Friday, September 29, 2017

Bernie Casey Passes On

Bernie Casey, the former NFL player who became an actor and appeared in films from ...tick... tick... tick... (1970) to Vegas Vampires (2007), died at age 78 on September 19 2017. The cause was complications from a stroke.

Bernie Casey was born on June 8 1939 in Wyco, West Virginia. At  Bowling Green State University. he played on the football team and also participated in track and field. He made the finals in track and field  at the 1960 United States Olympic Trials, where he finished sixth (just short of making the team). He earned both a bachelor's degree and a master degree in Fine Arts at Bowling Green.

In 1961 Mr. Casey was drafted by the San Francisco '49ers, beginning his NFL career. He ultimately played for eight seasons, first with the '49s and then with the Rams. Bernie Casey made his film debut in Guns of the Magnificent Seven in 1969. The following year he appeared in ...tick... tick... tick... (1970).

In the Seventies Bernie Casey appeared in such films as Boxcar Bertha (1972), Black Gunn (1972), Hit Man (1972), Cleopatra Jones (1973), Maurie (1973), Cornbread, Earl and Me (1975), Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (1976), The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), and Brothers (1977). On television he appeared in such TV movies as Brian's Song (1971), Gargoyles (1972), and Ants! (1977). He guest starred on the TV shows Cade's County, Longstreet, The Snoop Sisters, Joe Forrester, and Police Story. He starred on the short-lived show Harris and Company and appeared in the mini-series The Martian Chronicles..

In the Eighties Mr. Casey starred in the TV mini-series The Sophisticated Gents.He was a regular on the short-lived series Bay City Blues. He guest starred on the shows Trapper John M.D.; Alfred Hitchcock Presents; L. A. Law; Murder, She Wrote; and Hunter. He appeared in such films as Sharkey's Machine (1981),  Never Say Never Again (1983), Revenge of the Nerds (1984), Spies Like Us (1985), Amazon Women on the Moon (1987), I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1988), Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989), and Another 48 Hrs. (1990).

In the Nineties he appeared in such films as Chains of Gold (1991), Under Siege (1992), The Cemetery Club (1993), The Glass Shield (1994), In the Mouth of Madness (1994), Once Upon a Time... When We Were Colored (1995), and The Dinner (1997). He guest starred on such TV shows as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, SeaQuest 2032, Babylon 5, and For Your Love. He was a guest voice on the animated series Batman Beyond.

In the Naughts he appeared in such films as Tomcats (2001), On the Edge (2002), When I Find the Ocean (2006) , and Vegas Vampires (2007). He guest starred on Girlfriends and and in the TV movie The Lasta Brickmaker in America (2001).

Mr. Casey directed, wrote, and produced the movie The Dinner, in which he also acted. He was also a talented painter and poet, with books of both his paintings and poems published.

It is often the case that popular, skilled athletes do not make for talented actors. That having been said, there have been some notable exceptions, including C. Aubrey Smith and Woody Strode. Bernie Casey certainly numbered among those exceptions. An athlete with a good deal of ability on the field. he also proved to have considerable talent as an actor. While a few of his films might not have been particularly good, Mr. Casey usually delivered a fine performance. Over the years he played a number of military officers and law enforcement officials. At the same time, however, he could be convincing as an accomplished physician who develops a potion that brings out one's dark side (Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde), Felix Leiter in Never Say Never Again, and an ageing action star in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka. Mr. Casey had a gift for comedy and played in several besides I'm Gonna Git You Sucka. He was the president of a fraternity in Revenge of the Nerds and the history teacher Mr. Ryan in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. He did some of his best work on television. On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine he played Commander Sisko's old friend Cal Hudson, a Starfleet officer turned rogue. Bernie Casey had a good deal of talent that allowed him to play comedy and drama equally well, and to play a wide variety of roles as well.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Late Great Anne Jefffreys

Anne Jeffreys, the "ghostess with the mostest" on television's Topper and an actress who appeared in films from Riffraff (1947) to Boys' Night Out (1962), died yesterday at the age of 94.

Anne Jeffreys was born Anne Carmichael on January 26 1923 in Goldsboro, North Carolina. From a young age she received voice training. By the time she was 10 years old she had her own radio show. She was going to be an operatic soprano, and even won a scholarship to New York Municipal Opera Company. To help pay for her operatic training she was also a junior model at the famed John Robert Powers agency.

Anne Jeffreys's plans for a career in opera changed when she was cast in the musical revue Fun for the Money in Hollywood in 1941. Fun for the Money led to her career in movies. In the Forties she appeared in such films as Billy the Kid Trapped (1942), Olaf Laughs Last (1942), I Married an Angel (1942), X Marks the Spot (1942), Bordertown Gun Fighters (1943), Step Lively (1944), Dillinger (1945), Step by Step (1946), Riffraff (1947), and Return of the Bad Men (1948). She played Dick Tracy's girlfriend Tess Trueheart in two Dick Tracy movies, Dick Tracy (1945) and Dick Tracy vs. Cueball (1946). She also entertained troops at the Hollywood Canteen during World War II. Her career at RKO and Republic were spent primarily in B-movies, a good number of them Westerns. It was in 1947 that Miss Jeffreys left Hollywood for Broadway. She appeared in the opera Street Scene in 1947 and then the musical My Romance in 1948. In 1950 she appeared as Katharine in Kiss Me Kate.

Anne Jeffreys made her television debut in 1951 as a guest on Four Star Revue. She also guest starred on Musical Comedy Time. In 1952 she had a successful stage act with then husband Robert Sterling. It was in 1953 that she and Mr. Sterling were cast in the roles of the ghosts the Kerbys on the TV show Topper. The show proved very successful and ended simply because Camel cigarettes did not want to pay for another season of the show. It would persist in reruns for literally years and remains popular to this day. In 1955 she appeared in the television spectaculars Max Liebman Presents: The Merry Widow and Max Liebman Presents: Dearest Enemy. She guest starred on such shows as Lux Video Theatre, Star Stage, The Red Skelton Hour, The 20th Century Fox Hour, The Polly Bergen Show, The Bob Cummings Show, and Wagon Train. She starred in the short lived sitcom Love That Jill. She appeared on Broadway in Three Wishes for Jamie.

In the Sixties Anne Jeffreys appeared in the films Boys' Night Out (1962) and Panic in the City (1968). She guest starred on the shows Dr. Kildare, Bonanza, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Tarzan, and My Three Sons. In the Seventies she appeared on the short-lived daytime soap opera Bright Promise. She was a regular on the short-lived show The Delphi Bureau. She guest starred on the shows Love, American Style; Police Story, Flying High, Battlestar Galactica, Vega$, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. She appeared in the film Southern Double Cross (1976).

In the Eighties Anne Jeffreys had recurring roles on the shows Falcon Crest and Finder of Lost Loves. She guest starred on Mr. Merlin; Fantasy Island; Matt Houston; Hotel; and Murder, She Wrote. She was a regular on the soap opera General Hospital and played the same role on the soap opera Port Charles. In the Nineties she guest starred on L. A. Law and Baywatch. She appeared in the movie Clifford (1994). In the Naughts she appeared in the 2007 film version of Richard III. In the Teens she appeared in the film Sins Expiation (2012) and guest starred on the show Getting On.

I have always thought Anne Jeffreys was ill-used by both RKO and Republic. With but few exceptions she was cast in B-movies that were not very good. In a 1993 interview with The Toronto Star she said, "They decided I could do any type of role, and I often ended up getting the kind of parts Joan Fontaine didn’t want." What RKO and Republic missed was that Anne Jeffreys was a wonderful actress with a gift for comedy and a fine singing voice. If Topper is still remembered to his day, it is largely because of her performance as Marion Kerby. Quite simply, she was the sexy, supernatural entity years before Samantha on Bewitched or Jeannie on I Dream of Jeannie. Miss Jeffreys also shined in Boys' Night Out and her various guest appearances on sitcoms from The Bob Cummings Show to My Three Sons. Of course, she could do more than comedy. Anne Jeffreys was the perfect Tess Trueheart in the two Dick Tracy movies in which she appeared, and she made for a convincing femme fatale in Riffraff. She also gave a good performance in Dillinger. Many of Anne Jeffreys's films may not have been particularly good, but she always gave good performances.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

My New Book Just in Time for Halloween

After a lot of hard work and several sleepless nights, I have a new book out. That Was Halloween: Essays on the Holiday is a collections of essay about one of the most popular holidays in the United States. It examines the origins of the holiday and how the Scottish brought it to North America. It also examines the origins of such Halloween traditions as jack o' lanterns and trick-or-treating. As might be expected, That Was Halloween also has essays on Halloween in the movies and Halloween on television. If I do say so myself, I think anyone who loves Halloween would enjoy this book.

That Was Halloween: Essays on the Holiday is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions.