Saturday, January 6, 2018

Heather Menzies-Urich Passes On

Heather Menzies-Urich, billed simply as Heather Menzies during her career, died on December 24 2017 at the age of 68. The cause was brain cancer.

Heather Menzies-Urich was born on December 3 1949 in Toronto, Ontario. When she was 11 years old her family moved to the United States. She attended Hollywood High School. She made her television debut in 1964 in an episode of The Farmer's Daughter, on which she briefly had a recurring role. She made her film debut playing Louisa, the second oldest daughter of the Von Trapps in The Sound of Music (1965). She guest starred on  such television shows as My Three Sons, the Sixties incarnation of Dragnet, Room 222, Marcus Welby M.D., The High Chaparral, To Rome with Love, and Bonanza. She appeared in the films Hawaii (1966), How Sweet It Is (1968), and Hail, Hero! (1969).

In the Seventies Mrs. Menzies-Urich starred as Jessica 6 in the short-lived, sci-fi series Logan's Run. She guest starred on such shows as The Smith Family; Alias Smith and Jones; Love, American Style; The Bob Newhart Show; Owen Marshall, Counsellor at Law; S.W.A.T.; Barnaby Jones; The Six Million Dollar Man; The Love Boat; and Vega$. She appeared in the films Outside In (1972), Sssssss (1973), and Piranha (1978).

In the Eighties she guest starred on such shows as Gavilan, T. J. Hooker, Spenser: For Hire, and American Dreamer. She appeared in the film Endangered Species (1982).

In 1975 Heather Menzies married fellow actor Robert Urich. The two had met while making a commercial in which they played a couple getting married. Following his death from synovial sarcoma in 2002 she founded the he Robert Urich Foundation, an organisation that raises money for cancer research and support for cancer patients.

Heather Menzies-Urich was a dependable performer, so there is little surprise that she made frequent guest appearances on television shows in the Sixties and Seventies. She guest starred on Dragnet no less than five times, playing a different character every time. While I have no doubt most people will remember her as Louisa in The Sound of Music or Jessica in Logan's Run, the fact is that she appeared in a number of shows and films throughout her career and played a wide variety of parts.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Announcing the 4th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon

Today I am announcing A Shroud of Thoughts' fourth annual "Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon". The first three years were fairly successful, so I am looking forward to another year's worth of good blog posts. For those unfamiliar with the Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon, it is a blogathon in which bloggers write entries about their favourite episodes of their favourite classic television shows. This year it will take place March 23, 24, and 25.

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 or daytime soap opera, 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 will turn 25 years old this year. That means one cannot write posts on episodes from shows that debuted after 1993 (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. Murphy Brown debuted in 1988 and ran until 1998, so that its final season aired after 1993. Because Murphy Brown is over 25 years old, however, one could still write about an episode that aired in the 1997-1998 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. In keeping with ground rule no. 4, I am asking that if you participated in the past years' blogathons that you write about a different episode from what you did the past years. That having been said, you could write about an episode from the same show.  If you wrote about the Star Trek episode "Amok Time" last year, then you could write about the Star Trek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles" this year.

6. I am not going to schedule days for individual posts. All I ask is that the posts be made on or between March 23, March 24, or March 25 2018.

7. On March 23 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 simply comment below or you can get a hold of me either on Twitter at mercurie80 or at my email:  mercurie80 at

Below is a roster of participants and the topics they are covering. Come March 23 I will make a post that will include all of the posts in the blogathon.

Crítica Retrô: Combat!

Caftan Woman: Ellery Queen, "The Adventure of Miss Aggie's Farewell Performance"

Portraits by Jenni: Route 66, "There's a Birdcage on my Foot"

Hamlette's Soliloquy: Combat!, "The Long Way Home"

Realweegiemidget Reviews: Star Trek, "The City on the Edge of Forever"

The Midnite Drive-In: Planet of the Apes, "The Liberator"

The Horn Section: F Troop, "The Day The Indians Won"

Moon in Gemini: Upstairs, Downstairs, "Guest of Honour"

CineMaven's Essays From the Couch: Alfred Hitchcock Presents "Apex"

In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood: The Addams Family

Whimsically Classic: The Brady Bunch, "Adios, Johnny Bravo" 

Love Letters to Old Hollywood:  Moonlighting, "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice."

Barry Bradford: The Dick Van Dyke Show, "A Show of Hands"

Coffee, Classics, & Craziness: The Rat Patrol, "The Do Re Mi Raid"

The Wonderful World of Cinema: Alfred Hitchcock Presents,  "Breakdown"

Silver Scenes: A Blog for Classic Film Lovers: To be announced

Below are some graphics you can use for the blogathon (or you can always make your own)!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year 2018

I want to wish everyone a very happy New Year. I hope all of you have a wonderful 2018. It is a tradition here to post classic pinups on certain holidays, and New Year's Day is no different. Without further ado, then, here are the pinups!

Here is the lovely Ann Blyth greeting the year 1956!

Yvonne De Carlo greets the year 1946!

The beautiful Donna Reed and a clock!

Janet Waldo is ringing in the New Year!

Jeanne Baird with an hourglass

Ann Dvorak celebrating the New Year!

Myrna Hansen wishing you a Happy New Year!

The lovely Cyd Charisse bursting through newspapers!

And it wouldn't be New Year's Day without Ann Miller!

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Farewell to 2017

I think I can speak for many when I say that 2017 was not the best of years, and for many reasons. As to myself, it was this past October that we had to put our old cat George down, as he was going into kidney failure and there was nothing more we could do for him. That is not to say that 2017 was all bad. With regards to myself, I published two short books this year (That Was Halloween: Essays on the Holiday and Country Comedies: The Rural Sitcoms of the Sixties). I also finally broke down and got a smart phone, although I mostly use it for posting to Instagram. One of the best things about last year is that I started reading more last year. I have always read a lot of non-fiction, but most of it the past many years has been as research for my writing. This year I started reading fiction regularly again. I read the entire Sherlock Holmes canon this year, which has been a goal of mine since childhood.

With regards to popular culture, 2017, like previous years of late, saw the deaths of several important figures in pop culture. For classic film buffs this usually would mean the passings of beloved actors from the Golden Age. That having been said, I think this it is safe to say that for most classic film buffs, at least those who are fans of Turner Classic Movies, the death that had the most impact was the passing of TCM host and film historian Robert Osbourne. Robert had been with Turner Classic Movies from the beginning and was much loved by the channel's fans. Quite simply, he was the face of the channel. Always congenial when meeting fans, he was a much loved figure among TCM fans. Even those of us who never met him thought of him as a friend or even a dear uncle. While some truly big names died in 2017, I don't think any of them saw the outpouring of grief among TCM fans that Robert's death did.

At any rate, 2017 could be a truly brutal year at times with regards to the deaths of beloved actors and actresses. The week of January 22 saw the deaths of Mary Tyler Moore, Barbara Hale, Mike Connors, Sir John Hurt, Emmanuelle Riva, and yet others. It was a particularly rough week for me. Like many men my age I'd had a crush on Mary Tyler Moore since I was toddler watching her in reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show. I saw the entire run of The Mary Tyler Moore Show as it originally aired. She was a true television pioneer. Of course, as much as it hurt to lose Mary Tyler Moore, it hurt me even more to lose Barbara Hale the following day. Like many I first took notice of Miss Hale as Perry Mason's intelligent, efficient, and beautiful secretary Della Street. It was as an adult that I learned that she had also been a bona fide movie star. Seeing her in many interviews over the years, I have to confess I was always a little bit in love with Barbara Hale. She wasn't simply beautiful, but intelligent, warm, and filled with an enthusiasm for life that shined from her. Like many fans I also mourned the loss of Sir John Hurt, who only died a few days later. A true chameleon, he played many different roles in his career and played all of them well.

Mary Tyler Moore wasn't the only veteran of The Dick Van Dyke Show to die this year. Rose Marie died only a few days ago. She was a true pioneer with a career that spanned nine decades. She began performing as a toddler and never really retired. While best known as Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show, as Baby Rose Marie she had been a superstar on vaudeville and radio in the Thirties. Mary Tyler Moore and Rose Marie were not the only icons from my childhood to die this year. Indeed, some of my boyhood heroes also died. Many might best remember Sir Roger Moore as James Bond, but for me he will always be Simon Templar on The Saint. In fact, he played the role so well that I honestly can't see anyone else in the role. Like many, Adam West was the first actor I ever saw as Batman. And while many have since played the character, often in movies that were more faithful to the comic books than the classic Sixties TV series, when I picture Batman in my head it is always Adam West I see. Martin Landau played another one of my childhood heroes, master of disguise Rollin Hand on Mission: Impossible. Of course, he was an extremely versatile actor who played many other roles as well, including Commander John Koenig on Space 1999, Leonard in North by Northwest, Judah Rosenthal in Crimes and Misdemeanours, and many more.

While many notable musicians died in 2017, the two that had the most impact on me were Tom Petty and Pat DiNizio. Like many people my age, Tom Petty provided much of the soundtrack for my teens and young adulthood. Pat DiNizio was the lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist, and songwriter for one of my all time favourite bands, The Smithereens. Of course, 2017 saw some true music legends die. An argument can be made that Chuck Berry and Fats Domino invented rock 'n' roll. Chris Cornell was the lead vocalist of one of my favourite bands of all time, Soundgarden. Malcolm Young also belonged to one of my favourite bands of all time, AC/DC. Over the course of 2017, we lost such music legends as Pete Overend Watts of Mott the Hoople, J. Geils of The J. Geils Band, George Young of The Easybeats, and singer Della Reese.

Several other celebrities who meant a good deal to me died this year: June Foray (possibly the greatest voice artist of all time), Professor Irwin Corey (comic and activist often billed as "The World's Foremost Authority"), actor Powers Boothe, Anne Jeffreys (who made many movies, but may be best known as ghost Marion Kerby on Topper), Robert Guillaume (a versatile actor best known as TV's Benson), Jim Nabors (Gomer Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show and Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.), and David Cassidy (forever Keith Partridge for many of us). The death of character actor Brent Briscoe was a bit personal for me. He was only a few years older than me and a native of Randolph County. While I did not know Brent well, I had spoken to him from time to time, and I was always happy to see him on screen. Not only was he a terrific actor, but he was a truly nice guy as well.

Ultimately 2017 saw the deaths of so many it would be difficult to summarise them all in one article. There were deaths of movie stars (Bill Paxton, Clifton James, Jeanne Moreau, and Harry Dean Stanton), television stars (Francine York, Dick Gautier, Miguel Ferrer, Lola Albright, Tim Pigott-Smith, Jay Thomas, Sir Bruce Forsyth, Richard Anderson, Bernie Casey, and John Hillerman), comedians (Bill Dana, Dick Gregory, and Don Rickles), comic book legends (Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson), and more.

With regards to television, I think 2017 saw viewers move further away from the broadcast networks, and more towards cable channels and streaming services. This year most of the new shows I watched were either on Netflix, Hulu, or some cable channel. While I continued to watch old favourites on the networks (the DC superhero shows on The CW, Superstore, and The Good Place), I didn't watch anything new on them. I don't know if my viewing habits reflect those of the average viewer, but if they do, the networks could be in trouble.

As to movies, I have to confess I saw no new movies in theatres this year. It's not that I don't want to see movies in the theatre. It is a simple case that ticket prices are such that I often cannot afford to go. For that reason I really can't address any of the new movies that came out this year. I am hoping I can actually start attending movies again regularly in 2018.

Over all I don't think 2017 was a very good year for many of us. I think I speak for many when I say that I hope 2018 will be much better.