Friday, November 11, 2011

Actress Margaret Field R.I.P.

Actress Margaret Field passed on 6 November 2011 at the age of 89. The cause was cancer. She was the mother of actress Sally Field.

Margaret Field was born on Houston on 10 May 1922. During World War Ii she moved to Pasadena, California. There she was discovered by talent scout Milton Lewis, and she was signed to a contract with Paramount  Pictures. Margaret Field made her screen debut in 1945 in a bit part in The Little Witch. Over the next several years she appeared in such films as Double Rhythm (1946), The Perils of Pauline (1947), The Paleface (1948), My Friend Irma (1949), and  Samson and Delilah (1949). In 1949 she made her debut on television in a guest appearance on The Lone Ranger.

In the Fifties Miss Field appeared in such films as The Man From Planet X (1951) and Captive Women (1952). Her career largely shifted to television, and she guest starred ons such shows as Racket Squad, Fireside Theatre, The Range Rider, Death Valley Days, The Lone Wolf, Climax, King's Row, Make Room for Daddy, The Loretta Young Show, Wagon Train, M Squad, Westinghouse Desliu Playhouse, The Rebel, The Westerner, The Untouchables, and Perry Mason.

In the Sixties she appeared on such shows as Lawman, The Dick Powell Theatre, The Twilight Zone, Bonanza, Adam-12, and My Three Sons. In the early Seventies she retied from acting to concentrate on raising her family.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Television Writer and Director Hal Kanter Passes On

Television producer, director, and writer Hal Kanter passed on 6 November 2011 at the age of 92. Mr. Kanter had worked such shows as The George Gobel Show and the ground breaking sitcom Julia.

Hal Kanter was born in Savannah, Georgia on 18 December 1918. His father, Albert Kanter, would become famous as the creator of the long running comic book series Classics Illustrated. Mr. Kanter was a writer from a very young age. He was only 11 when he sold his first article to a newspaper. He was only 16 when he worked as a full-fledged newspaper writer. It was in the late Thirties that Mr. Kanter broke into radio when one of Eddie Cantor's writers hired him to write jokes for only $10 a week.  He would go onto write for Bob Hope on The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope and the anthology show  Grand Central Station. During his service in World War II Hal Kanter worked as a writer for Armed Forces Radio. Following the war Mr. Kanter worked on such radio programmes Amos and Andy, Beulah, Philco Radio Time (which starred Bing Crosby), and The Danny Kaye Show.

It was 1949 that Hal Kanter broke into television as head writer on The Ed Wynn Show. He would go on to write and produce The George Gobel Show. In 1964 he created, wrote, and produced the sitcom Valentine's Day. It was in 1968 that Hal Kanter created the series Julia. The sitcom starred Diahan Carroll in the title role. Julia was historic as the first American television show to star an African American woman in a role that was not that of a stereotype. He would go onto create and write for The Jimmy Stewart Show. He also wrote episodes of All in the Family, and Chico and the Man. He also wrote for several Academy Awards ceremonies.

Hal Kanter also worked in film as well. He wrote screenplays for such films as Two Tickets to Broadway (1951), Road to Bali (1952), Casanova's Big Night (1954), Artists and Models (1955), Blue Hawaii (1961), Pocketful of Miracles (1961), Move Over, Darling (1963), and Dear Brigitte (1965). Mr. Kanter also directed a few films, including Loving You (1957), I Married a Woman (1958), and Once Upon a Horse (1958).

As a comedy writer Hal Kanter's gift was his razor sharp wit. He could had a talent for coming up with incredibly funny lines, a talent that served him well not only in the many radio shows and TV shows on which he worked, but as a co-writer on Academy Awards ceremonies as well. It was a talent that was very much on display in many of the films on which he worked, particularly Road to Bali and Move Over, Darling. Of course, he was also very much a pioneer. In creating Julia Mr. Kanter gave American television its first female, African American character who was not only not a domestic or a stereotype, but a professional woman (Julia was a nurse).  Like I Spy before it, Julia opened new doors for African Americans in television. As a very funny man with a sharp wit and a true pioneer in television, Hal Kanter will be remembered.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bil Keane R.I.P.

Cartoonist Bil Keane, best known as the creator of The Family Circus, passed on 8 November 2011 at the age of 89. The cause was congestive heart failure.

Bil Keane was born in 5 October 1922 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He grew up in the Philadelphia suburb Crestville, Pennsylvania. It was while he was at Northeast Catholic High School in Philadelphia that he began drawing, mimicking the style of cartoons in The New Yorker. His first cartoon was published in 1936 in the pages of The Philadelphia Daily News. It was while he was still in high school and publishing an amateur magazine titled The Saturday Evening Toast with friends that he dropped the second "l" from "Bill" so that his name would stand out. As neither he nor his parents could afford art school, he went to work as a messenger for The Philadelphia Bulletin. While there he watched the newspaper's artists and learned all he could from them.

During World War II Bil Keane served in the United States Army, where he worked on Yank and Stars and Stripes. It was while he was stationed in Australia that he met and married his wife Thelma, the inspiration for the mother in The Family Circus. After the war Mr. Keane returned to The Philadelphia Bulletin, this time as an artist. It was there that he created his first comic strip, Silly Philly. In 1954 he created his first nationally syndicated comic strip, Channel Chuckles. It was a single panel strip that drew upon television for its humour. It ran until 1976.

It was on 29 February 1960 that The Family Circus debuted. The Family Circus is a single panel comic strip that was based on Bil Keane's own family. The characters are all fictional versions of Mr. Keane, his wife, and his children. Throughout the years none of the characters have aged, with the exception of the baby, P. J. The Family Circus would prove extremely successful. Many book collections of the strip have been released throughout the years. In the late Seventies and early Eighties three television specials were based on the strip. The strip still appears in 1500 newspapers worldwide, making it possibly the widely syndicated comic strip in the world.

From 1981 to 1983 Mr. Keane collaborated on the comic strip Eggheads with his son Jeff Keane.

Like many The Family Circus forms fond memories for myself since childhood. The comic strip was very rarely what one would call "laugh out loud funny," but it had a gentle, heartfelt humour that served it well. There can be little doubt that parents and even children reading The Family Circus could glimpse parts of their own family in the fictional family of the strip. And I have little doubt that most of us could glimpse truths about our own families from time to time in The Family Circus. This was Bil Keane's gift in life, to draw upon his own experiences as a father and husband to create a comic strip with which most of us could identify. While I cannot say The Family Circus is my favourite comic strip or even close to it, it is a comic strip of which I have always been very fond.