Friday, April 21, 2017

HISTORY OF A SONG: LIMEHOUSE BLUES

For some reason I never knew that this song originated in England...


"Limehouse Blues" is a popular 1922 British song written by the London-based duo of Douglas Furber (lyrics) and Philip Braham (music). It was made famous by Gertrude Lawrence. It has been recorded hundreds of times since, and remains in the standard jazz repertory. Some of the most notable recordings include those by Sidney Bechet, Django Reinhardt, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, Stan Kenton, The Dave Brubeck Quartet featuring Gerry Mulligan, the Ellis Marsalis Trio, Chet Atkins with Les Paul and The Mills Brothers. Outside jazz it has been recorded by a number of bluegrass artists, most notably by Reno and Smiley.

The song has been performed in such films as Ziegfeld Follies (by Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer in Asian makeup), and Star (by Julie Andrews, again, in Asian makeup). The song's title was used for the 1934 film Limehouse Blues.

The song was inspired by the Limehouse district of east London, which housed the London Chinatown of the late 19th and early 20th century (until the London West End Chinatown was established). The Chinese references can be heard in both the lyrics and the melody...


(REFRAIN):

Oh! Limehouse kid
Oh! Oh! Oh! Limehouse kid
Going the way that the rest of them did
Poor broken blossom and nobody's child
Haunting and taunting you're just kind of wild
Oh! Oh! Oh! Limehouse blues
I've seen the real Limehouse blues
Learned from chinkies those sad China blues
Ring your fingers and tears for your crown
That is the story of old China town.

Friday, April 14, 2017

THE LAST DAYS OF NAT KING COLE

Nat King Cole was and is one of the greatest singers of all-time. He is one of those singers whom I love and have a ton of his recordings, but I don't seem to play too much. After researching and compiling this article, I want to remedy that!

A KOOL menthol cigarette smoker, he would often smoke several cigarettes in a row before recording his songs. He believed they helped keep his deep, crooning voice low. He smoked approximately three packs of cigarettes a day.

In September of 1964, Mr. Cole began experiencing weight loss and severe back pain, harbingers of the lung cancer that had not yet been diagnosed.

Following a performance at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada during this period, he collapsed from pain and had to cut the engagement short. Friends urged him to seek medical help a couple of months later while he was working in San Francisco. He had a chest x-ray done at that time and a cancerous tumor was found on his left lung. Doctors gave him months to live and urged him to stop working. He refused and kept working until he was unable to any longer.


He entered St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica on December 9th and began cobalt (radiation) therapy on the 10th. He then had surgery to remove his left lung on January 25, 1965. Sadly, his father died of heart problems on February 1. Throughout Cole's illness his publicists promoted the idea that he would soon be well and working, despite the private knowledge of his terminal condition. Billboard magazine reported that "Nat King Cole has successfully come through a serious operation and ... the future looks bright for 'the master' to resume his career again." On Valentine's Day Cole and his wife briefly left St. John's to drive by the sea. He died at the hospital early in the morning of February 15 at the age of 45.


Cole's funeral was held on February 18 at St. James Episcopal Church on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles; 400 people were present, and thousands gathered outside the church. Hundreds of members of the public had filed past the coffin the day before. Notable honorary pallbearers included Robert F. Kennedy, Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Johnny Mathis, George Burns, Danny Thomas, Jimmy Durante, Bing Crosby, Alan Livingston, Frankie Laine, Steve Allen, and Pat Brown (the governor of California). The eulogy was delivered by Jack Benny, who said that "Nat Cole was a man who gave so much and still had so much to give. He gave it in song, in friendship to his fellow man, devotion to his family. He was a star, a tremendous success as an entertainer, an institution. But he was an even greater success as a man, as a husband, as a father, as a friend."

According to an article published after his death in the Los Angeles Times, Maria knew for several days that her husband was dying, but kept it a secret from the media so that Nat, who watched a lot of television wouldn't see a bad news report. He did not realize he was dying. Right up until the end, he thought he was recovering...


Friday, April 7, 2017

HOLLYWOOD URBAN LEGEND: ORSON WELLES

URBAN LEGEND: Does Hollywood icon Orson Welles still haunt his favorite restaurant?

STATUS: The people who work at the restaurant say it is 100% true!


This actor, producer, director and writer is still Hollywood royalty for his role in what was a brand new industry in his time. He is most well known for playing the lead role in film student must-see Citizen Kane. Orson Welles’ ghost is said to still frequent his favorite restaurant for a cigar and a bourbon. Many of the staff of Melrose Avenue restaurant Sweet Lady Jane’s have had encountered with Welles from beyond the grave.

In these accounts, Orson Welles is generally wearing a wide-brimmed black hat and a dark cape. It is also said that someone interacting with his spirit will pick up the aromas of his favorite bourbon and cigars. Although the dark spirit is somewhat ominous not one restaurant employee has reported a malicious presence along with these paranormal experiences. Sweet Lady Jane’s is still running and diners still have the chance to sit with their favorite Hollywood legend...


Friday, March 31, 2017

THE HITS OF SPIKE JONES


Before Weird Al Yankovic was making hit parodies, the talented Spike Jones (1911-1965) was making the world laugh, cringe, and admire his talent with his many records. Jones has been dead for fifty years, and he is largely forgotten but his recordings were not only great parodies, but they showed the great musicanship and talent his band had.

Here are some of his great recordings:

Der Fuehrer's Face

In 1942, a strike by the American Federation of Musicians prevented Jones from making commercial recordings for over two years. He could, however, make records for radio broadcasts. These were released on the Standard Transcriptions label (1941–1946) and have been reissued on a CD compilation called (Not) Your Standard Spike Jones Collection.

Recorded just days before the recording ban, Jones scored a huge broadcast hit late in 1942 with "Der Fuehrer's Face", a song ridiculing Adolf Hitler that followed every use of the word "Heil" with a derisive raspberry sound, as in the repeated phrase " Heil, (raspberry), Heil (raspberry), right in Der Fuehrer's face!".


More satirical songs

Other Jones satires followed: "Hawaiian War Chant", "Chloe", "Holiday for Strings", "You Always Hurt the One You Love", "My Old Flame", referring to Peter Lorre's voice (impersonated on the recording by Paul Frees) and eerie scenes in contemporary movies, and many more. The romantic ballad "Cocktails for Two", originally written to evoke an intimate romantic rendezvous, was re-recorded by Spike Jones in 1944 as a raucous, horn-honking, voice-gurgling, hiccuping hymn to the cocktail hour. The Jones version was a huge hit, much to the resentment of composer Sam Coslow.


Ghost Riders

Spike's parody of Vaughn Monroe's rendition of "Ghost Riders in the Sky" was performed as if sung by a drunkard and ridiculed Monroe by name in its final stanza:
CHORUS: 'Cause all we hear is "Ghost Riders" sung by Vaughn Monroe.
DRUNK: I can do without his singing.
FRIEND: But I wish I had his dough!

The official American release edited out the dig at Monroe, because Monroe, a popular RCA Victor recording artist and also a major RCA stockholder, demanded it. The original version was released on the European market in 1949. (A few pressings containing the first ending were mistakenly released on the West Coast and are a prized rarity today.)


All I Want for Christmas

Jones' recording, "All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth", with a piping vocal by George Rock, was a number-one hit in 1948. (Dora Bryan recorded a 1963 variation, "All I Want For Christmas is a Beatle".)

Murdering the Classics

Among the series of recordings in the 1940s were humorous takes on the classics such as the adaptation of Liszt's Liebesträume, played at a breakneck pace on unusual instruments. Others followed: Rossini's William Tell Overture was rendered on kitchen implements using a horse race as a backdrop, with one of the "horses" in the "race" likely to have inspired the nickname of the lone SNJ aircraft flown by the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels aerobatic team's shows in the late 1940s, "Beetle Bomb". In live shows Spike would acknowledge the applause with complete solemnity, saying "Thank you, music lovers." An LP collection of twelve of these "homicides" was released by RCA (on its prestigious Red Seal label) in 1971 as Spike Jones Is Murdering the Classics. They include such tours de force as Pal-Yat-Chee (Pagliacci), sung by the Hillbilly humorists Homer and Jethro, Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours, Tchaikovsky's None but the Lonely Heart, and Bizet's Carmen.
In 1944 RCA Victor released his "Spike Jones presents for the Kiddies" version of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite, in three 10 inch vinyl 78 rpm records, P-143, arrangement credited to Joe "Country" Washburne with lyrics by Foster Carling. It was released as a three 7 inch 45 rpm vinyl set in 1949 as WP-143 and as a one 45rpm extended play EPA-143 in 1952. An abridged version is also included in the aforementioned album, with a complete version available on the CD collection Spiked: The Music of Spike Jones...


Friday, March 24, 2017

WHAT A CHARACTER: SHIRLEY BOOTH

I remember growing up and one of my grandfather's favorite shows to watch on rerun was "Hazel". I don't think they show that on television anymore, despite being on the air from 1961 to 1966. However, the show and the star - Shirley Booth has remained with me through the years. A prolific stage performer of the 20th Century, she is beloved by film audiences as the emotionally tortured but devoted wife, Lola Delaney in Come Back Little Sheba (1952), and by television viewers as Hazel Burke, the headstrong yet lovable housekeeper in the 1960s sitcom "Hazel".

Born Marjory Ford in New York City on August 30, 1898, she began her theatre career in stock company productions, initially under the name Thelma Booth Ford. In 1925 she made her Broadway debut in "Hell's Bells", opposite then theatre regular Humphrey Bogart. During her decades on stage she achieved popularity in dramas, comedies and musicals. She went on to star on the successful radio series "Duffy's Tavern" (1941 to 1943). Her husband at the time, Ed Gardner, created, wrote and appeared in the show; They were married from 1929 to 1943. Booth's second marriage, to William Baker, lasted from 1943 until his death in 1951. 

She returned to the stage, appearing in "Goodbye, My Fancy" (1948) of which she received her first Tony Award - Best Supporting Actress (Dramatic). Her second Tony Award was for Best Actress (Dramatic), which she received for "Come Back, Little Sheba" (1950). Her dramatic success was immediately followed by the musical "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" (1951). 


In 1952 was was cast for the film version of  Come Back Little Sheba recreating her award winning stage role. She received an Academy Award - Best Actress, becoming the first actress ever to win both a Tony and an Oscar for the same role. The film also earned her Best Actress awards from the Golden Globe Awards, The Cannes Film Festival, The New York Film Critics Circle Awards, and National Board of Review. She would spend the next few years commuting between New York and Hollywood. Her time on the silver screen would be brief, appearing in only four more films: Main Street to Broadway (1953), About Mrs. Leslie (1954), Hot Spell (1958), and The Matchmaker (1958). 

In 1961, Booth was cast in the TV sitcom, "Hazel" based on a popular comic strip from the Saturday Evening Post about a domineering but lovable housekeeper. She won two Emmys for her role and a third Emmy nomination before the series concluded in 1966. Booth continued in television, gaining an Emmy nomination for her performance as Amanda in a TV adaptation of "The Glass Menagerie." She would make two final Broadway appearances in 1970 and two final television appearances before retiring in 1974. 


During her five decade career, she earned ten major acting awards and seven nominations. For her contributions to motion pictures, she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6840 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California. She died after a brief illness at her home in North Chatham, Massachusetts. By the 1980s, Booth's health began to decline. She reportedly suffered a stroke which caused mobility issues and blindness. After her death, Booth's sister said she had broken her hip in 1991 which further inhibited her mobility. On October 16, 1992, Booth died at age 94 at her home in North Chatham. Booth starred in countless roles, but she will always be Hazel to me. We all should be lucky enough to have a Hazel in our lives...


Friday, March 17, 2017

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD ON ST. PATRICK'S DAY

Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day, and to celebrate the wearing of the green, here are some excellent pictures of classic Hollywood celebrating...


JUNE HAVER

CLARA BOW

ARLENE DAHL

OLGA SAN JUAN

MAUREEN O'HARA

LUCILLE BALL

Saturday, March 11, 2017

THE BOY WITH THE GREEN HAIR: A 1948 REVIEW

One of my guilty pleasures when I was first collecting movies was The Boy With The Green Hair. At the time it was a rare movie that was just different. I liked it though. Here is the original 1948 review by Bosley Crowther from the New York Times of January 13, 1949...

A novel and noble endeavor to say something withering against war on behalf of the world's unnumbered children who are the most piteous victims thereof is made in the RKO picture, "The Boy With Green Hair," a fantasy-drama in color, which opened at the Palace yesterday. But the fact that the effort is earnest is no surety of its success. For all its proper intentions, the gesture falls short of its aim.

As mere sentimental entertainment, this tale of a lad whose hair turns green as a sort of miraculous token of the cruelty of war is unevenly appealing, it being, in certain respects, a beneficiary of the pattern of the charming "On Borrowed Time." The lad in the case is an orphan and he lives with a kindly old man who has a rare tenderness toward children—and who goes by the winning name of "Gramp." Furthermore, this attractive youngster becomes obsessed with a frightening idea, from which his gentle old guardian attempts to protect and deliver him.

In its scan of the poignant relations between the elderly man and the troubled boy, this film does project intimations of real compassion which are irresistible. And it profits in this projection from cozy performances by Dean Stockwell as the youngster and Pat O'Brien as the old man. Master Stockwell is lovable yet sturdy, diminutive yet strong, and Mr. O'Brien is softly sentimental without going into "Hearts and Flowers."


But, unfortunately, the idea with which the lad becomes obsessed—and which is, supposedly, responsible for his hair turning green—is weakly motivated. And the fanciful device of rendering his hair symbolic is not only arbitrary but vague.

It is not established, for instance, whether all this we see on the screen—the phenomenal hirsute coloration and the resentment of the townsfolk thereto—is supposed to be a boy's hallucination, just another of a couple he has, or whether it is intended as a strictly whimsical device. If the former, it isn't consistent with the evident fancies of this lad's mind. If the latter, it is strangely inconclusive, when pictured thusly. And, frankly, it's banal.


For it might stand to reason that a youngster of a particularly introverted sort could be so upset by anxieties that he would sense an extreme conspicuousness. And he might even tie up this fancy in a childish way with the victimizations of war. But to reason, in adult whimsey, that wars are caused by such a superficial thing as resentment of coloration is absurd and misleading.

It is very much to be regretted that Ben Barzman and Alfred Lewis Levitt, in writing this film's script from a modest little story by Betsy Beaton, and Joseph Losey in directing it, did not clarify the implication. Not only is it now confused, but one gets the uncomfortable feeling that it is just a bright adult notion gone wrong. The use of the by-now quite hackneyed "Nature Boy" as a musical theme does not dignify the conception. The supporting cast is adequate...



SOURCE



Saturday, March 4, 2017

TEN THINGS YOU DON'T KNOW ABOUT ETHEL MERMAN


"There’s No Business Like Show Business" was  Ethel Merman's signature song, and it encapsulates her image: brassy and camp, cheerful and a little abrasive. Most readers can probably hum a few bars of this and a few other Merman songs, maybe even offer a decent impression of her legendary singing voice, but how much do they really know about La Merm?

To celebrate Merman's birthday on January. 16, we offer 10 things you may not have known about the brash songstress

1. She recorded a disco album. In 1979, disco was king. And it wasn't just popular, it was versatile. You could set almost anything to a disco beat and end up with a catchy treat for the dance floor – Beethoven's 5th Symphony, the Star Wars theme, the quacks of a disco duck… or Ethel Merman's greatest hits. Merman recorded seven of her top songs, producers added disco beats, strings and background vocals, and a cult classic was born. Although the album only made a minor splash in the clubs and never charted, it has since found a cherished and campy place in gay culture. 


2. She named her daughter Ethel Jr. Merman had two children, and they were both juniors: her son Robert and her daughter Ethel, both born to Merman and her second husband, Robert Levitt. While "Junior" wasn’t a legal part of young Ethel's name, she was nicknamed "Ethel Jr." Ethel Jr. died of a drug overdose in 1967 at the age of 25.

3. She sang with the Muppets. In the 1960s and '70s, Merman made guest appearances on a wide variety of television shows. On The Carol Burnett Show she dueted with Burnett; on Sha Na Na she knocked the boys to the ground with the power of her voice; on That Girl she reprised her role from Gypsy and gave Ann tips for achieving stardom. And then there was her Muppet Show appearance, an unexpectedly sweet guest star turn in which Merman cheered up a despondent Fozzie Bear and went on to sing with the whole gang. 

4. She was self taught. That big voice didn't come from years of lessons, working and studying to increase her range and power. No, it was all natural – Merman never had a singing lesson in her life. And yet her powerful voice could reach every corner of a Broadway theater, right to the back row, without amplification. And her enunciation was so crystal clear that every word could be heard and understood by the folks in that back row. Composer George Gershwin was so impressed that he begged her never to work with a vocal teacher. 


5. Tonsillitis improved her voice. In 1929 the young starlet contracted a severe case of tonsillitis. Merman agreed to a tonsillectomy despite fears that it would ruin her greatest asset, her big and distinctive voice. To her surprise and delight, once she had recovered and tried singing again, her voice was even more powerful than it had been before the surgery. 

6. She was married to Ernest Borgnine for 32 days. Merman's marriage to Borgnine was her fourth, last and briefest. Merman admitted she didn't have the best judgment when it came to men: in a radio interview, she noted of her many marriages, "We all make mistakes, that's why they put rubbers on pencils, and that's what I did. I made a few loo-loos!" Her 1972 memoir Merman includes a chapter entitled "My Marriage to Ernest Borgnine" that consists of nothing more than a single blank page. But don't worry about Borgnine – he got off his own quip too, commenting about the marriage, "Biggest mistake of my life. I thought I was marrying Rosemary Clooney." 

7. Jacqueline Susann fell in love with her. It may or may not be true that Merman had an affair with Susann, queen of the trashy novel. Some say that Merman was spotted making out with the author on a couch at a party; others assert that Merman, though a staple of gay culture, wasn't interested in other women at all. But what's certain is that Susann once showed up at Merman's New York apartment, distraught and screaming "I love you!" Susann went on to base her Valley of the Dolls character Anne, an aging stage actress, on Merman. 


8. Her role in Gypsy was her biggest triumph – and her biggest disappointment. Merman loved playing Rose Hovick, mother of Gypsy Rose Lee and June Havoc, on Broadway in Gypsy. Her interpretation brought rave reviews from fans and critics alike – she was called brilliant and indomitable. Yet she didn't win the Tony that year (it went to Mary Martin in The Sound of Music, and Merman took it in stride, quipping "How are you going to buck a nun?"), and, surprisingly, she didn't land the role in the film. Merman fully expected to play Rose on the silver screen, having been assured by the director that the role was hers. But in the end, without much explanation, the film role was given to Rosalind Russell. Though Merman considered the loss of the movie "the greatest professional disappointment of my life," she stuck with the Broadway show, even continuing on the national tour with a severe back injury.

9. In 1954, Ethel made the splashy musical "There's No Business Like Show Business" featuring a slew of Irving Berlin tunes. Her co-stars included Dan Dailey, Mitzi Gaynor, Donald O'Connor, and the great Marilyn Monroe. Ethel did not think she was so great, and she hated Marilyn for her unprofessional behavior on the set. As a result, Merman made life miserable on the set for the blond bombshell and would intimidate Monroe so much that Marilyn would throw up after every scene they had together.

10. She loved dirty jokes. Merman had a blue sense of humor and a mouth like a sailor's. She delighted in opportunities to share vulgar jokes – whether she was shouting them across crowded rooms or including them in greeting cards... 



Saturday, February 25, 2017

CELEBRITY ADS: CLAUDETTE COLBERT

Here in Pennsylvania, the cigarette tax is so high that I am not sure how anyone can afford to smoke. That was not the case in classic Hollywood days. Almost every star would promote smoking, whether in their movies or in adverstisements. Here is an ad featuring the beautiful Claudette Colbert. This was from 1948 when she was also promoting her newest film Sleep My Love...



Friday, February 17, 2017

A PREGNANT MARILYN MONROE

Extraordinary photographs purporting to show a secret pregnancy of film icon Marilyn Monroe can today be revealed for the first time.

The world exclusive images of the beautiful Some Like It Hot actress and model were sold as original color slides at an auction in Hollywood in November last year from the estate of well known Monroe confidante Frieda Hull.

But the stunning photos went under the radar, selling for a mere $2,240 with wealthy collectors not aware of their true significance.

Now DailyMail.com can reveal the six unique images were the prized possession of Monroe's loyal friend Hull, which she dubbed the ‘pregnant slides’ – a reference to a shocking secret the screen siren kept right up until her death.

The shots were taken on July 8, 1960, outside Fox Studios in New York after Monroe had completed costume and hair tests for her film The Misfits, starring Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift .

The images clearly show a prominent bump from Monroe’s belly which Hull claimed was evidence the star was in the early stages of pregnancy.

And DailyMail.com can reveal the would-be father was not Monroe's then husband, playwright Arthur Miller, it was in fact Italian-French actor Yves Montand – who she met on the set of film Let's Make Love and who she had a very public affair with.


DailyMail.com spoke to Tony Michaels, the man who bought the color slides at the ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ Marilyn Memorabilia Auction held by Julien’s Auctions in LA.

Tony, 56, was a close friend and next door neighbor of Frieda Hull before she passed.

He reveals that Hull had confided in him about Monroe’s secret pregnancy and claims the ‘pregnant slides’ are genuine evidence that she was with child.

The images were the prized possession of Hull, who died in 2014

And in an extraordinary and tragic Hollywood tale Tony says Monroe kept her pregnancy a secret from the world before 'losing' the baby during a hospital visit.


Tony told Daily Mail: ‘Frieda was very proud of those slides and she was very proud to keep them a secret until the day she died.

‘But she told me the story behind them, that Marilyn got pregnant by Yves Montand.

‘It wasn’t a guess or a presumption, it was something she knew for sure, she was very close to Marilyn.

‘As far as she was concerned Marilyn was pregnant in the summer of 1960 and the slides prove it.’

Monroe had wanted a baby more than anything in the world, but that joy was denied her.

She had three miscarriages prior to losing this baby, all of which played out in the public eye. The star suffered with a condition called endometriosis her entire life that caused severe menstrual pain and she also struggled to conceive.

‘I suggested she sell the slides and all her other memorabilia so she could afford a better place to live, but again she refused, she said she would never sell out on her friend of ten years Marilyn...



Monday, February 13, 2017

RECENTLY VIEWED: SINGIN IN THE RAIN

It was a sad day for movie musicals when Debbie Reynolds died in December of 2016. She was really the last tie to the classic movie musical. Even before her death my friend mentioned how him and his son (who is friend's with my son) were going to see a viewing of Singin In The Rain. My son is very picky when it comes to movies, and unlike my friend's son, my son does not like to watch different movies. So after some sweet talking, I convinced my seven year old to go with me to see this 1952 classic. I'm glad I did because he loved it! His favorite part of the movie was the comedic parts with Jean Hagen, but he always loved the song Singin in The Rain. (I used to sing it to him as I gave him a bath). It was sad to see the talented Debbie Reynolds on the screen only two weeks after she died, but it was awesome to see it on the big screen. The showing was sold out ,and people applauded after the musical numbers - it literally brought tears to my eyes.

More on the actual movie though - The film was only a modest hit when first released. Donald O'Connor won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, and Betty Comden and Adolph Green won the Writers Guild of America Award for their screenplay, while Jean Hagen was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. But it has since been accorded legendary status by contemporary critics, and is frequently regarded as the best movie musical ever made and the best film ever made in the "Freed Unit" at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Singin' in the Rain
was originally conceived by MGM producer Arthur Freed, the head of the "Freed Unit" responsible for turning out MGM's lavish musicals, as a vehicle for his catalog of songs written with Nacio Herb Brown for previous MGM musical films of the 1929–39 period. Screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green wrote two entirely new songs, "Make 'Em Laugh" and "Moses Supposes", the latter with music director Roger Edens providing the music.


In the famous dance sequence in which Gene Kelly sings the title song while spinning an umbrella, splashing through puddles and getting soaked to the skin, Kelly was sick with a 103 °F (39 °C) fever. The rain in the scene caused Kelly's wool suit to shrink during filming. A common myth is that Kelly managed to perform the entire song in one take, thanks to cameras placed at predetermined locations. However, this was not the case, as the filming of the sequence took place over 2–3 days.Another myth is that the rain was mixed with milk in order for the drops to show up better on camera; but the desired visual effect was produced, albeit with difficulty, through back lighting.


Debbie Reynolds was not a dancer when she made Singin' in the Rain; her background was as a gymnast. Kelly apparently insulted her for her lack of dance experience, upsetting her. In a subsequent encounter when Fred Astaire was in the studio, he found Reynolds crying under a piano. Hearing what had happened, Astaire volunteered to help her with her dancing. Kelly later admitted that he had not been kind to Reynolds and was surprised that she was still willing to talk to him afterward. After shooting the "Good Morning" routine, which had taken from 8:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. to shoot, Reynolds' feet were bleeding. Years later, she was quoted as saying that "Singin' in the Rain and childbirth were the two hardest things I ever had to do in my life."

Donald O'Connor had to stay in bed in the hospital for several days after filming the "Make 'Em Laugh" sequence, due to his smoking up to four packs of cigarettes a day!


I could go on and on about this movie, but fans of classic musicals know all about this film. What was so great about this 2017 movie theater viewing was how the film really held up. It was great to see young people in the audience - my seven year old son one of them - laughing and tapping along to the movie. A few observations I made watching the film was how great Donald O'Connor was in the film. He was really amazing, and he was such an underrated performer I feel. In some of the scenes you can see how scared Debbie Reynolds was, but she was a great match to Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor. One of my favorite dancers, Cyd Charisse, was in the movie for one dance number with Kelly, and it was great to see her larger than life as well - except in the movie theater I could see a big black and blue mark on her upper leg! 

Seeing Singin' In The Rain in a 2017 movie theater - what a glorious feeling...

MY RATING: 10 OUT OF 10


Monday, February 6, 2017

BORN ON THIS DAY: BABE RUTH

Usually when a profile a birthday on the blog, it is someone directly related to Hollywood. However, since my son is not addicted to baseball, I wanted to profile who I think is the greatest baseball player of all time - Babe Ruth. He would have been a young 111 today! George Herman Ruth Jr. was born on February 6,1895 at 216 Emory Street in Pigtown, a working-class section of Baltimore, Maryland, named for its meat-packing plants. Its population included recent immigrants from Ireland, Germany and Italy, and African Americans. Ruth's parents, George Herman Ruth, Sr. (1871–1918), and Katherine Schamberger, were both of German American ancestry. According to the 1880 census, his parents were born in Maryland. The paternal grandparents of Ruth, Sr. were from Prussia and Hanover, respectively. Ruth, Sr. had a series of jobs, including lightning rod salesman and streetcar operator, before becoming a counterman in a family-owned combination grocery and saloon on Frederick Street. George Ruth Jr. was born in the house of his maternal grandfather, Pius Schamberger, a German immigrant and trade unionist. Only one of young George's seven siblings, his younger sister Mamie, survived infancy.


Many aspects of Ruth's childhood are undetermined, including the date of his parents' marriage. When young George was a toddler, the family moved to 339 South Woodyear Street, not far from the rail yards; by the time the boy was 6, his father had a saloon with an upstairs apartment at 426 West Camden Street. Details are equally scanty about why young George was sent at the age of 7 to St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys, a reformatory and orphanage. As an adult, Babe Ruth suggested that not only had he been running the streets and rarely attending school, he was drinking beer when his father was not looking. Some accounts say that, after a violent incident at his father's saloon, the city authorities decided this environment was unsuitable for a small child. At St. Mary's, which George Jr. entered on June 13, 1902, he was recorded as "incorrigible"; he spent much of the next twelve years there

In early 1914, Ruth was signed to a professional baseball contract by Jack Dunn, owner and manager of the minor-league Baltimore Orioles, an International League team.Babe Ruth's first appearance as a professional ballplayer was in an inter squad game on March 7, 1914. Ruth played shortstop, and pitched the last two innings of a 15–9 victory. Arriving in Boston to play for the Red Sox from 1914-1919, Babe emerged as a great star of the sport. Playing with the New York Yankees from 1920 to 1934, cemented himself as an icon of the game. Many of his records have been broken, but he is still the Great Bambino to anyone who has a love of the game. Happy birthday Babe...


Saturday, January 28, 2017

RIP: JOHN HURT

John Hurt, the esteemed British actor known for his burry voice and weathered visage — one that was kept hidden for his most acclaimed role, that of the deformed John Merrick in David Lynch’s The Elephant Man — died Friday in London. He was 77.

The two-time Oscar nominee's six-decade career also included turns on the BBC’s Doctor Who and in A Man for All Seasons (1966), Midnight Express (1978) and three Harry Potter films.

He announced in June 2015 that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

On screens big and small, Hurt died what seemed a thousand deaths. “I think I’ve got the record,” he once said. “It got to a point where my children wouldn’t ask me if I died, but rather how do you die?”

One of his most memorable came when he played Kane, the first victim in Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), in which he collapses over a table and a snakelike alien bursts out of his chest. (How'd they do that? There was an artificial chest screwed to the table, and Hurt was underneath.)

“Ridley didn’t tell the cast,” executive producer Ronald Shusett told Empire magazine in 2009. “He said, ‘They’re just going to see it.’ ”

“The reactions were going to be the most difficult thing,” Scott explained. “If an actor is just acting terrified, you can’t get the genuine look of raw, animal fear. What I wanted was a hardcore reaction.”

Hurt then lampooned the famous torso-busting scene for director Mel Brooks — whose production company produced 1980's The Elephant Man — for the 1987 comedy Spaceballs.


The Elephant Man received eight Academy Award nominations, including one for Hurt as best actor, but went home empty on Oscar night. (Hurt lost out to Robert De Niro as boxer Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull.)

Hurt also garnered an Oscar best supporting actor nomination and a Golden Globe win in 1979 for Midnight Express, in which he portrayed a heroin addict in a Turkish prison. The Alan Parker drama was based on the true story of Billy Hayes (played by Brad Davis), an American college student caught smuggling drugs.

“I loved making Midnight Express,” he said in 2014. “We were making commercial films then that really did have cracking scenes in them, as well as plenty to say, you know?”

His more recent film appearances came in Snowpiercer (2013), The Journey (2016) and Jackie (2016). He is set to be seen in the upcoming features That Good Night and My Name Is Lenny and was to play Neville Chamberlain in the upcoming Joe Wright drama Darkest Hour.


John Vincent Hurt was born Jan. 22, 1940, in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, England. He studied art at his parents’ behest, earning an art teacher’s diploma. Disillusioned with the prospect of becoming a teacher, Hurt moved to London, where he won an acting scholarship at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He studied there for two years, securing bit parts in TV shows.

Hurt made his London stage debut in Infanticide in the House of Fred Ginger in 1962. That year, he acted in his first film, The Wild and the Willing, and his role as the duplicitous baron Richard Rich in Oscar best picture winner A Man for All Seasons helped him become more widely known in the U.S.

Hurt brought his peculiarly powerful persona to the role of Mr. Ollivander in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010) and Part 2 (2011).

Hurt also was known for his rich, nicotine-toned timbre, which won him many voiceover assignments. He was the narrator in The Tigger Movie (2000), Dogville (2003), Manderlay (2005) and Charlie Countryman (2013).


For the small screen, Hurt starred in the TV shows The Storyteller, The Alan Clark Diaries, The Confession and Merlin and in the miniseries Crime and Punishment and Labyrinth. He notably played the War Doctor in the 2013-14 season of Doctor Who.

The accomplished stage actor performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. In 1994, he starred opposite Helen Mirren in Bill Bryden’s West End production of A Month in the Country, and he scraped out an edgy and vigorously dour performance in Samuel Beckett’s autobiographical one-man drama Krapp’s Last Tape in 1999.

When asked about the difference between film and stage acting, Hurt explained: “It’s rather like two different sports. You use two completely different sets of muscles.”

In 2012, Hurt was honored with a lifetime achievement award by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, then was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in July 2015.

Survivors include his fourth wife Anwen Rees-Myers, whom he married in 2005, and sons Alexander and Nicholas...


RIP: BARBARA HALE

LOS ANGELES — Barbara Hale, a movie actress who found her most famous role on television as steadfast secretary Della Street in the long-running Perry Mason series, has died. She was 94.

Hale was surrounded by family when she died Thursday at her Los Angeles areahome, said Jaqueline Stander, an agent for Hale's son, actor William Katt (The Greatest American Hero, Carrie).

"She was gracious and kind and silly and always fun to be with," Katt posted on his Facebook page Thursday, calling Hale a wonderful actress and a "treasure as a friend and mother."

Stander declined to provide the cause of death.

Hale appeared in Perry Mason on CBS from 1957 to 1966, winning an Emmy as best actress in 1959. When the show was revived in 1985 on NBC as an occasional TV movie, she again appeared in court at the side of the ever-victorious lawyer played by Raymond Burr.

She continued her role after Burr died in 1993 and was replaced by Hal Holbrook for the movies that continued into 1995.

"I guess I was just meant to be a secretary who doesn't take shorthand," she once quipped. "I'm a lousy typist, too — 33 words a minute."


Hale was born in DeKalb, Ill., daughter of a landscape gardener and a homemaker. The family moved to Rockford when she was 4, and she later took part in local theater. But her goals were to be a nurse or journalist.

When her ambition turned to art, she studied at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, where she was often sought as a model. Her work for a modeling agency prompted an offer for a contract at the RKO studio in Hollywood.

When she reported to the casting director, he was speaking on the phone to someone who needed an immediate replacement for an actress who was sick.

"It hit every paper the next day: the Cinderella story," she recalled in a 1993 Chicago Tribune interview. "Of course they said it was a starring role. I had one line, but you know about those things."

The movie was a quickie, Gildersleeve's Bad Day, but she went on to appear with Pat O'Brien in The Iron Major, Frank Sinatra in Higher and Higher and Robert Young in Lady Luck.

Another co-star was a blond actor named Bill Williams (real name: William Katt), with whom she appeared in West of the Pecos and A Likely Story. They met over coffee in the studio commissary and married in Rockford in 1946. The couple had three children: Nita, William and Jody.

Williams, who died in 1992, later gained TV fame as star of The Adventures of Kit Carson. Their son goes by his father's original name, William Katt.

After her RKO contract ended, Hale worked at other studios, usually as the adoring wife of the leading man. She played opposite Larry Parks in Jolson Sings Again, James Stewart in Jackpot and James Cagney in A Lion Is in the Streets.
In 1957, she joined the memorable cast of Perry Mason that included Burr as the defense attorney who solved his cases in the courtroom, William Hopper as investigator Paul Drake, William Talman as never-winning prosecutor Hamilton Burger and Ray Collins as police lieutenant Arthur Tragg.


"When we started, it was the beginning of women not working at home," Hale said in the 1993 interview. "I liked that she was not married. My husband, Bill, didn't have to see me married to another man, and our children didn't have to see me mothering other children."

In the early 1970s, Hale took on another widely recognized role, touting Amana Radarange microwave ovens in TV commercials and print ads.

Burr and Hale were the only original cast members when the show resumed on NBC in 1985 in the movie format. Her son, William Katt, appeared in nine of the two-hour shows, as the investigator son of Paul Drake.

Hale's later films included the original Airport, playing the husband of Dean Martin's pilot character; The Giant Spider Invasion and Big Wednesday, in which she appeared with her son. She retired from making movies in 1995...