Saturday, January 10, 2015

Godspeed Lance Percival

Comedian and actor Lance Percival died at the age of 81 on 6 January 2015. On television he was one of the cast of That Was The Week That Was and the star of his own shows, as well as the voices of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr on the animated series The Beatles. On film he was the voice of   Old Fred in the animated classic Yellow Submarine and appeared in such films as Darling Lili (1970) and  There's a Girl in My Soup (1970), as well as various entries in the "Carry On..." series.

Lance Percival was born on 26 July 1933 in Sevenoaks, Kent. He attended Sherborne School in Kent where he developed an interest in music and learned to play guitar. He fulfilled his national service in the Seaforth Highlanders where he achieved the rank of lieutenant. He moved to Canada for a time where he wrote jingles for radio commercials as an advertising copywriter. He also formed a calypso group using the name "Lord Lance," and toured both Canada and the United States. Eventually he performed calypso music in London clubs. It was in 1960 that he made his television debut in an episode of Spectacular. It was in 1961 that he made his film debut in Das Geheimnis der gelben Narzisse.

In the Sixties Lance Percival was frequently seen on television. He was part of the casts of the shows That Was The Week That Was, Impromptu and It's a Living. He was the star of two shows of his own, Lance at Large and The Lance Percival Show. On American television he was the voice of both Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr on the Saturday morning cartoon The Beatles. He also appeared on such shows as Citizen James, Thank Your Lucky Stars, Billy Cotton Band Show, Dee Time, International Cabaret, Frost on Sunday, and Call My Bluff.

He also appeared frequently in films throughout the Sixties. He was the voice of Old Fred in the animated British classic Yellow Submarine. He was also the star of the short film "It's All Over Town" (1963). For the most part, however, Mr. Percival appeared in supporting roles in comedies throughout the Sixties, including such films as Raising the Wind (1961), On the Fiddle (1961), What a Whopper (1961), Postman's Knock (1962), Twice Round the Daffodils (1962), Carry on Cruising (1962), Hide and Seek (1964), The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964), Joey Boy (1965), You Must Be Joking! (1965), The Big Job (1965), Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter (1968), Too Late the Hero (1970), Concerto per pistola solista (1970), and There's a Girl in My Soup (1970). 

Mr. Percival also had a recording career in the Sixties. With legendary producer George Martin he recorded the calypso style comedy song "Shame and Scandal in the Family". It peaked at no. 37 on the British singles chart in 1965. He also recorded several other novelty songs, such as "There's Another One Behind",  "If I Had Wings", "The Beetroot Song" ("If You Like Beetroot I'll Be True To You"), "I'm Beautiful", and "The Maharajah of Brum".

In the Seventies Lance Percival appeared in Frankie Howerd's films Up the Chastity Belt (1971), Up Pompeii (1971--based on the sitcom of the same name),  and Up the Front (1972). He also appeared in the films The Magnificent Six and ½: Up the Creek (1971), Our Miss Fred (1972), Confessions from a Holiday Camp (1977), Rosie Dixon - Night Nurse (1978), and Quincy's Quest (1979). He provided the voice of Terence the Sea Horse in The Water Babies (1978). On television he was a regular on Chico the Rainmaker and Up the Workers. He appeared on such shows as The Adventurer, Jason King, Who Do You Do, Whodunit, The Kenneth Williams Show, Star Turn, Those Wonderful TV Times, Target, Celebrity Squares, It's Knockout and Shoestring. Mr. Percival also wrote several episodes of Whodunit.

In the Eighties Lance Percival was a regular on the TV shows Bluebirds and Countdown. He also appeared on the shows 3-2-1, Andy Robson, Blankety Blank, and Happy Families. He appeared in the TV movie Jekyll & Hyde in 1990. He appeared regularly on various BBC Radio light entertainment programmes throughout the decade.

Mr. Percival wrote two books of verse, Well-Versed Cats and Well-Versed Dogs, both of which were illustrated by the Honourable Lalla Ward (best known for playing Romana II on Doctor Who). He also became popular as an after dinner speaker and a writer of humorous speeches for business executives.

Of the various talents to emerge in the United Kingdom in the Sixties, there can be no doubt that Lance Percival was one of the funniest. He had a gift for improvisation. He was known to be able to compose humorous calypso talents on the spot from subjects suggested by his audiences. As demonstrated by his various novelty songs he also had a gift for wordplay and a slightly off-kilter sense of humour. Mr. Percival had a real talent for voice work as well. The characters he played in films and on television shows often had dramatically different voices. Indeed, he was able to provide the voices of both Paul McCartney and Ringo Star on The Beatles cartoon with viewers none the wiser. It was because of his wide array of talents, from singing to comedy to voice work, that Lance Percival was so much in demand in films and on TV shows. Quite simply, Mr. Percival was so prolific because he was so talented.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Late Great Rod Taylor

Legendary leading man Rod Taylor died 7 January 2015 at the age of 84. The cause was a heart attack. He would have turned 85 on 11 January 2015.

Rod Taylor was born on 11 January 1930 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. His father was William Taylor, a draughtsman and a steel-construction contractor. His mother Martha Taylor (née Stewart) was the author of several children's books. Rod Taylor grew up in Lidcombe, a suburb west of Sydney. Young Mr. Taylor initially planned to become an artist and studied at the East Sydney Technical and Fine Arts College. He became interested in acting after seeing Lord Laurence Olivier in Richard III on an Old Vic tour of Australia. Rod Taylor then studied acting at Sydney's Independent Theatre School.

Rod Taylor made his professional debut in a local production of George Bernard Shaw's Misalliance in 1947. Early in his career he appeared on several different Australian radio shows, including the action/adventure serial Tarzan in 1954. In 1951 he made his film debut in the Australian short "Inland with Sturt". His feature film debut was in the Australian movie King of the Coral Sea in 1953. He appeared in the 1954 film Long John Silver.  It was Mr. Taylor's winning of the 1954 Rola Show Australian Radio Actor of the Year Award which led to his move to Hollywood. Part of the prize was a trip to London. Flying from Sydney to London, Rod Taylor stopped in Los Angeles and never left.

Once in Hollywood Rod Taylor made appearances on such television shows as Studio 57, Lux Video Theatre, and Cheyenne. He had a small, uncredited role in The Virgin Queen (1955). Over the next few years he would appear in small roles in such films as Hell on Frisco Bay (1955), Top Gun (1955), The Catered Affair (1956), and Raintree County (1957). He also appeared on such TV shows as Schlitz Playhouse, Studio One, and Playhouse 90. In 1958 he had a substantial role in Step Down to Terror (1958). It would be followed by a substantial role in Ask Any Girl (1959) and guest appearances on such shows as The Twilight Zone, Zane Grey Theatre, Alcoa Theatre, Goodyear Theatre, General Electric Theatre, and Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse. It was the year 1960 that brought Rod Taylor his first starring role, in the George Pal classic The Time Machine. It was followed that same year by a starring role in La regina delle Amazzoni (known in English as Colossus and the Amazon Queen).

The Sixties would see Rod Taylor play the male lead role in such films as The Birds (1963), Sunday in New York (1963), Young Cassidy (1965), The Liquidator (1965), Do Not Disturb (1965), The Glass Bottom Boat (1966), Hotel (1966), The Mercenaries (1968), Nobody Runs Forever (1968), The Hell with Heroes (1968), Darker Than Amber (1970), and The Man Who Had Power Over Women (1970). He also appeared in such films as The V.I.P.s (1963), A Gathering of Eagles (1963), Fate Is the Hunter (1964), and 36 Hours (1964).  He provided the voice of Pongo in Disney's 101 Dalmations (1961). On television he starred on the short lived series Hong Kong and guest starred on the shows Bus Stop, The DuPont Show of the Week, and ITV Television Playhouse.

In the Seventies Rod Taylor played the lead roles in the TV shows Bearcats! and The Oregon Trail. He guest starred on Tales of the Unexpected. He appeared in such films as The Train Robbers (1973), Trader Horn (1973), Blondy (1976), The Picture Show Man (1977), and The Treasure Seekers (1979). In the Eighties Mr. Taylor starred in the short lived shows Masquerade and Outlaws. He had a regular role on Falcon Crest. He appeared in such TV movies as Cry of the Innocent and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. He appeared in the films A Time to Die (1982), On the Run (1983), Marbella, un golpe de cinco estrellas (1985), and Mask of Murder (1988).

From the Nineties to the Naughts Rod Taylor guest starred on the shows Murder, She Wrote and Walker, Texas Ranger. He appeared in the TV movies Palomino and Grass Roots. He appeared in the feature films The Point of Betrayal (1995), Open Season (1995), Welcome to Woop Woop (1997), and Welcome to Woop Woop (1997). His last appearance was as Winston Churchill in Quentin Tarentino's Inglourious Basterds in 2009.

When it came to acting Rod Taylor was a true professional. No matter how small his part in a film might be or how low budget a film might be, he always gave a good performance. It did not matter if he was acting in a Hitchcock classic such as The Birds or a low budget knockoff like Kaw, Mr. Taylor always gave everything he had when playing a role. What is more, Rod Taylor appeared in a wide variety of films in different genres. He appeared in science fiction movies (The Time Machine), Sixties sex comedies (Do Not Disturb and The Glass Bottom Boat), spy movies (The Liquidator), mystery movies (Darker Than Amber), Westerns (Chuka), and so on.

Rod Taylor also played a wide variety of roles. He played John D. MacDonald's "salvage consultant" Travis McGee as well as John Gardner's superspy Boysie Oakes. His two roles opposite Doris Day were both very different, playing an employee of a wool textile company in Do Not Disturb and a NASA research scientist in The Glass Bottom Boat. While Rod Taylor rarely played villains, he was perfectly capable of doing so, as demonstrated by his role in The Deadly Trackers as homicidal bank robber Frank Brand. In the Australian comedy Welcome to Woop Woop Rod Taylor played a role quite unlike most of the roles he had played as a leading man; he plays Daddy-O, the offbeat and slightly bawdy patriarch of an Australian town in the middle of nowhere. Although Rod Taylor definitely fit the rugged, handsome, leading man mould, he played many roles that departed dramatically from that mould. If Rod Taylor was so prolific in his career, it was perhaps because he was equally at home in both dramas and comedies, and capable of playing nearly any genre of film. What is more, he almost never gave a bad performance.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Announcing the Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon

I have decided to hold another blogathon. Unlike the British Invaders Blogathon I held last August, which was primarily dedicated to classic film, this one will be dedicated to classic television. I have given this blogathon the rather simple name of the "Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon". The name sums it up. Bloggers will get to write about their favourite episodes of their favourite classic television shows. I am holding it from 27 March to 29 March 2015.

Here are the ground rules:

1. Posts in the blogathon must be about an episode from a scripted drama. Episodes of reality shows, talk shows, game shows, and variety shows are ineligible. That having been said, posts can be on episodes from any genre of scripted dramas: animated shows, anthology shows, detective shows, police procedurals, science fiction shows, situation comedies, and so on. I also have to say that episodes can be from scripted dramas that aired any time of day. They don't have to be from prime time alone. If one wanted to write about his or her favourite episode from his or her favourite Saturday morning cartoon, one could.

2. Because this blogathon is dedicated to classic television and I think a classic is something that must have stood the test of time, episodes must be from shows that are at least 25 years old. That means one cannot write posts on episodes from shows that debuted after 1990 (nothing from Friends, let alone The Big Bang Theory). Now here I want to point out that the episode itself does not have to be 25 years old, only the show on which it aired. Cheers debuted in 1982 and ran until 1993, so that its final seasons aired after 1990. Because Cheers is well over 25 years old, however, one could still write about an episode that aired in the 1992-1993 season.

3. Given my love of British television, it should come as no surprise that posts do not have to be about episodes from American shows alone. Posts can be about episodes from any show from any country as long as the show is a scripted drama and debuted over 25 years ago. If you want to write about your favourite episode of The Saint, The Little Hobo, Jaianto Robo, or Escrava Isaura, you can.

4.  I am asking that there please be no duplicates. That having been said, if someone has already chosen to cover "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" from The Twilight Zone, someone else could still write about another Twilight Zone episode.

5. I am not going to schedule days for individual posts. All I ask is that the posts be made on or between 27 March, 28 March, or 29 March 2015.

6. On 27 March I will set up the page for the blogathon. I ask that you link your posts to that page. If you want you can use one of the graphics below or make your own!

If you want to participate in the Favourite Television Show Episode Blogathon, you can get a hold of me either on Twitter at mercurie80 or at my email:  mercurie80 at, or you can simply comment below.

Below I is a roster of participants and the topics they are covering. Come 27 March I will make a post that will include all of the posts in the blogathon.

Classic Movie Hub: Green Acres

The Movie Rat: Alfred Hitchcock Presents ""Incident in a Small Jail"

Barry Bradford--Speaking for a Change: Quantum Leap "The Leap Home"

A Shroud of Thoughts: The Avengers "A Touch of Brimstone"

The HORN Section: F Troop "Our Brave in F Troop"

The Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Dick Van Dyke Show "Scratch My Car and Die" 

Sister Celluloid: The Twilight Zone "Ring-A-Ding Girl"

How Sweet It Was: Star Trek "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"

A Mythical Monkey: Lost in Space "No Place to Hide" (Pilot)

Prowler Needs a Jump :The Outer Limits "The Invisible Enemy"

TV Annotations: Murder, She Wrote "The Days Dwindle Down" 

The Hitless Wonder Movie Blog: The Wild Wild West "The Night the Wizard Shook the Earth"

Crítica Retrô: Get Smart "Mr. Big"

Margaret Perry: Are You Being Served "The Hold Up"

Caftan Woman: Ironside "One Hour to Kill"

In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood: The Barbara Stanwyck Show "The Miraculous Journey Of Tadpole Chan"

TV Yesteryear: Lost in Space "All That Glitters"

Moon in Gemini: Fawlty Towers "Gourmet Night"

Girls Do Film: Twin Peaks “Zen, Or The Skill To Catch A Killer”

Wolffian Classics Movies Digest: Bewitched, " A Is for Aardvark"

Speakeasy: Have Gun--Will Travel "The Long Night"

Movie Movie Blog Blog: Monty Python's Flying Circus "The Cycling Tour"

The Second Sentence: The Virginian "Siege"

Kevman's Blog: The Partridge Family "But the Memory Lingers On"

Hamlette's Soliloquy: Combat! "The Walking Wounded"

Musing of an Introvert: I Love Lucy "Vacation from Marriage"

Solidmoonlight: The Dick Van Dyke Show "It May Look Like a Walnut"

The Wonderful World of Cinema: The Donna Reed Show "The Caravan"

Pop Culture Reverie. : Twin Peaks "Pilot"

Coffee, Classics and Craziness: Combat "Masquerade"

The Stop Button: The Twilight Zone "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Actor Bernard Kay R.I.P.

Bernard Kay, who appeared in TV shows from The Avengers to Doctor Who and films from Witchfinder General (1968) to The Case of Marcel Duchamp (1984), died on 25 December 2014 at the age of 86.

Bernard Kay was born on 23 February 1928 in Bolton, Lancashire. His mother committed suicide when he was only an infant. His father, who was a reporter for the Yorkshire Post who spent his last few years in a mental hospital. He died when Bernard Kay was only twelve. Young Mr. Kay was then largely raised by his grandparents. He attended Chetham's Hospital School in Manchester. After leaving school he worked as a reporter for the Bolton Evening News and also contributed to the Manchester Guardian. Mr. Kay left his post as a reporter to fulfil his national service in the British Army.

After leaving the military he attended the Old Vic theatre school in London. In 1952 he acted with the Nottingham Rep. In 1953 and 1954 he was part of the Royal Shakespeare Company. It was in 1958 that he made his television debut in an episode of ITV Television Playhouse. He made his film debut in Carry On Sergeant in 1958. In the late Fifties he appeared in the shows The Infamous John Friend, World Theatre, Saturday Playhouse, The Terrible Choice, and The Roving Reasons.

In the Sixties Mr. Kay appeared as Horatio in a television series adaptation of Hamlet, as well as the President of the Tribunal in an adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities and Aslan in a television adaptation of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. In 1964 he made his first of five different appearances on Doctor Who. During the Sixties he would appear on the show again in 1965, and 1967.  He also appeared on such shows as Maigret, Dixon of Dock Green, The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre, The Avengers, Out of the Unknown, No Hiding Place, The Baron, Adam Adamant Lives!, The Champions, and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). He appeared in such films as Backfire (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), They Came from Beyond Space (1967), The Shuttered Room (1967), Torture Garden (1967), Interlude (1968), Witchfinder General (1968), Darling Lili (1970), and Trog (1970).

In the Seventies Bernard Kay had regular roles on South Riding, Accident, and Dick Barton: Special Agent. He made his last appearance on Doctor Who and also appeared in a television series adaptation of The Prince and the Pauper. He guest starred on such shows as Z Cars, Colditz, The Protectors, Emmerdale, The Main Chance, Space 1999, The Professionals, and Crown Court. He appeared in the films The Hunting Party (1971), Running Scared (1972), Lady Caroline Lamb (1972), The Hiding Place (1975), Spy Story (1976), Sweeney! (1977), Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977), and The Great Riviera Bank Robbery (1979).

In the Eighties Mr. Kay was a regular on the show Scarf Jack. He appeared on such shows as Dick Turpin, Tales of the Unexpected, The Bill, The Fourth Floor, Remington Steele, A Very British Coup, Hannay, and London's Burning. He appeared in the films The Case of Marcel Duchamp (1984) and The Most Dangerous Man in the World (1988). In the Nineties he was a regular on the show Century Falls. He guest starred on the shows Coronation Street, Minder, PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal, Jonathan Creek, and The New Adventures of Robin Hood. He appeared in the film Steal This Movie (2000).

In the Naughts Bernard Kay appeared on the shows Casualty, Foyle's War, and Doctors. He appeared in the films Puritan (2005), The Last Hangman (2005), Joy Division (2006), and Psychosis (2010).

If Bernard Kay was seen so frequently on television and in films throughout his career it was perhaps because he could play nearly any role. He was very adaptable as an actor. He could play anything from villains to business executives. Prime examples of how varied the roles he played can be found in two of his best known appearances. He played Saladin in the Doctor Who serial "The Crusade" and Kuril the Bolshevik in the film Dr. Zhivago. Over the years he played everything from police detectives to physicians to judges to ministers. And he did all of them well.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Old Blogs

A Shroud of Thoughts circa August 2004
Just this past June 4th A Shroud of Thoughts celebrated its tenth anniversary. It will only be a few posts after this one that I reach my 2500th post. To say that I have been at blogging for a while would be a bit of an understatement. That having been said, I am not the only person with an extremely long running blog. I know several other people who have long running blogs as well.

In fact, I know two people who have blogs that are older than A Shroud of Thoughts. Immortal Ephemera was started by Cliff Aliperti as the website Things and Stuff way back in 2002. The blog dates all the way back to April 2003. Immortal Ephemera is devoted to classic films and movie collectibles and is still going strong today.  As might be expected, Cliff numbers among the blogger friends I have had the longest.

Inner Toob is a just a tad older than A Shroud of Thoughts. It was started by Toby O'Brien on 24 April 2004. Besides being a rather old blog Inner Toob is also rather unique. It is devoted to examining television as an alternate reality. Toby is rather prolific and makes several posts a week. He doesn't really show any signs of slowing down! Like Cliff, Toby numbers among the blogger friends I have had the longest.

The Stop Button is just a little younger than A Shroud of Thoughts. It will be celebrating its 10th anniversary next month. Andrew Wickliffe published its first post on 20 February 2005. The Stop Button is devoted to film, covering everything from the Silent Era to more recent films.

Laura's Miscellaneous Musings will also be celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2015. Laura's Miscellaneous Musings is a lot like A Shroud of Thoughts in that Laura writes about classic film, classic television, and a number of other topics (I particularly enjoy her Disney related posts). Laura is also very prolific. In fact, I think she posts even more than I do. Laura started her blog in July 2005.

For those cynics out there who might think that maintaining a blog for a decade is not a major achievement, I have to point out that most blogs do not last nearly that long. Way back in the Naughts, Perseus Development Corporation conducted a study on the phenomenon of blogging. They found that 66% of all blogs had not been updated in over two months and many had apparently been abandoned. About a quarter of them boasted only one post, made on the day the blog was created. I rather suspect that things have changed very little since the Naughts, which means that Immortal Ephemera, Inner Toob, The Stop Button, and  Laura's Miscellaneous Musings are positively ancient in blog terms!

The past few years it has been fashionable for many to claim blogs have declined in importance. I do not believe this for a moment. I say this for two reasons. The first is that I know of five blogs that have either reached or are close to reaching a decade of existence (the blogs I named above, as well as this one). If blogs had ceased to matter in the past few years I wouldn't think that there would be that many old blogs around. The second is that, while I cannot speak for my fellow bloggers, I can say A Shroud of Thoughts gets more hits than it ever had. If blogs had ceased to be relevant in the past few years, I would think that I would be getting fewer hits than I once did.

Now I will admit that A Shroud of Thoughts, as well as many blogs I follow, do seem to get fewer comments than they once did, but I do not think that can be taken as a sign that blogs are no longer relevant. Most bloggers I know post links to their blog posts on the various social media sites where discussion about the blog posts then ensues. Rather than blogs no longer being significant, then, I think it is just a case of discussion about specific blog posts has moved from the comment sections of blogs to social media sites. In fact, if I tallied up comments on my blog posts from Google+ and Twitter, I might actually be getting more comments on my posts than in the old days when the only way to comment on a blog post was its comments section!

Regardless, while I may be biased, I think keeping a blog going for over ten years is a remarkable achievement, and my hat is off to my fellow bloggers who have done so. I encourage you to check out their blogs! If you love classic films, classic television, and pop culture in general, you won't regret it.