Thursday, 16 February 2017

Bruce Lansbury Passes On

Bruce Lansbury, who produced such popular shows as The Wild Wild West; Wonder Woman; and Murder, She Wrote died February 13 2017 at the age of 87. He had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

Bruce Lansbury was born in London on January 12 1930. His twin was Edgar Lansbury, whose career was primarily in the theatre. His parents were actress Moyna Macgill and socialist politician Edgar Lansbury. His older sister was renowned actress Dame Angela Lansbury. At the beginning of World War II, Bruce Lansbury's mother migrated to New York City along with his sister, his brother, and himself. The family settled in Los Angeles in the mid-Forties. Bruce Lansbury served in the United States Army and later graduated from UCLA with a bachelor's degree.

Mr. Lansbury began his television career at WABC in Los Angeles. He later went to work for CBS in programme development. It was shortly before the show's second season that he joined The Wild Wild West. When the show's creator and executive producer, Michael Garrison died from a fall down the stairs, Bruce Lansbury took over as the show's producer. In all he produced 69 episodes of The Wild Wild West. Afterwards he served as a producer on Mission: Impossible from 1969-1972.

In the late Sixties Bruce Lansbury joined Paramount Television as vice president: creative affairs. He oversaw such shows as The Odd Couple; The Brady Bunch; Love, American Style; Happy Days; and Petrocelli. While at Paramount he created the short-lived mystery series The Magician, starring Bill Bixby. Following his stint at Paramount, Mr. Lansbury served as executive producer on the short-lived fantasy series The Fantastic Journey. He then served as supervising producer on Wonder Woman and later Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

In the Eighties Bruce Lansbury was an executive producer on The Powers of Matthew Star and a supervising producer on Street Hawk (which he also created) and Knight Rider. He wrote episodes of the 1990-1991 series Zorro. From 1992 to 1996 Bruce Lansbury served as a supervising producer on Murder, She Wrote, which starred his sister Dame Angela Lansbury. He also wrote several episodes of the show.

Bruce Lansbury was responsible for producing several hours of memorable television. While his episodes of The Wild Wild West may not be quite as good as those produced under Michael Garrison's watch, the show remained an entertaining series and, unlike many genre shows of the Sixties, never jumped the shark. Wonder Woman remains an enjoyable bit of Seventies, superhero camp. Arguably Mr. Lansbury not only produced but wrote some of the best episodes of Murder, She Wrote. While it did not run very long, I must say that I have very fond memories of The Magician myself.  While the shows Bruce Lansbury produced may not have been Playhouse 90, they were entertaining and generally well done. Indeed, not many producers can boast having produced several shows (The Wild Wild West; Mission: Impossible; Wonder Woman; and Murder, She Wrote) that are still watched years after they first aired.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Happy Valentine's Day 2017

Here at A Shroud of Thoughts it is customary to post classic, Hollywood pinups on holidays. Valentine's Day is no different, so, without further ado, here are this year's pinups.

Dorothy Hart is posing with a heart.

Toby Wing has turned herself into a Valentine card!

Joan Leslie is the Queen of Hearts!

 Lynn Merrick has her calendar marked!

Leslie Caron is eagerly awaiting her Valentine!

And, of course, it wouldn't be Valentine's Day without Ann Miller!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, 13 February 2017

The Beatles' "Penny Lane"/"Strawberry Fields Forever"

It was fifty years ago today that The Beatles' single "Penny Lane"/"Strawberry Fields Forever" was released in the United States. Like many of The Beatles' later singles it was a double A-side. "Penny Lane" would go to no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, while "Strawberry Fields Forever" peaked at no. 8. In the United Kingdom both songs only peaked at no. 2, breaking a four year streak of every Beatle single going to no. 1. Regardless, both "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" remain two of The Beatles' best remembered songs, more so than some of their songs that did reach no. 1 on the British single chart.

Both songs were originally recorded for the album that would become known as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. In fact, "Strawberry Fields Forever" was the first song recorded during the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band sessions. The two songs were released as a single under pressure from EMI, who thought it had been too long since The Beatles had released a single.

Both songs dealt with actual places in Liverpool. The name "Penny Lane" not only refers to an actual street in Liverpool, but the entire area surrounding Smithdown Place. This includes Newcastle Road (where John Lennon lived for the first five years of his life), Church Road, Allerton Road, and Smithdown Road. In the Sixties Penny Lane was a bus roundabout. John Lennon and Paul McCartney would meet at the junction of Penny Lane to catch the bus to the centre of Liverpool.

"Strawberry Fields Forever" was inspired by Strawberry Field, a Salvation Army children's home in Woolton, Liverpool. It was not far from where John Lennon grew up, and he attended the annual garden parties they held each summer. Strawberry Field was originally a private estate. In 1936 it was sold to the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army opened it as a children's home on July 7 1936. While the original house would eventually be demolished, a smaller building would be built to take its place. It remained open until 2005, at which point it became a Salvation Army church and prayer centre.

Promotional films would be shot for both "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever". Curiously, the promo film for "Penny Lane" was not shot on Penny Lane, as The Beatles did not want to travel all the way to Liverpool. Instead it was shot on and around Angel Road in the East End of London, with some scenes shot on the King's Road in Chelsea. The rather surreal film for "Strawberry Fields Forever" was shot at Knole Park in Sevenoaks, Kent. The promotional films for "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" made their debut on the BBC's music programme Top of the Pops on February 7 1967. They were later shown in the United States on the ABC variety show The Hollywood Palace on February 25 1967.

Sadly, the complete promotional films for "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" are not available online. That being the case, here are the songs courtesy of Spotify.