Saturday, 11 April 2015

Why I Have Been Unhappy with Facebook of Late

There was a time when tirades against Facebook were a fairly regular feature on this blog. It seemed as if Facebook was consistently making changes that got on my nerves. Fortunately it was about the time that Facebook introduced the single column timeline that Facebook became, well, less annoying. They stopped continuously changing things around and wreaking havoc with everything from the news feed to the profile. Unfortunately it was about four weeks ago that Facebook retuned to its evil old self and began doing things that annoy me once more. I have once more concluded that Facebook's slogan must be, "If it ain't broke, then break it."

The first thing I noticed was that the friends' box on my profile had changed dramatically. For about the past two years the friends' box on my profile has been fairly consistent in displaying those friends with whom I interact the most. It was four weeks ago that my friends' box suddenly started displaying random friends, most of whom I rarely interact with on Facebook. In fact, at times it seems almost as if the friends' box was set to display those friends with whom I interact the least.

Now this was only a very minor annoyance in some respects. I suppose in many ways it is not that important that the friends in the friends' box on my profile are the ones with whom I interact the most. That having been said, it was handy in that I could visit my profile and from there visit the profiles of  my closest friends by just clicking on their picture in the friends' box. Over the years I have learned it is a good idea to visit one's friends' profiles on Facebook once in a while as Facebook does have a nasty habit of not displaying all of their posts in the news feed. Indeed, Facebook sometimes doesn't even display all of their posts in the feeds for lists!

That brings to me a much more serious problem that developed about the same time. Namely, my news feed was thrown into utter chaos. Instead of displaying posts from those friends with whom I regularly interact in the Top Stories feed, it would display posts from friends with whom I rarely interact (one time it even displayed almost nothing but posts from pages). Worse yet, those posts might be well over 24 hours old. My news feed has improved quite a bit since that time. Now the Top Stories feed generally displays posts from friends with whom I regularly interact, but the posts may still be days old. It seems I am having to rely on the feeds from my various lists more than ever.

Of course, as annoying as all of this has been for me, I have to admit it could be much, much worse. A friend and fellow blogger has a screen name that she has used for literally years. In fact, many people know her best by that name, even those who know her given name. Naturally she used her screen name for her Facebook profile. Unfortunately Facebook recently decided that she had to use her legal name, despite the fact that she has used her screen name for years and many people only know her by that name. I told her that Facebook telling her that she could not use her screen name would be something like Universal in the Sixties suddenly telling John Wayne that they would only credit him in films as "Marion Morrisson" from there on out! She has sent several requests to Facebook that she be allowed to use her screen name again, but sadly (and not unsurprisingly) she has received no response from them. Here I have to point  out that I have also complained about the friends' box on my profile and my news feed and both are still broken.

Now I know that there are those who will claim that as Facebook is free people have no reason to complain about it. To me this simply isn't a valid argument. For one thing, Facebook is supported by advertising, so that any time one buys products or services from companies that advertise on the site (which is almost everyone these days), he or she is more or less paying for Facebook. For another thing, using this reasoning  no one would have the right to ever complain about broadcast network television. After all, broadcast network television can be picked up with a common, everyday television aerial, so that it is effectively "free" as well.

I also realise that there are those who will point out that one can always simply delete his or her Facebook profile. While I admit that this sounds very appealing to me (and I have been very tempted to do so from time to time), the sad fact is that I have a large number of friends and relatives for whom Facebook is their primary means of keeping in touch with people, including me. And as much as I would like these friends and relatives to simply move to another social network, they don't seem to want to do so. Sadly, then, if I want to stay in touch with many of my friends and relatives on a regular basis, then I also have to keep my Facebook account.

Of course, the fact that Facebook has become the dominant means of staying in touch with friends and relatives for many makes Facebook's treatment of its users even worse. While there are other social media sites that are often unresponsive to the needs and wants of their users (Twitter can be fairly bad about it as well), Facebook is notorious for its lack of any real customer service. It's not simply a case of not responding to complaints as it is that Facebook seems to ignore any problems its users might have with the site and when they do fix things it takes them months to do so. It should come as no surprise that last year (and the past several years I do believe) Facebook has ranked as the most hated social media company on the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

For the time being it seems possible that Facebook will continue to be able to get away with their poor customer service. After all, they are the largest social media site in the world and there are many who will continue to use it even if they don't particularly like doing so. That having been said, it seems to me that if Facebook does not improve both their site and their customer service, then they could eventually go the way of MySpace. It might take literally years, but I can't see any company that consistently ranks as "the Most Hated" in its category surviving forever. I am hoping that Facebook will choose improving its customer service over hurling itself headlong towards extinction.

Friday, 10 April 2015

The 100th Birthday of Harry Morgan

It was 100 years ago today that Harry Bratsberg, now better known by his stage name "Harry Morgan", was born. Many today might know Harry Morgan best as Colonel Sherman T. Potter in M*A*S*H while those a little older might know him best as Officer Bill Gannon on the Sixties incarnation of Dragnet, but he had a long career that spanned over sixty years and included appearances on Broadway, radio, film and television. Quite simply, Harry Morgan may have been one of the most successful character actors of all time.

Harry Morgan was born Harry Bratsberg on April 10 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. His given surname appears to have varied a bit in spelling. While he spelled it "Bratsberg", it was occasionally spelled "Bratsburg (as it was when he was registered at junior high)". He grew up in Muskegon, Michigan. He attended the University of Chicago and had planned to go into law until he discovered acting there. In 1937 he began acting under his given name as part of the Group Theatre in New York City.  He made his debut on Broadway in Golden Boy in 1937 under his given name, although his surname would be spelled "Bratsburg" throughout his Broadway career.  Over the next few years he appeared on Broadway several times, in such productions as The Gentle People (1939), Thunder Rock (1939), Night Music (1940), The Cream in the Well (1941), and The Night Before Christmas (1941).

It was in 1942 that Harry Bratsburg moved to California to pursue his acting career there. He was discovered by a talent agent in a production of William Saroyan's Hello Out There in Santa Barbara and signed to 20th Century Fox. He made his film debut in 1942 in To the Shores of Tripoli, in which he was billed "Henry Morgan", as he would be for nearly his first decade of acting in film and on radio. Unfortunately for Mr. Morgan, there was also a popular radio satirist named "Henry Morgan" (who coincidentally had been born only a little over a week before Harry Morgan, on March 31 1915). To avoid confusion, then, Mr. Morgan started being billed in the Fifties as "Harry Morgan".

It was not long after his film debut that Harry Morgan would see a good deal of success playing character roles in films. He played a major role in The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) as Art Croft. He played the farmer Klaas Bleecker who eventually refuses to pay his rent in Dragonwyck (1946).  What was perhaps one of the best, if not the best comedic role of his career was as a bemused police lieutenant in Holiday Affair (1949). Even as Harry Morgan began appearing on television regularly in the Fifties, his film career continued to prosper. He played  pianist Chummy MacGregor in The Glenn Miller Story (1954). Ketchum in The Far Country (1954), flight engineer Sgt. Bible in Strategic Air Command (1955), and Judge Mel Coffey  in Inherit the Wind (1960). While his career was increasingly in television later on, he still appeared in plenty of movies, including How the West Was Won (1962), Frankie and Johnny (1966), Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969), Patton (1970), Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971), The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975), Dragnet (1987), and Crosswalk (1999).

Of course, while Harry Morgan played many notable character parts on film, he is probably best known to audiences from his work in television. It not simply a case that he had a particularly long career in television with a large number of guest appearances on TV shows, but that he starred as a regular in multiple shows. Harry Morgan's first regular role on television was as next door neighbour Peter Porter on December Bride in 1954. Harry Morgan proved to be so popular as Peter that he was given his own show, Pete and Gladys, after December Bride went off the air. He played opposite Cara Williams as Gladys (who was often referred to on December Bride, but never seen).

Harry Morgan was one of the repertory of actors on the anthology show The Richard Boone Show during the 1963-1964 season and played the role of Seldom Jackson on the short lived series Kentucky Jones during the 1964-1965 season. Later in the Sixties he played one of his best known roles, that of Sgt. Friday's sidekick Office Bill Gannon on Dragnet. Harry Morgan would reprise his role as Bill Gannon in the 1987 comedy Dragnet (in which Bill was now a Police Captain) and the 1995 episode of The Simpsons "Mother Simpson". He was a regular on both The D.A. (playing  H.M. "Staff" Stafford) and Hec Ramsey (playing  Doc Amos B. Coogan) before he was cast as Colonel Sherman T. Potter on M*A*S*H in 1975.  He reprised his role as Sherman T. Potter in the short-lived sequel/spinof of M*A*S*H, AfterMASH. He later played the regular role of conman Leonard Blacke on Blacke's Magic and the recurring role of Professor Suter on 3rd Rock from the Sun.

Given the number of shows on which Harry Morgan had a regular or recurring role, it is hard to believe that he made a number of guest appearances on television throughout his career. He made his television debut in a guest appearance on The Amazing Mr. Malone  in 1951. He guest starred on several other shows though the years, including Alfred Hitchcock Presents; Have Gun - Will Travel; The Untouchables; Dr. Kildare; The Virginian; Night Gallery; Gunsmoke; The Love Boat; and Murder, She Wrote.

Of course, before Harry Morgan had a career on television, he had a career on radio. In 1947 he was the host of NBC's radio show Mystery in the Air. He appeared several times on This is Your FBI and the original radio version of Dragnet.

Harry Morgan was probably best known for characters with a dry sense of humour and a sharp wit, traits held in common by his most famous TV roles (Peter Porter, Officer Bill Gannon, and Colonel Sherman T. Potter). He had a marvellous gift for comedy, as can be seen in his appearance in Holiday Affair as the bewildered but amused police lieutenant. He also had a gift for playing strait laced, no nonsense authority figures. Colonel Potter may be the best known example of this sort of character, other examples being Judge Mel Coffey in Inherit the Wind, and mining company head Taylor Barton in Support Your Local Gunfighter.

Of course, Harry Morgan played more than acerbic and firm, yet ultimately kind hearted authority figures, and he was as adept at drama as he was at comedy. He played the somewhat rough and tumble cowhand Art Croft in The Ox-Bow Incident, and  quiet but nonetheless threatening bodyguard in The Big Clock (1951). He played George "Bugs"' Moran in an episode of The Untouchables, a role about as far from Peter Porter or Colonel Potter as one could get. Alongside Jack Webb he was one of the villains in the film noir Appointment with Danger. Although Mr. Morgan was best known for playing good natured characters with a dry wit, he was capable of playing vastly different characters and of playing them well.

Harry Morgan had an incredibly long career. His first credit on Broadway was in 1937 and his final credit on film was in 1999. He also had a very diverse career. He appeared on Broadway, on radio, in films, and on television. And while, like many character actors, Harry Morgan was best known for a specific type of character, he was capable of playing may other types of characters. Over his sixty plus year career Harry Morgan played everything from gangsters to doctors to military officers to sheriffs. Given his great talent, it was little wonder his career was so long and so varied.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

TCM Fan Favourites This Saturday

Many of you might remember last November when Turner Classic Movies debuted a new segment, Fan Favourites, in which fans were able to introduce some of their favourite films. The first batch of fans featured in this segment included Aurora--better known as Citizen Screen (who introduced Meet Me in St. Louis), TCM Party co-founder  Paula Guthat (who introduced The Lemon Drop Kid),  Miguel Rodriguez of the Horrible Imaginings Podcast (who introduced The Thing from Another World), and TCM Party regular Joel Williams (who introduced Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid).

This past January TCM announced in posts on Google+, Instagram, and Facebook that they were looking for four more fans for their next Fan Favourites segment. While the first time Turner Classic Movies asked fans to submit ten different films they would like to introduce, in January TCM asked fans to select one film and tell why they chose that film. In my case, I replied to their post on Google+ and explained why I would choose A Hard Day's Night (which should come to no surprise to those who know me well). Much to my surprise I was chosen as one of the four viewers for Fan Favourites almost immediately.

For those of you who are wondering how the Fan Favourite introductions (complete with a chat with Ben Mankiewicz) work, they are done via video chat (in my case, I was in my home and Ben was in the TCM studios in Atlanta). Prior to the actual Fan Favourites shoot I had two video chats with Courtney, Associate Producer at Turner Classic Movies, and Mardy, the sound engineer at TCM, to work out any technical difficulties.  As to the actual shooting itself, the introductions were shot in the order in which they will appear, which meant that I went on second.  For the most part I think everything went fairly smoothly, although I did stumble over one or two questions. I have to confess I was a bit nervous. While I have no problem talking (I've been told the problem is getting me to stop talking), I have never liked how I look on a camera (which is why there are so few photographs of me). I am still worried about how I will look on screen! Anyhow, Ben Mankiewicz is very easy to talk to and made the process much more pleasant than it might have otherwise been!

For those of you who want to watch this batch of Fan Favourites, here's the schedule for this Saturday, April 11 2015:

12:15 PM Eastern/11:15 AM Central Footlight Parade (1933) introduced by Christina Rinaldi
2:15 PM Eastern/1:15 PM Central A Hard Day's Night (1964) introduced by me
4:00 PM Eastern/3:00 PM Central The Way We Were (1973) introduced by Donna D'Andrea
6:15 PM Eastern/5:15 Central The Defiant Ones (1958) introduced by Steve Zeoke

For those of you who participate in TCM Parties on Twitter, I imagine there will be a TCM Party going on throughout this Saturday's Fan Favourites. I know I will be on hand with my usual trivia for A Hard Day's Night!

Anyhow, I want to thank  Noralil (who is in charge of social media at TCM), Courtney, Mardy, and Ben. I hope that they will make Fan Favourites a regular segment, as I know many of my fellow TCM fans would great at introducing their favourite films!

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Sally Forrest R.I.P.

Actress and dancer Sally Forrest died on March 15 2015 at the age of 86. The cause was cancer.

Sally Forrest was born Katherine Feeney on May 28 1924 in San Diego, California. Her parents were amateur ballroom dancers. As a result she started studying dance from an early age. It was not long after she graduated high school that she was signed to MGM. She made her film debut in an uncredited role as a dancer in Till the Clouds Roll By in 1946. She appeared in uncredited roles as a dancer in Are You with It? (1948), t The Kissing Bandit (1948), and Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949) before appearing in a more slightly more substantial, but still uncredited role as Dr. Gibbs's secretary in Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (1949). She received her first lead role in Not Wanted (1949), playing a woman who has a child out of wedlock. Initially directed by Elmer Clifton, Ida Lupino took over directing after Mr. Clinton had a heart attack. Ida Lupino would direct Miss Forrest in another 1949 film, Never Fear, in which she played a dancer who has contracted polio. Miss Forrest finished out the Forties in such films as Flame of Youth (1949) and Mystery Street (1950).

Ida Lupino directed Sally Forrest one last time in Hard, Fast and Beautiful (1951), in which Miss Forrest played a tennis prodigy.  During the Fifties Sally Forrest appeared in such films as Vengeance Valley (1951), Excuse My Dust (1951), The Strip (1951), Bannerline (1951), The Strange Door (1951), Son of Sinbad (1955), and While the City Sleeps (1956).  During the Fifties her career turned primarily to television, and she guest starred on such shows as Schlitz Playhouse, Lux Video Theatre, Ford Television Theatre, Suspense, Studio One, The United States Steel Hour, Climax, The Red Skelton Hour, Climax, The Millionaire, and Rawhide. On Broadway she replaced Vanessa Brown as The Girl in The Seven Year Itch.

In the Sixties Sally Forrest guest starred on the TV shows Rawhide and Family Affair before retiring from acting.

Sally Forrest began her career as a dancer and she was a very talented one. Her notorious dance scene at the banquet in Son of Sinbad (which the MPAA Production Code Administration objected strenuously to) shows just how skilled she was at dance. While she began her career as a dancer and she was talented at it, she was also very talented as an actress. In such films as Not Wanted, Never Fear, and Hard, Fast, and Beautiful she played emotional roles with a subtlety that many other actresses would have lacked. Even when her part in a film was not particularly large (such as While the City Sleeps), Miss Forrest still left a lasting impression.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

The Late Great James Best

Chances are good that if you are an American who watched television between the Fifties and the Teens, then you have seen James Best several times. He was a frequent guest star on television shows, particularly in the Fifties and Sixties, and he appeared on such shows as Have Gun--Will TravelPerry Mason, The Twilight Zone, and The Andy Griffith Show. In the late Seventies and early Eighties he appeared as Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard. Mr. Best was also prolific in films, appearing in such motion pictures as The Caine Mutiny (1954), The Left Handed Gun (1958), Ride Lonesome (1959), and Sounder (1972).  Sadly, James Best died last night at age 88 from complications from pneumonia.

James Best was born Jewel Franklin Guy on July 26 1926 in Powderly, Kentucky to Lena Mae Everly Guy and Larkin Jasper Guy. His mother Lena was the sister of Ike Everly, father of Don and Phil Everly, better known as The Everly Brothers. Mr. Best's mother died when he was only three years old and he was placed in an orphanage. He was adopted by Essa and Armen Best, who took him to live with them in  Corydon, Indiana. When the Bests asked the young orphan what he would like to be called, he replied, "Jimmie;" Jewel Franklin Guy then became Jimmie Best. During World War II he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps where he served as a gunner on a B-17 bomber and later as a military policeman. He ended his career in the military in Special Services, appearing in a production of My Sister Eileen among other things.

After Mr. Best was demobilised, he went to New York City to pursue his acting career. He performed in summer stock productions and also did some modelling. It was the modelling that would draw the attention of Hollywood, and he was signed to a contract with Universal Pictures. James Best made his feature film debut in an uncredited role in One Way Street (1950).  For the next several years he appeared in small parts in several films, including Comanche Territory (1950), Winchester '73 (1950), Apache Drums (1951), Seminole (1953), The Caine Mutiny (1954), and The Rack (1956). As the Fifties progressed he began receiving larger roles in films, so that his roles were much more substantial in such films as Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair (1952), Last of the Badmen (1957), Man on the Prowl (1957), Cole Younger, Gunfighter (1958), The Left Handed Gun (1958), and Ride Lonesome (1959). He played the lead in the 1959 B-movie The Killer Shrews.

In the Fifties James Best also had a successful career in television, make several guest appearances throughout the decade. He made his television debut as the star of the Hallmark Hall of Fame production McCoy of Abilene in 1953. He appeared in many of the Westerns produced throughout the decade, including Hopalong Cassidy, The Gene Autry Show, The Lone Ranger, Zane Grey Theatre, Wanted: Dead or Alive, and Wagon Train. Among his most notable guest appearances during the decade was the Have Gun--Will Travel Episode "The Long Night", in which he played frontier troubadour Andy Fisher, who, along with rifle salesman Clyde Broderick (played by William Schallert) and Paladin himself (played by Richard Boone), is suspected of murdering a young wife.

Of course, James Best appeared in other genres of television shows in the Fifties than just Westerns. He also appeared in such varied shows as Cavalcade of America; Richard Diamond, Private Detective; The Millionaire, The David Niven Show, The Lineup, General Electric Theatre, Men into Space, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and The DuPont Show with June Allyson.  One of his most notable roles during the decade would be on The Andy Griffith Show, on which he played musician Jim Lindsey on the episode "The Guitar Player" in 1960 (only the third episode of the show ever aired). Mr. Best would reprise his role as Jim Lindsey in the 1961 episode of The Andy Griffith Show "The Guitar Player Returns".

In the Sixties James Best's career shifted primarily to television, on which he appeared frequently. Much like the Fifties, he often guest starred on Westerns, including Bonanza, Laramie, The Rifleman, Cheyenne, Rawhide, Death Valley Days, The Virginian, Guns of Will Sonnett, and Gunsmoke. He had a recurring role on the short lived Western Temple Houston. He also appeared in other genres of television shows as well, including Alfred Hitchcock Presents; 77 Sunset Strip; G.E. Theatre; Combat!; The Gallant Men; The Fugitive; Daniel Boone; Flipper; Amos Burke, Secret Agent; Perry Mason; The Green Hornet; I Spy; and The Mod Squad. One of his best roles during the decade was in one of two guest appearances on The Twlight Zone. In "The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank" he played the title character, who finds himself in the unusual position of being present (and alive) at his own funeral.

While James Best spent much of his career in the Sixties on television, he continued to appear frequently in films. He appeared in the films Black Gold (1962), Shock Corridor (1963), The Quick Gun (1964) .Black Spurs (1965), Shenandoah (1965), Three on a Couch (1966), First to Fight (1967), and Firecreek (1968).

In the Seventies James Best's career shifted back towards film. He appeared in such films as Sounder (1972), Ode to Billy Joe (1976), Nickelodeon (1976), The Brain Machine (1977), Rolling Thunder (1977), The End (1978), and  Hooper (1978). While appearing in motion pictures, he continued to make appearances on television. He guest starred on the TV shows Hawkins and How the West Was Won, and he appeared in the mini-series Centennial. It was in 1979 that he began playing Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard. He remained with the show for all seven of its seasons, and he also provided the voice of Sheriff Coltrane on the Saturday morning cartoon based on the primetime series, The Dukes. In addition to playing Sheriff Coltrane, he also directed episodes of The Dukes of Hazzard. He reprised the role of Sheriff Coltrane in the 1997 television movie The Dukes of Hazzard: Reunion! and again in the 2000 television movie The Dukes of Hazzard: Hazzard in Hollywood.

Following The Dukes of Hazzard James Best guest starred on the shows B.L. Stryker and In the Heat of the Night. He appeared in the films Raney (1997), Death Mask (1998--which he also wrote), Finders Keepers (1998), House of Forever (2004), Hot Tamale (2006), Once Not Far from Home (2006), Moondance Alexander (2007), and Return of the Killer Shrews (2012--which he also wrote). His last appearance on film was in a television movie produced for Hallmark, The Sweeter Side of Life, in 2013.

Mr. Best also taught acting and motion picture technique at the University of Mississippi (where he was artist in residence), as well as the University of Central Florida. He was an acting coach for over twenty five years (among his students numbered Glen Campbell, Burt Reynolds, Quentin Tarantino, and Lindsay Wagner). He also wrote and performed in the play Hell-Bent for Good Times about an Ozarks family during the Great Depression. He was also an accomplished painter, working in both watercolours and oils. In 2009 he published his memoirs, Best in Hollywood: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful.

There can be little doubt that many will remember James Best as Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard (although personally I tend to think of him as Jim Lindsey on The Andy Griffith Show). That having been said, his career went far beyond that single role. Mr. Best was a very prolific actor who appeared in numerous television shows and movies. While Mr. Best was known for his many appearances in Western TV shows and movies, he appeared in movies and TV shows from nearly every genre over the years, from war films to horror movies.

What is more James Best also played a wide variety of roles. In fact, many familiar with his later work may be surprised to know that he played more than his fair share of bad men early in his career. He was desperado Billy John in Ride Lonesome. He played killers on episodes of everything from The Linuep to Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Of course, James Best was capable of playing much more than bad men and country bumpkins, and over the years he played has played a wide variety of roles. He was Dr. Ben Mizer  in the Jerry Lewis movie Three on a Couch. He also played a doctor in the Ben Casey episode "A Little Fun to Match the Sorrow". He played an oilman accused of murder in the Perry Mason episode "The Case of the Unwelcome Well". And, with his talent for singing and playing guitar, he played several singers over the years, on everything from The Andy Griffith Show to Alfred Hitchcock Presents. James Best was a bit of a chameleon, capable of playing everything from hardened criminals to soft hearted buffoons. While he may be best remembered as Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane, he did so much more throughout his long career.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Godspeed Tom Towles

Character actor Tom Towles, known for his roles in various horror movies and his many guest appearances on television shows, died yesterday at age 65 after having suffered a stroke four days earlier.

Tom Towles was born in Chicago on March 20 1950. He served a stint in the United States Marines before taking up acting. He attended Columbia College, Chicago where he majored in theatre. In 1973 he appeared on Broadway in a short lived play Warp and in 1975 he appeared in a bit part in the movie Dog Day Afternoon. Afterwards he returned to Chicago where he became a member of the Organic Theatre Company. He also worked with the Goodman Theatre in Chicago as well.

It was in 1984 that Mr. Towles made his television debut in an episode of the sitcom E/R (not to be confused with the later drama with a similar name). He received his first credited role in the film Pink Nights the following year, playing Ralph the Lounge Lizard. In 1986 he appeared in one of his most famous parts, that of Otis, the sidekick of the title character in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Over the next several years Tom Towles guest starred on such shows as Jack and Mike, High Mountain Rangers, and Sable. He appeared in the film Men Don't Leave (1990) and the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead.

In the Nineties Tom Towles appeared in such films as The Pit and the Pendulum (1991), The Borrower (1991), Fortress (1992),  Mad Dog and Glory (1993), Trinity (1995),  Normal Life (1996), The Rock (1996), Gridlock'd (1997), Warriors of Virtue (1997), and More Dogs Than Bones (2000). On television he had a recurring role as Inspector Anthony Lastarza on NYPD Blue. He guest starred on such shows as Shannon's Deal, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Seinfeld, L.A. Law, VR.5, Pacific Blue, ER, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Star Trek: Voyager, and The Drew Carey Show.

In the Naughts Tom Towles played the regular role of BRB on the short lived show Push, Nevada. He guest starred on such shows as Firefly, Crossing Jordan, and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. He appeared in such films as Groom Lake (2002), House of 1000 Corpses (2003), The Devil's Rejects (2005), Miami Vice (2006), Grindhouse (2007), Home Sick (2007), Rob Zombie's Halloween (2007), and Blood on the Highway (2008).

Tom Towles was best known for playing a number of rough-and-tumble and outright disreputable characters throughout his career. He was closely associated with the horror genre, although he played many roles outside the genre was well. He was a serial killer's sidekick in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, the crooked Inspector Lastarza  on NYPD Blue, and a drug dealer in the film version of Miami Vice. Mr. Towles was a very talented actor, so that he did play other, very different roles in his career. In Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses he was actually one of the good guys for a change, playing deputy George Wydell. In a Star Trek: Voyager episode he played a prominent, alien astrophysicist.

For those who are wondering, Tom Towles was a distant relation (nearly everyone named "Towles" is related in some way, shape, or form). Unfortunately, I did not know him personally, although I was certainly proud to have such a talented actor as a relation, however distant. And from those who did know him, it appears that in addition to being talented he was a very nice man as well. On Facebook, Rob Zombie said, "He was such a great guy and I am so grateful that we got to work together several times. He will be really missed." A statement on the TnT Talent Management website, which represented him, said, "He will always be remembered for his contagious smile and outstanding love for his family, friends and fans. Few knew the soft-hearted man that lived inside that tough exterior." Tom Towles was not just a talented actor, then, but a man who was loved by his family, friends, and fans.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Happy Easter 2015

For those of you who celebrate the holiday I want to wish you a very happy Easter! And as usual here at A Shroud of Thoughts, holidays mean vintage pin ups. Without further ado, then, here they are!

First up is the lovely Mitzi Gaynor hatching from her egg!

Next up is Wendy Barrie and a bunny, along with a gigantic egg!

The lovely Paula Prentiss and an Easter Bunny

Debbie Reynolds and a rather psychotic looking rabbit

Adele Jergens and bunnies

And, of course, no holiday is complete without Ann Miller!