Saturday, July 29, 2017

"Pictues of Matchstick Men" by Status Quo

This week I have felt tired and worn out all week, so tonight I will leave you with one of my favourite songs. "Pictures of Matchstick Men" was the first single for legendary British band Status Quo. It also happened to be their first major hit. The song reached no. 7 on the British singles chart. Status Quo would go onto chart many more times in the United Kingdom, so many times that they hold the record for the most hits on the chart of any band there. Surprisingly enough, "Pictures of Matchstick Men" would be their only hit in the United States, reaching no. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Late Great June Foray

June Foray, the legendary voice artist who provided the voice for such characters as Rocky J. Squirrel in the Rocky and Bullwinkle franchise, both Granny (originally voiced by Bea Benaderet) and Witch Hazel (also originally voiced by Bea Benaderet) and many other characters in Warner Bros. cartoons, the cat Lucifer in the Disney classic Cinderella, and many other cartoon characters, died yesterday at the age of 99.

June Foray was born June Lucille Forer on September 18 1917 in Springfield, Massachusetts. She made her radio debut in Springfield when she was only 12 years old. By the time that she was 15 years old she was regularly doing voice work in radio. Her family moved to Los Angeles two years after Miss Foray graduated from high school. It was not long before she had her own radio show, Lady Make Believe, which she not only hosted, but also wrote as well. June Foray worked extensively in radio. From 1944 to 1952 she provided the voices for Midnight the Cat and Old Grannie on The Buster Brown Program. From 1945 to 1947 she provided various voices for Smile Time. She was also regularly provided voices for The Jimmy Durante Show, CBS Radio Workshop, and The Stan Freberg Show. Her career in radio would continue after the age of Old Time Radio ended. She guest starred on Sears Radio Theatre in 1979 and then Adventures in Odyssey in 2007.

June Foray made her film debut in the Walter Lantz animated short "The Egg Cracker Suite' as the voice of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in 1943. She first worked for Warner Bros. on the short "The Unbearable Bear", providing various voices. She was also the voice of a cigarette girl in Tex Avery's classic MGM short "Red Hot Riding Hood" (1943). In addition to various shorts in the late Forties, Miss Foray also provided the voice of Lucifer the cat in the classic Disney film Cinderella (1950).

It was in the late Fifties that June Foray first provided the voice for Rocket J. Squirrel, better known simply as "Rocky". In 1959 the Jay Ward Productions TV show Rocky and His Friends debuted on ABC. It ran on ABC until 1961, whereupon it moved to NBC and was retitled The Bullwinkle Show. On NBC it ran for a single season in primetime before being moved elsewhere on the schedule. NBC cancelled the show in 1964, but it ran in reruns on various networks until 1973. June Foray would voice Rocky in various revivals of Rocky and Bullwinkle, as well as TV commercials and the 2000 feature The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. In addition to Rocky, June Foray also voiced Rocky and Bullwinkle's archenemy Natasha Fatale on the show, as well as Nell Fenwick in the Dudley Do-Right segments.

In addition to her work on Rocky and Bullwinkle, June Foray did other work on television in the Fifties. She provided voices for the animated series as The Woody Woodpecker Show, The Huckleberry Hound Show, and Mister Magoo. She also provided incidental voices for live action shows, including that of a dog on I Love Lucy, an operator on Father Knows Best, an operator on The Jack Benny Program, and the voice of a dummy on Johnny Staccato, as well a voice for Rawhide.  Miss Foray also made a rare appearance in front of the camera on television in the Fifties, appearing on The Ray Milland Show: Meet Mr. McNulty. As might expected, June Foray continued to provide voices for theatrical animated shorts. She first voiced Granny in the Bugs Bunny short "This is a Life" (1955). She first voiced Waner Bros.' Witch Hazel in the Bugs Bunny short "Broom-Stick Bunny" (1956).  In addition to her work with Warner Bros., she also provided voices for shorts produced by MGM, Walt Disney Productions, Walter Lantz, and  Hanna-Barbera Productions. Miss Foray also provided voices for animated features, including Disney's Peter Pan (1953) and the English dub of The Snow Queen (1955). She made a rare live action appearance in the feature film Sabaka (1954). She also provided incidental voices for live-action feature films, including Susan Slept Here (1954) and It's Always Fair Weather (1955).

In the Sixties June Foray continued to provide the voice of Rocky J. Squirrel. She also provided voices for other animated TV shows, including The Alvin Show, Calvin and the Colonel, George of the Jungle, Off to See the Wizard, Here Comes the Grump, and The Pink Panther Show. She provided voices for the Beetle Bailey and Krazy Kat television animated shorts. She also provided incidental voices for live action TV shows, the most famous perhaps being Talky Tina in the Twilight Zone episode "Living Doll". She also provided voices for such live action shows as The Red Skelton Show, Gilligan's Island, 12 O' Clock High, Bewitched, It's About Time, Lost in Space, The Brady Bunch, and Get Smart. She made a rare live action appearance on Green Acres. She provided the voice of Cindy Lou Who in the classic TV special How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, the Rankin/Bass special Mouse on the Mayflower, Frosty the Snowman, and The Pogo Special Birthday Special. She continued to provide voices for theatrical animated shorts, as well as voices for the animated feature The Phantom Tollbooth (1970).

In the Seventies June Foray provided voices for the children's show The Curiosity Shop and the animated shows These Are the Days, The Pink Panther Laugh and a Half Hour and a Half Show, and Heathcliff. She provided voices for several TV specials, including The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn't, The Cricket in Times Square, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, and Mowgli's Brothers. She continued to provide voices for animated shorts.

 In the Eighties June Foray regularly provided voices for various Saturday morning cartoons. She was the voice of Aunt May on Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, the voice of Jokey Smurf on The Smurfs, Grandma on Teen Wolf, Grandma Cavemom on The Flintstone Kids, and both Ma Beagle and Magica De Spell on DuckTales. She provided additional voices on such cartoons as The Incredible Hulk, Saturday Supercade, and Alvin & the Chipmunks. Miss Foray was a guest voice on The Simpsons. She also provided voices for animated television specials, including Faeries, Happily Ever After, and others. June Foray made a live action appearance as herself on the sitcom The Duck Factory. She continued to work in movie shorts, and provided voices for the feature film Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988).

In the Nineties Miss Foray again worked on several animated television cartoons. She was the voice of Grammi Gummi on The Adventures of the Gummi Bears, Granny on Tiny Toon Adventures, Martha Wilson on The All-New Dennis the Menace, and Granny on The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries. She provided additional voices for yet other television cartoons. She also provided voices on episodes of the live action sitcoms Married...With Children and Weird Science. She provided voices for the feature films Thumbelina (1994), Space Jam (1996), Mulan (1998), and The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (2000). She also continued to provide voices for animated shorts.

In the Naughts June Foray provided the voice of Granny on the animated series Baby Looney Tunes. She made a voice cameo as Rocky on Family Guy. She was also a guest voice on such animated shows as The Powerpuff Girls, Duck Dodgers, and The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack. She was the voice of Granny in Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003), Grandmother Fa in Mulan II (2004), and Mama Sasquatch in The Legend of Sasquatch (2006). She continued to provide voices for animated shorts.

In the Teens Miss Foray was the voice of Granny on The Looney Tunes Show. She was a guest voice on The Garfield Show. She continued to do voices for animated shorts. Fittingly, her last credit was as Rocky in the animated short "Rocky and Bullwinkle" (2014).

June Foray also provided voices for video games related to Warner Bros. cartoons and DuckTales, as well as the video game Lego Island. In the 1940s she recorded children's records for Capitol Records and in the Fifties she recorded comedy records with fellow voice artist Stan Freberg.  Miss Foray was also the original voice of Mattel's highly popular talking doll Chatty Cathy in the Sixties.

In additional to being the industry's foremost female voice artist, June Foray was one of animation's biggest champions. She was an early member of ASIFA-Hollywood (a branch of Association Internationale du Film d'Animation or the International Animated Film Association). As part of ASIFA-Hollywood, Miss Foray founded the Annie Awards, annual American awards for accomplishments in animation. She was also instrumental in the creation of an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

Legendary animator Chuck Jones once said, , "June Foray is not the female Mel Blanc, Mel Blanc was the male June Foray." Mr. Jones's quote shows just how good Miss Foray was as a voice artist. If she was not the greatest voice artist of all time, then she certainly numbered among them. Over the years she certainly voiced a wide variety of voices. She could do "little girl" voices, as she did with Talky Tina in the Twilight Zone episode "Living Doll" and Cindy Lou Who in How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. She could also do old lady voices, the most famous of which was Granny in Warner Bros.' "Sylvester and Tweety" shorts. Miss Foray could even do the voices of young males. In fact, what may be her most famous character was male, Rocket J. Squirrel in the "Rocky and Bullwinkle" franchise. Over the years June Foray provided voices for an amazing array of characters, from Warner Bros.' Witch Hazel to Jokey Smurf.

Of course, June Foray wasn't simply a great voice artist. She was also one of animation's foremost champions. As noted above, she was one of ASIFA-Hollywood's earliest members and it was she who came up with the idea for the Annie Awards. As might be expected, June Foray had a legion of fans, some of them quite famous. When movie critic Leonard Maltin attended the 2007 Oscar nominees luncheon, he asked legendary director Martin Scorsese whom he was most excited to meet. Mr. Scorsese's response was "June Foray." Those fans who were fortunate enough to meet June Foray always came away with fond memories of her. Fans who met her always said the same things about her. She was a woman of class, a true lady, and one of the nicest people one could ever meet. Miss Foray leaves behind a legacy in animation that might never be matched. What is more, she was a truly great lady.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Deborah Watling R.I.P.

Deborah Watling, an actress perhaps best known for playing The Doctor's companion Victoria Waterfield on Doctor Who, died on July 21 2017 at the age of 69. The cause was lung cancer.

Deborah Watling was born on January 2 1948 in London. Her parents were actors Jack Wilding and Patricia Hicks. Her half-sister Dilys, her brother Giles, and her sister Nicky also went into acting. Deborah Watling grew up in Epping, Essex until the family moved to Alderton Hall in Loughton, Essex. She attended various schools and considered becoming a dentist until she found out how many exams would be required to do so. She then enrolled at the Italia Conti stage school.

Miss Watling made her television debut in 1958 as a regular on the TV show The Invisible Man. She played Sally Wilson, the niece of Peter Brady (the invisible man of the title). She was also a regular on the comedy A Life of Bliss. She guest starred on the TV shows William Tell and The Wednesday Play.

It was in 1967 that she began playing Victoria Waterfield, one of the companions of the Second Doctor (played by Patrick Troughton) on Doctor Who. Deborah Watling appeared in 40 episodes of the series, and left the show in 1968. Sadly, because of BBC's policy wiping programmes at the time,  "The Tomb of the Cybermen" and "The Enemy of the World" are the only serials in which she appeared that have survived. Miss Watling was later a regular on the drama The Newcomers alongside her father Jack Watling. She guest starred on the shows The Power Game, This Man Craig, Out of the Unknown, Horizon, and No Hiding Place.

In the Seventies Miss Waterfield had a recurring role on Danger UXB. She guest starred on such shows as Crimes of Passion, ITV Sunday Night Drama, Doctor in Charge, Arthur of the Britons, Rising Damp, and Lillie. She appeared in the films That'll Be the Day (1973) and Take Me High (1973).

In the Eighties she had a recurring role on The Jim Davidson Show. She later reprised her role as Victoria in Dimensions in Time (a charity crossover between Doctor Who and EastEnders), Downtime, a direct-to-video spinoff of Doctor Who, and various Doctor Who audio dramas. She appeared as herself in the Doctor Who 50th anniversary homage and spoof The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.

Even though only two of the serials survive in which she appeared, it seems likely that Deborah Watling will always be remembered as Victoria on Doctor Who. Victoria was a somewhat naive, young orphan taken in by The Doctor. It was not unusual for her to scream when frightened, something which proved to be of use in the last serial in which she appeared. In Fury from the Deep, the sentient and malevolent seaweed can only be repulsed by loud, shrill noises, including Victoria's screams. Of course, Deborah Watling was much more than Victoria. On Danger UXB she played a character very far removed from the innocent Victoria--the nymphomaniac Norma. In Take Me High she actually got to perform a duet with Sir Cliff Richard in his final film. Deborah Watling may always be remembered as Victoria, she appeared on several other TV shows and in films.