Monday, January 26, 2009

Pet Peeves

Caftan Woman is grumpy.

It's not Etta James' classic At Last. It is Harry Warren and Mack Gordon's classic ballad At Last. If you like Ms. James' version of the song - fine.

It is not Crazy by Patsy Cline. It is by Willie Nelson, who would probably be the first to tell you that Patsy made a wonderful record.

Willie Nelson would probably be the first to tell you that he did not write his hit record of Blue Skies, that was a fellow named Irving Berlin.

Channel surfing can be surprisingly annoying.

I came across an entertainment program (probably on E!) wherein the peppy young announcer informed me that Reese Witherspoon was descended from one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence - John Wilkes Booth! For shame on the dozens of people involved in putting on that program for not realizing the true notoriety of John Wilkes Booth. FYI: Dr. John Witherspoon was a Presbyterian Minister and representative of New Jersey and signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Again with Witherspoon - Entertainment Tonight announced the release of the most recent version of The Importance of Being Earnest by describing it as a "romantic comedy set at the turn of the century". Let's not mention Oscar Wilde. Oh, no. Whoever heard of him?

When the movie Finding Neverland was released I happened upon star Kate Winslett being interviewed by Diane Sawyer on Good Morning, America. Not once during the interview did Ms. Sawyer mention the name Sir James M. Barrie. Instead, she always referred to the character played by Johnny Depp as "the man who created Peter Pan". Toward the end of the interview Ms. Winslett brought up the name Sir J.M. Barrie. I believe she said it through clenched teeth or perhaps that was me shouting at the television.

A note to mainstream media: if you treat people like idiots then they will become idiots.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Broadway to Hollywood trivia

Horace "Stephen" McNally
1913 - 1994

Former attorney Horace McNally decided to become an actor in the late 30s and toiled in Hollywood under his given name in a number of small roles in B pictures roles and the Broadway stage. A Broadway hit was Elmer Harris' Johnny Belinda in which he played the role of a compassionate doctor who helps the victimized heroine.

Under the heading of "what's in a name", Horace changed his name to Stephen and became a leading actor upon his return to the west coast. He was even tapped for a role in the film version of Johnny Belinda. However, he did not play the role he did on stage. In the movie Stephen McNally took on the part of the despicable Locky McCormick.

Three cheers for Stephen McNally. Check out Winchester '73, The Lady Gambles, No Way Out and The Black Castle.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Emily Webb Connection

Martha Scott
1912 - 2003

Thornton Wilder's 1938 Pulitzer Prize winning play Our Town can rightly be considered a timeless American classic. An examination of life through the life of a small town and of a small town girl, the role of Emily Webb proved a career beakthrough for actresses beloved by fans of classic films.

Martha Scott was so successful as Emily on Broadway that she was tapped to play the role in the film adaptation in 1940 when none of the Hollywood auditionees passed muster. She was Oscar-nominated for that first movie performance. Popular roles would follow in such movies as Cheers for Miss Bishop, One Foot in Heaven, The Desperate Hours and Ben Hur. Broadway and television roles would command her time from the 60s onward. She was particularly delightful as Bob Newhart's mother in The Bob Newhart Show. Her role in 1949's Strange Bargain would be reprised in an episode of Murder, She Wrote entitled The Days Dwindle Down featuring co-stars Jeffery Lynn and Harry Morgan.

Dorothy McGuire
1916 - 2001

Lovely Dorothy McGuire was an understudy to Martha Scott and would play the role of Emily in New York during Our Town's initial run. In 1941 she would star in the play Claudia catching the eye of Hollywood and traveling west west to star in that film adaptation. Many classic roles would follow such as The Spiral Staircase, The Enchanged Cottage, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Gentleman's Agreement, Old Yeller, A Summer Place, Friendly Persuasion and Swiss Family Robinson. On television she was the perfect Marmee in a mini-series based on Little Women and most beautifully cast as the lost love of of Michael Landon's angel Jonathan on Highway to Heaven, a casting choice that seems a perfect tribute to Ms. McGuire's special qualities as an actress.

Teresa Wright
1918 - 2005

Teresa was also an Emily understudy although she never got the chance to play the role in New York. In 1939 she was cast in the outstanding success Life With Father and Hollywood came a-calling. Her first film was Wyler's outstanding filming of The Little Foxes and she worked with that great director again in Mrs. Miniver, The Miniver Story and The Best Years of Our Lives. Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt still thrills audiences. Unforgettable in Pursued, The Pride of the Yankees and Enchantment. Broadway and golden age of television also benefited from her presence through the years. One of her last appearances was in the 1990 made-for-tv movie Perry Mason: The Case of the Desperate Decision. What a treat to enjoy her talents again.

The next time you are enjoying a play, check the program for the names of the understudies. Who knows what future stars are lurking backstage?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Caftan Woman, chorister

What do you think of my David Tennant glasses? I think they make me look clever.

Janet: How was rehearsal tonight?
Me: Well, I wasn't kicked out this week.

In my former life I studied music and theatre. My free time was devoted to community theatre. Life, kids and illness...mainly illness, has kept me from doing what I loved to do. I missed it. I missed music in my life. I actually bought a book to teach myself the harmonica. I am sorely grieved that there is something Jim Belushi can do that I can't.

Last September there was a notice in the paper announcing an Open House for the Etobicoke Centennial Choir, entering its 42nd season. Why not? I should be able to manage one rehearsal a week without my body falling apart. In that former life I mentioned I was usually placed in the lower section of the chorus. A proud alto or sometimes a mezzo with delusions. At my audition, the choir director and I had a good chuckle over my sight-reading and he placed me in first soprano. I actually tried to argue with him. The guy knows what he's doing. I felt comfortable vocally, but strange personally. You can't spend your life giving sops dirty looks and then all of a sudden become one.

The Christmas concerts were a success and I achieved my first goal which was not to screw up. Tonight we begin rehearsals for the Easter concert. My new goal is to relax and enjoy the challenge, the learning experience and the sense of accomplishment.

Check out:

Photo courtesy of Maureen Nolan
check out: monolan @ flickr


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