My Latest Book

My Latest Book
By Jim Manago, Biographer (Shirley Booth, Huntz Hall, and Kay Aldridge)

Monday, June 26, 2017

Please Write To BearManor Media TODAY!

I would love to see my manuscripts on Leo Gorcey and Robert Youngson in print sometime soon.

For some reason BearManor Media is sitting on these books. Both were edited - but then nothing.

What is going on?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

On NOW, VOYAGER (1942)

Novelist Olive Higgins Prouty (January 10, 1882 – March 24, 1974)  is best known for writing the story Now, Voyager.  In 1942, the story received an excellent Hollywood movie adaptation by Warner Brothers. It's probably among the top ten best love story pictures ever made!  

I know my mother could never get tired of watching this gem. For years, it seemed to be the one and only movie she asked me replay on video every other month.  Each time I would play Now, Voyager for her, I would also watch it.  Indeed, every time I watched it, I would find another layer of meaning or something that would fascinate me about it.

The story is about a repressed Boston woman named Charlotte Vale (Bette Davis) who suffers from the poisoning effects of a domineering mother played to perfection by British actress Gladys Cooper.  Eventually, through the assistance of an understanding therapist Dr. Jaquith (Claude Rains), Charlotte finds love at first, and ultimately the peace that empowerment and self-assurance brings. In addition, a married man named Jerry Duvaux Durrance (Paul Henried) plays a part in her recovery. 

Dr. Jaquith gives Charlotte a verse from a poem by Walt Whitman (from his famous collection, Leaves of Grass, 1900)


"The untold want, by life and land ne’er granted,

Now, Voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find."


Bette Davis is compelling and fascinating in playing this part. Her success as an actress came from staying in movies with her superb talent, just as Shirley Booth successfully stayed onstage and avoided the movies as much as she could.  Both Davis and Booth excelled at what they did, and were definitely among the 20th century's finest actresses. Along with Shirley Booth, Bette Davis is among my favorite actresses of all time.

Besides the fine acting from a stellar cast of Bette Davis, Paul Henried (January 10, 1908 – March 29, 1992) Claude Rains, and Gladys Cooper, there's Max Steiner's beautiful score which rightly won the Academy Award that year.

The men are very likeable in this film (Paul Henried & Claude Rains), but the women certainly leave much to be desired - from Henried's miserable wife who we never see, Charlotte's niece June (Bonita Granville) who certainly sickeningly loves to torture her aunt with nasty jibes, and most importantly, Charlotte's tyrannical mother who thinks that being a good mother means controlling everything your adult child feels and does. Even Jerry's depressed daughter Tina (Janis Wilson) is a mess - suffering from low self-esteem and feelings of isolation.  [Footnote: it was Wilson's first film.]

For many reasons Now, Voyager has stood the test of time as "The Woman's Film." The story, written by Prouty, has a screen adaptation by Casey Robinson, which leaves much of the original story and actual lines of dialogue amazingly intact. Irving Rapper directed this wonderful story of a woman suffering serious psychological problems and how she breaks free of her mother's domination to choose her own destiny. 

I initially sensed that the writer seemed to have studied this situation or went through such an ordeal.  Prouty's writing is keen on women's issues as well as mental issues. There's an interesting autobiographical element to Now, Voyager. Indeed Prouty was the right person to tell such an unusual story about the mentally ill Charlotte Vale.  She herself was from a fine Boston family and she too herself suffered a mental breakdown as an adult in 1925 after the death of her one-year old infant (She also had an earlier breakdown at the age of twelve). Prouty went to a sanitarium for recovery where she met two therapists - one of them encouraged her in her writing career.


So Prouty knew what she was writing about when she created Charlotte Vale.  Does anyone remember the story Stella Dallas? That too was written by Prouty.  However, she was not too happy with the melodramatic screen and radio adaptations.

The point that seems evident is that Charlotte Vale is not really better off at the bittersweet conclusion than she was at the start....She might still seem to have some issues to work on, depending on how you want to see her decision to play surrogate mother to a married man's child. However, at least she has finally stood up and chosen her own destiny despite the consequences. Charlotte is liberated finally....That's what I especially like about Now, Voyager.


In short, Charlotte overcomes her mental problems and becomes a complete person. She learns to win and assert her independence, first by dumping repressive family ties, and then overcoming those limiting class and gender restrictions which society brainwashes us at an early age to accept as normal and the only sensible way. She does not need a man or a woman to be happy. She does not let that drive her ambition.
Charlotte is a character that finally exhibits strong empowerment. She even achieves her stated goals of having a home (inheriting her tyrannical mother's house), having a child (through being a surrogate caretaker of her "ex-lover's" daughter) and having a man to call her own (via a very non-traditional friendship with a married man). 

Now, Voyager's character of Charlotte Vale is quite remarkable, especially when you consider the time when this story was written.  In achieving her goals in an unusual manner, she frees herself from the repressive upper class stuffiness and patriarchy of the traditional male-dominated, anti-feminine, Western  gender code. 


Olive Higgins Prouty's Now, Voyager is worthy of your attention for challenging these things!  


NOW, VOYAGER   

*****
 5 Stars out of 5
  

*****

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A Wish . . .

One of my favorite episodes of the 1952 Abbott & Costello Show is "Lou's Birthday Party." At the conclusion of the episode, Lou receives a surprise from Mr. Bacciagalupe (superbly played by Lou's brother-in-law Joe Kirk) when he says the line: "Get Me Some Coffee, I'll Eat It HERE!"

The great Lou Costello, one of my favorites, who ranks up there with Charlie Chaplin died on March 3, 1959, just three days short of his 53rd birthday.  Many of his films still hold up quite well.

At 54 years old, my cousin shared one thing with Lou Costello in that he also met an early demise.  My readers will know that I dedicated my first book (Love is the Reason for it All: The Shirley Booth Story) to my cousin, Joseph Nizzari. 

I always will cherish that one afternoon when he visited while that particular episode was on WPIX Channel 11. He explained to me what Mr. Bacciagalupe was saying with his fractured Italian.  Joseph had learned to speak Italian from his father.

Joseph loved watching and recreating routines of Abbott & Costello, Laurel & Hardy and all the other great comedians.

One time he drove me to an all-day Harold Lloyd film festival that was held at The New School in New York City back in the 1980's.  Best of all, he gave up his entire day and stayed with me so that he could enjoy every bit of the festival as well! 

One wish I have that I know can never come true, but I wish anyway, is that my cousin was still here to enjoy Abbott & Costello with me... 


*****

I share with you what I said about him in my book's introduction.... 

Shirley Booth once said, "I feel sorry for people that don’t have the pleasure of acting because I think it’s a great release." I experienced that pleasure whenever my cousin Joseph Nizzari would visit my family ... He encouraged and indulged my interest in acting and cinematography by recreating Abbott & Costello routines, gangster movie skits, and so forth. I wish he could have lived to see this book in print. With much sadness, I dedicate this book in memory of him.

from Love is the Reason for it All: The Shirley Booth Story, by Jim Manago
 2008.

Though I know this will always be a very sad week for many members in my family, I feel it best to remember all the fun that my cousin offered to all who had the privilege of his friendship. My cousin had a fantastic humor and a knack for making you feel good. Yes, he had many talents; among them his wonderful skill as a baker. But more than any one achievement he managed to help others find enjoyment in the moment - despite the daily slings and arrows that life has a way of delivering us all. 

 
Unfortunately, I lost touch with him for a number of years. But sadder still is to  know that the last few years of his short life were obviously harrowing and painful for him and for anyone that watched him battle cancer.

Yes, I will always miss his selflessness - so few people I have met in my entire life have been so sacrificial as he was. I will always remember his love for his family, for his good kindly nature, and for so much happiness that he brought to all our lives!


*****

Joseph Nizzari
(May 3, 1953 - February 2, 2008)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Bette Davis' Handlers Kept Us From Getting That Autograph!

Some Anniversaries:

April 4, 1913: Singer/radio performer Frances Langford was born on this day. She died on July 11, 2005. She recorded one of the best duets with Bing Crosby: "I'm Fallin' In Love With Someone."  

April 4, 1921: Actress Elizabeth Wilson was born on this day. Liz has been in countless stage, film and television productions; my favorites include the small but memorable roles in The Birds, The GraduateNine to Five, and so on. More important to me is that she offered fascinating information on Shirley Booth in my conversations with her.  She died on May 9, 2015.

April 5, 1908: Actress  Bette Davis was born.  She died on October 6, 1989.

*****

Bette Davis' Handlers Kept Us From Getting That Autograph!


Shirley Booth's career crossed paths with Bette Davis several times. I described in my biography of Shirley Booth of how Bette Davis turned down the part of Lola in Come Back, Little Sheba. Movie co-star Burt Lancaster revealed that, "Bette told me years later, around 1964 or so, that no matter what story I'd heard (and there had been many) that she felt strongly that only Shirley could do the role justice. She would have accepted only if Shirley had declined, so that she felt Wallis might give the role to Barbara Stanwyck. Davis wouldn't have liked that at all..."

Shirley had her turn at refusing a part that Bette Davis got. In the 1961 remake of Pocketful of Miracles, Shirley allowed Bette to play the part that was offered to her because she felt that she could not top May Robson from the original 1933 version Lady for a Day. Both versions were directed by Frank Capra.

Bette Davis stands on her own unique level of achievement and greatness for her inimitable style of taking a part and making it her own. Her success came from staying in movies with her talent, just as Shirley Booth stayed on the stage, avoiding the movies as much as she could. Both ladies excelled at what they did, and were probably among the 20th century's finest actresses.


I found most interesting a brief note that Bette sent Shirley that I quoted in my biography of Shirley. That note Shirley saved in her scrapbook. It revealed Bette's appreciation and respect for Shirley's considerable talent. She signed it "Bette D." 


Back in 1978 I had the pleasure of meeting Bette at a fashion show inside New York's Bloomingdale's store promoting the release of Death on the Nile. My mother brought along a song sheet featuring Bette on the cover. Before this show began, the store was darkened. Bette was carefully escorted in and sat about ten feet opposite from where we were.

As my mother went over to greet Bette Davis in the shadowy store, her two "handlers" interrupted and quickly turned down the autograph request. One of them advised her, saying "No Miss Davis, no autographs please!" We were both obviously disappointed as Miss Davis had already taken the sheet in her lap and greeted us, and took the pen to sign. She seemed delighted to be appreciated and indicated no displeasure at signing it. Immediately we were thereby moved away from her presence since the show was to begin...

This was my first contact with the upper-crust of New York City. Afterward, without Miss Davis being present, guests to the event had the opportunity of refreshments. For me, this involved mingling with the well-dressed snobs and watching them rave over the caviar! Their shallowness, including their over-concern with appearances made it clear to me then that having plenty of money and fame does not necessarily make people smarter or classy!

The one souvenir I have from that evening is a picture of Bette Davis & my mother which I quickly snapped in those darkened seconds. We also got to meet and take a photo of Broadway musical Annie star Andrea McArdle with her mother.

I will always treasure that moment of seeing Bette Davis in the flesh and shaking her hand. She was indeed a small-framed woman of 5'3."

Finally, I will always love watching Bette Davis in so many memorable classics, including Now, VoyagerDark Victory, Of Human Bondage, The LetterA Stolen Life, Jezebel, and so forth! She remains always one of my favorite actresses!

*****

THANKS FOR VISITING!

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*****

Monday, April 3, 2017

Shirley Booth Lonesome For Husband Bill Baker. She's looking at photo of his cat.
Shirley Booth in Broadway Dressing Room, 1943
Shirley Booth Marries Bill Baker


JOE FRANKLIN Reading My First Book!
Photo Courtesy Steve Friedman

MY FIRST BOOK

MY SECOND BOOK

MY THIRD BOOK

MY FOURTH BOOK

Al St. John and My Search for A New Publisher

I have been enjoying the PRC productions that Buster Crabbe and Al St. John appeared. Simply put, John is SUPERB as "Fuzzy"! You can see some of his fine comedic talent in Shadows of Death. 

More to come on this subject.

I'm in search of a new publisher for a book on John and these "Billy The Kid" PRC Productions. I have several other very good ideas for additional books.

In general, I must say that there's a well-rooted critical view- but misleading nonetheless, that assumes something low-budget cannot be good. 

How wrong that is! It's the same mentality that will judge poor people as losers or having no worth.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

From Mayor of Wistful Vista to Borrego Springs by Jim Manago


“In character, Gale Gordon does something nobody else can do. He just stands there, not saying or doing anything, and all of a sudden he’s the balloon that makes you want to reach for the pin.”
                                                                                    - Bob Sweeney commented to TV Guide

". . . Oh yes, yes, I'm one of those spoiled creatures of our modern mania. I expect comfort, serenity, beauty, privacy, modern conveniences, and of course a sound investment. And that's rather hard to achieve. But I really believe I have found the answer to all of my desires, here in this valley. I first saw it some thirty years ago. Considered myself a pioneer. Today I one of the fortunate ones lucky enough to escape the tensions of big city life and live in peace and comfort - here.”                                  -  Gale Gordon speaking on-camera, A New Way of Life


From Mayor of Wistful Vista to Borrego Springs by Jim Manago presents the life of Gale Gordon, one of America’s favorite actors with numerous radio, television, stage and film credits. His impeccable comic timing and unique voice made him one of the busiest and most productive talents of the 20th century. Today, we remember him best as Lucille Ball’s foils, Theodore J. Mooney and Harrison Carter, on 1960s and 1970s television. However, he skillfully played dozens of characters in every genre, including Flash Gordon, Mr. John Wilson on Dennis the Menace, and so on.

This biography offers a survey of his credits, emphasizing over 20 years of his radio work where he developed his comedic abilities. It glimpses his tranquil home life, where away from the spotlight, his real life mirrored art, as he became the Honorary Mayor of Borrego Springs, California after playing radio’s Mayor of Wistful Vista. There on his desert ranch, Gordon lived a life that most of us would have loved to live. This book includes transcribed excerpts of some of radio’s best comedy moments when he played Mayor LaTrivia on Fibber McGee and Molly, and Rumson Bullard on The Great Gildersleeve.



Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Satchmo Is TOPS!

A truly wonderful song that I wish to salute today is by Satchmo...

“The Bright Blessed Day, The Dark Sacred Night”

That’s a line from the all-too-brief song “What A Wonderful World.” This beautiful song both lyrically and musically has been under-appreciated, and perhaps misunderstood, over the years since Louis Armstrong first recorded it back in 1968. It has often been misused as the “perfect” counterpoint music played to images of conflict, pain and human misery.

One of the things that’s superb about it is how jazz giant Armstrong offered us some surprisingly restrained vocalizing to the words and music by Bob Thiele (as George Douglas) and George David Weiss.

For some reason many people have found it an uncomfortable song since it seems painfully naive to have feelings of awe when we look at the world we live at any time - especially now. Yes, I agree that might be a natural response to what seems like the song’s Pollyanna-like non-critical depiction of the world…

Yes, I can never get over the sheer stupidity of humanity bent on war, murder, and all sorts of never-ending destruction and evil. In fact, I shudder to think of all those millions upon millions of human beings that were senselessly disposed of in World War II. No, I cannot reconcile the cruelty of the horrendous Nazi death camps with anyone’s dislike of other human beings. And the havoc that Mother Nature brings us every day seems ruthless and unforgivable.

Yet I can listen to Armstrong sing in “What A Wonderful World” of the beauty of all the colors - the green trees, red roses, the blue sky, white clouds, the rainbow, the bright day and dark night. He is also awestruck when looking at the rainbow of the faces of the people, the love shared by friends shaking hands, and hearing babies cry and watching them grow as they learn what he never will know. Yes, I have experienced that awe when I stop to look at those things so easily taken for granted.

Somehow during the brightness of the day – with all of its concomitant noise and busyness - it seems difficult to connect to this wonderful world he speaks about. It’s impossible to be awestruck with all the insane things that happen every day.

I really found the song made sense at night. It is then when I sensed an overwhelming awe. It is then at night, when no one is around, if you can venture outside and look up at that massive moonlit sky with stars and worlds beyond number out there in vast space. It is in the glow of that immense midst out there in that “Dark, Sacred Night” that I faced some of the feelings and thoughts to make me see the world as miraculously wonderful despite all of the negativity that we tend to dwell upon daily.

Yes, I have learned again while listening to that deceptively simple but powerful song that there’s a true wonder in this world, if only we open our heart and mind to it. Indeed, it is easy to look past this reality in this thing we call living, and you will miss this awesome world’s ultimate beauty and meaning. The wonder has always been there, It has been our stubborn unwillingness to find it right there all around us, all the time.

No, this wonder and awe cannot erase any of the pressing problems or pains of the past or now. But when you can look beyond those realities, you can truly experience the joy of living in this world.

Take a moment to listen to this song when you walk outside one night. Yes, I know that “the dark, sacred night” can bring an appreciation of a truly, wonderful world!

Thank you Louis Armstrong and the artists responsible for giving the world “What A Wonderful World.” And thanks to the Creator for giving us this WONDERFUL WORLD!
*****

Several years ago I had the memorable opportunity to walk around the home and view the possessions of Louis Armstrong. The tour guide superbly managed to convey that love that Louis wanted the whole world to experience in his music and in his life’s devotion as a performer. Yes I felt that powerful presence of Armstrong in every part of his New York home. It's a good place to find warmth and love!

I highly recommend visiting Louis Armstrong’s home in Corona, New York….GO TO: http://www.louisarmstronghouse.org/visiting/overview.htm

*****

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*****

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

On Shirley Booth's Sister Jean

In tribute to Shirley Booth's late sister Jean Coe (born on Valentine's Day in 1914, died January 23, 2010), I repeat this post.

This article ran ten years ago in an Oregon publication, News-Times, which serves the communities of Forest Grove, Cornelius, Banks and Gaston. 

The following is reprinted with permission of the News-Times, Forest Grove, Oregon (www.fgnewstimes.com).


From FOREST GROVE NEWS-TIMES, 


Wednesday, March 3, 2004, Vol. 15, No. 3

"It’s a sister thing"

Jean Coe not just living on memories

By Cliff Newell
of The News-Times
  
When you meet Jean Coe and hear her speak for the first time, you wonder, “Where have I heard that voice before?”

You probably have. It came from Jean’s sister, Shirley Booth, one of America’s greatest actresses and star of the classic television sitcom “Hazel” from the early to mid-1960s. The timber and accent of Hazel’s voice are definitely in that of Coe.

Still, it is hard to imagine Jean Coe standing in anyone else’s shadow, even a sister as accomplished as Shirley Booth, who won the highest acting awards for theatre, movies and television.

Now age 90 and living at Alterra Wynwood in Forest Grove, Coe might need to use a walker she calls “Junior,” but her mind is lively and her sense of humor is sharp. It is simply a whole lot of fun to sit down and listen to her tell about her life. Or even just ask her how she is feeling.

“I have a case of immaculate indigestion,” she said.

Certainly, her sister was a big part of Coe’s life since she worked as her personal assistant for many years. It was in 1951, just as Coe’s marriage was ending, when she went to New York to visit Booth.

“I told her, “I’ve got to find a job,” Coe said. “She told me, why don’t you work for me?”

Coe joined Booth just as her career was taking off into the stratosphere. In a period of three years, Booth won Tony Awards for “Come Back, Little Sheba” and “Time of the Cuckoo” on Broadway. She then won the Academy Award in 1952 for the movie version of “Come Back, Little Sheba,” starring opposite Burt Lancaster. New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther raved of Booth: “Her skillful and knowing creation of a depressingly common type - the immature, mawkish, lazy housewife - is visualization at its best.”

But Booth became best known for playing the wisecracking maid Hazel from 1961 to 1966. That’s when she needed Coe’s help the most. It was a time when “people walked up her driveway and expected to find Hazel.”

Coe did all kinds of jobs for Booth, including handling the mail, making her appointments and, yes, Hazel fans, signing her pictures.

That practice came home to roost one night when a Hazel fan came to Coe’s home, insisting that she was the daughter of Shirley Booth. As proof, she brought an autographed photo – which Coe had signed.

“I told her, I’m afraid this is an awful shock for you,” Coe said. “She left, but she wasn’t convinced.”

Of her sister, Coe said, “She was well-liked as a person and respected as an actress. People would come up to her at dinner and she never turned anyone away.”

Coe first came to Oregon following the death of her son, who suffered a heart attack. She went to live with her daughter Leslie in Gaston.

“It was just lovely.” Coe said. “There was such a panorama there – a donkey, dogs, and horses. But I am a city gal.” 

A few trips to the city was like a whole new life," Coe said. "I thought, 'I've got to get out of Gaston. I haven't got that much time left.' "

Describing herself as an "Auntie Mame Mother,” Coe went looking for a place in Forest Grove and found a place she at first thought was named “Alcatraz Wildwood.” Once she got the name straight and got a tour, Coe said, “I said, 'Where do I sign?' I never, ever regretted it.”

Even at age 90, life has surprises for Coe. Not long ago she was in a nurse’s ward on the second floor at Alterra Wynwood to have a bandage put on. While waiting she listened to Alterra's handbell choir practicing "Amazing Grace."


"When they finished I clapped,” Coe said. “Before I knew it I was up there with them.” 
_________________________________
Thanks to Pat Yoakum for her assistance on this story. 


Reprinted with permission of the News-Times, Forest Grove, Oregon

*****


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Sunday, January 1, 2017

"All This Vast Majesty Of Creation – It Had To Mean SOMETHING!"


Richard Matheson:

I have been fond of this science fiction writer's work since the early 1970's when I first saw the film, The Incredible Shrinking Man. Richard Matheson (February 20, 1926 – June 23, 2013) wrote the screenplay from his original story (published as “The Shrinking Man”). He wrote so many other meaningful and realistic stories, but if Matheson did nothing else other than this, he would be worthy of remembering.

With assistance from director Jack Arnold, the final five-minute soliloquy offered by Scott Carey has never left me – it is thoughtful and profound. 

Those final images of several galaxies with the existential voice-over is unforgettable. With the last line of the film Scott comes to a new understanding: "To God, there is no zero, I Still EXIST!" 

No, I never got the chance to personally thank Richard Matheson for that story. Nevertheless, he gave us one of the few intelligent and meaningful science-fiction films that should be celebrated as long as motion pictures exist.  

Richard Matheson will live on in the stories he created.  Yes, he remains among the truly best science fiction writers of all ages!


*****

Here's that intensely thoughtful and meaningful metaphysical soliloquy that is offered by Scott Brady.

There is no other film that I know of that has said something as basic and profound as this - juxtaposed with some great visualsHere it is...


"My fears disappeared -
As if tuned to some great directing force
I was getting smaller – what was I?
Still a human being or was I the man of the future?

If there were other bursts of radiation, 
Other clouds drifting across seas and continents,
Would other beings follow me into this vast new world?
So close the infinitesimal and the infinite - 

But suddenly I realized it’s really just the two ends of same concept.
The unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet -
Like the closing of a gigantic circle
I looked up, as if to somehow I could grasp the heavens – 
the Universe, world's beyond number,
God’s silver tapestry spread across the night,

And in that moment I knew the answer to the riddle of the infinite,
I had thought in terms of man’s own limited conception,
I had presumed upon nature that
“Existence begins and ends” – is man's conception - not nature’s.

And I felt my body dwindling, melting, becoming nothing

My fears melted away – and in their place came acceptance.

All this vast majesty of creation

– it had to mean something. 

Then I meant something too. 

Yes, smaller than the smallest – 

I meant something too. 

To God there is no zero –

I STILL EXIST” 

*****

Concluding scene's voice-over from
The Incredible Shrinking Man
 Universal – International Studios, 1957
Directed by Jack Arnold

Screenplay by Richard Matheson from his novel
Produced by Albert Zugsmith
Starring Grant Williams as Robert Scott Carey
& Randy Stuart as Louise Carey


This film is one of the best science fiction films ever made. Not only is it a masterpiece of special effects but it is also a powerful meditation on how a person can overcome his/her fears and accept his/her life as it is.

The shrinking man becomes so small he could fit through one of the holes in a window screen. But his fear of getting even smaller disappears. He realizes what really matters most is that he’s still alive! That's something I wish we all would never forget for a single day of our lives!

The Incredible Shrinking Man offers excellent special effects, a striking reliance on visuals rather than dialogue, a superb finale, and the supreme terror offered by the character named "Tomorrow." The latter was billed at that time as "the world's only trained Tarantula!"

*****

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3 comments:


  1. With you all the way on the superiority of SHRINKING MAN, and I think the unusual nature of that ending had a lot to do with its becoming the classic that it is. I thought I knew a lot about the film, but I didn't know about "Tomorrow!" :-) On a related note, Matheson once stated that the cat in the film was actually about 35 different animals, each of which had a different function. For further information, see my book RICHARD MATHESON ON SCREEN (http://www.mcfarlandpub.com/book-2.php?id=978-0-7864-4216-4).
    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for your comment. I've seen the trained tarantula mentioned under the name of "Tamara." I checked my source and TCM agrees that it's named "Tamara." Whether it was called "Tomorrow" or "Tamara," nonetheless supposedly "a trained tarantula."

    Could you tell my readers more about your book - I would like to read it for sure. I will publish any additional info here at http://shirleybooth.info.
    ReplyDelete
  3. Nothing would give me greater pleasure. It is a chronological history and analysis of every feature film, TV-movie, miniseries or television episode written by Matheson or based on his work (three of which, coincidentally, feature Joyce Van Patten). Much of the story is told in his own words, along with interviews and correspondence with such friends and fellow writers as Ray Bradbury, William F. Nolan, George Clayton Johnson, and the late Jerry Sohl. Special attention has been paid to the relationship between any literary adaptations and the published works on which they were based, and there is also information about unproduced scripts. The book has 64 photos and is available directly from the publisher, McFarland, using the previously supplied link, as well as through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Please let me know if you would like any further information, and thanks so much for your interest. Hope you will enjoy reading it.
    ReplyDelete

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Best Part of the Holidays. . .

The Best Part of the holidays has been re-watching some really well-made films from so many years ago!

Holiday Inn (1942) - This entertaining film is saturated with thirteen Irving Berlin tunes. One of my favorite moments comes early on as the amazing Astaire and Virginia Dale number, "You're Easy to Dance With." It is the simplest though best dances ever filmed, being shot in almost one continuous take (with only two cuts). I just love it! 

Interestingly, although the film features the major holidays, it does not have anything for the lesser ones, such as St. Patrick's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Labor Day and Halloween! I would have loved to see Marjorie Reynolds & Bing Crosby do a Halloween number!  

Here's my excerpt of my review which The Big Reel published back in December of 1983.  What I would add now is that I just love the fact that it's a film within a film and that we get to see actual film production techniques. Also, I just love that final scene when we pull back from inside the ballroom of the inn to be outside to the singing of "Let's Start the New Year Right." It is a truly wonderful moment that surely ends the film quite well.

HOLIDAY INN
by Jim Manago

One of my favorite films to view during holiday times is the Paramount 1942 film Holiday Inn. It was directed and produced by Mark Sandrich, one of those studio directors pretty forgotten today—perhaps his best films included the Astaire-Rogers vehicles The Gay Divorcee (1934), Top Hat (1935), and Holiday Inn. The film is saturated with 13 tunes by Irving Berlin, with a comical scenario based upon the idea of Berlin, and heavily laden with Bing Crosby’s and Fred Astaire’s star charm. 

First opening during the beginning of August, in a month lacking any holidays, Holiday Inn "offers a reason for celebration not printed in red ink” concludes the reviewer for The New York Times.

‘Lazybones’ Crosby leaves the difficult life of nightclub performer (the 365-day grind) to become a farmer. Realizing the physical routine is harsher than what he left, Crosby conceives of "Holiday Inn" while resting up in a sanitarium: a place of home cooking, relaxation, and entertainment—open holidays only. Thus, Crosby has some 350 days to “kick around in” as he says. Astaire, unsatisfied with his dance partner (actually she left him), tries to steal Crosby’s girl throughout the film’s remainder, but eventually fails.

The most notable song from the film, “White Christmas” is introduced by Crosby to co-star Marjorie Reynolds in a cozy New England farmhouse living room with a fireplace burning and snow falling outside. The song’s lyrics are “impressionistic” since they suggest a mood by sensory impressions of things happening at Christmas time. A “White Christmas,” “glistening treetops,” the sound of “sleigh bells in the snow” and the writing of Christmas cards are elements evocative of that warm atmosphere of Christmas. Holiday Inn will hold your interest even after this lovely tune is performed early in the film. The numbers for the other holidays are equally outstanding (they include “Let’s Start the New Year Right,” "Be Careful, It’s My Heart," "Abraham," "I Can’t Tell a Lie," "Easter Parade," "Say it With Firecrackers”).

Undoubtedly, Holiday Inn has to be examined as another example of Hollywood’s escapist films. This musical is among the Paramount Studio’s best accomplishments at the time. A film dealing with the holidays, particularly with songs for each holiday, was new to film musicals. Yes, the clich├ęd triangular love story does weaken the film somewhat. However, this type of film certainly entertained millions and kept the film industry alive even during a major war.

It’s really fascinating that such a light-hearted song-and-dance routine film could be made at this horrible time in world history with only a one-minute reference to the pressing problems of the real world. In the middle of the number “Song of Freedom” with Crosby singing, the stage curtains open to a screen showing a montage sequence of war preparations, factory operations, the President speaking, etc.

Though none of the war’s evils are shown, this brief sequence reminds the viewer that even though they are experiencing a fictional story, there exists a real responsibility of each viewer to our beloved nation to protect his freedom so that “all God’s people shall be free” (lyrics to song). Though some may consider the sequence an obvious propaganda intrusion, I believe it functions beyond that on a more legitimate level of instilling an intense pride for American values and acts as an exhortation for us to be sure to continue defending those values.

Holiday Inn, really a forgotten film, has been criticized for being episodic in narrative structure. However, despite any such alleged flaws, it is an enjoyable experience. A relaxing spirit pervades the film no doubt, and this is due to the angelic charm of Bing Crosby. The romantic conflict is even played for its comic possibilities, and it is never to be taken seriously. 

*****

Scrooge

This 1951 classic is no doubt the best version of Charles Dickens’ immortal story “A Christmas Carol.” It stands the test of time. Available in b&w and colorized versions.

Most portrayals of Charles Dickens’ miser Scrooge make him into an overly mean one-dimensional, cardboard character to the point that he is not fully human anymore. I recently sat through nearly a dozen versions of Dickens’ perennial holiday favorite, including the starring Seymour Hicks, Reginald Owen, Mr. Magoo, Albert Finney, George C. Scott, and so on. 

The best remains the 1951 British production. Here, Alastair Sim shines as Scrooge, accompanied by a superb supporting cast. No one has surpassed the actor’s brilliant interpretation of Scrooge. His portrayal makes Scrooge a very real and sympathetic person. You could feel for his frailties, and appreciate how unhappy he is, because of his hardened heart.

He is played as a three-dimensional, suffering human being, struggling with his greed, forced to find peace and serenity. When he awakes on Christmas morning after being visited by the spirits, you have a believable exhilaration.

What really matters most from Sim’s multi-layered dynamic portrayal is that Scrooge realizes that life is only meaningful when you live with faith, tolerance, and kindness. What is truly remarkable about these qualities is that the more you give of them, the more you have!

*****

It's A Wonderful Life

The 1946 slice of life classic looks better with each passing year. This inspirational film makes it known once and for all time that life, despite its trials, disappointments and sadness, is indeed worth living! 

Anytime is a good time to dust off your copy of this holiday masterpiece. Most certain is that you must own this one movie on DVD. 

In this endearing fantasy, George Bailey is on the verge of killing himself. However, his guardian angel shows him what a mistake that would be to give up living. The powerful but simple message that the movie so beautifully offers is that each person, like George Bailey, has a very special unique gift -- his very own life. Most importantly, that gift of life is meaningful only when it is shared with others.

Throughout his films, the Italian-American director and producer Frank Capra (1897-1991) presented us with a profoundly optimistic view of life. Capra once said that although he had a very humble peasant origin in Sicily with plenty of hardships, he vowed not to die a peasant. With It’s A Wonderful Life, Capra achieved royal status. 

Even though it was a box-office disappointment when first released, television has made it more and more popular each year. Some seventy years later, Capra’s moving expression of his belief in and love of humanity remains one of the best films of all time.

Twenty-five years ago, I contributed a video review to a weekly local paper. As I look back over all those years, re-read my review and watched this movie once again, I discovered that many things have changed in my life. However, It’s A Wonderful Life still remains the same. The acting by James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Henry Travers, and others is just as convincing as it seemed so many years ago. The dialogue and the scenes are unforgettable. 

Even after a lifetime of viewing this movie more than seventy-five times, I find it has become more relevant and enjoyable. I know undoubtedly that It’s A Wonderful Life will remain forever a brilliant life-affirming movie. Its uplifting and joyful finale (perhaps the best ever) is always refreshing in a world darkened by pessimism, cynicism, and insanity. 

It truly is a wonderful life! 


Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

"Can You Forgive The Pig-Headed Old Fool For Having No Eyes To See With Nor Ears To Hear With All These YEARS?"


One of my favorite moments that stays with me Christmas and throughout the year is found in the 1951 film Scrooge. I am speaking of the great Alastair Sim version. That film is so well-acted and moving. If I can confine my point to just one scene, then I would pick the very touching and tender moment when repentant Scrooge visits his nephew. The scene works so well in capturing Scrooge's change of heart, especially with the song "Barbara Allen" being sung, but effectively stopped mid-verse when Uncle Ebenezer walks in.
  
Scrooge asks his nephew's wife, "Can you forgive the pig-headed old fool for having no eyes to see with nor ears to hear with all these years?" The sense of exhilaration captured here is phenomenal! It just does not get any better than that!

Of course, many of the best scenes and dialogue were not from Dickens' original "A Christmas Carol" story. They were the wonderful brainchild of the now forgotten screenwriter/novelist Noel Langley. He was born on Christmas Day in 1911, and died on November 4, 1980. 

It's Langley that made several adjustments and additions to the Dickens story. Langley wrote in the cinematic style that Dickens also wrote in (of course Dickens was doing this before cinema was even invented). What Langley brought to the story blends well with Dickens' story and it helps to flesh out Scrooge and the other characters. I am sure that this is part of the reason why the 1951 adaptation of the Dickens story is so endearing.  

Langley's contribution lives on in the definitive version of Charles Dickens' immortal tale.  

*****

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