Saturday, 10 September 2016

Leslie H. Martinson R.I.P.

Jack Kelly, Leslie H. Martinson, and Roger Moore
on the set of Maverick
Leslie H. Martinson, a prolific television director who directed Batman (1966), died on September 3 2016 at the age of 101.

Leslie H. Martinson was born on January 16 1915 in Boston, Massachusetts. He started out in journalism, working for the Boston Evening Transcript. In 1936 he started working as a script clerk for MGM. In the late Forties he served as a script supervisor on such films as The Yearling (1946), Fiesta (1947), Easter Parade (1948), Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), and Summer Stock (1950). On Take Me Out to the Ball Game and Summer Stock he also served as an assistant director.

In the Fifties he served as script supervisor on Go for Broke! (1951), The Tall Target (1951), Split Second (1953), and Vice Squad (1953). He made his directorial debut on episodes of the TV show City Detective in 1953. He directed episodes of such shows Chevron Theatre, The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse, The Roy Rogers Show, The Mickey Rooney Show, Topper, The Millionaire, Sugarfoot, Colt .45, Bourbon Street Beat, Cheyenne, Maverick, Hawaiian Eye, Lawman, and The Roaring 20s. He directed the feature films
The Atomic Kid (1954), Hot Rod Girl (1956), and Hot Rod Rumble (1957).

In the Sixties Mr. Martinson directed the feature films Lad: A Dog (1962), Black Gold (1962), PT 109 (1963), For Those Who Think Young (1964), Batman (1966), and Fathom (1967). He directed episodes of such shows as Room For One More, 77 Sunset Strip, Temple Houston, No Time for Sergeants, The Double Life of Henry Phyfe, Run for Your Life, Batman, Mister Roberts, The Green Hornet, and The Courtship of Eddie's Father.

In the Seventies he directed such shows as Alias Smith and Jones, Longstreet, Ironside, Room 222, Mission: Impossible, Love American Style, The Brady Bunch, The Manhunter, Mannix, The Six Million Dollar Man, Barnaby Jones, Wonder Woman, Young Maverick, Dallas, and Quincy M.E. He directed the TV movie Rescue from Gilligan's Island. He directed the feature films Mrs. Pollifax-Spy (1971), Escape from Angola (1976), and Missile X - Geheimauftrag Neutronenbombe (1977).

In the Eighties he directed episodes of such shows as CHiPs, Private Benjamin, The Powers of Matthew Star, Fantasy Island, Mannimal, Airwolf, and Small Wonder.

Leslie H. Martinson was not simply an extremely prolific television director, but a very good one as well. Indeed, he directed what I considered the three best episodes of Maverick ever: "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres", "Gun-Shy", and "Hadley's Hunters". He also directed classic episodes of such diverse shows as Lawman, 77 Sunset Strip, and The Green Hornet. His feature film career was a bit more uneven than his television career, but he still did some very good work in film.  Both PT 109 and Batman are classics of the Sixties. While the average American might not recognise his name, he or she has probably seen several samples of Mr. Martin's work over the years. 

Friday, 9 September 2016

Hugh O'Brian Passes On

Hugh O'Brian, known for playing Wyatt Earp in the Western TV series The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp and starring in the Seventies action series Search, died on September 5 2016 at the age of 91.

Hugh O'Brian was born on April 19 1925 in Rochester, New York.  He attended New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois and then Kemper Military School in Booneville, Missouri. He attended the University of Cincinnati with the intent of majoring in law. He dropped out after one semester to enlist in the United States Marines during World War II. Following the war he had planned to enrol in Yale University. He moved to Los Angeles with the intent of earning money to pay for his education at Yale. While in Los Angeles he met upcoming actresses Ruth Roman and Linda Christian, who acquainted him with a theatre group. One night the leading man for Somerset Maugham’s play Home and Beauty fell ill and Hugh O'Brian took his place. It after that experience that Mr. O'Brian decided to enrol at UCLA and simply pursued acting as a hobby while he earned money for his education. He made his film debut in an uncredited role in Kidnapped (1948).

Not long afterwards legendary director and actress Ida Lupino saw one of Hugh O'Brian's performances and cast him in a major role in her film Never Fear (1949). in 1950 he appeared in an uncredited role in the classic noir D.O.A., and in significant roles in Rocketship X-M (1950), Beyond the Purple Hills (1950), and The Return of Jesse James (1950).

The Fifties saw Hugh O'Brian cast in the role of Wyatt Earp in The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, the first of network television's adult Westerns. It was followed that September in 1955 by two more adult Westerns: Gunsmoke and Cheyenne. The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp proved highly successful. It ran six seasons and ranked in the top twenty shows for the year for four of those seasons. Along with Gunsmoke and Cheyenne it also sparked a cycle towards Westerns that dominated television in the late Fifties.

During the Fifties Hugh O'Brian also guest starred on such shows as Hallmark Hall of Fame, Fireside Theatre, Studio 57, The Loretta Young Show, The Millionaire, Date with the Angels, Make Room for Daddy, Playhouse 90, Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, and G.E. Theatre. He appeared in such films as Fighting Coast Guard (1951), Little Big Horn (1951),  Son of Ali Baba (1952), Meet Me at the Fair (1953), The Lawless Breed (1953),  Seminole (1953), Saskatchewan (1954), Drums Across the River (1954), Broken Lance (1954), There's No Business Like Show Business (1954), White Feather (1955), The Twinkle in God's Eye (1955), The Brass Legend (1956), and Alias Jesse James (1959).

In the Sixties Mr. O'Brian appeared in the films Come Fly with Me (1963), Love Has Many Faces (1965), In Harm's Way (1965), Assassination in Rome (1965), Ten Little Indians (1965), Ambush Bay (1966), Africa: Texas Style (1967), and Strategy of Terror (1969). On television he guest starred on such shows as The Dick Powell Theatre, Alcoa Premiere, The Virginian, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Perry Mason, Kraft Mystery Theatre, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, The Red Skelton Hour, and Hallmark Hall of Fame.

In the Seventies Hugh O'Brian starred as Hugh Lockwood in the single season, spy-fi show Search. He guest starred on the shows Good Heavens, Charlie's Angels, Police Story, and Fantasy Island. He appeared on the mini-series The Seekers. He appeared in the films Killer Force (1976), The Shootist (1976), and Game of Death (1978).

In the Eighties Hugh O'Brian appeared in the films Doin' Time on Planet Earth (1988) and Twins (1988). He guest starred on the TV shows Fantasy Island; The Love Boat; Paradise; and Murder, She Wrote. In the Nineties he guest starred on the shows L. A. Law and Call of the Wild. He reprised his role as Wyatt Earp in the TV movies The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw and Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone.

In 1958 Hugh O'Brian founded the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Foundation, a charity devoted to developing leadership development for young people. 

Hugh O'Brian will probably always be remembered as the stalwart, courageous Wyatt Earp. That having been said, he was capable of playing other roles. On Search Hugh Lockwood was a hip, wisecracking, ladies man, about as far from the somewhat stoic Wyatt Earp as one can get. In his guest appearance on Perry Mason he played playboy entertainment lawyer Bruce Jason, another role quite unlike Wyatt Earp. His role in The Shootist was even further from Wyatt Earp; he played a professional gambler and pistoleer. Earlier in his career Hugh O'Brian had a brief appearance as another villain, the gunman Morgan in the Audie Murphy Western Drums Across the River. While Hugh O'Brian will probably always be remembered as Wyatt Earp, he was capable of playing many more types of characters. 

Thursday, 8 September 2016

The 50th Anniversary of Star Trek

It was fifty years ago tonight that Star Trek debuted on NBC as part of a "sneak preview" that also included The Hero and Tarzan (NBC's 1966-1967 schedule would not officially begin until the following week). Since September 8 1966 Star Trek has become the stuff of television legends. It was the low rated science fiction show saved by its fans from cancellation that became a phenomenon in syndicated reruns. While there is some truth to the legend (in its initial network run Star Trek's ratings were always moderate to low), there is much about the legend that simply isn't true. Indeed, even while in its first run there were signs that Star Trek was on its way to becoming a phenomenon.

As many people already know, Star Trek was initially conceived by Gene Roddenberry, although later producer Gene L. Coon and story editor D. C. Fontana would play pivotal roles in shaping what we now know as Star Trek. It was on March 11 1964 that Gene Roddenberry wrote a short treatment for a prospective science fiction series to be called Star Trek. He initially pitched the idea for his new science fiction show to MGM, who had produced his single season show The Lieutenant. MGM turned Star Trek down. He found a buyer in Desilu, then best known for having produced the classic I Love Lucy. Desilu first took the prospective series to CBS, with whom they had a first-look deal. CBS turned Star Trek down on the grounds that they were already developing another science fiction show, Lost in Space.

Desilu then took Star Trek to NBC, who commissioned the production of a pilot, "The Cage". "The Cage" differed a bit from Star Trek as we know it. It starred Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike. The pilot did feature two regular members of the cast of Star Trek, although one of them would play a different role in the series. Majel Barrett played Number One, Captain Pike's female first officer, in "The Cage", but played Nurse Christine Chapel in the regular series, as well as providing the voice for the ship's computer. Leonard Nimoy appeared as Mr. Spock, who was not yet the first officer of the Enterprise, but was its science officer. He was a bit more emotional than he would be on the regular series.

While NBC was impressed by "The Cage", they ultimately rejected it in February1965 . They commissioned a second pilot in March 1965. Contrary to popular belief, Star Trek was not the first prospective television show to have a second pilot made (it is difficult to say what show has that honour, but Lum & Abner, whose first pilot was made in 1948, would ultimately have four different pilots made).  While other shows before Star Trek had second pilots made, it was an unusual step for NBC to take at the time. NBC did ask for changes before the second pilot was shot. The network was not particularly keen on the characters of Number One and Mr. Spock. Gene Roddenberry eliminated Number One, but kept the character of Mr. Spock, who became the breakout character on the series. It was before the second pilot was made that Jeffrey Hunter decided that he did not want to do the show. It was then that William Shatner was cast as Captain James T. Kirk.

Fortunately NBC accepted the second pilot ("Where No Man Has Gone Before") and ordered Star Trek  as a series. As mentioned earlier, the show debuted on September 8 1966 as part of a special "sneak preview". Unfortunately Star Trek received less than auspicious reviews upon its debut. At the time Television Magazine did a survey of 24 critics and found that five critics found the show good, eight critics found it bad, and eleven critics were simply indifferent to the show. Among the critics who liked the show was Terrence O’Flaherty  of The San Francisco Chronicle, who wrote that  the “..opening yarn was a breath-catcher.” Among the worst reviews was the one published in Daily Variety, which referred to it as "an incredible and dreary mess of confusion and complexities."  One has to suspect that many of the bad reviews of Star Trek could well be blamed on the episode that NBC decided to air first. While not a truly bad episode, "Man Trap" centred on a monster called a "Salt Vampire". Many critics seeing the episode may have thought Star Trek was a typical, kiddie, sci-fi show complete with a new monster every week.

While Star Trek upon its premiere did not fare very well with critics, it did  perform fairly well in the ratings. With its competition on CBS and ABC consisting primarily of reruns, it received a 40.6 share in the Nielsen ratings and won its time slot. Unfortunately, it would not fare so well the following week. The show dropped to 29.4 share and then dropped further in the ratings for the next two weeks. Ultimately the ratings for Star Trek in its first season could be described as "moderate" at best. For the 1966-1967 season Star Trek ranked 52nd out of all the shows on the air. With over 100 shows in prime time in the 1966-1967 season, this was not terribly bad, but it was not very good either. In earlier years NBC might well have cancelled Star Trek save for one thing: demographics.

It is a myth that the networks only discovered demographics in the late Sixties. In fact, in 1963 NBC began paying attention not only to how many people were watching a given show, but who was watching it as well. Namely, NBC wanted well-educated, wealthy, young adults. According to the executive of audience measurement at the time Paul Klein (today perhaps best known for developing the theory of the least objectionable programme) in an article in Television Magazine in 1967, Star Trek was renewed after its first season because it delivered an audience of well-educated, upper income, young men. Of course, the audience for Star Trek did not simply consist of wealthy, educated, young men in the key demographic (18 to 34 years old). It also proved popular with teenagers. In the July 27 1968 issue of TV Guide there was an article (Who Watches What?") by Dick Hobson on A.C. Nielsen Co.'s demographic surveys made from October 23 to December 3 1967. Star Trek ranked no. 4 in the Top Ten Among Teenagers 13-17, right below another NBC show, The Monkees.

While Star Trek in its first season attracted an audience largely made of teenagers and wealthy male twentysomethings and thirtysomethings, it also attracted an audience that was very loyal to the show even in its original network run. Indeed, even as Star Trek first aired from 1966 to 1969 there were signs that it was already a bit of a phenomenon. It might have been a show with low to moderate ratings at best, but it was also a show that had already developed a cult following. This could explain why Star Trek had a higher profile than many shows with similar ratings during the era. Indeed, Star Trek received more newspaper coverage than many shows with similar sized audiences. In today's jargon, one could say that even in the late Sixties there was a "buzz" about Star Trek.

Among the earliest references to Star Trek occurred in the July 8 1964  "Tele-Vues" syndicated column by Terry Vernon, in which it was mentioned that Desilu had made a deal with NBC to produce "an hour-long science fiction series Star Trek." Another early reference to Star Trek was in gossip columnist Hedda Hopper's December 4 1964 column, in which she wrote about Susan Oliver playing Vina in the series pilot. Of course, once the show debuted references to Star Trek became much more frequent in newspapers. Star Trek was featured on the cover of the weekly newspaper supplement TV Showtime on September 18 1966. In syndicated columnist Charles Witbeck's December 4 1966 column Gene Roddenberry discussed the casting of Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock. An article that appeared in many newspapers across the United States in July and August 1967 told how DeForest Kelley, then best known for playing heavies in Westerns, was cast as Dr. McCoy by getting a different haircut, one that resembled that of the late President John F. Kennedy. Bob Thomas's May 6 1967 "Inside Hollywood" column discussed Star Trek as an intellectual show.

Not only did newspapers cover Star Trek a good deal during its original run, so too did national magazines. As might be expected, TV Guide covered Star Trek, and even devoted two covers to the show during its original run. The January 1967 issue of Ebony featured Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Uhura on the cover and included an article about her. Teen magazines such as Tiger Beat and 16 regularly covered the show. Even Mad magazine did a parody of Star Trek while it was in its first run.

Many of the newspaper articles about Star Trek during its original run centred on its status as a "prestige show". Bob Thomas in his May 6 1967 "Inside Hollywood" column noted Star Trek's status as a show with appeal to intellectuals. With regards to its renewal for a second season, he noted, "Trade observers also believe the NBC decision was influenced by the fact that Star Trek was a prestige show in a season sadly lacking in prestige." In an August 25 1968 article on TV shows changing time slots, Associated Press television-radio writer Cynthia Lowry included Star Trek alongside Mannix as shows that "may suffer from undeserved inattention."  While reviews upon its debut may have been decidedly mixed, Star Trek developed a reputation over its original run as a quality show.

Even the television industry seemed to recognise Star Trek as a quality show. For the 1966-1967 season it was nominated for four Emmy Awards, including  Outstanding Dramatic Series, Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series (for Leonard Nimoy as Spock),  Individual Achievements in Cinematography - Photographic Special Effects, and Individual Achievements in Art Direction and Allied Crafts - Mechanical Special Effects. It would again be nominated for Outstanding Dramatic Series in the 1967-1968 season and Leonard Nimoy would be nominated for the Supporting actor award for each year the show was on. Over the three seasons it was also nominated for awards for Film Editing and Art Direction.

Not only did Star Trek appear to be regarded as a quality show, but it also appears to have infiltrated American pop culture even in its initial American run.  In the letter column of the December 8, 1967 issue of Time, a Time reader asked what was behind fashion designer Rudi Gernreich, "...Refugees from Star Trek maybe?" RCA, NBC's parent company, ran print advertisements for their colour TV sets that featured Star Trek.  Leonard Nimoy appeared in full Spock regalia at the end of a skit on the twelfth episode of the first season of The Carol Burnett Show that aired on December 1967.  In a 1968 episode of Bewitched, "Samantha's Secret Saucer," Aunt Clara makes a reference to Mr. Spock (for you trivia buffs out here, I might also mention that because of Marion Lorne's death this was the last time Clara appeared on the show). While Star Trek only had moderate to low ratings its entire run, both the series itself and its characters (at least Mr. Spock) seemed recognisable to the general public in a way that many other shows with similar ratings probably were not. 

Not only did Star Trek  begin infiltrating American pop culture even as it first aired, but there was even Star Trek merchandise on the shelves in the late Sixties, more than one would expect for a show that at its best ranked no. 52 for the year out of all the shows in prime-time. While the Golden Age for Star Trek merchandise might well have been the Seventies, the Sixties did see a number of Star Trek items of note. Among the earliest and most famous bits of Star Trek merchandise to appear was the Enterprise model kit issued by AMT in 1966. AMT would follow the highly popular Enterprise with a Klingon Battle Cruiser model kit in 1968. Of course, the Seventies would see yet more model kits based on vessels and hardware from the series.

As might be expected given the era, there was also a Star Trek lunchbox made by Aladdin in 1968. Leaf Candy Company issued a series of Star Trek bubblegum cards in 1967. Ideal Toys also published a Star Trek board game in 1967. It was in July 1967 that Gold Key Comics began publishing their notorious Star Trek comic books, which continued until 1978 when the licence shifted to Marvel Comics. Of course, some of the Star Trek merchandise made in the Sixties appeared to have very little to do with the show. In 1966 Rayline made a tracer gun and tracer rifle (toy guns that shoot lightweight discs) that looked nothing like the phasers of Star Trek. Remco made a Star Trek Astrocopter that came with plastic soldiers in 1967. Not only would the crew of the Enterprise have no need of an "Astrocopter", but the plastic soldiers looked nothing like Starfleet officers. Remco also put out a Star Trek Astro-Helmet in 1969. The Astro-Helmet looked like nothing from the show. In 1969 in the United Kingdom, at least, Kelloggs Sugar Smacks included Star Trek pinback buttons in specially marked boxes. I don't know if the same offer existed in the United States or not.

Not only was there Star Trek merchandise on store shelves in the late Sixties, but there were also books. In 1967 Bantam Books issued a collection of short stories adapted from episodes of Star Trek by science fiction writer James Blish. The first title, Star Trek, was followed by two more similar collections while the show was still on the air and ultimately ten more such books. Star Trek also saw the publication of one of the earliest books devoted to the making of a television show. The Making of Star Trek by Stephen E. Whitfield was published in 1968 in between the second and third seasons.

Of course, it wasn't just professional publishing houses publishing material related to Star Trek. The earliest fanzines appeared while the show was still on the air. The first such fanzine, Spockanalia, was published in 1967. It was followed by such fanzines as ST-Phile, T-Negative, and Deck 6. Many more would be published in the Seventies.

While it was still in its first run Star Trek was regarded as a prestige show. It was also a show that received a good deal of coverage in newspapers and magazine, and one whose characters (at least Mr. Spock) appear to have been recognisable even to people who didn't watch the show. It appealed largely to well-educated, affluent, young men and teenagers, and many of them were fiercely loyal to the show. Sadly, it would appear that while Star Trek had a cult following even in its original run, its audience was still relatively small when compared to high rated shows such as Bewitched or The Beverly Hillbillies.

Indeed, for its second season NBC moved Star Trek to Friday night at 8:30 Eastern/7:30 Central. Given it aired on Friday night when much of its audience would go out for the night, it should be no surprise that its ratings would drop. The fact that it was scheduled against the high rated Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. and the first half hour of The CBS Friday Night Movies only made matters worse. Still, with an audience comprised of largely wealthy, well-educated young men, Star Trek did well enough for NBC to renew it.

Unfortunately for NBC, rumours began spreading as early as November 1967 that Star Trek would be cancelled. Even several media outlets reported the cancellation of the show as fact. As a result of these rumours Star Trek fans manned a campaign to "save" the series. Between December 1967 and March 1968 NBC received around 116,000 letters asking them to renew Star Trek. Star Trek fans didn't just write letters, but they also held protests as well. Over 200 Caltech students protested at NBC's Burbank studios on behalf of Star Trek. Similar protests were held in San Francisco and New York City.

Even though Star Trek was in no real danger of cancellation, the reaction of fans who thought the show might be cancelled was impressive. In fact, it was impressive enough that following the March 1 1968 episode, "The Omega Glory", NBC announced that Star Trek would continue to air on the network. They aired the same announcement following the March 8 1968 episode, "The Ultimate Computer" the next week.

Sadly, the third season of Star Trek would be its last. Initially NBC planned to move Star Trek to Monday night at 8:00 Eastern/7:00 Central. Unfortunately, that time slot was then occupied by Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, a mid-season replacement that ranked no.21 for the 1967-1968 season. Its producer George Schlatter objected strenuously to Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In being moved from its Monday night time slot. NBC then scheduled Star Trek on Friday night at 10:00 Eastern/9:00 Central, a Friday night death slot if there ever was one. Its older fans would be out for the night by that time, while its youngest fans would already be in bed. Worse yet, it aired opposite the last hour of The CBS Friday Night Movies. To make things even worse, Star Trek was now seen on only 181 out of the 210 NBC affiliates.

As might be expected given the circumstances, the ratings for Star Trek plummeted. NBC cancelled Star Trek in February 1969. While fans once more started a campaign to save the show, it was to no avail. Star Trek's ratings had fallen so low that millions of letters probably would not have saved it. Here it must be pointed out that even given the audience for Star Trek in its original run, the show's demographics could not save it as they did in the first and second seasons. Even at its height in its first season, Star Trek still received fewer viewers in the key demographic than such hit shows as Bewitched and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. By its third season its audience, even in the key demographic, was so small that NBC felt cancellation was its only choice.

Of course, as history shows Star Trek would have a phenomenally successful afterlife as a syndicated rerun. Perhaps as yet another mark of a show that was somehow different from similarly rated shows, as early as its first season there were those who saw potential in reruns of Star Trek. In 1967, while Star Trek was still in its first season, Kaiser Broadcasting bought the syndication rights to the show. Once Star Trek entered syndication in 1969 Kaiser Broadcasting scheduled it in early afternoon or evening time slots on its stations where it was often opposite the local news on other stations. The end result was that Star Trek was receiving very high ratings on Kaiser Broadcasting's stations, not to mention an audience of primarily young males. Other independent stations took note of Kaiser Broadcasting's success, so that other independent stations picked up the series. In February 1970 Star Trek was airing on 61 stations. By March 1972 around 125 stations were airing the show. By May 1973 that number had increased to 143 stations.

Since then Star Trek has become a multimedia franchise. In 1973 Star Trek: The Animated Series debuted on NBC on Saturday morning, reuniting much of the original cast. Beginning in the Seventies there would be a series of original novels based on the show. The original cast and crew would reunite for Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979),  the first of six movies. Star Trek would be followed by four spin-off series, with a fifth one set to debut in 2017. In 2009 Star Trek was rebooted with a series of films set in an alternate timeline. Of course, since Star Trek ended its original run in 1969 there has been a tonne of merchandise related to the show and its spin-offs, including toys, action figures, games, records, books, clothing, and much, much more.

Star Trek began as a show with a cult following that survived primarily because it appealed to a small audience in a key demographic. Through a highly successful syndication run it became a television phenomenon and eventually a multimedia franchise. There can be no doubt that it is one of the most successful shows in the history of American television. That Star Trek is still airing fifty years after its debut is remarkable. That it spawned an entire industry is more remarkable still.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

The 80th Anniversary of Buddy Holly's Birth

It was 80 years ago today that Buddy Holly was born in Lubbock, Texas. Buddy Holly would prove to be one of the most successful rock performers of the late Fifties, whether with The Crickets or solo. From 1957 to 1959 he scored eight hit singles, including the number 1 single "That'll Be the Day". More importantly, Buddy Holly would have a lasting impact on rock music. He influenced many of the British bands of the Sixties, including The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Hollies, and yet others. In having an impact on many of the British bands (particularly The Beatles, The Who, and The Kinks), it was Buddy Holly's music that essentially led to the creation of the rock subgenre known as "power pop". That having been said, such diverse rock music subgenres as heavy metal and punk have felt the impact of Buddy Holly. In the end, he is perhaps one of the most influential rock performers of all time.

In tribute to Buddy Holly on his 80th birthday, here he is with The Crickets in their only appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show performing "That'll Be the Day".

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

"Happy Together" by The Turtles

This week I have a post on the 50th anniversary of Star Trek that I am working on. And sadly I have to eulogise both Hugh O'Brian and Leslie H. Martinson. This is also the week of our Old Settlers Reunion and Fall Fair, which means I'll be tied up with our Historical Society's museum later in the week. Rather than a proper post, then, I'll leave you with one of my favourite songs, "Happy Together" by The Turtles


Monday, 5 September 2016

11 Answers to 11 Questions

I have been busy working on a post for the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, not to mention the 50th anniversary of The Monkees is a few days after that, so I really don't have time for any other long, complicated posts. I noticed on Millie's blog ClassicForever that she answered 11 questions that Hamlette of Hamlette's Soliloquy tagged her with, so I am simply going to answer these 11 questions for this blog post.

1.  Is there a movie that has really yummy-looking food in it that you'd love to eat?

I have to confess that I don't really notice food in movies, not even when it plays a big role in the plot. I do have to admit that the Thanksgiving turkey in Giant (1956) looked pretty tasty. Sadly, I am more inclined to notice drinking in movies. I would love to drink with Nick and Nora Charles from the Thin Man movies! I am not an alcoholic by any stretch of the imagination (I can't even remember the last time I had a drink), but I do think it would be interesting to drink with some of my favourite movie characters.

 2.  What era do most of your favourite movies take place in?

This is an easy question to answer. It's the Sixties. On the list of films on Letterboxd that I have watched, everything since 1970 is on about one page. Compare that to the Sixties, which occupy a page and a half alone! What I love about Sixties films is that they are so often wonderfully off-kilter. There is only one decade during which such movies as Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) and The Loved One (1965) could have been made. Even more mainstream movies in the Sixties, such as Cat Ballou (1965) and The Great Race (1965), were slightly left of centre. And, of course, it was the decade of The Beatles, so one had A Hard Day's Night (1964), Help! (1965), and Yellow Submarine (1968). Don't get me wrong. I do love movies from the Silent Era, the Pre-Code Era, the Thirties, Forties, and Fifties, but the Sixties is my all time favourite decade for film.

3.  What two actors/actresses have you always hoped would make a movie together, but didn't/haven't yet?

I think it would have been cool if Dean Martin and Steve McQueen could have made a film together. Of course, it may be a good thing that they did not. The world could well have imploded with that much coolness concentrated in one place!

4.  If money and time and supplies (and crafting ability) were not considerations, what movie character would you love to cosplay or dress up like for Halloween?

There really aren't any movie characters I would love to cosplay or dress up like for Halloween, but there is one television character. I would love to dress up like John Steed from The Avengers. Sadly, while I could probably get a bowler and an umbrella cheaply enough, I suspect his suits might be very expensive!

5.  Have you ever cosplayed or dressed up like a movie or TV character for Halloween?

Being a Gen Xer, the answer to this is a definite, "Yes". TV and comic books characters were sort of the "in" thing for Halloween when I was a kid. I went as The Lone Ranger when I was in sixth grade. When I was a teenager I went as a Vulcan Starfleet officer one year and then as a Romulan Centurion the next year. I made my own costume for The Lone Ranger and the Romulan, although my sister made the Starfleet uniform. As a kid I never did have one those costumes made by Ben Cooper or Collegeville (which were pretty cheap looking anyway)!

6.  What movie would your friends/family be surprised to learn you truly enjoyed?

My tastes are pretty diverse, so I don't think there is much that would surprise them. Many people are surprised to learn I actually like Hudson Hawk (1991). No, I do not think it is a good movie. I do think it is an enjoyable movie. It is just so over the top and so, well, bad that I can't help but laugh at it.

7.  What's one book you hope no one ever makes into a film?

I would say Twilight or Fifty Shades of Gray, but that's already happened. I'll then go with any of the Shanarra books by Terry Books. I tried reading them multiple times and never could make it through them. I can only imagine how dull a film adaption of any one of them would be!

8.  Do you know the Wilhelm Scream when you hear it?

Yeah.

9.  When a character onscreen has to hold their breath, to you try to hold your breath to match theirs?

I really don't like holding my breath, so I never have tried.

10. What upcoming movies (or TV series) are you excited about?

As far as TV shows, I am looking forward to the Iron Fist TV series coming on Netflix in 2017. Other than that everything I'm looking forward to are all old shows that are returning:  Longmire, The Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, The Blacklist, and so on. As far as movies, I'm looking forward to The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years, Doctor Strange (even if I am unhappy with the casting of and change to the Ancient One), Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Allied.

11.  What are some of your favourite movie-oriented blogs?  (Or just blogs that post movie reviews sometimes.)

A Classic Movie Blog
Comet Over Hollywood
Immortal Ephemera
Laura's Miscellaneous Musings
Once Upon a Screen
Out of the Past
Speakeasy
The Retro Set
Virtual Virago

I wasn't tagged for this, so I won't tag anyone. If you want to do it, go right ahead and let me know!

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Jon Polito Passes On

Jon Polito, the character actor who appeared in many Coen Brothers films as well as such films as The Rocketeer (1991) and The Crow (1994), died on September 1 2016 at the age of 65. The cause was multiple myeloma.

Jon Polito was born in Philadelphia on December 29 1950. He began acting while he was still in high school and attended Villanova University where he studied theatre. He made his debut on Broadway in American Buffalo in 1977. He appeared several more times on Broadway, appearing in the productions of The Curse of an Aching Heart (1982), Total Abandon (1983), and Death of a Salesman (1984). He made his television debut in the mini-series The Gangster Chronicles, playing Thomas "Three Finger Brown" Lucchese. He was a regular on the shows Ohara  and Crime Story. He guest starred on As the World Turns, Wiseguy, Miami Vice, Trying Times, and The Equaliser. He made his film debut in The Clairvoyant (1982). He appeared in the films The Princess and the Call Girl (1984), C.H.U.D. (1984), Compromising Positions (1985), Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985), Dream Lover (1986) , Highlander (1986), Fire with Fire (1986), Critical Condition (1987), Homeboy (1988), The Freshman (1990), and Miller's Crossing (1990).

In the Nineties Jon Polito appeared in such films as Barton Fink (1991), The Rocketeer (1991), The Contenders (1993), The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), The Crow (1994), Blankman (1994), Inside Out (1997), The Big Lebowski (1998), Tale of the Mummy (1998), With Friends Like These... (1998), Carlo's Wake (1999), Stuart Little (1999),  Nowhere Land (2000), and The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (2000). On television he starred as Detective Steve Crosetti on Homicide: Life on the Street. He had recurring roles on Hearts Are Wild and Dream On. He guest starred on such shows as Tales From the Crypt; Empty Nest; Dinosaurs; The Untouchables; Murder, She Wrote; Mad About You; Roseanne; Seinfeld; and New York Undercover.

In the Nineties Mr. Polito was a regular on The Chronicle and Raising the Bar. He guest starred on such shows as Gideon's Crossing, The Drew Carey Show, Becker, Crossing Jordan, Gilmore Girls, Judging Amy, Scrubs, My Wife and Kids, Ghost Whisperer, Las Vegas, Two and a Half Men, and Monk. He appeared in such films as The Singing Detective (2003), View from the Top (2003), The Box (2003), The Last Shot (2004), The Honeymooners (2005), Lies & Alibis (2006), Flags of Our Fathers (2006), American Gangster (2007), The Marconi Bros. (2008), and Stiffs (2010).

In the Teens Jon Polito had recurring roles on Murder in the First and Modern Family. He guest starred on such shows as It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Mike & Molly, Bunheads, Castle, and Major Crimes. He appeared in such films as Jonny Boy (2011), Gangster Squad (2013), Locker 13 (2014), and Big Eyes (2014).

Jon Polito also did a good deal of voice work in animated TV shows and features, as well as video games, including, but not limited to, the animated TV series Life with Louie, the animated TV series Batman Beyond, the animated TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender, and the animated film Happily N'Ever After.

Jon Polito was a very versatile actor. He played many gangsters in his career, including crime boss Phil Bartoli on Crime Story and Johnny Caspar in Miller's Crossing. He also played his share of generally smarmy characters, some less honest than others, including the crooked pawnbroker Gideon in The Crow and air show promoter Otis Bigelow in The Rocketeer. He also played his share of detectives, including  Steve Crosetti on Homicide: Life in the Street and Sherman in Stuart Little.  He could play anything from weak willed yes men like Lou Breeze in Barton Fink to tough guy cops like Detective Kemper in the TV movie Invasion. Jon Polito could play a wide variety of roles, so it is little wonder that he was so prolific. With his talent he was always an actor very much in demand.