and Ron.

Prior to joining Lawrence Welk, Zimmer was a background singer in Hollywood. For over 10 years, Zimmer lent her voice to the music of Frank Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland,Dale Evans, and Gordon Jenkins including the massive holiday hit song “White Christmas”. From New Year’s Eve in 1960 to 1982, when the show went off the air, Zimmer was a part of the “Lawrence Welk” television show as Welk’s lead female singer. Welk was also known to Waltz around the floor with Zimmer. A devout Christian, Zimmer performed at crusades held by popular evangelist Billy Graham.

Besides her 20 plus years as a part of “The Lawrence Welk Show”, Zimmer has appeared as the singer for “3:10 to Yuma” for the 1957 “3:10 to Yuma”, as one of the townspeople in “Lucy Goes to Scotland” on “I Love Lucy”, was uncredited as one of the chourus girls in “Singin’ in the Rain”, as the uncredited voice of White Rose in the 1951 version of “Alice in Wonderland”, sang with Bing Crosby in “Mr. Music”, and in the television series “The Meredith Wilson Show”.

"The Lawrence Welk Show" holds the record as the "longest-running, musical-variety weekly series on national television." It premiered on KTLA in Los Angeles in 1950, then moved to ABC where it aired from 1955 to 1971.

In 1971, Lawrence Welk took it into syndication until 1982 when he retired. In 1987, the show was picked up by the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority. It celebrates its 25th year on public TV starting in September.

Zimmer is survived by her sons.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Charlie Chaplin, an icon of the silent film era, has given us some of the funniest and most famous movies of all time.

Now, his fans and car collectors can bid for a chance to take home the Hollywood legend's classic ride, his 1929 Pierce-Arrow is currently for sale on eBay, reports the Fox News.

The dual-cowl phaeton convertible is one of the most luxurious and ostentatious cars of the era, making it the choice of many of America’s pre-depression elite.

Its straight-8 engine was one of the smoothest and most powerful at the time, and a separate compartment for the rear passengers meant they didn’t have to associate with the riff raff in the driver’s seat, even when the top was down.

The car had been part of the collection of the Automotive Road of Dreams Museum, until the Costa Mesa, California attraction closed in 2005, and has been in storage ever since.

It is one of several cars from the collection currently being offered on the online auction website.

Priced around $ 8,000 when new, the museum paid a six-figure sum for the two-tone blue Pierce-Arrow when it purchased it a decade ago from racing legend Andy Granatelli.

There is an undisclosed reserve set on the auction, which ends on May 15.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Singing songbird Jane Morgan hasn't made a new record in 40 years, but she still looks as great as ever. On May 6th, days after her 87th birthday Jane made an appearance to accept her star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. Jane Morgan got a special award on the streets of Hollywood. The 2,439th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was given to the celebrity on Friday. Jane Morgan is probably best known for her crystal voice and strong career in the 1950's and 1960's. Morgan, who is now retired, had an amazing career with 6 gold records and songs in five languages.

Morgan's agent died in 1959, and her new manager, Jerry Weintraub, was able to obtain bookings for her in many noted US venues. Morgan divorced Larry Stith and she and Weintraub were subsequently married in 1965. Weintraub went on to assist in the careers of Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond and Bob Dylan.

In 1960 Morgan recorded the English language version of an Italian song, Romantica. The recording was an airplay hit on BBC Radio. She continued recording for Kapp until the middle of 1962.

Morgan ended her association with Kapp Records after eight years, and Weintraub then negotiated a deal for three albums for Colpix including Jane Morgan Serenades the Victors, a side by side LP along with that recorded by Frank Sinatra as dual soundtracks of the music heard in the film The Victors. Morgan's second Colpix LP, The Last Time I Saw Paris garnered excellent reviews and a hit single, "C'est Si Bon".

After fulfilling her contract with Colpix, Morgan recorded numerous singles and four albums for Epic. During this period she had consistent hit singles on the adult contemporary charts and continued to appear on top TV programs of the day.

Morgan appeared at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Canada in 1964; was the lead singer with Bea Lillie and Carol Lawrence in the Broadway musical production of the Ziegfeld Follies and replaced Angela Lansbury in Mame in 1966. "Being on Broadway was one of the most exciting things in my life because I had always dreamed of it," Morgan said.

In 1966 Morgan recorded the song that she had performed at the Academy Awards, I Will Wait for You, written for her by Michel Legrand.

From 1967 to 1968, Morgan was under contract at ABC Records, recording a dozen singles and issuing one LP which produced several hit singles and led to her second TV Special, The Jane Morgan Special. Syndicated in March 1968, the show featured the Doodletown Pipers and its highlight was her musical tribute to Edith Piaf.

Her two final albums were for RCA Records. Her final LP, Jane Morgan in Nashville, yielded two big hits on the country and western charts including her answer to Johnny Cash's song, A Boy Named Sue, titled A Girl Named Johnny Cash. She performed the song on Cash's TV series in early 1971. Producer Ronnie Light said that everyone was a little nervous at the start, and he in particular worried that his age (twenty-five at the time) might make Morgan uneasy. But co-producer Chet Atkins stated that Morgan was a joy and that everyone enjoyed working with her. He also noted that she sincerely wanted to be a success in the country/western music genre. Of the experience, Morgan stated that she was "thrown a bit" by the fact that Nashville normally dispensed with formal arrangements and was known for "head arrangements." The only other time she had recorded without formal arrangements was on her hit single, "Fascination." Nevertheless, she was given the title "The Countryest Girl in Nashville" by the crew.

In 1969 she appeared on Broadway in the musical Mame, taking over the title role from Angela Lansbury. Garnering excellent notices, she performed with members of the cast on numerous shows including The Ed Sullivan Show and The Hollywood Palace. Morgan made some of her last TV appearances on the Johnny Cash Show and The Merv Griffin Show in 1971. After that, she and Weintraub adopted three children: Julie, 1974, Jamie, 1977; and Jodie, 1980. Morgan retired from performing in the mid 1970s but has appeared occasionally over the years at special events and benefits. She has in recent years worked as a production assistant to her husband on films including Ocean's Eleven.

In 2008 Morgan joined forces with the citizens of Kennebunkport, Maine by writing a letter of objection to the Kennebunkport Planning Board about the proposed Olde Port Village development. On 10 December 2009, Morgan performed at the UNICEF Ball honoring Jerry Weintraub held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, singing "Ten Cents a Dance" and "Big Spender".

She is now known as Jane Weintraub and lives in Malibu, California, Kennebunkport, Maine and Palm Springs, California...

Monday, May 9, 2011


Betty Grable's iconic bathing suit photo made her the number-one pin-up girl of the World War II era. It was later included in the LIFE magazine project "100 Photos that Changed the World". Grable was particularly noted for having the most beautiful legs in Hollywood and studio publicity widely dispersed photos featuring them. Hosiery specialists of the era often noted the ideal proportions of her legs as: thigh (18.5") calf (12"), and ankle (7.5"). Grable's legs were famously insured by her studio for $1,000,000 with Lloyds of London.

She was born Elizabeth Ruth Grable in St. Louis, Missouri to John Conn Grable (1883–1954) and Lillian Rose Hofmann (1889–1964). She was the youngest of three children. Most of Grable's immediate ancestors were American, but her distant heritage was of Dutch, Irish, German and English stock. She was propelled into the acting profession by her mother. For her first role, as a chorus girl in the film Happy Days (1929), Grable was only 12 years old (legally underage for acting), but, because the chorus line performed in blackface, it was difficult to tell how old she was. Her mother soon gave her a make-over which included dyeing her hair platinum blonde.

For her next film, her mother got her a contract using a false identification. When this deception was discovered, however, Grable was fired. Grable finally obtained a role as a 'Goldwyn Girl' in Whoopee! (1930), starring Eddie Cantor. Though Grable received no billing, she led the opening number, "Cowboys." Grable then worked in small roles at different studios for the rest of the decade, including the Academy Award-winning The Gay Divorcee (1934), starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, where she was prominently featured in the number "Let's K-nock K-nees".

After small parts in over 50 Hollywood movies through the 1930s, Grable finally gained national attention for her stage role in the Cole Porter Broadway hit Du Barry Was a Lady (1939). When her contract at Paramount expired, Grable decided to quit acting, being fed up with appearing in college films.

In a 1940 interview, she said that she was "sick and tired" of show business and had decided to retire, but changed her mind - she received an unsolicited offer to go on a personal appearance tour, which she accepted and which led to Darryl F. Zanuck offering her a bigger contract, which she accepted, and which was followed by a part in Buddy DeSylva's Broadway show Du Barry Was a Lady and a part replacing the suddenly ill Alice Faye in Down Argentine Way. "If that's not luck I don't know what you'd call it" Grable said. "I've had contracts with four studios in 10 years and each time I left one or was dropped, I stepped into something better."

Grable's famous pin-up.Grable became 20th Century Fox's top star during the decade. She appeared in Technicolor movies such as Down Argentine Way (1940), Moon Over Miami (1941) (both with Don Ameche), Springtime in The Rockies (1942), Coney Island (1943) with George Montgomery, Sweet Rosie O'Grady (1943) with Robert Young, Pin Up Girl (1944), Diamond Horseshoe (1945) with Dick Haymes, The Dolly Sisters (1945) with John Payne and June Haver. Mother Wore Tights (1947), her most popular film, was with her favorite costar, Dan Dailey.

Starting in 1942, Grable was named in the top 10 box office draws for 10 consecutive years. For eight of those ten years, she was the top female-box office star. In 1943, she was named the #1 movie box office attraction. By the end of the 1940s Grable was the highest-paid female star in Hollywood, receiving $300,000 a year. During the 1940s and early 1950s, thirty Fox films were among the top ten highest grossing films of the year. Of those, ten were movies featuring Grable; eight of those movies were Fox's highest grossing pictures for their respective years.

Her postwar musicals included: That Lady in Ermine (1948) with Douglas Fairbanks Jr., When My Baby Smiles at Me (1948) again with Dailey, Wabash Avenue (1950) (a remake of Grable's own Coney Island) with Victor Mature, My Blue Heaven (1950), and Meet Me After the Show (1951). Studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck lavished his star with expensive Technicolor films, but also kept her busy — Grable made nearly 25 musicals and comedies in 13 years. Her last big hit for Fox was How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) with Lauren Bacall and Marilyn Monroe. Grable next starred in Three for the Show (1955) with Jack Lemmon; this film was one of her last musicals.

Grable's later career was marked by feuds with studio heads. At one point, in the middle of a fight with Zanuck, she tore up her contract and stormed out of his office. By 1953, Zanuck was grooming Marilyn Monroe to replace Grable as the Fox's resident sex symbol. Far from feeling threatened, on the set of How to Marry a Millionaire Grable famously said to Monroe, "go and get yours, honey! I've had mine". It was at this point that Grable lost her father 'Conn' Grable in 1954, at age 71.

Grable returned to the studio for one last film, How to Be Very, Very Popular (1955) with Sheree North. Following this, Grable hoped to secure the role of Miss Adelaide in the film version of the musical Guys and Dolls. However, when producer Samuel Goldwyn learned that Grable skipped a meeting with him because one of her dogs had taken ill, he became incensed and removed her from consideration. Vivian Blaine, who had originated the role on Broadway, was ultimately cast.

Having left movies entirely, she made the transition to television and starred in Las Vegas. It was in these transition years to stage, when Betty lost her mother Lillian in 1964, at age 75. By 1967, she took over the lead in the touring company of Hello, Dolly!. She starred in a 1969 musical called Belle Starr in London, but it was savaged by critics and soon folded.

Grable's last role was Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday, at the Alhambra Dinner Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida in February 1973.

In 1943, she married trumpeter Harry James. The couple had two daughters, Victoria and Jessica. They endured a tumultuous 22-year marriage that was plagued by alcoholism and infidelity. The couple divorced in 1965. Grable entered into a relationship with a dancer, Bob Remick, several years her junior. Though they did not marry, their romance lasted until the end of Grable's life.

Grable died on July 2, 1973, of lung cancer at age 56 in Santa Monica, California. Her funeral was held July 5, 1973, 30 years to the day after her marriage to Harry James — who, in turn, died on what would have been his and Grable's 40th anniversary, July 5, 1983. She was interred in Inglewood Park Cemetery, in Inglewood, California.

Among the lumunaries attending her funeral were her ex-husband Harry James, Dorothy Lamour, Shirley Booth, Mitzi Gaynor, Johnnie Ray, Don Ameche, Cesar Romero, George Raft, Alice Faye and Dan Dailey. "I Had the Craziest Dream," the haunting ballad from Springtime in the Rockies, was played on the church organ. This song was introduced in the film by Helen Forrest...

Friday, May 6, 2011


Cary Grant wanted a life away from the silver screen in 1966 after three decades of superstardom in such classics as "North by Northwest," "Gunga Din," "The Philadelphia Story" and "Bringing Up Baby." So Grant, then 62, gave up his career for what he felt would be the greatest role of his life: doting father.

"He retired to be with me," said his daughter, Jennifer Grant. "That is hard to believe in and of itself. He put all of his focus, really, on me. Most people don't have the luxury to retire; most people don't want until their 60s to have a child.'

The tall, whippet-slim Grant, now 45, looks a lot like her mother, Oscar-nominated actress Dyan Cannon, but possesses her father's dark hair and dancing eyes. Grant's parents divorced in 1968 when she was 2.

Grant, who followed in her parents' footsteps and acted in such projects as the original "Beverly Hills, 90210" and the short-lived sitcom "Movie Stars," has written a sweet memoir about her handsome, suave father, "Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father, Cary Grant."

She says she waited nearly 25 years after his death at age 82 to write about her life with her dad.

"I was finally ready to share him," Grant said over lunch at the Polo Lounge. "It's taken me a long time to be able to let go."

Cary Grant tape recorded their life together. The older Jennifer Grant got, the more they treated these recordings as a game. "At first, of course, I didn't know [what was going on]. There is a picture of me out on the patio when I was about 2 or 3, looking at the tape recorder and pretending to speak into the microphone."

Her father didn't listen to the recordings; he made them for Grant for when she was older. "I knew he might not be around forever," she said.

Cary Grant also collected letters, pictures, home movies and other memorabilia.

"There's boxes and boxes of stuff," said Grant, who named her toddler son after her father. "I didn't know quite how much until after he passed away."

Grant spent every other weekend with her father, as well as Mondays and half of vacations. If her mother was away on location making movies, she would stay with her father in Beverly Hills. But he would sneak in fleeting moments with her whenever he could. When Grant was in kindergarten at the Buckley School in Sherman Oaks, she would take the bus to school every morning from Beverly Hills.

Dad would park along the route," Grant said. "He would sit in the car and wait. We would just wave. It's pretty far-out stuff. But what people do know about him — how much energy, charisma, warmth and wit — he translated all of that into fatherhood."

Grant and her father enjoyed going to dude ranches. "He wanted to take me places, but the difficulty is if you are Cary Grant, you walk in and the whole word turns and your time becomes dealing with everybody. So we had to find spots where we would have enough privacy. With dude ranches, there are maybe 30 people at a time, so you could get the Cary Grant factor out fast and then you could enjoy your week of riding and being together."

Of course, Grant and her father did have squabbles. When he got mad, "it was like a very gray day." His voice, Grant recalled, "was very deep and very slow. He would just give me three-word answers."

When she was home from Stanford, her curfew was 11:30 p.m. because he worried about her. "He and Barbara [fifth wife Barbara Harris] would leave the hall door open, and I would just say, 'I'm home.' He would say, 'Thank you, darling. See you in the morning.' I was very rarely late. I didn't want him to worry."