Saturday, November 6, 2010

Actor Robert Ellenstein Passes On

Actor Robert Ellenstein passed on October 28 at the age of 87.

Robert Ellenstein was born in Newark on June 18, 1923. During World War II he served in the Army Air Corps. Following the war he attended New York University and graduated from the University of Iowa. It was in 1947 that his career began at the Cleveland Playhouse in Cleveland, Ohio. He made his debut on television in a pilot for an unrealised TV series based on the comic strip Mandrake the Magician. That same year he made his movie debut in Rogue Cop. Throughout the Fifties he appeared regularly on television, on such shows as The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse, Soldiers of Fortune, The Whistler, The Philco-Goodyear Playhouse, Omnibus, Robert Montgomery Presents, GunsmokeThe United States Steel Hour, Climax, The Adventures of Jim Bowie, Zane Grey Theatre, Man With a Camera, Wanted: Dead or Alive, The Rifleman, Steve Canyon, Mike Hammer, Rawhide, One Step Beyond, Peter Gunn, Perry Mason, and Michael Shayne. He appeared in such films as Illegal (1955), The Garment Jungle (1957), 3:10 to Yuma (1957), The Young Lions (1958), North by Northwest (1959), The Gazebo (1959), and Pay or Die (1960).

In the Sixties Mr. Ellenstein appeared in such TV shows as Thriller, The Lawless Years, Hawaiian Eye, Ben Casey, Checkmate, 77 Sunset Strip, The Untouchables, The Defenders, The Rogues, Combat, Get Smart, Bonanza, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Virginian, Hallmark Hall of Fame, The Wild Wild West, The Big Valley, Ironside, and Mission: Impossible. He appeared in the films King of the Roaring 20's: The Story of Arnold Rothstein (1961), Deathwatch (1966), and The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968).

In the Seventies Mr. Ellenstein appeared on Marcus Welby M.D., Columbo, The Rockford Files, McCloud, Quincy M.E., Hawaii Five-O, and A Man Called Sloane. He appeared in such films as Love at First Bite (1979). In the Eighties into the Nineties Robert Ellesntein appeared in the films as Brewster's Millions (1985) and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986). He appeared in the shows Magnum P.I., Murder She Wrote, Moonlighting, Hooperman, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and ER.

Robert Ellenstein had a long career on stage as well as television and film. He appeared in many productions in Los Angeles, including King Lear, Hamlet, Rocket to the Moon, and others.

Robert Ellenstein was a very talented actor who appeared in a wide variety of roles. He played everything from one of the heavies, Licht, in North by Northwest, to authority figures, such as the President of the Federation Council in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. He was one of those many actors, who although  he never achieved stardom and never played the lead in a movie or a television show, added a good deal to any movie or show he appeared in with his excellent performances.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Announcer Charlie O'Donnell Passes On

Charlie O'Donnell, long time announcer on Wheel of Fortune and other game shows, passed on October 31, 2010 at the age of 78.

Charlie O'Donnell was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 12, 1932. He started his career while still a teenager at radio station WCHA in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. By 1956 he was programme director at radio station WHAT in Philadelphia. in 1957 he became news director at WIBG. In 1958 he then joined a local programme at WFIL called American Bandstand as an announcer. Through his stint on American Bandstand Mr. O'Donnell became a disc jockey at various Los Angeles radio stations, before joining KCOP-TV as an anchorman.

In 1967 Charlie O'Donnell was the announcer on the short lived game show Everybody's Talking. That same year he started out as the announcer on the rock music programme Where the Action Is. In 1973 he was the announcer on Wizard of Odds. He would be an announcer on Card Sharks in 1980 and again from 1986 to 1989 and Tic Tac Dough from 1982 to 1986. Over the years he would serve as the announcer for such game shows as The Dating Game, The Joker's Wild, The Newlywed Game, To Tell the Truth, and others.

It would be The Wheel of Fortune with which Mr. O'Donnell would be most closely associated. He was an announcer on the show from 1975 to 1980. He returned in 1980 and stayed until his death. October 29, 2010 was the last show taped featuring him.

Charlie O'Donnell was one of the legendary television announcers. He had a rich, booming voice, well trained as a disc jockey. It proved well suited to announcing game shows, where he could lend even more a sense of excitement to winning such prizes as "a new car!" or "$30,000!" Indeed, he has announced Wheel of Fortune for so long and did it so well, the show simply won't be the same without his voice.

My Cat Midnight Died

Last night my cat Midnight died in his sleep beside his food dish. He was seven years old. It was in early September that he had lost use of his back legs. He would somewhat regain use of them, walking somewhat haltingly, but he did not recover nearly as swiftly as we had hoped. We are not sure what caused Midnight to lose the use of his legs. There is a dog that does not like cats in the neighbourhood, and it is possible the dog attacked Midnight, although there was no outward signs of damage. It seems more likely it was a blood clot, which Siamese cats are prone to. Although not full blooded Siamese (Midnight was coal black--I liked to call him a "no point Siamese"), he was at least half Siamese to 3/4 Siamese. This especially seems the case, even though Midnight had never fully regained the use of his legs, he seemed to be in good spirits and relatively good health.

Midnight was probably the sweetest cat we ever had. He loved people, particularly children. He would run to kids eager to be petted (indeed, I worry breaking the news to my best friend, as his daughter loved Midnight). He was also a very easy going cat and accepted nearly every other animal. He was friendly towards other cats and even dogs. It was not unusual for kittens to curl up by Midnight and sleep with him. He was a very loving cat who liked to sit on people and be petted. I will miss Midnight terribly and I know our other cats will as well.

Here are some pictures of Midnight.

This first one is of Midnight on the couch around Yuletide

Another picture of Midnight from a few years ago.

This is a photo from many years ago of Midnight with our late cat Lucky

This is the very last picture ever taken of Midnight, with our kitten Socks.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Rocky and Bullwinkle Creator Alex Andererson Passes On

Alex Anderson, who created the legendary cartoon characters Rocky and Bullwinkle, as well as Dudley Do-Right and Crusader Rabbit, passed on October 22, 2010 at the age of 90. The cause was Alzheimer's disease.

Alexander Anderson Jr. was born on September 5, 1920. He graduated from both the University of California, Berkeley and the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. In 1938 he went to work for his uncle, animator Paul Terry, at Mr .Terry's studio Terrytoons. During World War II he served in Naval Intelligence. Following World War II he returned to Terrytoons, working in both animation and editing. He had broached the idea of producing cartoons for television with Paul Terry, who rejected it out of hand. In 1948 Alex Anderson left Terrytoons and returned to San Francisco. It was following a car accident in which childhood friend Jay Ward was injured that he visited Mr. Ward. He broached the idea of producing cartoons for television and Jay Ward embraced the idea. It was in 1948 that they formed Television Arts Productions.

Their first project was a pilot film consisting of three cartoons: "Hamhock Jones (a Sherlock Holmes parody)," "Dudley Doright of the Mounties," and "Crusader Rabbit," under the heading of The Comic Strips of Television. Mr. Anderson did most of the writing, while Jay Ward contributed gags. Of the three cartoons, NBC greelighted only "Crusader Rabbit." Crusader Rabbit was the first cartoon made exclusively for television and proved to be a success. It ultimately ran on around 200 stations nationwide and ran for 195 episodes in its first incarnation.

It was following the success of Crusader Rabbit that Television Arts Productions began to float new ideas for cartoons, among these a storyboard for a proposed cartoon created by Alex Anderson called The Frostbite Falls Review. Among the featured characters in The Frostbite Falls Review were Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Bullwinkle the moose. At the time they were only two members of an ensemble that included such characters as Sylvester the Fox and Blackstone the Crow. The idea was that this group of characters was broadcasting their own show from their own television station. Ultimately The Frostbite Falls Review failed to sell. Sadly, NBC would not renew Crusader Rabbit in 1951.

Afterwards Alex Anderson took a job with the advertising agency Guild, Bascom, and Bonfilgli of San Francisco, while Jay Ward returned to real estate. It would be in 1956 that Crusader Rabbit would be revived, this time shot in colour. Unfortunately, after years of litigation involving NBC and Jerry Fairbanks Productions, Alex Anderson and Jay Ward would not be involved in the revival. Indeed, they ultimately wound up selling Television Arts Productions in 1957. Fortunately, this did not include the rights to characters other than those of Crusader Rabbit, so that Rocky, Bullwinkle, and Dudley Doright all remained the property of Alex Anderson and Jay Ward.

It would be in 1957 that Jay Ward Productions would be founded. Alex Anderson would not be a part of the new company. He did not want to move from San Francisco to Los Angeles and decided to stay in advertising. He would be a consultant on Jay Ward Productions' new series, Rocky and His Friends. Of course, Mr. Anderson would have an enormous impact on Jay Ward Productions. He created the original versions of Rocky and Bullwinkle, as well as the original version of Dudley Do-Right, three of the studio's most successful characters.

Unfortunately, as years passed it would be forgotten that Alex Anderson created the original Rocky and Bullwinkle and Dudley Do-Right. After watching a documentary on Jay Ward Productions in 1991 in which he was not mentioned at all, Alex Anderson sued the studio for the right to be acknowledged as the co-creator of Rocky and Bullwinkle. In 1996 a settlement was reached out of court whereby Mr. Anderson was acknowledged as "the creator of the first version of the characters." The settlement also included an amount of money, which by court order has never been revealed.

Certainly Jay Ward Productions owed a good deal to Alex Anderson. He was pivotal at the studio's predecessor, Television Arts Productions, and created its only success, Crusader Rabbit. He also created the original Rocky, Bullwinkle, and Dudley Do-Right. While Bill Scott would give shape to these characters, they had originated with Alex Anderson. Indeed, it was Alex Anderson while at Television Arts Productions who set the pace for all Jay Ward Productions cartoons. It was he who pioneered topical references in the cartoons which only adults would understand, as well as clever puns and elements of satire. All of this originated with the first run of Crusader Rabbit, much of which Alex Anderson wrote. It must also be pointed out that to a large degree all producers of cartoons made for television owe something to Alex Anderson. It was Anderson who thought of producing cartoons for television and broached the idea with Jay Ward. The cartoon they would produce, Crusader Rabbit, was the first cartoon produced exclusively for television. He was then a pioneer, to whom such animated studios as Filmation, Depatie-Fleming, Ruby Spears, TTV, and even Hanna-Barbera owe their existence. Without Alex Anderson, it may have been many more years before cartoons made for television would emerge.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

TV Director Lamont Johnson R.I.P.

Lamont Johnson, an actor who became an award winning television director, passed on October 24, 2010 at the age of 88.

Lamont Johnson was born in Stockton, California on September 30, 1922. He grew up in Pasadena, California, and attended Pasadena City College. It was while there that he began acting in radio shows. He studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse and attended UCLA prior the outbreak of World War II. Because of his health Mr. Johnson was unable to serve in the military during the war, but became part of the USO. He performed for troops in Europe. Following World War II he directed plays in California. As an actor he made his film debut in 1951 in an uncredited role in Up Front. He made his television debut in an episode of The Lone Wolf in 1954. During the Fifties he appeared in such films as Retreat, Hell (1952), Sally and Saint Anne (1952), The Glory Brigade (1953), The Human Jungle (1954), Please Murder Me (1956), The Brothers Rico (1957), and Jet Pilot (1957). He appeared in such shows as The Loretta Young Show, Justice, Schlitz Playhouse, Climax, Norby, The Millionaire, Stage 7, Ford Television Theatre, Hallmark Hall of Fame, Treasury Men in Action, Goodyear Playhouse, Cavalcade of America, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Matinee Theatre, Steve Canyon, and Alcoa Theatre.

In 1955 Lamount Johnson directed his first television episode, an episode of Matinee Theatre in 1955. He would go onto direct several episodes of Steve Canyon and several episodes of Have Gun--Will Travel. He also directed episodes of Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, Johnny Ringo, Five Fingers, Mr. Lucky, Peter Gunn, and Naked City. In the Sixties his career shifted primarily to directing. He directed episodes of such shows as The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor, The Rifleman, Bus Stop, Dr. Kildare, The Twilight Zone, The Richard Boone Show, The Defenders, Coronet Blue, The Name of the Game, and Judd for the Defence. In 1970 he directed the award winning telefilm My Sweet Charlie, which dealt with an interracial romance. He directed his first feature film, McKenzie Break, released in 1970. Mr. Johnson continued to act occasionally, guest starring on Profiles in Courage, The Blue Light, The Big Valley, Felony Squad, and Gunsmoke.

In the Seventies Lamont Johnson directed the feature films A Gunfight (1971), The Groundstar Conspiracy (1972), You'll Like My Mother (1972),The Last American Hero (1973), Visit to a Chief's Son (1974), Lipstick (1976), One on One (1977), and Somebody Killed Her Husband (1978). He directed the award winning, critically acclaimed TV movie That Certain Summer in 1972, which dealt with homosexuality, as well as the critically acclaimed telefilms Fear on Trial (1975) and The Execution of Private Slovik in 1976. He acted one last time in the feature film One on One.

In the Eighties Mr. Johnson directed several TV movies, including Off the Minnesota Strip, Cattle Annie and Little Britches, Ernie Kovacs: Between the Laughter, and Lincoln. He also directed the mini-series The Kennedys of Massachusetts and an episode of Fairie Tale Theatre. He also directed the feature film Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone. In the Nineties he directed such telefilms as The Broken Chain, The Man Next Door, and All the Winters That Have Been. His last work was directing an episode of Felicity in 2000.

Lamont Johnson was a very talented directed who was skilled in dealing sensitively with controversial subjects. My Sweet Charlie dealt with an interracial romance. That Certain Summer dealt with homosexuality. The Execution of Private Slovik dealt with the only soldier executed for desertion since the American Civil War. He was also able to deal quite well with historical subjects, from the Hollywood blacklist (Fear on Trial) to Abraham Lincoln (Lincoln). While most TV movies are forgettable, those directed by Lamont Johnson will be remembered for years to come.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Actress Lisa Blount Passes On

Lisa Blount, who played Catherine Danforth in Prince of Darkness (1987) and Jim Profit's highly sexualised stepmother Bobbi on the TV series Profit passed on 25 October 2010 at the age of 53. According to her mother, Miss Blount has suffered from idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, a chronic condition which can cause bleeding and bruising.

Lisa Blount was born on 1 July 1957 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She grew up in Jacksonville, Arkansas. She left high school at age 16 and enrolled at the University of Arkansas. She made her film debut in 1977 in September 30, 1955, in which she played a proto-Goth girl who idolised James Dean. She would appear in several films from the late Seventies into the Eighties, including The Swap (1979), Dead & Buried (1981), An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), What Waits Below (1984), Radioactive Dreams (1985), Cut and Run (1985), Nighflyers (1987), Prince of Darkness (1987), South of Reno (1988), Out Cold (1989), Blind Fury (1989), and Great Balls of Fire (1989). She also appeared in the TV shows Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Moonlighting, Starman, Magnum P.I., and Murder She Wrote.

It was in 1996 that Lisa Blount was cast in the role of Bobbie Stakowski, Jim Profit's stepmother and ex-lover, in the short lived series Profit. In 1991 she was a regular on the short lived show Sons and Daughters. Miss Blount appeared in such shows as Picket Fences, The Client, and Cracker. She appeared in the films Femme Fatale (1991), Needful Things (1993), Stalked (1994), Box of Moon Light (1996), and  If...Dog..Rabbit (1999).

In 2001 Miss Blount assumed the role of producer with her husband Ray McKinnon. They produced the Academy Award winning short "the accountant (2001)." They also produced the feature films Chrystal (2004) in which Miss Blount also starred, and Randy and the Mob (2007). She also appeared in the film Birdseye (2002).

I remember Lisa Blount best as Bobbi on the short lived series Profit, the protagonist's overtly sexual, scheming, money hungry stepmother. She was very impressive in the role, as she was in most every role she played. Indeed, she was particularly fine in Prince of Darkness, giving a good performance as Catherine Danforth, a character who would be pivotal in the climax of the film. She was an extremely talented actress and her life ended much too soon.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hawaii Five-O's James MacArthur R.I.P.

James MacArthur, best known as Danno on the original Hawaii Five-O, passed on October 28, 2010 at the age of  72.

James MacArthur was born on December 8, 1937 in Los Angeles, California. At the age of seven months he was adopted by actress Helen Hayes and her husband, playwright Charles MacArthur. He grew up in New York City, often exposed to those famous individuals his parents knew, such as actress Lillian Gish (his godmother), writer Ben Hecht, actor John Barrymore, comedian Harpo Marx, and many others. He received his first acting role while still a child. In 1948 his mother, Helen Hayes, was appearing on Theatre Guild of the Air. The radio play in which she appeared called for a child, so Mr. MacArthur got the part. In 1949 he appeared for the first time on stage, in a summer stock production of The Corn is Green.

In 1955 James MacArthur made his television debut in the episode of Climax "Deal a Blow," directed by John Frankenheimer. In 1957 he made his film debut in The Young Stranger. In the Fifties he guest starred on such shows as G.E. Theatre, Studio One, and Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse. He appeared in such films as The Light in the Forest (1958), Third Man on the Mountain (1959), Kidnapped (1960), and Swiss Family Robinson (1960). In 1960 he appeared on Broadway in the play Invitation to a March.

In the Sixties Mr. MacArthur appeared in the films The Interns (1962), Spencer's Mountain (1963), Cry of Battle (1963), Truth About Spring (1965), The Bedford Incident (1965), Battle of the Budge (1965), Ride Beyond Vengeance (1966), The Love-Ins (1967), The Angry Breed (1968), and Hang 'Em High (1968, as The Preacher). He was a frequent guest star on television, appearing on such shows as The Untouchables, Bus Stop. Wagon Train, Dick Powell Theatre, Burke's Law, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Virginian, Gunsmoke, Combat, and Bonanza.

It was in 1968 that James MacArthur was cast in the role of Danny "Danno" Wiliams on Hawaii Five-O. He would remain with the show for eleven of its twelve years. From the Eighties into the Naughts, James MacArthur appeared in such shows as Vega$, Murder She Wrote, and The Adventures of Superboy. His last appearance on the screen was in the 1998 telefilm Storm Chasers: Revenge of the Twister.

Although best known as Danno on Hawaii Five-O, James MacArthur played a wide range of roles. In The Young Stranger, he repeated his role from "Deal a Blow," the Climax episode, playing the son of a movie producer who comes under suspicion after he hits a theatre manager. In Swiss Family Robinson he played the oldest son Fritz. In Earl Hamner Jr.'s  Spencer's Mountain, he played Clayboy Spencer, a young man wanting to become a writer (essentially the same role as John Boy on The Waltons). In Hang 'Em High he played Preacher. While Danno would then be his most famous role, John MacArthur played a wide array of very different roles, thus showing a good deal of talent. Indeed, if Danno is such a memorable character, it is perhaps because of Mr. MacArthur's talent.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween 2010!

Today is Halloween, so rather than do a full post, I thought I'd leave you with some treats. First up is a guest post at the lovely Kate Gabrielle's blog Silents and Talkies on the great Vincent Price. Second up are some Halloween pinups, which you'll appreciate if you're a heterosexual male or a classic film buff (or both in my case).

First up is the lovely actress Grace Bradley, alone with the ghosts and ghouls on Halloween....

 Next up is Betty Grable, who has chosen some suitable reading material for the holiday!

 Finally is the lovely Lillian Wells. If you're wondering who Lillian Wells was, she was a model in the Fifties who played in some bit parts in movies.

Next up I have two videos from Blue Oyster Cult which fit the holiday perfectly.

First up is "Joan Crawford," in which the legendary actress has risen from the grave....

Next up is "(Don't Fear) the Reaper," the Halloween song in my mind!

I hope you have enjoyed your treats and wish you a very happy Halloween!