Friday, 19 June 2015

Pillow Talk (1959)

One of the genres most closely associated with the early to mid-Sixties is the sex comedy. Numerous sex comedies were released in the first half of the decade. And at least one major star, Doris Day, made so many well known examples of the genre that she would become forever linked to it. While associated with the Sixties, the genre actually originated in the Fifties. And while the films were termed "sex comedies", they never featured the sex act itself. Instead the Sixties sex comedies were films in which sex was at the centre of the conflict between the lead characters. In many respects the Sixties sex comedies could be considered descendants of both the bedroom farce and the screwball comedy, combining elements of both. Of course, as might be expected, there was always a good deal of sexual innuendo in the films.

As mentioned above, while sex comedies are identified with the early to mid-Sixties, they originated in the Fifties. That having been said, it is difficult to say precisely what the first sex comedy was. Certainly Monkey Business (1952), Phffft (1954), and The Seven Year Itch (1955) could be considered forerunners of the sex comedy, even if they don't exactly belong to the genre. The Tender Trap (1955), Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter (1957), Kiss Them for Me (1957),  and three movies released in 1958 (Teacher's Pet, The Perfect Furlough,  and Houseboat) are all possible candidates for the first sex comedy. Of course, if none of them are considered the first sex comedy, then there can be little doubt that the first in the genre was Pillow Talk (1959). Not only is it definitely considered part of the genre, for many it remains the quintessential sex comedy. What is more, it was the movie that kicked off the cycle towards sex comedies that lasted for the remainder of the Fifties and well into the Sixties.

Pillow Talk was the first of three sex comedies starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson (the other two were Lover Come Back, released in 1961, and Send Me No Flowers, released in 1964).  In the film Rock Hudson and Doris Day play playboy Brad Allen and interior decorator Jan Morrow respectively, who find themselves constantly at odds over the use of the party line they share (for those of the mobile phone generation, a party line is one in which several telephone users are connected to the same line). When Brad finally sees Jan at a nightclub, he puts on the charade of being rich Texas rancher Tex Stetson to get close to her.

Pillow Talk originated from material by Russell Rouse and Clarence Greene, best known for such films noirs as D.O.A. (1950), The Well (1952), New York Confidential (1955), and so on. Messrs. Rouse and Greene's concept was given shape as a screenplay by Stanley Shapiro and Maurice Richlin, both veterans of television who had worked on the sitcoms Where's Raymond starring Raymond Bolger and Hey, Jeannie starring Jeannie Carson.

It is surprising today to consider that at the time Doris Day signed to star in Pillow Talk she was not considered as major a star as she once had been. Having ranked in the top ten of Quigley's annual poll of the top box office stars in both 1951 and 1952, by 1958 she was ranked only 15th in the poll. Worse yet, her last two films, The Tunnel of Love (1958) and It Happened to Jane (1959) had not done particularly well at the box office. Fortunately for Doris Day, Pillow Talk would bring her career to heights it had never seen before.

It is also surprising to think that Rock Hudson, who may now be best known for his work on the sex comedies he made with Doris Day, was initially apprehensive about making Pillow Talk.  In fact, he initially turned the movie down. Not only did he worry that the material was too risqué, but he was also worried because he had never done a comedy before. Fortunately Mr. Hudson was convinced to star in the film. As to his concerns about playing comedy, both director Michael Gordon and co-star Doris Day helped him through it. In the end it proved to be one of the films Rock Hudson enjoyed making the most, and the start of a lifelong friendship with Doris Day.

As to the film's third major role, that would be filled by Tony Randall. Not only was Mr. Randall already a veteran of comedy movies, but arguably he was already a veteran of sex comedies or, at least, their direct forerunners. He had already starred in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957) and The Mating Game (1959).  In Pillow Talk he played Brad's old college buddy, neurotic rich boy Jonathan Forbes. Unfortunately, Jonathan is one of Jan's clients, and he makes no secret about his crush on her. Tony Randall would return as a tertiary lead in Doris Day and Rock Hudson's other two films, Lover Come Back and Send Me No Flowers. He would also prove to be something of a regular in the Sixties sex comedies. In addition to the films he made with Doris Day and Rock Hudson, Tony Randall also appeared in Let's Make Love (1960) and Boys' Night Out (1962).

The film's primary cast was rounded out by character actress Thelma Ritter. She played Jan's alcoholic housekeeper Alma. Thelma Ritter already had a very good career as a character actress, having appeared in such films as All About Eve (1950), Rear Window (1954), and Daddy Long Legs (1955). Not surprisingly she had some of the funniest bits in the film.

Surprisingly enough given the classic status that Pillow Talk would achieve, not to mention the fact that it would even spark a whole cycle of similar sex comedies, neither Universal-International nor theatres were particularly enthusiastic about the film. Their line of thought was that sophisticated comedies had gone out with the Thirties. Eventually producer Ross Hunter was able to persuade Sol Schwartz, who owned the Palace Theatre on Broadway in New York City, to book Pillow Talk for two weeks. It proved an enormous success at the Palace Theatre, so much so that soon cinemas across the country were booking the film.  In the end Pillow Talk made $18,750,000 at the box office and was the 5th highest grossing film for 1959. Pillow Talk would also win the Academy Award for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - Written Directly for the Screen, and was nominated for the Oscars for Best Actress in a Leading Role (for Doris Day); Best Actress in a Supporting Role (for Thelma Ritter); Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Colour; and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (for Frank De Vol).

Pillow Talk would prove to have a lasting impact on the Sixties sex comedies that followed it. While it was not necessarily the first comedy in which sex was at the centre of the story's conflict, it took it to heights it had never been before, with enough innuendo that some people (even its star Rock Hudson) worried it might be too racy. And while it was not the first such comedy to involve deceit, it took such deceit further than it might ever had been before given the lengths to which  Brad Allen took his charade as Tex Stetson. Pillow Talk does appear to have established some of the tropes now identified with the Sixties sex comedy genre. Brad Allen's extravagantly furnished bachelor pad, where where a good deal could be done with the press of button, was the prototype for all bachelor pads to come in the Sixties sex comedies. 

Pillow Talk was also one of the very earliest films to portray a career woman whose focus was firmly on her job rather than romance. Not only was Jan not waiting around to find a man to marry, but she truly enjoyed her job. What is more, even though Doris Day has been stereotyped as a perpetual virgin, it is clear that her character Jan Morrow is not precisely virginal. What is more, neither were Doris Day's characters in her successive sex comedies. For Jan Morrow (and Doris Day's other sex comedy characters, for that matter) resisting a man was not about protecting her virtue, so much as it was as insuring that the man pursuing her was truly worthy of her. This would also be the case of the many other sex comedies that followed in the wake of those starring Doris Day. They often featured career women devoted to their jobs who resist men not to protect their virginity (which might well have been long gone by that point), but to make sure that the men were truly good enough for them.

As mentioned above, while it is possible that Pillow Talk was not the first Sixties sex comedy (there are several contenders for the title), it is the one that started the cycle of sex comedies that spanned from the late Fifties to the mid-Sixties. Pillow Talk would be followed by several more sex comedies starring Doris Day. In addition to those in which she co-starred with Rock Hudson there were That Touch of Mink (1962), The Thrill of It All (1963), Move Over, Darling (1963), Do Not Disturb (1965), and The Glass Bottom Boat (1966). Of course, there were many other sex comedies besides those starring Doris Day, including Come September (1962),  Boys' Night Out (1962), Under the Yum Yum Tree (1963), Boeing Boeing (1965), and many others.

Given its success, it should come as no surprise that Pillow Talk revitalised the career of Doris Day. For 1959 she ranked 4th in Quigley's annual poll of the biggest stars. From 1960 to 1966 she ranked in the top ten of the poll every year--six of those years spent in the top five and four of those years at no. 1. Pillow Talk would also reinvent Rock Hudson's career. Previously the star of such dramas as Giant (1957), A Farewell to Arms (1957), and Twilight for the Gods (1958), in early to the mid-Sixties he would primarily be the star of comedies such as Come September (1961), The Spiral Road (1962), Man's Favourite Sport? (1964), and Strange Bedfellows (1967).

In the end Pillow Talk would prove to be one of the most influential and most important films of the late Fifties. It revitalised Doris Day's career, changed the direction of Rock Hudson's career, and started an entire cycle of sex comedies that last until the middle of the Sixties. And it did it all by centring on sex without ever actually showing the sex act itself.


Thursday, 18 June 2015

Another Liebster Award

If you have been a blogger for any amount of time chances are good that you have heard of the Liebster Award (I was nominated for one years go, hence the title). The Liebster Award is a means by which bloggers show appreciation for one another. The rules are simple. You answer 11 questions from the person who nominated you, list 11 things people might not know about you, and then nominate up to 11 other bloggers. The past few weeks I have been nominated by both Steve Bailey of MovieMovieBlogBlog and Jennifer Garlen of Virtual Virago. What I will do then is answer both Steve and Jennifer's questions, in that order.

First up are Steve's questions.

1. “All-time favourite movie” is too tough. What is your favourite genre, and what is your all-time favourite movie in that genre? Well, my all-time favourite movie is easy. It's Seven Samurai (1954). As to my all-time favourite genre, that's a lot more difficult. I like a wide array of genres, so it is actually hard for me to pick a favourite. If I were forced to choose,  I guess I would go with the British "Swinging London" movies of the Sixties. My favourite movie in that genre would be a tie: A Hard Day's Night (1964) and Help! (1965). I can't decide which one I like better.

2. “Theatrical” is too easy. What’s your all-time favourite TV-movie? The Night Stalker (1972), the TV movie that introduced the world to newspaper reporter Carl Kolchak (played by Darren McGavin)

3. The Great Movie Genie is allowing you to permanently change the ending of one movie. Which one do you choose, and why? Superman (1978). I really dislike the idea that Superman can fly fast enough that he can literally turn back time. First, even as a kid I never thought Superman was that fast (The Flash may be, but Superman's not). Second, turning back time is too much power for a superhero who is already more powerful than a locomotive and can already leap tall buildings in a single bound to have.

4. You’re the latest heinie-kissing Hollywood exec, slavishly following trends. Which movie, good or bad, would you like to sequelize or remake? I'll probably get hate mail for this (especially as there was already one  horrible remake), but I would like to remake Pscyho (1960). That having been said, it would not be so much a remake as a more faithful adaptation of Robert Bloch's original novel. I love Hitchcock's movie, but I love the book too. It would be great to see a more faithful adaptation where Norman Bates is short, overweight, and balding as he was in the novel instead of, well, the handsome and charming Anthony Perkins.

5. Name the movie whose screening you’d like to co-host on TCM with Ben Mankiewicz. I already did this back in April. It was a lot of fun too! The movie was A Hard Day's Night (1964).

6. Describe your most memorable movie occasion — not necessarily your favourite film, but a movie you enjoyed with friends, one that evoked a particular memory, etc. It was when I was in college. We went to a midnight double feature of A Boy and His Dog (1975) and Scanners (1981). We had gone to it the night before, but went to it a second time because my friend Carol had slept through it the first time around. Keep in mind by this point all of us, save Carol, had been awake for 72 hours!   Not surprisingly, all of us (except for Carol) fell asleep during A Boy and His Dog. As fate would have it all of us woke up during the notorious "brain exploding" scene in Scanners. To say we all jumped in our seats would be an understatement... Despite that I enjoyed Scanners both times I saw it in the theatre and it remains a fond memory of my misspent youth. 

7. What is your favourite line of movie dialogue? " It was beauty killed the beast." from King Kong (1933)

8. Why are movies special to you? That's a hard question to answer. At least part of it is sheer escapism. Movies are a way of escaping one's everyday, workaday world for a few hours, a way of forgetting one's troubles. Of course, that is hardly the only reason films are special to me, as sometimes I watch movies whose realities are much less preferable to my own, For example, I would not want to be one of the characters in the movie Scarface (1932)! In instances such as Scarface, movies are a way of experiencing other worlds, other realities, safely from a theatre or one's own home. If I actually could go back in time and live among gangsters in the early Thirties, chances are good I would be shot or be given a pair of concrete galoshes. I can watch Scarface, though, and not have to worry about winding up dead.

9. What do you enjoy most about blogging? That's like asking what I enjoy most about writing. I really don't know.  I enjoy doing research for my articles (in fact, a lot of what I learn doesn't always make it to the finished product), but then I also enjoy the actual writing. In fact, about the only thing I don't enjoy is proofreading (I really wish I could afford to hire someone to do that for me). Oddly enough, getting a response to my blog is not that big of a priority for me. I'd blog even if I had no readers (and in the early days I really didn't).

10. What is your favourite book about movies? The Parade's Gone By by Kevin Brownlow. It was one of the first books on movies I ever read, and the first book about silent movies I ever read.

11. You have your favourite movie actor or actress to yourself for 24 hours to do with what you will. Name, please. Vivien Leigh and we'll leave it at that.

And now here are Jennifer's questions.

1. Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire? This had always been a hard question for me to answer. I think they were very different sorts of dancers and hence equally good. That having been said, in the end I think I would have to go with Gene Kelly because I like more of his movies.

2. What's your favourite Val Lewton film? Bedlam (1946). You can't beat a Val Lewton film starring Boris Karloff set in an asylum.

3. Name one book about classic movies or stars that everyone should read. The above mentioned The Parade's Gone By by Kevin Brownlow. It is still the best primer on silent movies around.

4. What's the absolute worst old movie that you love anyway? That's hard to say. Keeping in mind that I think this is a good movie and I suspect many others think so too, I would have to say A Bucket of Blood (1959). If not that, then I would have to say The Tingler (1959), which I personally think is a great movie too. Of course, while I don't consider either film to be bad by any stretch of the imagination, I guess there might be some people who do.

5. Who is your favourite character actor?  I have a ton of favourite character actors, so it is hard to choose. If forced to choose I think it would either be Eddie Anderson (who played my favourite character on The Jack Benny Programme, Rochester) or Sheldon Leonard (who played a ton of gangsters and, coincidentally, the racetrack tout on The Jack Benny Programme).

6. If you could adapt one literary work for film, which would it be and why? Wuthering Heights, because I don't think there has been a proper adaptation yet. Don't get me wrong. I love William Wyler's Wuthering Heights (1939), but it only adapted one half of the novel and Merle Oberson was horribly miscast as Cathy (Vivien Leigh would have been much better). Of course, if I did adapt Wuthering Heights I would have to do it in two or three parts, like Peter Jackson did with Lord of the Rings. There's just a lot of novel there!

7. What's the last book you read? Woody Allen: Reel to Real by Alex Sheremet (which I really need to get around to reviewing next week)

8. Name one of your favourite movie death scenes. What's so great about it?  The death of Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune) in Seven Samurai. Kikuchiyo was a peasant who wanted to be a samurai so badly that he even falsified his family tree. Arguably it is with his death, defending the hapless farm village against bandits, that he truly achieves his goal, dying a hero's death as what he wanted to be, a samurai.

9. Who should really have gotten the role of Scarlett O'Hara? Vivien Leigh. I am convinced she was the best possible actress for the role. That having been said, I do think Paulette Goddard, who very nearly got the role, would have made a great Scarlett O'Hara as well. I don't think anyone but Paulette would have done as well as Vivien did in the role.

10. Coffee, tea, or alcohol? I love all three, so it's hard for me to say. Can I just cheat and say, "Long Island iced tea" or "Irish coffee?" Actually, given I am not at all a morning person, I would probably have to go with coffee, of which I consume a great deal before noon.

11. What's your favourite Disney movie? Pinocchio (1940).  To me it has the best animation, best songs, and the best story of any Disney film.

And now for 11 things readers might not know about me.

1, Through my mother's family I can trace my line back to the Plantagenets. This is not as impressive as it sounds. If one is of English descent, then chances are good he or she is descended from the Plantagenets!

2. There was a time I could sight read Old English. I have read Beowulf in the original language. Sadly, I am horribly out of practice and these days I need help from a Old English-Modern English dictionary.

3.  I have written six novels, all of them unpublished. I have not even tried publishing them as I don't think they are very good. At any rate they would need drastic revising!  Five of them I wrote for National Novel Writing Month, which takes place each November. During National Novel Writing Month one must write a novel of at least 50,000 words in thirty days.

4. As you can probably guess from the above, I have written five novels each in under thirty days....

5. I live only about an hour to ninety minutes drive from the hometowns of Walt Disney (Marceleine, Mo), Steve McQueen (Slater, MO), and Lester Dent (La Plata, MO). I also live only about an  hour away from Hannibal, MO, the hometown of Mark Twain, the Unsinkable Molly Brown, and Cliff Edwards. Sadly, the only famous person from my hometown is Civil War guerilla Bloody Bill Anderson.

6. I am 1/8 Cherokee through a great grandmother on my father's side.

7.  I am very slightly ambidextrous. I can write with my left hand, although it isn't pretty and I get writer's cramp pretty quickly! That having been said, I favour my left hand for many things. I shoot a bow with my left hand, and I favour it when it comes to handguns as well. If I have to type with only one hand for some reason, it tends to be my left.

8. I can still wear clothes that I wore in my twenties.

9. At one time my brother and I had possibly the largest collection of vinyl records in the county.

10. I think most of my readers probably already know this, but I have a pronounced preference for brunettes. Except for Grace Kelly, Maureen O'Hara, and Veronica Lake, my favourite actresses all tend to be brunette: Vivien Leigh, Hedy Lamarr, Gene Tierney, Margaret Lockwood, Audrey Hepburn, Paulette Goddard, and so on.

11. I own several Region 2 DVDs and my computer is set to only play Region 2 DVDs. I did this so I can watch DVD sets of classic British TV series (like Adam Adamant Lives and Justice) that aren't available on Region 1 in the United States.

And now for my questions for those I am nominating for a Liebster Award:

1. What is your favourite British film (a film made in Britain, not about Britain but made elsewhere)?
2. Who is your favourite British actor or actress?
3. What is your favourite British TV series (again, a show made in Britain, not about Britain but made elsewhere)?
4. Who is your favourite British band?
5. If you could create a TV show based on any intellectual property (novel, movie, comic book, pulp magazine, et. al.), what would it be?
6. What is your favourite TV show that lasted a season or less?
7. What is the first movie you can ever remember watching all the way through?
8.  Disney or the Fleischer brothers?
9. If you could put an end to any current trend in movies, what would it be?
10. What is your favourite movie romance and why?
11. Why did you start blogging?

And now for the nominees:
A Classic Movie Blog
Backlots
Crítica Retrô Laura's Miscellaneous Musings 
Movies Silently 
Speakeasy 

Thanks to Steve and Jennifer for nominating me!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Most of My Three Sons Not Available on DVD or Blu-Ray

Chances are good that if you are an American belonging to the Baby Boom, Generation X, or even possibly Generation Y that you are familiar with the sitcom My Three Sons. It was a highly successful sitcom starring bona fide movie star Fred MacMurray as the widowed father of three sons (hence the title). My Three Sons debuted on ABC in 1960 and then moved to CBS in 1965 when ABC refused pay for the show's conversion to colour. In all, My Three Sons ran twelve seasons, making it the third longest running live-action sitcom after The Jack Benny Programme and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Seven of those seasons it spent in the top twenty shows for the year and ten of them in the top thirty.

Three years after ending its network run, the colour episodes of My Three Sons went into syndication in 1975. The show proved rather successful as a syndicated rerun and would remain a mainstay on American television for decades. Eventually even the early seasons shot in black and white would be seen again. The black and white episodes aired on such venues as Nick at Nite, The Family Channel, TBS, and TV Land. More recently the colour episodes have aired on FamilyNet and ME-TV.

Now one would think that given the show's success its entire run would have been released on DVD and Blu-Ray by now. One would think that at the very least the more popular colour episodes would have been released. Amazingly enough, this is not the case. Only the first two seasons of the show, rarely seen since it first aired, have been released on DVD and nothing has been released on Blu-Ray. What is more, it has been five years since the last batch of episodes were released on DVD.

Given the success of My Three Sons this seems most odd. The show ran for twelve years, longer than any other live action sitcom besides The Jack Benny Programme and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. The colour episodes that had aired on CBS proved rather successful in syndication and aired recently on ME-TV. There is clearly still something of an audience for the show--at least the colour episodes that many younger Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers, and possibly even Gen Yers grew up with. I can only guess that perhaps the first four sets of My Three Sons DVDs (The First Season: Volume 1, The First Season Volume 2, The Second Season Volume 1, and The Second Season Volume 2) did not sell well. Of course, there is no reason that they really should have. They were rarely seen in syndication and very few people probably even remember them. I have to suspect that if they had stared with the later colour seasons with which most people are familiar, the DVD sets would have sold better.

At any rate, My Three Sons not being on DVD seems like an enormous oversight, especially when much, much less successful and even some rather obscure shows have been released on DVD. It seems to me that if CBS Home Entertainment were to release the show on DVD--at least the colour episodes--they might be surprised by the amount of money they would bring in.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

"Chelsea Dagger" by The Fratellis

Today was a busy day, so I did not have time to make a full fledged blog entry. I will then leave you with one of my favourite songs from the past many years, "Chelsea Dagger" by The Fratellis.

Monday, 15 June 2015

"We're the Couple in the Castle" from Mr. Bug Goes to Town (1942)

Last night I watched one of my all time favourite animated films, the Fleischer Brothers' underrated masterpiece Mr. Bug Goes to Town (1941). In addition to featuring some simply incredible animation, Mr. Bug Goes to Town also has one of the best movie soundtracks of the Forties. Indeed, no less than three of the five original songs featured in the film were written by none other than composer Hoagy Carmichael and lyricist  Frank Loesser.  It should then come as no surprise that Mr. Bug Goes to Town would produce at least one hit song despite its failure at the box office. "We're the Couple in the Castle", written by Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser, was recorded by multiple artists in early 1942, including Johnny Long (who also recorded "Boy, Oh, Boy" from the film), Frankie Masters (who recorded "Boy, Oh, Boy" as well), Claude Thornill, Barry Wood, and even none other than Glenn Miller & His Orchestra. In March 1942 "We're the Couple in the Castle" regularly made the top ten of Billboard's list of songs with the most radio plugs, as well as the regional lists of the best selling sheet music around the country. Mr. Bug Goes to Washington may have bombed at the box office, but "We're the Couple in the Castle" was a hit in the early months of 1942.

My favourite song from Mr. Bug Goes to Town is actually "Katy Did, Katy Didn't" by Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser, but then it was not the big hit from the film. Here, then, is "We're the Couple in the Castle" sung by the man who originated it in the film, Kenny Gardner (who also provided the voice of Dick in the film).

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Godspeed Monica Lewis

Jazz singer and movie star Monica Lewis died on June 12 2015 at the age of 93. In the Forties and Fifties she had a highly successful recording career, and went onto appear in such film as Excuse My Dust (1951) and Affair with a Stranger (1953). Starting in 1947 she was the long time voice of the character Chiquita Banana in the company's animated commercials.

Monica Lewis was born May Lewis on May 5 1922 in Chicago. She came from a musical family. Her father Leon Lewis was a symphonic composer and pianist. Her mother Jessica Lewis was a singer with the Chicago Opera Company. Her sister Bobbe Lewis became a concert pianist. Her brother Marlo Lewis was a gifted violinist who would go onto create The Ed Sullivan Show and was its executive producer for years. Monica Lewis studied voice from a young age with her mother as her teacher.

In 1933 when Monica Lewis was 11 the family moved from Chicago to New York City. Monica Lewis was only 17 years old when she landed a job on the radio show The Gloom Dodgers, which aired on New York City radio station WHN (now WEPN). Exposure on the show would lead to Miss Lewis performing at the popular Stork Club. It was in 1943 that she auditioned to replace Peggy Lee in Benny Goodman's band. Monica Lewis was chosen out of around 300 girls who had auditioned. Miss Lewis would appear frequently on such radio shows as Beat the Band, The Chesterfield Hour (on which she sang with Frank Sinatra), and The Revere Camera Show. Monica Lewis would have several hit records in the Forties and Fifties on such record labels as Signature, Decca, and Capitol. Among her hits were “But Not for Me”, “The House I Live In”, “The Gentleman Is a Dope", “Autumn Leaves", “Fools Rush In”, “I Wish You Love”, and “A Tree in the Meadow (with the Ames Brothers).” She was the first performer to record "Put the Blame on Mame", later made famous in the classic film Gilda.

In 1947 Monica Lewis began providing the voice for the animated character Chiquita Banana in commercials for the product. It was Monica Lewis who introduced her brother Marlo Lewis (then an executive of the Blaine Thompson Advertising agency, who had created the radio show Luncheon at Sardi's) to newspaper columnist Ed Sullivan. This led to the creation of Toast of the Town, which was later renamed The Ed Sullivan Show, on which Marlo Lewis was a long time executive producer. Monica Lewis appeared on the very first edition of Toast of the Town in 1948 and made several more appearances on the show.

It was in 1950 that Monica Lewis signed a motion picture contract with MGM. She made her film debut in 1951 as a singer in the film Inside Straight (1951). In the Fifties she appeared in such films as Excuse My Dust (1951), The Strip (1951), Everything I Have Is Yours (1952), Affair with a Stranger (1953), and The D.I. (1957). She guest starred on such television dramas Make Room for Daddy, Studio 57, Peter Gunn, M Squad, Tales of Wells Fargo, Johnny Staccato, The Deputy, Overland Trail, and Shotgun Slade. She appeared on such variety shows as The Jackie Gleason Show, The Larry Storch Show, The George Jessel Show, Texaco Star Theatre, and The Julius LaRosa Show.

In the Sixties Monica Lewis appeared on such shows as Laramie, G.E. Theatre, The Tall Man, Kraft Suspense Theatre, Arrest and Trial, Crossroads, Wagon Train, Convoy, Laredo, and The Virginian. In the Seventies Miss Lewis guest starred on the shows Marcus Welby, M.D., Night Gallery, Emergency!, Ironside, Barbary Coast, and Quincy M.E. She appeared in the films Charley Varrick (1973), Earthquake (1974), Airport '77 (1977), Rollercoaster (1977), Nunzio (1978), Zero to Sixty (1978), and The Concorde... Airport '79 (1979).  In the Eighties Miss Lewis guest starred on the TV shows Remington Steele, Santa Barbara, and Falcon Crest. She appeared in the films Boxoffice (1982), The Sting II (1983), Stick (1985), and Dead Heat (1988).

In addition to being the voice of Chiquita Banana, Monica Lewis appeared in advertising campaigns for several brands over the years, including Burlington Mills hosiery (for whom she was "Miss Leg-O-Genic"), General Electric,  Piel’s Light Beer, and Camel Cigarettes. During the Korean War she entertained the troops alongside Danny Kaye.

Monica Lewis was obviously beautiful and also immensely talented. She was an incredible singer with a voice that was rich, mellifluous, and soulful. In many respects it was perfectly suited to the sort of jazz that was being recorded in the late Forties and early Fifties. It should be little wonder then that Miss Lewis would have a string of hit songs from the late Forties well into the Fifties. Indeed, as far as I am concerned her rendition of "Put the Blame on Mame" is not only the original, but the quintessential version. Her version of "A Tree in the Meadow", recorded with the Ames Brothers, is the best of any version.

Of course, Monica Lewis not only had an incredible voice, she was also blessed with movie star good looks. It should be little wonder that MGM singed her to a movie contract. What is more, Miss Lewis proved to have some talent as an actress. She proved to have gift for comedy playing a music teacher in the Make Room for Daddy episode "The School Teacher". She was equally adept at drama, as shown in the episode of The Virginian "The Decision", in which she played a wife who worried her husband's job as a sheriff could cost him his life. In the Seventies she would prove quite good as a supporting actress in Universal's disaster movies, particularly as Sam's secretary Barbara in Earthquake.

Beyond Monica Lewis's incredible talent as a vocalist, it must be pointed out that she was simply a fine human being as well. As mentioned earlier, she entertained troops during the Korean War. She was also known to support various charitable causes over the years. The past many years Miss Lewis was active on Twitter, where she proved to be as sweet and kind as she was talented and beautiful. On Twitter Monica Lewis displayed the sort of gratitude towards her fans that is sometimes lacking in modern day celebrities. She always had time to answer questions and was very gracious about accepting compliments. Ultimately Monica Lewis was not simply an extraordinary singer and a beautiful woman, but a truly nice and thoughtful lady as well.