Friday, July 22, 2016

Garry Marshall Passes On

Garry Marshall, producer of the classic TV show The Odd Couple and creator of such shows as Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley, died on July 19 2016 at the age of 81. The cause was complications from pneumonia following a stroke.

Garry Marshall was born on November 13 1934 in The Bronx, New York. His father was a director of industrial films while his mother taught tap dancing. His younger sister is Penny Marshall, an actress and director in her own right who starred in Mr. Marshall's show Laverne and Shirley. Garry Marshall attended Northwestern University where he received a degree in journalism.

Mr. Marshall began his career as a gag writer for such comedians as Joey Bishop. His first work on television was on The Jack Paar Tonight Show in 1960. As a television writer he went on to write for such shows as The Danny Thomas Show, The Bill Dana Show, The Joey Bishop Show, The Lucy Show, and The Dick Van Dyke Show. He created and produced the short lived sitcom Hey, Landlord.

While Hey, Landlord is largely forgotten, Mr. Marshall's next sitcom would become a classic. He developed Neil Simon's play The Odd Couple for television. While the sitcom, starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall, was not a smash hit in the ratings, it managed to last five seasons and has went on to a highly successful run as a syndicated rerun. Mr. Marshall followed The Odd Couple with the hit sitcom Happy Days. Created and produced by Mr. Marshall, Happy Days was a hit from which the hit shows Laverne and Shirley and Mork and Mindy were spun off. Like Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley and Mork and Mindy were created and produced by Garry Marshall. Garry Marshall also created and produced the sitcoms Blansky's Beauties and Angie.

Not only did Garry Marshall write, produce, and direct for television, but he also had an acting career. He made his acting debut in a a bit part as a United States recruiting officer in the film The Phoney American in 1961. In the Sixties he appeared on the TV shows The Dick Van Dyke Show; That Girl, Hey, Landlord; Good Morning, World; and The Odd Couple. He appeared in small parts in the films Maryjane (1968) and Psych-Out (1968). In the Seventies he appeared on Laverne and Shirley Happy Days, and Vegas$ as well as a bit part in the film Grand Theft Auto. In the Nineties he had a recurring role of Stan Lansing on the TV show Murphy Brown and guest starred on the sitcom A League of Their Own  and Pinky and the Brain. He appeared in such films as Soapdish (1991), his sister's film A League of Their Own (1992), The Twilight of the Golds (1996), With Friends Like These... (1998), Never Been Kissed (1999), This Space Between Us (1999), and It's a Shame About Ray (2000). In the Naughts he appeared in such films as Orange County (2002), Mother Ghost (2002), The Long Ride Home (2003), and Race to Witch Mountain (2009). He guest starred on Monk, Brothers and Sisters, ER, According to Jim, and The Simpsons. In the Teens he guest starred on such shows as Two and a Half Men, Hot in Cleveland, and the revival of The Odd Couple.

Of course, today, in addition to his work in television, Garry Marshall may be best known as a director of feature films. He broke into directing with an episode of his show Hey, Landlord in 1967. Afterwards he directed episodes of The Odd Couple, Happy Days, and Laverne and Shirley. His first screenplay was the 1968 film How Sweet It Is. It was followed by the 1970 film The Grasshopper. The first feature film he directed was the comedy Young Doctors in Love (1982). He followed Young Doctors in Love with the hit Flamingo Kid in 1984. In the Eighties Mr. Marshall directed the films Nothing in Common (1986), Overboard (1987), Beaches (1988), The Lottery (1989), and Pretty Woman (1990). In the Nineties Mr. Marshall directed Frankie and Johnny (1991), Exit to Eden (1994), Dear God (1996), The Other Sister (1999), and Runaway Bride (1999). In the Naughts he directed The Princess Diaries (2001), Raising Helen (2004), The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004), Georgia Rule (2007), and Valentine's Day (2010). In the Teens he directed New Year's Eve (2011) and Mother's Day (2016).

Even if Garry Marshall had never directed a single film he would have an impact on American pop culture. In fact, it seems possible that his work in television may be his greatest legacy. The Odd Couple, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, and Mork and Mindy all proved to be very successful and all four have remained on television since their debuts. Most television producers are lucky to have one hit show. The fact that Garry Marshall had a highly successful film career as well as his work in television is nothing short of remarkable.

As to why Garry Marshall had success in both television and film, it is perhaps because he not only treated his subjects with humour, but with warmth as well. Mr. Marshall's work was often very funny, particularly with his work on The Odd Couple, but he never lost sight that his characters were human beings with their own thoughts and feelings. What is more, he could find humour in nearly any situation. Indeed, his first film, Young Doctors in Love, was set in a hospital.

Garry Marshall was not only a man who did a good deal in his career, but he was also a man who was universally loved. His death has seen a number of tributes from those who worked with him over the years. Those fans lucky enough to have met him have all said the same thing. He was a warm and funny man who always had a kind word to say. Garry Marshall was remarkable given his multiple successes in both film and television. What is more, he was also a truly nice guy.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Lisa Gaye Passes On

Lisa Gaye, who appeared in the cult film Rock Around the Clock (1956) and made numerous guest appearances on television, died on January 14 2016 at the age of 81.  She is survived by her sister Debra Paget, her brother Frank Griffin, and several grandchildren.

Lisa Gaye was born  Leslie Gaye Griffin in Denver, Colorado on March 6 1935. Her family moved to Los Angeles after her oldest sister,  Marcia Eloise Griffin, signed a contract with Paramount. Marcia Eloise Griffin would act under the name "Teala Loring". Her sister Debralee Griffin would later sign with 20th Century Fox and became famous as Debra Paget. Her older brother, Frank Griffin, would act under the name Ruell Shayne before going onto become a makeup artist.

It was because of a recommendation from her older sister Debra that Leslie Griffin was given a screen test by Universal-International. The studio signed her and gave her the stage name "Lisa Gaye". Her first appearance on film was in an uncredited role as a bobbysoxer in The Glenn Miller Story in 1954. Her first major role came later that year, in Drums Across the River (1954). In the Fifties she appeared in the films Rock Around the Clock (1956), Shake, Rattle & Rock! (1956), Ten Thousand Bedrooms (1957), and Sweethearts (1957).

While Miss Gaye's film career never quite took off, she had a very healthy career in television. She played the recurring role of Collette DuBois on The Bob Cummings Show and was a regular on the second season of How to Marry a Millionaire. She guest starred on numerous shows in the Fifties, including Passport to Danger, The Great Gildersleeve, The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, Science Fiction Theatre, Zorro, Mike Hammer, Have Gun--Will Travel, Black Saddle, Sea Hunt, Perry Mason, Death Valley Days, Have Gun--Will Travel, Wanted Dead or Alive, Cheyenne, Rawhide, and many others.

In the Sixties Lisa Gaye guest starred on such shows as Wagon Train, Bat Masterson, Bachelor Father, Laramie, Maverick, Hawaiian Eye, 77 Sunset Strip, Burke's Law, My Living Doll, Perry Mason, Get Smart, The Wild Wild West, Death Valley Days, I Dream of Jeannie, The Flying Nun, and Mod Squad. She appeared in the films Night of Evil (1962), Face of Terror (1962), Castle of Evil (1966), and The Violent Ones (1967).  In 1970 Lisa Gaye retired to raise her family.

Like her sisters Teala Loring and Debra Paget, Lisa Gaye was a very beautiful woman. That alone would explain much of her success as a guest star on numerous TV shows. That having been said, she was also fairly talented and capable of playing a number of different roles. Indeed, she was cast in a number of different ethnic roles over the years: Native Americans on Have Gun--Will Travel, Death Valley Days, and many other Westerns; a gypsy on Death Valley Days; Latinas on Zorro and various Westerns; a foreign princes on Hawaiian Eye; and so on. It wasn't simply a case that Miss Gaye's looks allowed her to be somewhat convincing in many roles, but she was able to do a wide variety of accents somewhat well. What is more, she could play a wide variety of different sorts of roles as well. She was a murderer on Perry Mason, a gambler on Mr. Lucky; and a prisoner on Wanted Dead or Alive. While Lisa Gaye was very pretty and gifted with both a rather adaptable look and a rather adaptable voice, she was also quite versatile.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

My Review of Margaret Lockwood--Queen of the Silver Screen by Lyndsy Spence

Margaret Lockwood--Queen of the Silver Screen and author
Lyndsy Spence
In the mid to late Forties in the United Kingdom there was no bigger star than Margaret Lockwood. She ranked in the Motion Picture Herald's polls of the top ten most popular British stars seven years in a row, and often she was the top ranked actress in the polls. She won three Daily Mail National Film Awards (one for Most Outstanding British actress during the war years in 1946, one for Best Film Actress of the year in 1947, and one for Best Film Actress of the year for Jassy in 1948).  Her film The Wicked Lady (1945) remains one of the highest grossing British films in the United Kingdom of all time. To this day she maintains a following across the English speaking world, not only in Britain, but in Canada, the United States, and elsewhere.

Amazingly enough given her popularity, there have been very few books written about her life. Two autobiographies were published while Miss Lockwood's career was still ongoing: My Life and Films in 1948 and Lucky Star: The Autobiography of Margaret Lockwood in 1955. Once a Wicked Lady: A Biography of Margaret Lockwood by Hilton Tims was first published in 1989, a full 27 years ago. Fortunately for Margaret Lockwood fans a new biography has just been published in time for the centennial anniversary of Margaret Lockwood's birth. Margaret Lockwood--Queen of the Silver Screen was published July 11 of this year.

In Margaret Lockwood-Queen of the Silver Screen author Lyndsy Spence provides readers with a wealth of detail. Miss Spence covers Margaret Lockwood's life in much more depth than it ever has been before. We learn never before revealed details of Miss Lockwood's genealogy, as well as much more about her parents. We also learn much more about the various important relationships in her life, including her marriage to husband Rupert Leon (a British Army Intelligence officer who wrote the book Memoirs of an Intelligence Officer). Miss Spence discusses Margaret Lockwood's films, plays, and TV appearances in detail, including the censorship battles many of Miss Lockwood's movies (The Wicked Lady in particular) faced in the United States. There are also many photos, including several that have been rarely seen before.

Lyndsy Spence is clearly a fan of Margaret Lockwood, but she writes about Miss Lockwood's life and career objectively, discussing both the good and the bad. Lyndsy Spence's prose is also very readable. Margaret Lockwood--Queen of the Silver Screen is written in a concise style that still remains lively and enjoyable to read. That having been said, those of you who are looking for a bit of scandal will be disappointed. Despite her screen image, Margaret Lockwood was very much a down to earth lady who lived a down to earth life.

Margaret Lockwood's fans will be very pleased with Margaret Lockwood--Queen of the Silver Screen. It is a loving look at one of the greatest film stars of Britain in the 20th Century. It is not only well written and informative, but highly entertaining as well. It is a fine gift for the 100th anniversary of Margaret Lockwood's birth (September 15), and easily the best book on the star ever written.

(Margaret Lockwood--Queen of the Silver Screen can be purchased at Fantom Films, Amazon, and other fine book selling establishments)