Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fiorello - 'Politics and Poker' - original Broadway version


Book by Jerome Weidman and George Abbott
Music by Jerry Bock and Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
Directed by George Abbott and Choreography by Peter Gennaro

The show opened in November of 1959 and ran for 795 performances.

Tony awards
Best Musical
Best featured actor, Tom Bosley
Best direction, George Abbott

Why am I sharing this delightful and trenchant tune?  It came to mind because my Toronto Riding is holding a by-election tomorrow.  There are five vacant Provincial Parliament seats in Ontario and it is, once again, my duty to play my part in the game by voting.  However, I must acknowledge my debt to the witty writers of Broadway and Hollywood who help to remind me not to take this sort of thing too seriously.

 Brian Donlevy, William Demarest

Skeeter (William Demarest):  "If it wasn't for graft, you'd get a very low type of people in politics.  Men without ambition.  Jellyfish.

- The Great McGinty, 1940
Written and directed by Preston Sturges

William B. Davidson, Mae West

Tira (Mae West):  What do you do for a living?
Ernest Brown (William B. Davison):  Oh, uh, sort of a politician.
Tira:  I don't like work either.

- I'm No Angel, 1933
Written by Mae West, directed by Wesley Ruggles

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon: The Barbara Stanwyck Show (1960-61)

Tonight, from Hollywood, The Barbara Stanwyck Show. After the announcement, Earle Hagen's dramatic and slightly melancholy theme begins and there she is, Miss Barbara Stanwyck, dressed to the nines in a gown from Werle. She smiles and welcomes us to the program, briefly outlining the episode's plot, the writers and director and, sometimes, her co-star.

From an interview with Kay Gardella: "I hated playing the role of hostess every week. I know Loretta Young loved it when she had her show on, but I couldn't stand it. I was lousy at it. I find I have to hide behind something. I can't just play myself."

If Barbara Stanwyck felt outside her comfort zone in the pre- and post-episode hostess role, it really didn't show. The taglines were often rather cute with a rueful smile or joke or praise for her co-stars. As a viewer, I looked forward to sharing a couple of moments with the star. In a couple of instances when she thanked the audience for their letters and asked if they would please let them know which episodes they enjoyed the most you can almost imagine her saying to herself "let them like the westerns best, please". The unaired pilot for the program was a western story.

Barbara Stanwyck had been a movie star for over 30 years, but movie executives have always had trouble seeing past a birth certificate. Executives in all eras seem to think that what the public wants are new faces. While it is true that audiences are more than happy to give those new faces a chance, we still want our old friends. However, the number of film roles and, in some instances, their quality had declined for our Missy as she entered her 50s. Television was the way to go and Barbara Stanwyck was no elitist. She lived to work and she would follow the work.

Barbara Stanwyck's first major foray into television was guesting four times on Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater. The actor turned successful producer had an amazing array of names appearing on programs under the Four Star banner. During this time, westerns were the big thing on television and Barbara Stanwyck, little Ruby Stevens from Brooklyn, had become an adept horsewoman and stunt player in the role of many strong-minded western females. Surely Stanwyck on TV in a western was a perfect fit. The "brain boys", as she referred to the network executives, considered westerns the exclusive domain of men. Dale Evans and Annie Oakley (Gail Davis) were for kids.

Also popular at the time were anthology series, such as the previously mentioned Zane Grey Theater (1956-1961), The Twilight Zone (1959-1964), Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-1962) and the crown jewel of them all, The Loretta Young Show (1953-1961). Other big-name film stars took their turn with Jane Wyman Present The Fireside Theater (1955-1958) and The DuPont Show with June Allyson (1959-1961). In 1960 it was time for The Barbara Stanwyck Show.

Executive Producer Louis Edelman and Barbara Stanwyck began their long friendship in the 1930s where Mr. Edelman began working as a producer for Warner Brothers. Some of the familiar titles he worked on include G-Men, The Fighting 69th, I'll See You in My Dreams, and White Heat. In the 1950s he moved into television producing such successful shows as The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp and Make Room for Daddy. Producer William H. Wright had been in production at MGM working on such films as Stars in My Crown, Black Hand, Act of Violence, and The Naked Spur.

There is a credit for Barwyck productions which would indicate a deeply personal stake for the star. With a trusted friend at the helm, Barbara Stanwyck was in good hands and only the best would do for each half-hour episode. Writers included A.E. Bezzerides (Thieves' Highway, On Dangerous Ground), Blanche Hanalis (Little House on the Prairie), and Leonard Praskins (Maverick, Wagon Train). Directors for the series would include the Dean of 50s TV David Lowell Rich, Jacques Tourneur (Out of the Past), and Richard Whorf (Champagne for Caesar). And if a lady wants to look her best she can do no better than be photographed by Hal Mohr, the only write-in Oscar nominee (A Midsummer Night's Dream) or Nicholas Musuraca (Blood on the Moon, Deadline at Dawn, I Remember Mama).

There was one recurring character in the series, that of Far East importer and adventuress Jo Little. Jo was featured in The Miraculous Journey of Tadpole Chan, Dragon by the Tail, and Adventure on Happiness Street. It seems as if there may have been hopes for a continuing series with that character should the anthology format fail to click. There are some wonderful guest stars in the set including Ralph Bellamy and Lew Ayres. It is fun to see Sen Yung and Layne Tom from the Charlie Chan movies, and Anna May Wong from way back.

The episodes play like sharply written short stories, sometimes dramatic, sometimes light-hearted. Barbara Stanwyck played a variety of women from all walks of life and different eras. Some were women in desperate situations, some were desperate women who created their situations. Best of all was the character pieces with one or two guest stars where the actors were free to really dig in and show their stuff. Among those would be Vic Morrow in The Key to the Killer. Julie London had violence in her heart and dragged Michael Ansara into her plan in Night Visitors. Lee Marvin in Confession, based on a true-life murder case. In her introduction, Miss Stanwyck said the episode had a passing similarity to Double Indemnity, a film she made a few years ago that she hopes we remember. The Golden Acres owed a bit of a debt to The Little Foxes.

Two character actress greats had the chance to strut their stuff in atypical roles. Doris Packer (Leave It to Beaver) as a domineering mother-in-law/oil magnate in Mrs. Randall's Secret. She came up the hard way and is as tough as her daughter-in-law. Elizabeth Patterson (Remember the Night) in Big Career is allowed to forego the ditherings of the latter part of her career as another sort of mother-in-law.

Earle Hagen's (the theme's composer) famous 1930s tune Harlem Nocturne is featured prominently in the episode Out of the Shadows where Barbara plays a psychiatrist helping a troubled young musician played by William Stephens. In the western episode Ironbank's Bride, she is the mail order bride to a wealthy rancher played by Charles Bickford. Her character has a son named "Jarrod". The episode Little Big Mouth stars Barbara as crusading real-life reporter Nellie Bly and the role fits like a glove, although the show is stolen by 11-year-old Judy Strangis (Room 222).

Three of my favourite episodes are a nice sample of the entertainment available on the series which ran on NBC on Monday at 10:00 pm, following Dante starring Howard Duff and opposite Jackie Cooper in Hennesy and the last half hour of Adventures in Paradise starring Gardner McKay. A Man's Game is a droll spoof of western cliches. Barbara is a saloon keeper turned sheriff, engaged to a former gunslinger played by Charles Drake. Edgar Buchanan is a philosophy spouting judge and Clinton Sundberg is the meanest gunfighter in the west. Well, I told you it was a spoof! Assassin features Barbara as a kooky secretary with a criminal secret and a criminal boss, played by Leon Ames, who hires a hitman played by Peter Falk to dispose of the problematic gal. It's a battle of wits and wills among the trio and you're never certain who holds all the ammunition. Sign of the Zodiac is a story of revenge, double-crosses, and madness with guest stars Joan Blondell (Night Nurse) and Dan Duryea. It's a dandy!

There would be no second season for The Barbara Stanwyck Show. It was replaced in the NBC lineup by another anthology program, Thriller hosted by Boris Karloff. Barbara Stanwyck was nominated four times for a competitive Oscar but never took home the prize. She was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Series (Lead) opposite two other ladies with self-titled programs, Donna Reed and Loretta Young. On her first shot at the TV prize, Barbara Stanwyck had her first acting trophy. She looked lovely in a knee-length dress first worn to introduce one of the episodes of her series, The Choice guesting Robert Horton and James Best. There was a charming mix-up when Lou Edelman's congratulatory kiss ended up with his cuff link becoming attached to her clothing. Luckily, Jackie Cooper in the next row helped save the day. Barbara accepted the Emmy from host Dick Powell, thanking her beloved producer and all the people behind the scenes who truly made this possible and happily returned to her seat.

The Emmy win must have felt like a mixed triumph after so much work and the cancellation, but Barbara Stanwyck was not one to dwell on the past. Her talent was once again affirmed and her career would continue, but in what direction? She couldn't know that night that there would be three more movies and a lot more television or that Emmy nominations would become as prolific as Oscar nominations. Her beloved Lou and A.I. Bezzerides would create The Big Valley and Barbara Stanwyck would have her western. Generations of fans would discover and fall in love with "and starring Miss Barbara Stanwyck as Victoria Barkley". All that was in the future, beyond that door that was opening as one door was closing on The Barbara Stanwyck Show.

Aubyn, The Girl with the White Parasol, is graciously hosting the Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon from July 16 - 22.  Please enjoy the tributes.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Me-TVs Summer of Classic TV Blogathon: My Three Sons

This post is part of the Me-TVs Summer of Classic TV Blogathon hosted by the Classic TV Blog Association.

I could be having such fun with Me-TV because they are running My-Show, My Three Sons. The program ran from 1960 - 1972, that's 12 seasons of situation comedy shenanigans originally on ABC and then from 1966 on CBS.

We are invited into the life of the Douglas clan of Bryant Park, Somewhere, USA. Widowed aerospace engineer Steve (Fred MacMurray) is raising his three sons Mike (Tim Considine), Robbie (Don Grady) and "Chip" (Stanley Livingston) with the help of his father-in-law "Bub" O'Casey (William Frawley). Film star MacMurray moved into the world of television with a unique contract which allowed for the shooting of all of his scenes in a block. Over the years much has been written that this arrangement may have been difficult for others on the set, but I've always thought it was cool that someone could get bosses to see things his way. The strange way of getting the product in the can certainly didn't impact the viewer's response to the quirky show. I think it may have led to a sense of freedom and certainly a very nice energy among the young performers.

The Douglas' lifestyle is very relatable. The house (set) looks lived in with newspapers on the floor, dishes drying in the dish rack and nothing ever in its assigned spot. The boys, especially Chip, sleep in mismatched shirts and pyjama pants and the dog, Tramp, is everywhere. Teenagers do not wake up when first summoned and they never want to do their allotted chores. There's bickering and yelling, and nobody listens.  It's a real home.

Time would bring many changes to My Three Sons. Eventually Tim Considine left the program as Mike married and moved away. Another third son was welcomed to the fold in the form of orphaned Ernie Thompson (Barry Livingston). The kid cracks me up! William Frawley was let go because of possible health/age/insurance issues and was replaced by William Demarest as cantankerous Uncle Charley. The original black and white show was now in colour. The Douglas family moved to Los Angeles where Robbie married Katie (Tina Cole) and they were saddled with triplets. Steve married Barbara (Beverly Garland). Not much was asked of Beverly as a sitcom wife, but she gave more than was called for with her vibrant personality. Barbara came with a daughter Dodie (Dawn Lynn), a game little actress surrounded by adults who did not know how to write for a little girl. Chip (little Chip!) married Polly Williams (Ronne Troup). It was fun to watch her parents played by Doris Singleton and Norm Alden.

When I first married the housing market was tight in Toronto and my husband and I moved into the basement apartment in his family home.  I was not altogether thrilled with the arrangement and as I unpacked I muttered under my breath that "When Mike married Sally he left the show".  From another room, my husband with his Vulcan hearing countered with "Yeah?  Well, Robbie and Katie movied in!"

I don't know which era of programs Me-TV is treating fans to presently, but I raise a toast to them and to My Three Sons whether it is Robbie as a klutz, an escaped lion roaming the Douglas house or Chip and Polly freezing their salad. While we're toasting, let's include three of my favourite episodes from Season 1.

Back row:  Tim Considine, Fred MacMurray
Down front:  William Frawley, Stanley Livingston, Don Grady

Director:  Peter Tewksbury
Writers:  George Tibbles, James Leighton, Peter Tewksbury
Original air date:  October 20, 1960

A Monday morning with the Douglas family. The alarm goes off at 8:00 am and nobody wants to get up. A sleepy Steve stumbles to his draft board and places the drawing he has been working on all weekend in a tube to take to the office. The important work lands instead in the garbage can by the desk. Robbie sounds a drowsy Reveille on his trumpet, drops it to the floor and goes back to sleep. Chip and Tramp amble to the living room and turn on the TV watching the launching of a satellite. Mike does some half-hearted callisthenics and works on memorizing Chaucer for class. Bub starts yelling for the laundry, and for the trash for the incinerator. Chip has nothing for "Show and Tell". Robbie hasn't written his English assignment because nothing dramatic has ever happened to him.

From the television, we hear Paul Frees as the announcer describe the intricate machinations which go into the launching of a satellite and how every person involved is integral and has a role to play in the success of the operation in the important period leading up to the countdown. This narration is mirrored by the actions of the Douglasses coping with four fellows and one bathroom, homework assignments, household chores, lost items and a myriad of little details leading up to their own countdown. Disasters are averted as we reach zero hour and as the satellite falls from the air in a spectacular failure we learn that the broadcast is originally from 1957 and the car radio alerts our intrepid crew that their clocks were wrong due to daylight saving time. Steve finds a spot on the couch, Mike and Bub are on chairs, Chip is on Tramp and all are sleeping except for Robbie who finally has something dramatic to write about for class.

Dorothy Green

Lady Engineer
Director:  Peter Tewksbury
Writer:  Dorothy Cooper
Original air date:  November 10, 1960

Dorothy Green (Face of a Fugitive, The Big Heat, The Young and the Restless) guest stars as Dr. J.M. Johnson, a freelance engineer hired to assist Steve on a project. The attractive woman is devoted to her career, but Steve is smitten. When they first meet Steve doesn't realize she is to be his new working partner and follows her through the maze of office cubicles with a lost glove to some spiffy jazzy flute music. He assumes she is one of the guests on "Visitor Day" and attempts to make conversation by explaining the work and equipment. He feels very foolish when put on the spot by Dr. Johnson, but the infatuation continues.

Steve hopes a working dinner may lead to romance and he tries to arrange the perfect atmosphere at the restaurant with low lighting and flowers and practising his moves. Again, Steve is made to feel foolish when he sees Dr. Johnson has arrived early and has been observing him from another booth. Fred MacMurray is so much fun to watch in his anticipation and discomfiture. I think one of the things that made him such a good, solid actor in all of his roles is that MacMurray started as a musician. He plays those notes on the page as called for, but he's not afraid to add those grace notes.

Things gradually do start to move toward a more personal relationship between Steve and Joan, but she stops short from meeting his family, afraid to get caught. They miss their last chance to be together because of a missed phone message and after we get to see Steve in a situation away from home and family, it is back to broken appliances and taking care of the boys.

Unite or Sink
Director:  Peter Tewksbury
Writer:  Art Friedman
Original air date:  April 6, 1961

Mike and Robbie have a lot of things in common, they are both broke, they are both looking for an odd job and they are getting on each other's last nerve. Steve wonders why the boys have never thought of just doing something for somebody just for the sake of doing it. When the milkman Harry (Robert Gothie) mentions that the Jensons need their fence painted, Robbie gets the job from Mr. Jenson and Mike arranges the same thing by telephone with Mrs. Jenson.

Mr. and Mrs. J are away from home when Mike and Robbie start haggling about the job while Chip and his pal "Sudsy" (Ricky Allen) goof around. Mrs. Foster (Ann Morgan Guilbert) is watching the boys and gets involved in an advisory capacity with Mike and Robbie's paint job. Mr. Kincaid (Malcolm Atterbury) starts contributing his two cents and so does Bub when he comes along on his second trip of that day to the grocery store.

More neighbours, Verna (Pearl Shear) and Pete (Bill Idelson) fill out the crowd.  Everyone is talking about everything under the sun from Bub's navy days to ecology to silent films to sports to housework. While they talk, and not really listen, everyone starts pitching in on the Jenson's yard. Chip and Sudsy start selling their lemonade and sandwiches, eventually branching out to fruit and veggies when a seller passes the street.

The day rolls on and the Jenson's yard is neat and tidy, Chip and Sudsy are successful entrepreneurs and Mike, with Robbie's agreement, writes "No Charge" on their bill to Mr. Jenson. Back at home, Steve is at first upset at the thought of the boys making money of an elderly couple on a pension, but Mr. Jenson's phone call of thanks makes Steve proud of his sons, and he's more than happy to spot them an extra couple of bucks for Saturday night. The theme of people pulling together, the cohesive work of the acting ensemble, the clever non sequitur lines and editing make Unite and Sink an all-time great in sitcom history.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Dynamic Duos in Classic Movies blogathon: Roy Rogers & Dale Evans

Dale Evans and Roy Rogers

Let's look at one of Roy and Dale's typical and popular movies from Republic Studios, Lights of Old Santa Fe. They sing an adorable love/hate song called The Nerve of Some People and go through the love/hat routine one expects in a rom/com programmer. Dale plays Marjorie who, with the help of "Gabby" Hayes is trying to keep her family business, a wild west show in the black. Gabby enlists the aid of Roy and the Sons of the Pioneers and, of course, Trigger. Marjorie resents this. Who does that Rogers fellow think he is anyway? Roy just smiles and does a lot of darn fool things that are all for Margie's own good and after a lot of complications things right themselves in the end. If this had been RKO in the 30s, they'd be Fred and Ginger on the range. At MGM it would be Nick and Nora on horseback. How did this felicitous teaming come about?

Francis Smith was born in Texas in 1912, a bright and precocious girl who moved ahead in school and loved to perform. At the age of 14, she ran off and married her 18-year-old boyfriend and at 15 was back home with a baby son. She decided against a reconciliation with her husband and relied on her parent's help to raise her boy Tom as she worked in secretarial jobs and still dreamed of show business. She wrote songs and eventually landed a gig as a radio singer.

Francis's popularity as a musician grew over the years and she tried for the big time in Chicago twice. The first time Dale (the name given to her by a station manager) and her son ended up broke and ill, and back home. The second time, at age 27, she started to groove with bookings in the best clubs and national radio spots. She picked up stage tips from headliners such as Fats Waller and Ray Bolger. A Hollywood agent paid for a trip to the coast for an audition for Paramount's Holiday Inn.  At this point, Dale figured she was too old for any studio to take an interest, but a friend advised her to take the money and enjoy the trip.

Once in Tinseltown, ambition took over and Dale found she really wanted whatever Hollywood had to offer. If that meant lying about her age and lying about her son by saying he was her kid brother and working more on her career than on a failing second marriage, she told herself it was all for the greater good. Paramount didn't want her, but Dale did get a bit in 20th Century Fox's 1942 film Orchestra Wives. The next year found her at Republic for Swing Your Partner. The year after that she was paired with the studio's box office champ Roy Rogers for Cowboy and the Senorita. Dale says she made the silliest senorita you ever saw with her hair dyed raven black and her Texas accent bursting through some phonetic Spanish, but Roy and Dale clicked. Roy had many lovely leading ladies before Dale including Carol Hughes, Mary Hart, and Pauline Moore, but who wants a couple of good scenes and billing behind a horse? The personality plus band singer gave as good as she got and a new screen team was born.

Leonard Sly was born in Ohio in 1911 to a poor and loving family. At a young age, Len's father bought a small farm in Duck Run but still worked in a Cincinnati shoe factory to make ends meet. The younger brother of three sisters took on the responsibility of being the man of the family. At 18, Len and the folks traveled to California where his oldest sister Mary was living with her husband.

Roy found work picking fruit and working for a trucking company, but his sister had other ideas for her talented kid brother. Len could play the guitar and sing, and despite his shyness, he entered a radio talent contest. He found work with a country band and met fellow singer/composer Bob Nolan. Eventually, with Tim Spencer, they would found The Sons of the Pioneers and become popular with their original tunes like Tumbling Tumbleweeds and their unique brand of harmonies and western swing. Of course, they got paid more in experience than in cold hard cash, but it sure beat picking fruit.

Soon the Sons of the Pioneers started getting some movie spots. Singing cowboys were the rage and there was always a scene or two that called for some music and some square dance calling. At this point, Roy was going by the name of Dick Weston and the group appeared in some Gene Autry pictures at Republic. Gene was renegotiating his contract with studio boss Herbert Yates and walked out before production on what would become 1938s Under Western Stars. The lead in the film, a congressman from the west who alerts Washington to the needs of people in the dust bowl, was given to the newly christened Roy Rogers. A star was born. Roy's natural likeability, good looks, way with a song and action sequences made him a natural.

A new cowboy star needs a horse so the many stables that rented to the studios sent possible candidates for Roy to check out. It was love at first sight when Roy rode Golden Cloud, a beautiful palomino stallion who had appeared in The Adventures of Robin Hood. Smiley Burnett rechristened him Trigger and Roy bought him from the stable for $2,500 on the installment plan. This purchase made future studio negotiations fun for Roy when Yates couldn't "make anybody a star by putting him on Trigger".

In 1938, the newly successful Roy married Arline Wilkins, whom he had met while the Sons of the Pioneers were on one of their early tours. Longing for a family, they adopted a daughter Cheryl in 1940 and her arrival was followed by the birth of their daughter Linda and of Roy, Jr. known as Dusty in 1946. Sadly, Arline passed from complications from the Cesarean birth within a week of Dusty's arrival. The King of the Cowboys had everything he could possibly want at one moment and lost it all in the next.

Roy kept on working and even recent leading lady Dale Evans returned to the fold after trying to shake the cowgirl image in a couple of films that didn't pan out. Dale recalled that during those days at Republic you worked so closely, for such long hours together that casts and crew became like a family seeing each other at their best and their worst. However, it wasn't without a great deal of trepidation that Dale accepted Roy's marriage proposal 15 months after Arline's passing. Not the least of her red flags was the prospect of being a stepmom to two little girls who would probably resent her presence. However, just like in their movies, Roy knew she'd come around and on the eve of 1948, they were married at the location used for their feature Home in Oklahoma.

Roy and Dale produced and starred in TVs The Roy Rogers Show from 1951 to 1957. Along with Pat Brady, the jeep Nellybelle, Trigger, Dale's horse Buttermilk, and Bullet, the wonder dog (who was also the family pet), they entertained children of all ages with adventures on the range. Dale wrote the closing theme song, Happy Trails for their radio program.

Some trails are happy ones, others are blue.
It's the way you ride the trail that counts;
Here's a happy one for you.
Happy trails to you until we meet again,
Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we're together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you until we meet again.

Joy and sorrow comes to each family. Dale and Roy had a little daughter whom they named Robin. She was a Down Syndrome baby with many physical frailties and a poor heart, passing at the age of two. The couple adopted Mary Doe, of Choctaw background like Roy. They also adopted Sandy, an abused child from Ohio, and Debbie from Korea. A Scottish girl named Marion joined their family as their ward as they were unable to adopt a British subject. Debbie was killed with a school friend at the age of 12 in a school bus accident. Sandy, a young soldier stationed in Germany died from an unaccustomed bout of binge drinking. Tragically, that is a story still too common in the news these days. Dale shared her loss, and her comfort in her Faith, by writing. You can learn a lot about this strong woman in Angel Unaware, Hear the Children Crying, Say Yes to Tomorrow, and The Woman at the Well.

You can find Roy away from the Republic lot introducing Cole Porter's Don't Fence Me In in 1944s Hollywood Canteen. In 1948 Roy, Trigger - and the Sons of the Pioneers - were featured in the Pecos Bill segment of Disney's Melody Time. (There was a time when my son was a little buckaroo when the only thing that would quiet him down was the Sons of the Pioneers singing Blue Shadows on the Trail.) Roy and Trigger had some fun with Bob Hope in 1952s Son of Paleface, and Roy and other western stars have fun cameos in Hope's 1959 feature Alias Jesse James.

Roy's last movie was 1975s Mackintosh and T.J. wherein young Clay O'Brien learns all those lessons Roy taught generations of kids through the years. Around that time Roy had a surprise hit with the song Hoppy, Gene and Me. 1991 saw the release of an album called Tribute featuring Roy singing duets with contemporary country and western vocalists such as Clint Black, Ricky Van Shelton, Emmylou Harris and more. Roy introduced films under the banner Great Movie Cowboys in syndication, and he and Dale hosted a similar program for their films on the Nashville Network. Just like in their movies Dale would be cracking wise and Roy would sit back and smile.

For many years visitors could enjoy memorabilia of the Rogers family life and career at their museum in California and then Branson, Missouri. The museum was closed and the items were auctioned in 2010. According to news reports of the time, auctioneer Cathy Elkies said it was the "most colorful, emotional and sentimental" sale she had experienced in her 20 years at Christie's. Roy's passing in 1998 was headline-making news and I recall that the PBS Newshour dedicated half of their program to recalling the joy Roy brought to us. Dale passed away 2001.

The barefoot boy from Duck Run and the sassy gal from Texas left their mark on show business and in the hearts of generations of adoring fans.

Once Upon a Screen and Classic Movie Hub are co-sponsoring the Dynamic Duos in Classic Movies Blogathon. I know you'll enjoy all of the informative and entertaining entries.   

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Caftan Woman's Choice: One for July on TCM

My late father once told me "You have to watch Fritz Lang". I believe he meant that literally, but in recent years I've come to think of it as "you have to watch Fritz Lang because he's sneaky". Many of his films seem to tell a straight-forward story in a straight-forward way, but you'll find yourself sidetracked and your thoughts going in a different direction by the way he'll linger on a face or an object, or not linger on it. The story of one character becomes the story of another. The focus on one event or theme days later becomes something else entirely. I think that's why no matter how many times I have seen it, I never pass up the opportunity to watch 1953s The Big Heat. Perhaps you feel the same way.

Glenn Ford

The Big Heat is the story of corruption in a big city. A cop named Duncan has the goods on a crime boss named Lagana. Duncan's suicide elicits a lot of unanswered questions and both sides of the law are stressed by the information that may or may not come out. There are tough, uncompromising men involved in this scenario including honest detective Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford), respectably-fronted hood Mike Lagana (Alexander Scourby) and his muscle Vince Stone (Lee Marvin). However, for me, the story of The Big Heat is the story of its women.

Gloria Grahame, Lee Marvin

Gloria Grahame is Debby Marsh, Vince's girl. She's a moll who takes the money and the high life that comes from her association with the powerful element in town. She's also not as dumb as she lets on, although not as smart as she should be. She has a good heart and an honest way of looking at the world and her place in it. Debby is one of the most memorable characters in film-noir and it is due to Gloria's heartbreaking, layered performance.

Jocelyn Brando, Glenn Ford

Jocelyn Brando is Katie Bannion, Dave's wife. She is captured at a perfect time in her life with a loving husband and a sweet young daughter. The life she is building has a strong foundation and it makes her confident and free to enjoy all her moments.

Jeanette Nolan, Glenn Ford

Jeanette Nolan is Bertha Duncan, widow. Bertha is the reason her late husband was on the take. She wanted more and her husband's sideways position in the mob was her way to get more. Her husband's suicide gives her the power she craves and she is more than happy to wield it. The versatile Ms. Nolan in this film is more Lady Macbeth (1948s Macbeth) than Dirty Sally of her 1974 TV show. She's cold and resolute. Her pride perhaps clouds her judgment.

Dorothy Green, Glenn Ford

Dorothy Green is Lucy Chapman, Duncan's conscience and a B-girl. Ms. Green's soft and pretty looks which would later land her the role of Brooks family matriarch Jennifer on TVs The Young and the Restless plays against Bertha's toughness and her own character's tough circumstances. It is her relationship with Duncan that precipitates the breakdown of the mob. Her quietly desperate scene with Bannion as she looks in vain for official solace in Tom Duncan's death is fraught with fear. She is doomed.

Gloria Grahame, Lee Marvin, Carolyn Jones

Carolyn Jones is Doris, just a girl at a bar looking for some fun. Carolyn Jones (Oscar nominee, The Bachelor Party, TVs The Addams Family) always stands out, even in the smallest bits. In this role, she emphasizes things about Debby and Vince that we need to know.

Edith Evanson, Glenn Ford

Edith Evanson (Shane, I Remember Mama) is Selma Parker, the most invisible of women, middle-aged and lame. In a city filled with timid men, she sees a way to assist the brave and does so at her peril.

Celia Lovsky, Alexander Scourby

Celia Lovsky's image is the portrait of Mike Lagana's mother that overwhelms his massive den and his life. The prolific actress and former Mrs. Peter Lorre was a close friend of Fritz Lang's and the first character to say the words "Live long and prosper" as T'Pau on Star Trek: Amok Time

Amid the topcoats and fedoras, the brutality and the conceit, The Big Heat is the story of its women and their hearts.

TCM is screening the 1954 Edgar winner for Best Motion Picture The Big Heat on Tuesday, July 9 at 9:15 am.


Terence Towles Canote at A Shroud of Thoughts is hosting The 8th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon . The popular blogathon is runn...