Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

(Wicked witch courtesy of sister Debbie.)

Here’s hoping that everyone out there in Yesteryear Land is having a cool, crazy fantabulous Halloween weekend!  Things have been sort of low-key here at the ranch, owing largely to the fact that neither Athens nor Clarke County established an official Trick-or-Treat time this year.  I observe Halloween on the 31st, as I’m sure most of you do as well—but you can’t tell me that there weren’t some religious types out there up in arms about this sort of thing falling on a Sunday.  Anyway, I’m handing out the candy tonight and if nobody comes to the door…well, that just means more Kit-Kats and Reese’s for yours truly.

I’ve really been digging the Turner Classic Movies Horror Marathon the past couple of days, though the only real nitpick is that they seriously need to rotate some of the movies on the schedule.  TDOY favorites like The Raven (1963) and The Masque of the Red Death (1964) were on the program when the lineup was first announced but were removed unceremoniously by airtime…much to my displeasure.  I’ve been watching (and recording) a few favorites (I’d venture to say I’ve got most of what TCM shows already) and have been mixing them up with goodies from the dusty TDOY archives:

The Corpse Vanishes (1942) – Bela Lugosi is Dr. George Lorenz, a mad scientist who perpetuates the youth of his aging spouse (TDOY fave Elizabeth Russell, in a thankless role) using the glands of young virgins.  How does he obtain these glands, I hear you asking while attempting to keep a straight face?  Well, he abducts women who are about to say “I do” at the matrimonial altar…hey, they’re all dressed in white—they must be pure as the driven snow.  Serial veteran Luana Walters (Drums of Fu Manchu, Captain Midnight) is Patricia Hunter, world’s worst reporter, who manages to shut down Lorenz’s little operation with the help of a doctor played by another chapter play stalwart, Tristam Coffin.  I had already seen this little mess from Monogram many moons ago so I revisited it out of curiosity; I think I preferred watching it the first time, when it was supplemented by wisecracks from some guy and his robot pals (yes, I caught it on MST3K).

Following Vanishes was another one of Bela’s B-picture embarrassments, the 1940 PRC quickie The Devil Bat (1941)—which I originally had planned to skip after reading Stacia’s assessment but she talked me into seeing it, saying it ultimately came down to my own judgment.  I got through the first twenty minutes, enjoying myself tremendously by laughing at the king-sized bats created by Bela’s Dr. Paul Carruthers who are trained to attack his former business partners because he’s spiked some shaving lotion with a special chemical and given the requisite as a gift to the aforementioned partners.  I didn’t get to finish this one, however, because Ivan, Sr. arrived on the scene, making one of his frequent cameos to Castle Yesteryear.

The Bowery Boys Meet the Monsters (1954) – This horror comedy isn’t the funniest in the oeuvre of Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall but it was the most financially successful of the Bowery Boys series, and it benefits from a great cast of character actors including Lloyd Corrigan, Ellen Corby and Mister John Dehner.  Slip (Gorcey) and Sach (Hall) pay the creepy Gravesend family a visit, seeking to get their permission to use a vacant lot they own for the local Little League team, and mad scientists Corrigan and Dehner want to use our heroes’ brains (such as they are) to transplant into a mechanical robot and ape, respectively.  At this point in the series, the Bowery Boys films were helped immeasurably by the contributions of writer-director Edward Bernds, a former Columbia soundman who penned and helmed many of the funniest of the studio’s two-reel comedies, particularly those featuring the Three Stooges.  Bernds quit the studio out of loyalty to his producer, Hugh McCollum, who had been nudged out by Jules White—and along with writing partner Elwood Ullman simply borrowed the gags they had used for the Stooges and Columbia’s other 2-reel comics and applied them to the Bowery Boys, making some of the funniest entries in the series.  My favorite bit in Monsters has Dehner and Corrigan discussing their experiments, with Dehner remarking that the perfect brain for his gorilla would have to measure between plus-five and plus-seven on a “Brain Potential Meter.”

“That’s ridiculous…a creature with a brain that small wouldn’t have enough sense to come out of the rain,” is Corrigan’s reply.  Cut to Gorcey and Hall standing outside the mansion in a torrential downpour.

The Old Dark House (1963) – I’ve never seen this William Castle-directed remake of the infinitely better 1932 horror classic (helmed by James Whale) and after having seen it…hoo boy.  It’s supposed to be a comedy-horror film but is neither funny nor scary, and it wastes great character actors like Robert Morley, Peter Bull, Joyce Grenfell and Mervyn Johns, father of TDOY fave Glynis and one of the principals in the classic Dead of Night (1945), which TCM featured Thursday evening.  As for Tom Poston…well, he has the legacy of Steve Allen and Newhart to fall back on, but he just didn’t impress me in this film, the second of two he made with Castle (the first being the 1962 comedy-fantasy Zotz!).  After seeing this, my advice is to stick with the 1932 original…which is both funny and scary.

Strait-Jacket (1964) – Let’s be honest—whatever directing talent William Castle displayed during his early years of helming Columbia programmers like The Whistler series had pretty much dissipated by the time he made those gimmicky horror thrillers in the 1950s and 1960s; a few of them aren’t too bad (House on Haunted Hill, The Tingler, I Saw What You Did) and this one—with Joan Crawford as a reformed axe-murderess—holds a special place in my heart despite its weaknesses and implausibilities (I mean, Joan Crawford as an axe murderess—is that not the coolest thing ever?).  Crawford’s Lucy Harbin has been released from the loony bin after a twenty-year stretch for killing her unfaithful hubby (an uncredited Lee Majors, long before he became bionic) and no sooner has she settled in with her daughter Carol (Diane Baker) when the killings begin again.  You could argue that the cast—Joanie, Baker, Leif Erickson, Rochelle Hudson, Howard St. John and future Oscar winner George Kennedy—are slumming in this, but I think it’s just plain goofy fun, with a good screenplay by Robert Bloch, a guy who knew a little bit about serial killers.

I skipped TCM’s repeat of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), waiting instead to watch What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) with Crawford and Bette Davis; it’s a film that I had previously seen but one of those rare movies that actually improves with a second viewing…or at least it did in my case.  You probably know the story on this one: Crawford is a former movie star who’s been crippled in an auto accident and has been under the care (and at the mercy) of sister Davis, a former child star living in the past and who’s become quite mad.  The first time I watched this I was a little put off by the bizarreness of the production…and in many ways it sort of ruined future Bette Davis movie viewings for me because I have a tendency to see the blueprint of “Baby Jane Hudson” in her past performances, seeing all too well the parody that Davis would become.  But last night I really marveled at what an amazing performance Bette gives in this one, creating a character both pathetic and endearing (and it’s a brave turn, allowing oneself to appear like that on camera)…and noticing that Crawford was pretty much her equal (well, at least in this film), resisting the temptation to wander off into Strait-Jacket territory.  And for some odd reason, I always forget that Dave Willock is in this movie (he plays Pa Hudson in the beginning of the film).  (The line “But you ARE, Blanche…you ARE in that chair” never fails to break me up, also.)

The Terror (1963) – Because he was reluctant to tear down the sets from The Raven—and because his plans to play tennis that weekend had been rained out—Roger Corman whipped up this little quickie that seems improvised and off-the-cuff despite a screenplay credit by Leo Gordon and Jack Hill.  Terror was also directed by about five different people, including Francis Ford Coppola, Monte Hellman and star Jack Nicholson, who plays a lieutenant in Napoleon’s army entranced with a woman (Sandra Knight) who keeps disappearing and reappearing throughout the narrative…it turns out she’s the deceased wife of mad baron Boris Karloff.  Terror isn’t particularly good Corman, and in fact seems longer than it actually is (81 minutes)—but it’s best known as the film playing at the drive-in in Peter Bogdanovich’s Targets (1968)…and really, you’d be better off watching that movie than this one.  (I recorded Terror only because TCM was running it letterboxed, as they did A Bucket of Blood [1959], which followed.)

I had intended to revisit Rosemary’s Baby (1968) last night but decided to substitute Halloween (1978) at the last minute—I obtained the Halloween DVD (in addition to Frankenstein [1931]) via some bonus points I had with CharredHer.  I still remember the first time I saw John Carpenter’s classic horror flick back in 1981; I made it a point to see it at a showing at Marshall University before going to see the sequel (which was not directed by Carpenter).  I took my best pal the Duchess to see Halloween II and while walking back towards the dorms, I heard a coin drop on the pavement…and because I had been fingering my loose change in my pocket while walking I thought I might have dropped something of significant monetary value.  As I bent down to pick up the coin, four of my friends from the dorm (who had also seen the movie, though they didn’t sit with us) leaped out and scared the absolute piss of Duchess, who then took off running in a manner not unlike the Road Runner…I even saw the storefronts of buildings being torn off in her wake.  It was pretty funny because I was both yelling at her to come back and yelling at my friends for being such doofuses; by the time I caught up with her she was already in the receiving area at her dormitory and I received an ass-chewing of major proportions even though I had nothing to do with the prank.  (Honest.)

Unfortunately, Halloween hasn’t held up as well as I had hoped—there are still some pretty good scares in the film but I’ve seen it so many times I preoccupy myself by looking at the gaping logic loopholes.  Most of the time I just giggle at the in-jokes and enjoy the first-rate performances from Donald Pleasance and Jamie Lee Curtis.  (I was going to write this up during the John Carpenter Blogathon but prior engagements kept me from fulfilling the obligation.)

So my plans are to turn on the porch lights and see if any trick-or-treaters arrive while at the same time running the traditional Halloween showing of Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948); TCM’s also got The Haunting (1963) and Poltergeist (1983) on tap, and I may sit down for those…and then again, I could take another try at Baby.  In the meantime, I want to wish everyone who stops by to visit this humble scrap of the blogosphere the happiest of Halloweens…let’s turn the lights down and watch a movie!

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Happy birthday, Uncle Marvin!

Yes, today is my Uncle Marv’s (mumble mumble) natal anniversary, and I thought it was only right and proper to announce this to the many reader of this blog.  To those who know him personally, he’s a man who possesses a ready wit, an eye for a shapely form (provided my Aunt Jane isn’t watching) and an insatiable thirst for the good things in life.  I’ve often marveled at how he’s able to sample just a little bit of wine poured into his glass and with one swish, tell you precisely…that he’d like a little more.  Marv is also the author in the family—he’s written two books, The View from Dotsons Point and The Dawn of Division: Philippi-The Beginning…both of which are testaments to his passion for Civil War and WV history and are also available at (no, I don’t get a kickback if you order one).

Naturally, I was beside myself with curiosity as to what famous people shared a birthday with my uncle…and here they are:

Jan Vermeer (1632-1675) – Danish painter

John Keats (1795-1821) – English poet (Ode to a Grecian Urn)

Juliette Gordon Low (1860-1927) – Savannah, GA native and founder of the Girl Scouts of America

Sara Allgood (1879-1950) – Irish stage and screen actress whose vehicles include How Green Was My Valley and The Lodger

Bud Duncan (1883-1960) – Silent and sound film comedian best known as partner to Lloyd Hamilton in a truckload of “Ham and Bud” comedies made in the 1910s

Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975) – 20th century Chinese political and military leader

Ethel Waters (1896-1977) – Stage, screen and television singer-actress whose vehicles include Cabin in the Sky and The Member of the Wedding

Eduard Franz (1902-1983) – Stage, screen and television character actor whose vehicles include The Magnificent Yankee and The Ten Commandments

Sy Devore (1907-1966) – Famed tailor who made suits for the likes of Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and other Hollywood actors

Ollie Johnston (1912-2008) – Legendary Disney Studios animator

Dale Evans (1912-2001) – Queen of the Cowgirls and Mrs. Roy Rogers

John Sylvester White (1919-1988) – Television actor remembered for playing the crusty principal Mr. Michael Woodman on Welcome Back, Kotter

Leonard Freeman (1920-1974) – Television writer-producer who created Hawaii Five-O

Dick Francis (1920-2010) – Former jockey who turned to writing mystery novels…about the subject of horse racing

Talfryn Thomas (1922-1982) – British actor best remembered as Private Cheeseman on the classic Britcom Dad’s Army

Barbara Bel Geddes (1922-2005) – TDOY actress fave whose films include I Remember Mama and Vertigo…and whose television immortality was cemented by playing Miss Ellie Ewing on Dallas

Guy Marks (1923-1987) – Standup comedian and impressionist who also scored TV roles on sitcoms like The Joey Bishop Show and Rango

Shirley Dinsdale (1926-1999) – Nearly forgotten female ventriloquist (with dummy Judy Splinters) once tabbed by Edgar Bergen as the best he’d ever seen

Lee Grant (1927-     ) – TDOY actress fave whose vehicles include Detective Story, In the Heat of the Night and TV’s Peyton Place

Andrew Sarris (1928-     ) – Longtime Village Voice film critic and major proponent of the auteur theory; married to film critic Molly Haskell

Cleo Moore (1924-1973) – Cult movie icon who appeared in such films as On Dangerous Ground, Strange Fascination and Women’s Prison

Bud Spencer (1929-     ) – Italian film actor long associated with a series of “spaghetti” westerns co-starring Terence Hill

Dan Rather (1931-     ) – CBS News journalist and anchor of the CBS Evening News from 1981-2005

Norman Beaton (1934-1994) – British comic actor best known for his starring turns in the Britcoms The Fosters and Desmond’s

Michael Landon (1936-1991) – Teenage werewolf and television icon who starred on Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven

Tom Paxton (1937-     ) – Folksinger/songwriter who’d rate a mention here even if the only thing he ever wrote was Bottle of Wine

Ron Rifkin (1939-     ) – Stage, screen and television character actor whose vehicles include The Substance of Fire and L.A. Confidential

Sally Kirkland (1941-     ) – Stage, screen and television character actress whose vehicles include Anna, Steel Magnolias and JFK

David Ogden Stiers (1942-     ) – Stage, screen and television stalwart best known as Major Charles Emerson Winchester on the sitcom M*A*S*H

Brian Doyle-Murray (1945-     ) – Bill Murray sibling and comic actor seen on such TV series as Get a Life, Bakersfield P.D. and Yes, Dear

Stephen Rea (1946-     ) – Irish stage, screen and television character actor whose vehicles include The Crying Game and The Butcher Boy

Deidre Hall (1947-     ) – Soap opera maven (Days of Our Lives) who also played Electra Woman to Judy Strangis’ Dyna Girl

Jane Pauley (1950-     ) – NBC journalist who appeared for long runs on Today and Dateline NBC; married to Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau

John Candy (1950-1994) – Second City funnyman who unfortunately left us far too soon and whose vehicles include Splash, Uncle Buck and Only the Lonely

Lynda Goodfriend (1953-      ) – Cheerful sitcom actress best remembered as Richie Cunningham’s girlfriend (and later wife) Lori Beth Allen on Happy Days

Peter Jackson (1961-     ) – Hairy New Zealand motion picture director who won three Academy Awards in 2004 for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Rob Schneider (1963-     ) – Annoying Saturday Night Live alum who fearlessly embarrasses himself with films like Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo and The Hot Chick

Dermot Mulroney (1963-     ) – Stage, screen and television character actor whose vehicles include Living in Oblivion and My Best Friend’s Wedding

Darryl Worley (1964-     ) – Country music vocalist

Vanilla Ice (1967-     ) – Rap music poseur whose name/career has become a punchline from the Gods of Comedy

Piper Perabo (1976-     ) – Film and television actress whose vehicles include Coyote Ugly and Beverly Hills Chihuahua

Willow Smith (2000-     ) – Hair whipper

On behalf of my uncle, I’m sure he would respond to being in such august company by saying: “Who the hell are these people?”

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy birthday, Ruth Gordon!

Tomorrow is Halloween…and what better way to celebrate than by watching one of the scary-ass horror films of all time, Rosemary’s Baby (1968)—a movie that won today’s birthday girl an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress?  Ruth Gordon Jones was born on this date one hundred and fourteen years ago in Quincy, MA—and her burning desire to become an actress was so great that her efforts to convince her sea captain father that she had a flair for the buskin were chronicled in the play The Actress, which was adapted as a motion picture starring Jean Simmons, Spencer Tracy and Teresa Wright in 1953.

Gordon had a rather sporadic film career in her halcyon cinematic days; she appeared in a handful of silent movies in 1915, and then concentrated on making a name for herself on the stage before once again turning to the flickers with Abe Lincoln in Illinois in 1940.  Her marriage to playwright-director Garson Kanin resulted in successful screenplays for such films as A Double Life, Adam’s Rib, The Marrying Kind and Pat and Mike.  Returning to films in the mid 1960s, her Oscar win paved the way for her to be cast in a buttload of movies that cast her as a feisty but cuddly curmudgeon, including the Clint Eastwood orangutan epics Every Which Way but Loose and Any Which Way You Can.

But there are other notable famous people born on this date, too:

John Adams (1735-1826) – Second President of the United States who, like Ruth, was also born in Quincy (Braintree)

Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881) – Author of Crime and Punishment, The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov

William F. “Bull” Halsey (1882-1959) – Admiral who commanded the U.S. Third Fleet during WW2

Ezra Pound (1885-1972) – American poet who misbehaved during WW2 (treason) and was later pronounced insane

Warren Doane (1890-1964) – Motion picture producer and one-time general manager of the Hal Roach Studio

Charles Atlas (1893-1972) – Famous muscular guy

Louise Keaton (1906-1981) – Buster’s sis

Paul J. Smith (1906-1985) – Academy Award-winning composer/musician who worked at the Walt Disney Studios for most of his career

Sue Carol (1906-1982) – Former silent/sound film actress who retired to become an agent and later married Alan Ladd

Patsy Montana (1908-1996) – Country music great who was the first female vocalist to have a million-selling record in I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart

Ruth Hussey (1911-2005) – Stage, screen and television actress whose vehicles include The Philadelphia Story and The Uninvited

Hugh Reilly (1915-1998) – Stage, screen and television actor immortalized on TV as Paul Martin, dad to the insufferable Timmy on Lassie

Jane Randolph (1915-2009) – Stage and screen actress whose vehicles include Cat People, The Curse of the Cat People and Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein

Fred W. Friendly (1915-1998) – Producer, Edward R. Murrow crony and one-time president of CBS News (1964-66)…and one guy who didn’t love Lucy

Joan Banks (1918-1998) – OTR veteran who also dabbled in films and television; also known as Mrs. Frank Lovejoy (and was born in Petersburg, WV!)

Dickie Henderson (1922-1985) – British stage, film and television comedian whose self-titled sitcom was a big boob tube hit in the 1960s

Herschel Bernardi (1923-1986) – Stage, film and television actor best known as Lieutenant Jacoby on Peter Gunn and the titular hero of the sitcom Arnie

Jacques Aubuchon (1924-1991) – Stage, film and television character actor whose vehicles include So Big, The Silver Chalice and Thunder Road

William Campbell (1926-     ) – Cult film and television actor known for such vehicles as Cell 2455 Death Row and Dementia 13…and for appearing in two iconic Star Trek episodes: “The Squire of Gothos” (as Trelane) and “The Trouble with Tribbles” (Koloth)

Nestor Almendros (1930-1992) – Academy Award-winning motion picture cinematographer whose vehicles include Days of Heaven, Kramer vs. Kramer and Sophie’s Choice

Richard “Dick” Gautier (1931-     ) – Multi-talented performer who is beloved here at TDOY for his portrayal of Hymie the Robot on the classic sitcom Get Smart

Louis Malle (1932-1995) – Acclaimed motion picture director whose vehicles include Murmur of the Heart, Atlantic City and Au revoir les enfants

Hamilton Camp (1934-2005) – Stage, screen and television actor-singer fondly remembered here at TDOY as building superintendent Andrew Hummel on the woefully short-lived He & She

June Blair (1936-     ) – Former Playboy Playmate turned actress and one-time wife of David Nelson of The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet fame

Claude Lelouch (1937-     ) – Academy Award-winning motion picture director whose vehicles include A Man and a Woman, And Now My Love and Cat and Mouse

Grace Slick (1939-     ) – Singer-songwriter and a member of Jefferson Airplane (later Jefferson Starship and then Starship)

Eddie Holland (1939-     ) – Songwriter who, along with brother Brian and Lamont Dozier, penned some of the best damn rock ‘n’ roll hits ever recorded

Ed Lauter (1940-     ) – Superlative character actor whose vehicles include The Longest Yard and Family Plot; also played Captain John Sebastian Cain on BJ and the Bear and The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo

Otis Williams (1941-     ) Temptation

Henry Winkler (1945-     ) – The Fonz

Andrea Mitchell (1946-     ) – News whore who claims her journalistic integrity was never compromised by the fact that she’s married to former Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan

Timothy B. Schmit (1947-     ) – Rock ‘n’ roll musician who was both in The Eagles and a founding member of Poco

Harry Hamlin (1951-     ) – Stage, film and television actor whose marriage to Lisa Rinna is systematically destroying what’s left of the once-great TVLand channel

Charles Martin Smith (1953-     ) – Stage, film and television actor-writer-director whose vehicles include American Graffiti and Never Cry Wolf

Pete Hoekstra (1953-     ) – Certifiably insane Republican Congressman from Michigan

T. Graham Brown (1954-     ) – Country music vocalist/actor and the Pride of Arabi, GA

Shanna Reed (1956-     ) – Film and television actress best known as Polly Cooper McGillis on the sitcom Major Dad

Kevin Pollak (1957-     ) – Actor/stand-up comedian and William Shatner impersonator whose vehicles include A Few Good Men and The Usual Suspects

Charnele Brown (1965-     ) – Film and television actress whose main claim fame was playing Kim Reese on the sitcom A Different World

Nia Long (1970-     ) – Film and television actress seen on such TV series as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Third Watch

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy birthday, Fanny Brice...and a host of others!

One hundred and nineteen years ago on this date, Fania Borach was born in the teensy backwoods hamlet of New York City…though the world would eventually call this incredibly talented woman—singer, actress, comedienne—Fanny Brice.  From her show stopping turns in various productions of the Ziegfeld Follies to her lengthy radio stint as one of the airwaves’ most beloved brats, Baby Snooks, Brice’s career and life story was indeed a fascinating one…one that needed two movies to tell, Funny Girl in 1968 and Funny Lady in 1975.  Both films starred Barbra Streisand, who took home a Best Actress Oscar for the first one the year after Girl was released.

I told myself that I was going to beg off doing lengthy birthday listings because of some changes at IMDb that made things sort of inconvenient but thanks to Laura at Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings (who gleaned the info from Raquelle at Out of the Past and Kate Gabrielle at Silents and Talkies) I learned how to tweak things that will make doing these things much easier…so I’ll continue on with these for a while unless outside activities interfere or I become totally bored with them.  So who else shares a birthday today with the incomparable Ms. Brice, you may be asking?  Gaze into my crystal ball…

James Boswell (1740-1795) – Biographer of Dr. Samuel Johnson

Jack Pearl (1894-1982) – Comedian who appeared on stage, radio, film and television as Baron Munchausen (“Vas you dere, Sharlie?”)

Josef Goebbels (1897-1945) – Evil Nazi Minister of Propaganda (aka “The Malicious Dwarf”)

Hope Emerson (1897-1960) – Stage, screen and television actress seen in such vehicles as Adam’s Rib and Caged…and on Peter Gunn as “Mother”

Akim Tamiroff (1899-1972) – Stage, screen and television actor…and inspiration for Rocky & Bullwinkle villain Boris Badenov

Boris Ingster (1903-1978) – Director-writer-producer whose 1940 film, Stranger on the Third Floor, is often cited as one of the earliest examples of the film noir style

Perc (1904-1970) and Ern Westmore (1904-1970) – Twin makeup artists and members of the Westmore dynasty

Fredric Brown (1906-1972) – Science fiction/mystery author

Lew Parker (1910-1972) – Stage, screen and television actor best known as Marlo Thomas’ pop on That Girl

Eddie Constantine (1917-1993) – Cult film actor who made a number of films as private dick Lemmy Caution, notably Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville

“Baby” Peggy-Jean Montgomery (1918-     ) – Popular moppet star of silent and sound films who turns ninety-two today

William Henry “Bill” Mauldin (1921-2003) – Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist who achieved fame with his panels featuring dogfaces Willie and Joe…but also dabbled in acting, notably in 1951’s The Red Badge of Courage

Ed Kemmer (1921-2004) – Film, radio and television actor best remembered by legions of youngsters as Commander Buzz Corey on the TV and radio versions of Space Patrol

Neal Hefti (1922-2008) – Composer, conductor and trumpeter who led the band on radio’s The Kate Smith Show and was immortalized as the man who composed the theme to TV’s Batman

Dina Merrill (1923-     ) – Stage, screen and television actress whose vehicles include Desk Set and Operation Petticoat…also married at one time to Cliff Robertson

Dominick Dunne (1925-2009) – American author, producer and TV personality

Geraldine Brooks (1925-1977) – Stage, screen and television actress whose vehicles include Possessed and The Reckless Moment

Velma Barfield (1932-1984) – Convicted North Carolina serial killer who was the first woman to be executed using lethal injection

Denny Laine (1944-     ) – Singer, songwriter and guitarist who played with both the Moody Blues and Wings

Melba Moore (1945-    ) – Singer-actress best remembered for her work in the musical Hair

Richard Dreyfuss (1947-     ) – Stage, film and television actor whose winning of an Oscar for 1977’s The Goodbye Girl made him un dickhead formidable

Kate Jackson (1948-     ) – Film and television actress who appeared on four hit TV series: Dark Shadows, The Rookies, Charlie’s Angels and Scarecrow and Mrs. King

Dan Castellaneta (1957-     ) – Character actor who’s been immortalized as the voice of Homer “D’oh!” Simpson

Dawn DeNoon (1964-     ) – Producer, writer and story editor on my mom’s favorite TV show, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit…who gets a shout-out here because she’s a fellow West Virginian (Moundsville)

Joely Fisher (1967-     ) – Stage, film and television actress best known for her roles on Ellen and ‘Til Death; daughter of Eddie Fisher and sister to Carrie

Winona Ryder (1971-     ) – Stage, film and television actress and kleptomaniac

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happy birthday, Jaime!

Jaime Weinman, Macleans columnist and blogger extraordinaire at Something Old, Nothing New, is celebrating his (mumble mumble) natal anniversary today, and since Jaime was one of the very first people to fearlessly link to TDOY (back in the Salon Blog days) despite being threatened with a tire iron by a couple of goons I thought it only right to give him a shout-out.  He’s one of the few fortunate individuals to be able to make a living writing about what he loves, and in addition is an expert on stage musicals, 70s sitcoms, Archie comics and WKRP in Cincinnati.  Which gives me a valid reason to post this picture in honor of his birthday:

But what famous people share the same birthday as Mr. Weinman, I hear you pretend asking in my head?  The list may surprise you!

Herbert Butterfield (1895-1957) – OTR veteran best remembered as Clarence Wellman on The Halls of Ivy and Brian Donlevy’s nameless boss (“the Commissioner”) on Dangerous Assignment (he appeared on the TV version, too)

John Boles (1895-1969) – Actor-singer who appeared in such Shirley Temple films as Curly Top and The Littlest Rebel

Edith Head (1897-1981) – Academy Award-winning motion picture costume designer

Rollin Hamilton (1898-1951) – Veteran animator who worked on many of Walt Disney’s early Alice shorts in the 1920s

Elsa Lanchester (1902-1986) – Beloved British character actress and bride of the Frankenstein monster

Evelyn A. Waugh (1903-1966) – Author of Brideshead Revisited

Albert Maltz (1908-1985) – Screenwriter and member of the Hollywood Ten

Francis Bacon (1909-1992) – Irish painter

Jonas Salk (1914-1995) – Developer of the polio vaccine

Dody Goodman (1914-2008) – Actress-comedienne best known as the mother to Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

Jack Soo (1917-1979) – Film and television actor immortalized as Sgt. Nick Yemana on the TV sitcom Barney Miller

Leonard Starr (1925-     ) – Cartoonist who created the strip Mary Perkins, On Stage (1957-79) and then revived Harold Grey’s Little Orphan Annie in 1979

Bowie Kuhn (1926-2007) – Major League Baseball Commissioner from 1969 to 1984

Joan Plowright (1929-     ) – Esteemed stage, film and television actress who also goes by “Baroness Olivier,” having married Sir Laurence in 1961

Suzy Parker (1932-2003) – Cover girl-model who flirted with an acting career

Johnny Western (1934-     ) – Singer-actor best known for writing and warbling the theme to TV’s Have Gun – Will Travel (The Ballad of Paladin)

Carl Davis (1936-     ) – Musical conductor/composer best known for scoring many of the silent film classics that air on television in the UK

Charlie Daniels (1936-     ) – Redneck country music singer

Jane Alexander (1939-     ) – Stage, film and television actress best known for vehicles like Kramer vs. Kramer and Testament (and also impersonating Eleanor Roosevelt)

Jim Post (1939-     ) – Singer who, along with wife Cathy, had a Top Ten hit in 1968 as Friend & Lover with Reach Out of the Darkness

Susan Harris (1940-     ) – Television comedy writer and producer who created such sitcoms as Soap, The Golden Girls and Empty Nest

Curtis Lee (1941-     ) – R&B/rock ‘n’ roll singer (Pretty Little Angel Eyes)

Dennis Franz (1944-     ) – Stage, film and television character best known for his roles on Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue…and whose display of his naked butt cheeks on the latter offers the strongest argument yet that sometimes TV goes a little too far

Wayne Fontana (1945-     ) – Mindbender

Roy Rogers, Jr. (1946-     ) – Son of…well, that shouldn’t be too hard to figure out

Telma Hopkins (1949-     ) – One-time member of Dawn (as in “Tony Orlando and…”) who later became an actress and had substantial roles on such sitcoms as Bosom Buddies, Gimme a Break, Family Matters and Half & Half

Tracy Reed (1949-     ) – Film and television actress best remembered for playing the female lead on the attempt to turn Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park into a sitcom

Bruce Jenner (1949-     ) – 1976 Olympic decathlon who later dabbled in acting, appearing in such vehicles as CHiPs and 1980’s Can’t Stop the Music

Audrie Neenan (1950-     ) – Stage, film and television actress who appeared at one time on HBO’s Not Necessarily the News but now turns up as a judge every now and then on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Annie Potts (1952-     ) – Stage, film and television actress who’s been featured prominently in such shows as Designing Women, Love & War and Any Day Now

William Henry “Bill” Gates (1955-     ) – Evil Microsoft gazillionaire

Daphne Zuniga (1962-     ) – Film and television actress whose métier is soapy primetime dramas like Melrose Place and One Tree Hill

Lauren Holly (1963-     ) – Smokin’ hot TDOY fave who appeared on such shows as Picket Fences, Chicago Hope and NCIS…and whose brief marriage to unfunnyman Jim Carrey is something I’m still trying to figure out

Jami Gertz (1965-     ) – Film and television actress best known as the wife on the sitcom Still Standing though I prefer her early turns on The Facts of Life and Square Pegs

Andy Richter (1966-     ) – Conan O’Brien sidekick

Julia Roberts (1967-     ) – The Pride of Smyrna, GA and bane of my existence

Brad Paisley (1972-     ) – Country music singer and WV native (Glen Dale)

Joaquin Phoenix (1974-     ) – I don’t really know why I put him on this list—he’s annoying as all get out

Justin Guarini (1978-     ) – Another clown who should have realized his ten minutes were up quite some while ago

Okay, sorry about my cynicism rising to the fore on those last two—let’s all wish Jamie the happiest of birthdays!

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Hey hey in the Haystack

I must reluctantly confess that I’m a bit behind in catching up on some of my favorite blogs, so I’m coming a bit late to the party that is this questionnaire at TDOY chum Amanda’s A Noodle in a Haystack. (Anybody who admires both Una Merkel and Helen Broderick is aces in my book.)  Try it at home, but peeking!

1. What is your favorite movie starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, excluding all of The Thin Man films?

I was sorely tempted to put down The Senator Was Indiscreet (1947), because it’s a Powell film that I haven’t seen in ages and it’s really first-rate. But since Loy’s only in it for a brief cameo, I’ll go with I Love You Again (1940).

2. Name a screen team that appeared in only one film together but are still noteworthy for how well they complimented each other.

Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame in In a Lonely Place (1950). (See also the answers for #30 and #31.)

3. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' best film together?

I have to confess—I’m not much of a Fred and Ginger fan. Top Hat (1935) is fairly easy to take, though.

4. Your favorite actor named "Robert"?

Robert Mitchum. (This was tough, since I also like Robert Ryan.)

5. An actor/actress who, when you see one of their movies, you always wish that someone else was in his/her role?

This is a pretty lengthy list, but Robert Cummings would probably be at the top.

6. An actor/actress that someone close to you really loves that you can't stand or vice versa?

My mom is a fan of both Steven Segal and Jean-Claude Van Damme (or as I like to call him, “Jean-Claude God Damme”). (I realize you asked for an “actor” but this is as close as I could come.)

7. An actor/actress that you both agree on completely?

James Cagney.

8. Complete this sentence: Virginia O'Brien is to Ethel Merman as...

Sorry, Amanda—this is the only question that threw me.

9. What is your favorite film starring Ray Milland?

That’s a toughie. I’ll go with It Happens Every Spring (1949).

10. You had to have seen this one coming: what is your favorite movie of the 1960s?

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). (This will be the answer to several of these questions, by the way.)

11. An actor/actress that you would take out of one film and put into a different movie that was released the same year?

Okay, I fibbed—I don’t have an answer for this one, either.

12. Who was your favorite of Robert Montgomery's leading ladies?

Since my list of favorite Montgomery films could be written on a matchbook cover, I’ll go with Evelyn Keyes (from 1941’s Here Comes Mr. Jordan).

13. You think it would have been a disaster if what movie starred the actor/actress who was originally asked to star in it?

Frank Sinatra as “Dirty” Harry Callahan. Unthinkable.

14. An actor/actress who you will watch in any or almost any movie?

John Garfield.

15. Your favorite Leslie Howard film and role?

My intense dislike for Gone with the Wind (1939) is known the length and longth of the Internets, and one reason (among many) is that I just don’t understand what Scarlet O’ Hara (Vivien Leigh) sees in that effeminate pansy Ashley Wilkes (Howard). I don’t care for Howard, but applying The Blind Nut Squirrel Theory of Film™ I liked him as Atterbury Dodd in the seldom-seen Stand-In (1937).

16. You have been asked to host a marathon of four Barbara Stanwyck films. Which ones do you choose?

Remember the Night (1940), Ball of Fire (1941), Double Indemnity (1944) and The Lady Gambles (1949).

17. What is, in your mind, the nearest to perfect comedy you have ever seen? Why?

It’s awfully hard to beat Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964).

18. You will brook no criticism of what film?

Citizen Kane (1941). (Actually, I welcome all criticism of any film, I was just stuck for an answer.)

19. Who is your favorite Irish actress?

Maureen O’ Hara. (*sigh*)

20. Your favorite 1940s movie starring Ginger Rogers?

Since Ging is in Tales of Manhattan (1942), I’ll go with that one even though she’s not “the star.” (Otherwise I’d have to leave that one blank.)

21. Do you enjoy silent movies?


22. What is your favorite Bette Davis film?

All About Eve (1950).

23. Your favorite onscreen Hollywood couple?

Laurel & Hardy. (Bet you didn’t see that one coming.)

24. This one is for the girls, but, of course, the guys are welcome to answer, too: who is your favorite Hollywood costume designer?

Edith Head.

25. To even things out a bit, here's something the boys will enjoy: what is your favorite tough action film?

Well, I’m the kind of person who won’t say no to an action film but I like a little something more with it. I choose Midnight Run (1988), which is also falling-down funny at times.

26. You are currently gaining a greater appreciation for which actor(s)/actress(es)?

Gene Autry, thanks to exposure to his films on Encore Westerns.  I also enjoyed TCM's recent Alec Guinness tribute last Saturday.

27. Franchot Tone: yes or no?

Oh yes. Franch is cool with me. (Especially in Phantom Lady [1944] and Advise & Consent [1962].)

28. Which actors and/or actresses do you think are underrated?

Sterling Hayden, Van Heflin, Maureen O’Sullivan, Evelyn Keyes, Edward G. Robinson

29. Which actors and/or actresses do you think are overrated?

Vivien Leigh, Van Johnson, June Allyson, Charles Boyer

30. Favorite actor?

Humphrey Bogart.

31. Favorite actress?

Gloria Grahame.

32. Of those listed, who is the coolest: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Steve McQueen, or Patrick Stewart?

Steve McQueen. No contest.

33. What is your favorite movie from each of these genres:

Comedy: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964).

Swashbuckler: If by “swashbuckler” you mean a lot of swordplay, then it’s Scaramouche (1952).

Film noir: Out of the Past (1947).

Musical: Singin’ in the Rain (1952).

Holiday: Miracle on 34th Street (1947).

Hitchcock: North by Northwest (1959).

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Happy birthday, Scott C.!

I’ve been a little recalcitrant in doing birthdays every day but one natal anniversary that I wasn’t about to let slip by is one belonging to my esteemed blogging colleague Scott C. of World O’Crap fame.  Scott—author, screenwriter, man of letters, bon vivant and Mystery Science Theater 3000 devotee—has recognized my birthday at O’Crap for the past couple of years now and I felt it only right to reciprocate…particularly since I learned from Facebook that he was born on this date (mumble mumble) years ago.  It’s tradition at WO’C to honor the birthday people with a photograph of right wing nutjob and rabies sufferer Ann Coulter…but because I’ve just polished off a splendid meal I have neither the time, the training nor the inclination to subject you good people to something that’s liable to keep us “driving the porcelain bus” all night, as we used to say in college.  So instead, let’s honor Scott with a group photo:

Yes, it’s the cast of Laredo—Philip Carey, Peter Brown, Neville Brand and William Smith—in one of Mr. C’s favorite TV shows (and mine as well, come to think of it).  It would be kismet of epic proportions if at least one of these performers shared the same birthday as Scott—but since that sort of coincidence only happens on TV, here are some famous celebrities who do share his natal anniversary:

James Cook (1728-1779) – Scottish captain and explorer who discovered the Sandwich Islands…but did not, I repeat, did not invent the sandwich.

Isaac Merrit Singer (1811-1875) – Inventor of the first practical home sewing machine

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) – Twenty-sixth president of the United States and Rough Rider

Emily Post (1872-1960) – Etiquette expert

Sebastian Cristillo (1879-1947) – Father of Lou Costello

Fred de Cordova (1910-2001) – Film and television producer/director best known for his work on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson but also the individual who helmed Bedtime for Bonzo

Herschel Daugherty (1910-1993) – Veteran TV director who worked on such shows as Checkmate, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Thriller, Wagon Train and The Smith Family

Jack Carson (1910-1963) – Stage, screen, radio and television comic actor who appeared alongside singer-actor Dennis Morgan in many films…and was born in Manitoba, Canada (not Milwaukee)

Leif Erickson (1911-1986) – Film and television actor best known for his starring role on TV’s The High Chapparral

Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) - Dead Scottish poet

Oliver Tambo (1917-1993) – Co-founder of the African National Congress

Teresa Wright (1918-2005) – Stage, film and television actress seen in such vehicles as Pride of the Yankees and Shadow of a Doubt

Nanette Fabray (1920-     ) – Stage, film and television actress known for The Band Wagon and TV’s One Day at a Time who turns ninety years old today

Ned Wertimer (1923-     ) – Stage, film and television character great best remembered as Ralph the doorman on TV’s The Jeffersons

Ruby Dee (1924-    ) – Stage, film and television actress seen in such vehicles as A Raisin in the Sun and Gone are the Days

Warren Christopher (1925-    ) – Carter administration official and Bela Lugosi look-alike

H.R. Haldeman (1926-1993) – Nixon administration chief of staff and un dickhead formidable

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) – Depressed novelist who wrote The Bell Jar

Floyd Cramer (1933-1997) – Composer/pianist whose Last Date is my parents’ “song”

Lara Parker (1937-    ) – Film and television actress who appeared in a great many things but I always associate her with the Gothic television soap Dark Shadows

Dallas Frazier (1939-     ) – Country/pop music songwriter (Alley Oop, Beneath Still Waters) who will serve a stretch in Purgatory for writing the Oak Ridge Boys’ Elvira

John Cleese (1939-     ) – British comedic genius who offers tangible proof that funny people are born on October 27

John Gotti (1940-2002) – Mafia don

Bobby Fuller (1942-1966) – He fought the law but the law won

Lee Greenwood (1943-     ) – Country music singer whose career has been overshadowed by his million-selling jingoistic hit God Bless the U.S.A.

Carrie Snodgress (1945-2004) – Stage, film and television actress who starred in 1970s movie Diary of a Mad Housewife

Kenneth Turan (1946-     ) – Los Angeles Times film critic

Ivan Reitman (1946-     ) – Film director who specializes in “slob” comedies like Meatballs, Stripes and Ghostbusters

Fran Leibowitz (1950-     ) – Curmudgeonly actress and humorist who writes a lot about New York City

Jayne Kennedy-Overton (1951-     ) – Well, her occupation is listed as “actress” but I think that’s stretching things a bit

Ted Wass (1952-     ) – Television actor best known for his roles on Soap and Blossom who graduated to directing

Roberto Benigni (1952-     ) – Italian director-actor whose Oscar win in 1999 lends credence to the belief that the Academy Awards are full of sh*t

Veronica Hart (1956-     ) – Porn star

Simon Le Bon (1958-    ) – Pretentious lead singer of the English music group Duran Duran

Shelly Juttner (1960-     ) – Former moppet actress and close personal friend of Scott’s

Marla Maples (1963-     ) – Former Donald Trump bimbo and the pride of Dalton, GA

Matt Drudge (1966-     ) – Scumbag

Also on this date in history

Ben E. King records his two biggest pop hits, Stand by Me and Spanish Harlem in 1960.

Sonny Bono marries Cherilyn Sarkisian LaPiere in 1964—well, Cher performs the ceremony anyway.  (They don’t legally wed until 1969).

Bruce Springsteen is featured on both the covers of Time and Newsweek in 1975.

John Oates sings the national anthem in Philadelphia in 2008 after Daryl Hall is sidelined with the flu.  (Police barely manage to put down what could have been a full scale riot.)

Mystery Science Theater 3000 sends up Rocket Attack U.S.A. in 1990.  It is the beginning of a lifelong love affair with the iconic cult comedy show for our man Scott.

Have a happy one, buddy!

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