Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Actress Patty Duke, who shot to fame as a teenager in the film The Miracle Worker,died Tuesday morning of sepsis from a ruptured intestine at age 69, her agent said.

"She was a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a friend, a mental health advocate and a cultural icon," the agent's statement said. "She will be greatly missed."

When Duke was 12, she starred as Helen Keller in the Broadway play The Miracle Worker. She reprised her role in the 1962 film version, winning an Academy Award for best supporting actress when she was 16 — then the youngest person to have won an Oscar.

In 1963, Duke took the starring roles in a popular sitcom called The Patty Duke Show,in which she played identical cousins. NPR reported that she was the youngest actress in television to have a prime-time series built around her.

The Los Angeles Times notes that "after her successful stint as Patty and Cathy Lane on television, Duke tried to transition back to film with a controversial performance as Neely O'Hara in 'Valley of the Dolls,' in which the actress portrayed an alcoholic, drug-addled star."

But Duke's outward success belied her private struggles.

"The success ... masked personal misery which included depressions that led to suicide attempts and a string of failed marriages," NPR reported in 2000.

Diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1982, Duke devoted her later years to championing mental health programs and raising her three sons, two of whom — Sean and Mackenzie Astin — followed in their mother's footsteps and became actors as well.

"I love you Mom," Sean Astin, who played Samwise Gamgee in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, said in a statement confirming his mother's death.

Duke, whose real name was Anna Pearce, wrote an autobiography in 1987 titled Call Me Anna that addressed some of these struggles.

Mandalit says Duke served as president of the Screen Actors Guild in the 1980s and adds: "After she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, she became an advocate for mental health issues."

After "The Patty Duke Show" was cancelled, Duke starred in the camp classic "Valley of the Dolls." She won a second Emmy for her turn in the 1970 Civil Rights drama "My Sweet Charlie" and a third in 1976 for her part in the TV mini-series "Captains and the Kings." She also appeared in a variety of TV shows ranging from Police Story and Hawaii 5-O to Night Gallery...

Sunday, March 27, 2016


I like this picture of band leader Bob Crosby (1913-1993) and his family. He had three boys and two girls through his marriage to June Kuhn. The couple were married on October 9, 1938 when the bandleader was 25 and June was only 19. It was the second marriage for Crosby. The Crosbys stayed together until the bandleader's death in 1993. The marriage was seemingly happy, but there was a rough patch in the 1950s when the couple talked about divorce, and June was arrested for trying to stab the bandleader.

From the Los Angeles Times:
"Nov. 10, 1959: June Crosby stabs her husband, Bob, with a 10-inch letter opener during a fight.

She tells Beverly Hills police that she grabbed the letter opener to fight him off after he pushed her down during a violent argument. Her husband says she fell when they were struggling over the letter opener.

"We've had family arguments before," the bandleader says. "I guess this one just exploded. She seemed to go into a rage. She was so hysterical. The first thing I knew she came at me with both her fists.

Hopefully this was just a small rough patch of their marriage, and they remained happy for the rest of their lives together...

Thursday, March 24, 2016


My son loves baseball movies. Almost any baseball movie he can watch. We have HBO free for a year for renewing our cable service, and I happend to flip around to catch the charming 2006 cartoon Everyone's Hero. My son has made me watch five times now with him so the magic of the movie has worn off, but I still like it.

Everyone's Hero is a 2006 Canadian–American computer-animated adventure sports comedy family film, written by Robert Kurtz and Jeff Hand and directed by Colin Brady, Christopher Reeve (who was working on this film at the time of his death), and Daniel St. Pierre, with music by John Debney. The majority of this film was produced by IDT Entertainment in Toronto with portions outsourced to Reel FX Creative Studios. It was distributed by 20th Century Fox, and released theatrically on September 15, 2006. Everyone's Hero earned $16 million worldwide during its theatrical run. The film stars William H. Macy, Rob Reiner, Brian Dennehy,Raven-Symoné, Robert Wagner, Richard Kind, Dana Reeve, Jake T. Austin, Joe Torre, Mandy Patinkin, Forest Whitaker and Whoopi Goldberg. Everyone's Hero was released on DVD on March 20, 2007 by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

In 1932, the dawn of the Great Depression, a young baseball fan Yankee Irving (Jake T. Austin), whose father Stanley (Mandy Patinkin) works as a janitor for New York City's Yankee Stadium, dreams of playing for the Yankees but can't even play sandlot baseball well enough to avoid being picked last. One day beside the sandlot, he finds a talking baseball he names Screwie (Rob Reiner).

While father and son are in the stadium, a thief steals Babe Ruth's famous bat Darlin' (Whoopi Goldberg). Yankee's father, who was working his shift at the time, is blamed and accordingly fired. The true thief is Lefty Maginnis (William H. Macy), a pitcher for the Chicago Cubs. Lefty works for Cubs owner Napoleon Cross (Robin Williams), who desires to see the Cubs defeat the Yankees during the 1932 World Series.

Stealing the bat back, Yankee decides to return it to Ruth—and thereby exonerate his father—by journeying across the country to Chicago, where the next World Series' games will be played. Darlin' is able to speak, as does her counterpart Screwie, who she constantly argues and bickers with (though near the end, they finally become friends). Much of the plot is driven by Lefty's comic attempts to retrieve the bat from Yankee, with slapstick results. Other scenes involve Yankee meeting others who will help him in his quest: several hobos (Ed Helms, Richard Kind, and Ron Tippe); Marti (Raven-Symoné), an African American girl; her baseball player father Lonnie Brewster (Forest Whitaker); and in Chicago, Babe Ruth himself (Brian Dennehy).

A series of improbable coincidences allows Yankee himself to bat for the Yankees, resulting in the archetypal home run (technically, a series of errors after an infield pop-up that allow him to round the bases). This restores the morale of the Yankees, who score 7 more runs to take the lead and win the World Series. Cross tries to talk Babe Ruth out of accepting the victory, saying that Yankee is too young to be a counting player. This leads to the arrest of Cross, and also Lefty. Yankee also successfully exonerates his father. Yankee returns home, now knowing what is truly important in baseball.

It is sad that Christopher Reeve died before this film was finished, because it is a great movie. It really captures what baseball meant to the country in 1932. This is before it became the business and cut throat industry it is today. My son still thinks baseball today is like baseball was in 1932, and upon watching this cartoon with him, I do not want to him to lose that innocence, at least yet...



Monday, March 21, 2016


To celebrate April Fool's Day, the writers here at A Trip Down Memory Lane want to tickle your funny bone and take you back to a simpler but funnier time with a week of classic comedian posts. From April 1st to April 10th, the blog will be dedicated to the silly antics of some of the truly great ones of classic comedy.

Check out the blog and prepare to laugh!

Friday, March 18, 2016


Louis Armstrong, one of the legends of jazz, lived in the same house in Queens, New York from 1943 to 1971. In addition to being an individually designated NYC landmark, the Louis Armstrong House is a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The house museum has been open to the public since 2000...

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Singer and son of legendary crooner, Francis Albert Sinatra, Frank Sinatra Jr. died of a massive heart attack Wednesday afternoon in Florida. The 72-year-old singer was in Daytona Beach for a concert when he died suddenly, the entertainment site wrote, citing a Sinatra family representative.

While not as popular as his father (few people were), Mr. Sinatra recorded a half-dozen albums and appeared on several TV shows from the Smothers Brother and Dean Martin shows to “Adam-12.”  He even made numerous appearance as himself on the animated adult cartoon, " Family Guy". He also worked as his father’s conductor and musical director in the twilight of the legendary singer’s career.

The most famous incident in his life may have been his Lake Tahoe kidnapping in 1963, when he was found walking the streets of Bel Air, Calif., after a $240,000 ransom had been paid.

Mr. Sinatra acknowledged that being the son of one of the most popular singers of the 20th century was both a blessing and a curse — opening doors while setting an impossible and obvious standard of comparison.

“You have to work three times harder than the guy off the street,” he told Nat Hentoff for the book “The Other Frank Sinatra.”

“Sinatra, Jr. might have had an easier time establishing himself had he gone into real estate. But his show made me awfully glad he decided music was his calling. There aren’t too many singers around with Sinatra’s depth of experience in big band music, or his knowledge of the classic American songbook. There are even fewer with such real feeling for the lyrics of a song, and such a knack for investing a song with style and personality,” wrote music critic Richard Ginell in a 2003 Daily Variety review of his concert.

Kidnapped and held for ransom when he was 19, Sinatra Jr. had already followed his dad into the music business by then. He eventually worked for his father as his musical director and conductor. He performed the National Anthem at a New York Yankees game last year.

Sinatra was in town to do a concert at the Peabody Auditorium on Wednesday night, died suddenly in the afternoon ... according to his rep.

Sinatra cancelled tonight's show when he felt lightheaded. He was admitted to Halifax Medical Center, but according to his rep he said he was feeling better. He suffered the heart attack while still at the hospital.

Frank Sinatra Jr, is survived by his wife, his two sisters, and his mother - who was the first of elder Sinatra's four wives...


Born on this day in 1897, great character actor Conrad Nagel was born in Keokuk, Iowa, into an upper-middle-class family, he was the son of a musician father, Frank, and a mother, Frances (née Murphy), who was a locally praised singer. Nagel's mother died early in his life, and he always attributed his artistic inclination to growing up in a family environment that encouraged self-expression. His father, Frank, became dean of the music conservatory at Highland Park College and when Nagel was three, the family moved to Des Moines.

After graduating from Highland Park College at Des Moines, Iowa, Nagel left for California to pursue a career in the relatively new medium of motion pictures where he garnered instant attention from the Hollywood studio executives. With his 6-foot-tall (1.8 m) frame, blue eyes, and wavy blond hair; the young, Midwestern Nagel was seen by studio executives as a potentially wholesome matinee idol whose unpretentious all-American charm would surely appeal to the nation's nascent film-goers.
Nagel was immediately cast in film roles that cemented his unspoiled lover image. His first film was the 1918 retelling of the Louisa May Alcott classic, Little Women, which quickly captured the public's attention and set Nagel on a path to silent film stardom. His breakout role came in the 1920 film, The Fighting Chance, opposite Swedish starlet Anna Q. Nilsson.

In 1927, Nagel starred alongside Lon Chaney, Sr., Marceline Day, Henry B. Walthall and Polly Moran in the now lost Tod Browning directed horror film, London After Midnight. The film is quite possibly the most famous lost film ever.

Unlike so many silent films stars of the Roaring Twenties, Conrad Nagel had little difficulty transitioning to talkies and spent the next several decades being very well received in high profile films as a character actor. He was also frequently heard on radio and made many notable appearances on television. From 1937 to 1947 he hosted and directed the radio program Silver Theater. From 1949 to 1952, he hosted the popular TV game show, Celebrity Time and from 1953 to 1954, the DuMont Television Network program Broadway to Hollywood. In 1961 he made a guest appearance on Perry Mason as art collector and murderer Nathan Claver in "The Case of the Torrid Tapestry.

Conrad's last movie was The Man Who Understood Women (1959), and in 1970, Nagel died in New York City at the age of 72, and was cremated at Garden State Crematory in North Bergen, New Jersey. Nagel's remains are interred at the Lutheran Cemetery in Warsaw, Illinois...

Sunday, March 13, 2016


It is not widely known but Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) from the Our Gang comedies had an older
brother - who also had a tragic end. Harold Frederick Switzer was the son of G. Frederick and Gladys Switzer of Paris, Illinois. Born on January 16, 1925 he and his young brother, Carl Switzer, became popular in Paris for their musical talents and performances. They both sang and played instruments in fairs and the carnival circuit, but in 1934, they headed to California to visit relatives and take a sightseeing tour, particularly around Hal Roach studios where the Our Gang shorts were being filmed.

It might have been fate or their father trying to steer them to greater success, but the boys' impromptu performance in the studio cafeteria impressed Hal Roach enough that they got to appear in the short, Beginner's Luck. 

Both Harold and Carl got acting contracts in the series, but it was Carl's comedic timing and look that made him the bigger star of the two; Harold pretty much did nothing but accompany his brother in singing acts or appear as an extra. Behind the scenes, his father often fought with the father of George McFarland as the two men argued the better talents of the two top Rascal stars. Harold was a background character through much of his brother's run in the series, even into the less-than-stellar M-G-M years, and when Carl was let go, Harold went with him. 

Afterward, as Carl was trying to find his identity after Our Gang, he returned to a normal life and left acting behind for a real job in the real world. He married and had three children while working for Speed Queen Company, installing and servicing washers and dryers, but like his brother, he seems to have inherited his father's argumentative behavior. 

In 1958, Carl had been shot to death in a disputed ambush over some money. Outliving his younger brother, in 1967, after killing a customer over a dispute, he himself drove to a remote area of Glendale, California and quietly took his own life. He died on April 14, 1967. He was quietly buried near his father and brother in Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery close to several other dearly departed stars of yesteryear...

Friday, March 11, 2016


Gogi Grant, a U.S. pop singer known best for the No. 1 hit "The Wayward Wind," has died. She was 91.

Her death Thursday, March 10, was announced by her son, Joshua Beckett. No cause of death was immediately available.

Grant was born Myrtle Audrey Arinsberg Sept. 20, 1924, in Philadelphia. When she was 12, she and her family moved to California, where she won a teen singing contest and made appearances on TV talent shows.

In 1952, she began her recording career, using the name Audrey Brown and later Audrey Grant. Record producer Dave Kapp, an RCA Records executive, renamed her as Gogi Grant.

In the '50s she released "Suddenly There's a Valley," which became a top-10 hit; "When the Tide Is High"; "Who Are We"; "You're in Love"; and "Strange Are the Ways of Love." Grant dubbed Ann Blyth's vocals in 1957's "The Helen Morgan Story." The film's soundtrack album reached No. 25 in the Billboard album chart.

She put out about nine albums including "Suddenly There's Gogi Grant" (1957); "Welcome to My Heart" (1958); and "Granted It's Gogi" (1959).

Grant also acted in 1958's "The Big Beat" and made regular appearances on television variety shows.

Grant continued performing in clubs through the 2000s and beyond...


Sunday, March 6, 2016


URBAN LEGEND: Does Fred Astaire's will stipulate that he can never be depicted on film?

STATUS: It is 100% true!

Fred Astaire’s will stipulates that he never be portrayed in a film.

Fred Astaire is likely the most famous ballroom dancer of the 20th Century, although he was a lot more than just a dancer. The American Film Institute named him the fifth Greatest Male Star of All Time.

For a man who was so famous on the silver screen, Astaire made a curious demand upon his death in 1987. In the decade or so leading up to his death, Astaire had been turning down requests for “official” film versions of his life, and upon his death, Astaire went one better.

In his will, Astaire stipulated that he never been portrayed in a film.

He felt that he should be judged by his life, and his life only, and not what some filmmaker may wish to say about his life in a film.

Oddly enough, in 1997, his widow, Robin, allowed Dirt Devil to use digital technology to make it appear as though Astaire was dancing with a Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner.

Astaire’s daughter was aghast – she stated that she was ”saddened that after Fred’s wonderful career, he was sold to the devil” (as you might imagine, Astaire’s daughter is not a fan of her step-mother – a woman that I am pretty sure is younger than her).

So there will never be a Ginger Rogers bio-pic, because you can not have a movie about Ginger Rogers without Fred Astaire!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016


In 1932, Miriam Hopkins became one of the first people in Hollywood to adopt a child – and was a single mother at the time. Miriam had just divorced her second husband, writer Austin Parker, and surprised everyone when she stopped off in Chicago on her way to New York and visited the Cradle Society, an adoption agency in suburban Evanston.

Requesting a tour of the institution, she examined all the children and studied their records of what was known of their parents. Finally, she happened upon a tow-headed, blue-eyed baby boy and immediately fell in love. The boy was known as Baby Wilson. “He’s healthy and cute,” said a representative from the orphanage.

Discovery of her plan to adopt a child and the resulting publicity annoyed Miriam and after adoption papers were signed she left the court declaring that she did not want to talk about it, or anything else for that matter.

“I hate all this publicity over a simple thing,” she told reporters. When asked why she wanted to adopt a baby, she said: “I don’t have to give any reasons. It is just a fact and we will live wherever I happen to be working.”

When Miriam returned the following week to pick up Michael, she had her friend, Dorothy Parker with her. Because Michael had blonde hair and blue eyes and closely resembled his adoptive mother, rumors arose that possibly Michael was her biological son.

“I was adopted in Chicago from the Cradle Society,” Michael said. “There was someone who wrote about a controversy that she went there to adopt a child that looked very much like her – blond hair and blue eyes, because at the time she was not married.”

Michael never knew for certain if the rumors were true – Miriam never said and he wasn’t interested in finding out. He also wasn’t told he was adopted until his late teens. “I didn’t find out that I was adopted until I had to go into the service and I needed my birth certificate,” Michael recalled. “She never mentioned that I was adopted. And no one ever said anything to me while I was growing up even though everyone in Hollywood knew it.”

Even though Michael grew up in Hollywood, he was rarely exposed to the Hollywood scene. Miriam bought John Gilberts house on Tower Road in Beverly Hills and had it remodeled. That is where Michael spent most of his childhood. “Tower place was nice because it had the amenities – a tennis court and swimming pool,” Michael recalled. Later in his life he returned to the place he grew up and was disappointed because it had been razed and was replaced by another house.

Regardless, Michael was treated well and educated in a series of private schools beginning with Arizona Desert School in Tucson, Arizona shortly after Miriam’s divorce from Litvak. His first day there, Miriam was helping him to get settled with his roommate. When she left the room Michael’s roommate asked, “Your mother’s a movie star, isn’t she?”

“Yes,” Michael replied.

“Is she a good actress?”

“I don’t know,” Michael said. “She thinks she is.”

Michael’s schooling continued at Riverdale High School and Valley Forge Military Academy and culminated in four years atLawrenceville. In his youth, Michael dated Elizabeth Montgomery and Irving Berlin’s daughter, Linda.

After school, he enlisted in the military service during the Korean War. It was during this time, while stationed in Morocco, that he met and married his wife, Christiane Carreno. While they were dating, Michael had not told Chris who his mother was. One evening they went to a Moroccan theater where The Mating Game, starring Miriam and Gene Tierney was showing. Michael pointed to Miriam on the screen and said, “See that lady there? That’s my mother.”

Michael made a career in the Air Force and as is usual in the military, was assigned to several bases over the world during the next ten years. In 1955, he and his wife had a son they named Thomas, and who became the apple of his grandmother’s eye. In 1966 Michael was assigned permanently to March Air Force Base in Riverside, California where they made their home.

In 1972 Miriam died at age 69 and Michael took his mother’s ashes to her hometown cemetery in Bainbridge, Georgia, and had them interred next to those of her mother.

In recent years Michael suffered from Parkinson’s disease and diabetes. He died on October 5, 2010 at the age of 78...