Saturday, May 5, 2018

Animator Dave Michener R.I.P.

Dave Michener, an animator with Disney for decades, died on February 15 2018 at the age of 85. The cause was complications from a virus.

Dave Michener was born on November 3 1932 in Los Angeles, California. He attended the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. It was there that Walt Disney saw some of his art displayed and offered him a job upon his graduation. He initially did work animation work on the TV series The Mickey Mouse Club and assisted Milt Kahl (one of Walt Disney's Nine Old Men) for seven years. Over the next several years he worked on such Disney animated features as Sleeping Beauty (1959), One Hundred One Dalmations (1961), and The Jungle Book (1967). He was a character animator on the short "Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day" (1968) and the feature The AristoCats (1970).

In the Seventies he worked on story sequences for Robin Hood (1973) and on the story for The Rescuers (1977).  In the Eighties he worked on the stories for both The Fox and the Hound (1981) and Oliver and Company (1988). He served as co-director on The Great Mouse Detective (1986).  After his career with Disney he worked as supervising animation director on The Jetsons (1990) and later Once Upon a Forest (1993).  He worked as an animation supervisor on several TV series, including Gravedale High, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures, and Tom & Jerry Kids Show. He taught animation at the California Institute.

Mr. Michener also worked on nearly every bit of animation in Disney's EPCOT park, as well as the animation for the "Meet the World" attraction at Tokyo Disneyland. He later illustrated the children's book How Butterbees Came to Bee.

Dave Michener worked at Disney for around three decades and he worked on nearly every feature film made during that time.  If one had watched anything made by Disney made between 1956 and 1988, then chances are good he or she has seen Dave Michener's work.

Friday, May 4, 2018

A Collection of TCMFF Blog Posts

I have never gotten to attend the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival. It is for that reason that I always look forward to the blog posts and social media posts from my friends who do attend the festival. It is a way that I can vicariously experience TCMFF without actually attending it. That having been said, if I ever do attend the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival, I will be sure to document my experiences both here on my blog and on social media.

Below are a collection of links to various blog posts about the festival from some of my classic film buff friends who went to the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival.

A Classic Movie Blog:

"TCM Classic Film Festival Day 1: FINISHING SCHOOL (1934) and the Opening Night Party"
"TCM Classic Film Festival: Neck Deep in Cinema, Popcorn for Dinner"
"TCM Classic Film Festival: Final Films, Farewell, and Already Planning for 2019"

Comet Over Hollywood:

"Hooray for Hollywood: Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival 2018"
"Five years of the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival"

Laura's Miscellaneous Musings:

"The 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival in Review"
 "The 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival: Days One and Two"

"The 2018 TCM  Classic Film Festival: Day Three"

"The 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day Four"
"The 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day Five"

Out of the Past:

"TCM Classic Film Festival 2018: Recap #2"
"TCM Classic Film Festival 2018: Recap #3"
"TCM Classic Film Festival 2018: Recap #4"
"TCM Classic Film Festival 2018: Recap #5"
"Red Carpet: 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival Opening Night"

 Silents and Talkies:

"TCMFF 2018"

Spellbound by Movies:

"TCMFF Highlights Part 1" 

I expect there will be more people posing on the 2018 festival, and I will add those posts as they come in!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The 100th Anniversary of Jack Paar's Birth

It was 100 years ago today that Jack Paar was born in Canton, Ohio. Of course, today Jack Paar is best known as being the host of NBC's The Tonight Show in the late Fifties and early Sixties. In fact, although the show had debuted in 1954, it was Jack Paar who more or less transformed The Tonight Show into the show we know today.

Tonight debuted on NBC on September 27 1954 with Steve Allen as its original host. Steve Allen left the show in 1956 for his own prime time show on the network.  Rather than replacing Mr. Allen with a new host, NBC changed the format of Tonight, giving it a new title: Tonight! America After Dark. Tonight! America After Dark could perhaps best be described as a night time version of NBC's morning show Today. Viewers did not particularly take to the new format and many NBC affiliates simply dropped the show. NBC realised that they had to change the format of the show very early in the run of Tonight! America After Dark.

They found a new host in the form of Jack Paar. Jack Paar's career had originated on radio and he later made the transition to television where he worked for CBS. Mr. Paar hosted two game shows, Up to Paar in 1952 and Bank on the Stars in 1953. For a time he was the host of CBS' early morning show (appropriately titled The Morning Show) and later his own late morning TV show. Jack Paar jumped ship from CBS to NBC, beginning his stint as the host of The Tonight Show on July 29 1957.

With Jack Paar as its host, Tonight returned to its original talk/variety format. That is not to say that Jack Paar's Tonight Show was precisely the same as Steve Allen's Tonight Show. In fact, with Mr. Paar as host, the show began to take shape as the show we know today. The show went from a more or less typical variety show to a show with a greater emphasis on chatting with guests. A gifted monologist, it was Jack Paar who elevated the monologue to the level of importance it has had to this day.

Jack Paar proved incredibly popular as the host of Tonight. Affiliates who had dropped Tonight! America After Dark picked Tonight back up with Jack Paar at its helm. So popular was Jack Paar as the  host of The Tonight Show, that after 1959 it was called The Jack Paar Tonight Show or, more simply, The Jack Paar Show. Jack Paar had his own cast of regulars or semi-regulars who appeared on the show. These included Cliff Arquette as his character Charlie Weaver, comedy actresses Eggy Cass and DodyGoodman, author-illustrator Alexander King, and  Tedi Thurman ( Miss Monitor from NBC Radio's show Monitor).

Such was Jack Paar's popularity that he effectively ended gossip columnist Walter Winchell's career. In his column Winchell had earlier claimed that Jack Paar was having marital problems and refused to retract the item. Naturally this did not sit well with Mr. Paar. It was on Tonight that society hostess Elsa Maxwell, who appeared frequently on the show, began mocking Walter Winchell. She claimed that he waved the flag while never actually having voted. Having no love for Walter Winchell, Jack Paar naturally joined in joking about the gossip columnist. The Tonight Show would have to issue a retraction for Miss Maxwell's remarks (Winchell had actually voted), but Jack Paar was not finished with him yet. He continued to attack Walter Winchell in his monologues. Walter Winchell's career was already in decline and it was Jack Paar who ended it. Walter Winchell was not the only individual with whom Jack Paar had a feud. He also had feuds with Ed Sullivan and Dorothy Kilgallen as well.

One significant difference between Jack Parr and many hosts before and even after him was that he was known for more intellectual guests than are often seen on talk shows even today. He interviewed both John. F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. He discussed religious matters with Billy Graham. William F. Buckley was a guest on the show. Jack Paar invited controversy when he interviewed Fidel Castro. While Mr. Paar had plenty of movie stars, TV stars, and comedians, his guests included politicians, political commentators, religious figures, and other important personages.

Jack Paar was known for being emotional and would even cry on screen. At one point he actually booted Mickey Rooney off the show (they later made up). It was on February 10 1960 that Mr. Paar's emotionality would lead to the most famous incident in his stint as host of The Tonight Show. That night Jack Paar told a joke about a woman writing a vacation resort about the location of a W.C., by which she meant "water closet", only to have those responding to her thinking she meant "wayside chapel". Although the joke was innocent by the standards of the day, NBC's Broadcast Standards replaced that portion of the show with news coverage without informing Jack Paar. After discovering this, on February 11 1960, Jack Paar left The Tonight Show in the middle of the programme. His announcer Hugh Downs had to finish the show without him (Jack Paar had told him that he was leaving the show, although Mr. Downs had thought he was joking).  It was Jack Paar's friend, comedian Jonathan Winters, who convinced him to return to the show. Jack Paar returned on March 7 1960.

Jack Paar left The Tonight Show permanently in March 1962. This is not to say that he would be off the air anytime soon.  In the fall of 1962 he received his own prime time show on NBC, The Jack Paar Program. It rain until 1965. Afterwards he would occasionally appear on specials on NBC until 1970. Starting in 1973 he hosted his own one-week-a month show, Jack Paar Tonite, on ABC. He left the show a year later, complaining the schedule of the show made it so that even his mother did not know when he was on.

Jack Paar certainly had his flaws. He was emotional and he could be volatile. From his feuds we know that he was capable of holding a grudge. There is a chapter in his book My Sabre is Bent that today would be considered homophobic in the extreme. At the same time, however, he was an extremely talented man who transformed late night, network television forever. It is quite possible that without Jack Paar, The Tonight Show might have ended in the mid-Fifties. In an interview on The Larry King Show not long after Jack Paar died, Dick Cavett (who worked with Jack Paar on Tonight) said of him, "He's an immense, giant talent that was not duplicable in any way, and whatever his neurosis and quirks were, they were great entertainment for us and I hope they weren't too painful for him."

Monday, April 30, 2018

Our Miss Brooks

Today is the 110th anniversary of Eve Arden's birth. Although she appeared in a number of movies and appeared on several other television shows, chances are good that she will always be remembered as Connie Brooks, the sardonic high school English teacher and titular character on the classic sitcom Our Miss Brooks. For most of its run on television it ranked in the top twenty shows on the air each year. Following its network run, Our Miss Brook had a highly successful run as a syndicated rerun.

Our Miss Brooks originated from a pitch from freelance writer Don Ettlinger, who had previously written the scripts for such films as Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938) and My Lucky Star (1938). Mr. Ettlinger submitted an idea for a show about a wisecracking English teacher titled Our Miss Booth, picturing Shirley Booth (later known as the titular maid on Hazel) in the lead role to CBS. CBS turned down Don Ettinger's pitch, but then proceed to develop the show as Our Miss Brooks. An audition with Shirley Booth in the lead role was recorded. Ultimately, Miss Both did not get the role because producer Harry Ackerman worried that she might be too serious for the part. Both Joan Blondell and Lucille Ball were also considered for the role, although at the time Lucille Ball was starring on the radio show My Favourite Husband.

It was CBS's chief executive William S. Paley himself who suggested Eve Arden for the role of Connie Brooks. For Miss Arden's audition, former vaudevillian Al Lewis reworked the dialogue to be more in keeping with her sardonic delivery. The audition proved a success and Our Miss Brooks debuted on radio on CBS on July 19 1948. As to the show's creator Don Ettlinger, he would sue CBS and the network settled with him for $50,000.

Our Miss Brooks proved to be a huge hit for CBS Radio. Critics also loved the show and it received overwhelmingly positive notices.  With such success it was inevitable that Our Miss Brooks would make the transition to television. What is more, it made the transition with most of its original radio cast in tact. Among the actors playing Connie Brooks's students was a future star. Richard Crenna, who had played student Walter Denton since the show's debut on radio in 1948. He went onto star in such shows as The Real McCoys and Slattery's People,  as well as appear in several feature films.

On television Our Miss Brooks repeated the success that it had on radio. It ranked in the top twenty shows for the year for most of its run. In 1954 it won the Emmy for Best Female Star of Regular Series for Eve Arden and was nominated for the award for Best Situation Comedy. It would go onto receive nominations for Best Supporting Actor in a Regular Series for Gale Gordon and received further nominations for Best Lead Actress of a Regulars Series and Best Situation Comedy.

In the show's final season Our Miss Brooks underwent a slight change in format with Miss Brooks working in an elementary school and her love interest Philip Boynton (played by Robert Rockwell) gone from the cast. The changes apparently proved unpopular, as the show fell in the ratings badly enough that it was cancelled in 1956. That having been said, this was the end for Our Miss Brooks. It became one of the earliest television shows to be adapted as a feature film with much of its cast from television in tact. The movie Our Miss Brooks (1956) would see Mr. Boynton finally propose to Miss Brooks.

While Eve Arden appeared in a number of feature films before and after Our Miss Brooks, as well as other television shows, she remains most identified with Our Miss Brooks. There should be little wonder why. Miss Arden seems to have been born to play Miss Brooks, the wisecracking, independent high school teacher. While others were initially considered for the role, it is difficult to picture anyone else playing Connie Brooks.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Kristin Nelson R.I.P.

Kristin Nelson, who was married for a time to Rick Nelson and appeared on the TV show The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, died on April 26 2018 at the age of 72.

Kristin Nelson was the daughter of actress Elyse Knox and former NFL player and sports broadcaster Tom Harmon. She married Rick Nelson in 1963 and began appearing on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet as Rick's wife. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet starred Rick Nelson's parents, Ozzie and Harriet, and featured nearly the whole Nelson family. While the show was still on the air she appeared in the feature film Love and Kisses (1965), alongside her husband. After the show's cancellation, she appeared in the feature film What Am I Bid? (1967) and the TV movie The Over-the-Hill Gang (1969). She guest starred on the classic sitcom Green Acres. Later she played Officer Jim Reed's wife Jean on the police drama Adam-12.

Kristin Nelson later took up painting and established herself as a respected painter of primitives.