Saturday, July 28, 2018

Composer Patrick Williams Passes On

Composer Patrick Williams, who worked on such TV shows The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart and worked on such movies as Don't Drink the Water (1969) and Shampoo (1975), died on July 25 2018 at the age of 79. The cause was complications from cancer.

Patrick Williams was born on April 23 1939 in Bonne Terre, Missouri, but grew up in Connecticut. He attended Duke University, where he received a degree in history. He later went to Columbia University, where he music composition. In New York City he soon had a thriving career as an arranger. It was in 1968 that he moved to California.

Mr. Williams' first work in television was as music director for the documentary A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House in 1967. He served as music director on the show Music Scene and composer on San Francisco International Airport. In the Seventies he served as composer on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The Bob Newhart Show, The Magician, The Streets of San Francisco, and Lou Grant. In the Sixties he was the composer on the movies How Sweet It Is! (1968) and Don't Drink the Water (1969). In the Seventies he served as composer on such movies as The Deadly Trackers (1973), Harrad Summer (1974), Shampoo (1975), The Cheap Detective (1978), and Used Cars (1980).

In the Eighties Patrick Williams worked on such shows as Mr. Smith, After MASH, Fathers and Sons, Heart of the City, and The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd. He worked on such movies as The Toy (1982), Swing Shift (1984), The Slugger's Wife (1985), and Cry-Baby (1990). From the Nineties onward Mr. Williams's work in television was primarily on TV movies. He worked on such films as The Cutting Edge (1992), Big Girls Don't Cry... They Get Even (1992), The Grass Harp (1995), and Julian Po (1997).

Mr. Williams won several Emmys and was nominated many more times. He won Emmys for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series for Lou Grant, Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Limited Series or a Special (Dramatic Underscore) for The Princess and the Cabbie, Outstanding Individual Achievement in Music Composition for a Miniseries or a Special (Dramatic Underscore) for Jewels, Outstanding Music and Lyrics for the song "A Dream That Only I Can Know" from Yesterday's Children.

Patrick Williams also composed outside of television and film, composing such works as An American Concerto, Gulliver, Earth Day, and August. He also recorded several record albums and produced albums for artists from Steve Lawrence to Patti Austin.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Five Books on Film That Influenced Me

Most classic film buffs not only enjoy watching classic movies, but they also enjoy reading about them. I am no different and over the years I have read dozens of books on classic films. A few of these number among my favourite books I have ever read. Here are five books on classic film that had the most impact on me. I read all of them while I was still very young and all of them helped fuel my interest in classic movies. I am sure many of you haver read some of them as well.

I really could not say which one is my absolute favourite, so I am listing in order of their publication date.

An Illustrated History of the Horror Film by Carlos Clarens (1967):

If you are a fan of classic horror you have probably read this book. In fact, I believe it was the first book to treat horror movies with any seriousness. In the Sixties, horror movies (and genre films in general) were often not considered worthy of critical evaluation. Although considered classics today, such classic horror movies as Frankenstein (1931) and King Kong (1933) were often dismissed at the time. Carlos Clarens's An Illustrated History of the Horror Film helped changed attitudes towards the classic horror movies. Carlos Clarens gives us a history of the horror movie all the way from the earliest years of the Silent Era to the mid-Sixties. In doing so he treats the films with the serious consideration they long deserved. Having been a horror fan since I was a lad, I was delighted when I discovered An Illustrated History of the Horror Film when I was in college. I already knew about the classic Universal horror movies, the Val Lewton movies, and the classic Hammer Horrors, but An Illustrated History of the Horror Film introduced me to all new horrors spanning decades.

The Parade's Gone By by Kevin Brownlow (published 1968):

I am guessing the vast majority of classic film buffs have read this book, and there is a good reason for that. Not only is The Parade's Gone By one of the earliest books on silent movies, but is also still the best book on silent movies. Indeed, The Parade's Gone By helped revitalise interest in silent films. For those who haven't read it, don't expect a history book in the conventional sense. Instead what Kevin Brownlow gives us is a book that combines a critical survey of silent movies with photographs, the recollections of those who worked in silent film, historical accounts, and trivia. Among those whose anecdotes appeared in The Parade's Gone By are such names as Louise Brooks, Buster Keaton, William Wellman, and many others. I checked The Parade's Gone By out from one of our local libraries when I was only a teen and I had not seen much in the way of silent movies (not even Nosferatu). This book helped spur my interest in them.

From Sambo To Superspade: The Black Experience in Motion Pictures by Daniel J. Leab (published 1975):

Along with Donald Bogle's excellent 1973 book Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks: An Interpretative History of Blacks in Films, From Sambo To Superspade: The Black Experience in Motion Pictures by Daniel J. Leab was among the first books on African Americans in the movies ever written. It covers a period from the early days of the Silent Era to the Blaxploitation Era (which was just winding down as the book was published) and addresses the many stereotypes perpetuated by Hollywood throughout the decades. I checked this out from one of our local libraries when I was in college and it taught me a lot about the history of African Americans in film. At the time I had no idea who Oscar Micheaux was and I had never heard of Million Dollar Pictures. This book was a real eye opener.

The World of Entertainment! Hollywood's Greatest Musicals by Hugh Fordin (published 1975):

This book was later republished under the name MGM's Greatest Musicals: The Arthur Freed Unit. Under any title it is a must read for fans of MGM musicals. It is a book that goes behind the scenes of MGM's musicals, giving an account of the many musicals made by MGM movie by movie. It covers a period from 1940 to 1970 and includes accounts of such classics as The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St. Louis, Singin' in the Rain, and practically every musical made by MGM from 1940 to 1970. I have been a fan of musicals ever since my father talked me into watching My Fair Lady (I believe I had seen Seven Brides for Seven Brothers before that, but somehow it was more palatable to a little boy...), so naturally I had to check The World of Entertainment! Hollywood's Greatest Musicals out from my college's library. I don't think any fan of MGM musicals would be disappointed by it.

Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons  by Leonard Maltin (published 1980):

I would imagine most animation fans have read this book. It is quite simply the definitive history of American animation, from the early days of the Silent Era to modern times. Mr. Maltin not only discusses the key creative personnel involved in the creation of classic cartoons, but also how American animated films evolved over the years. Mr. Maltin even interviewed many of the animators behind some of America's most beloved cartoons. When I found Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons in my college library I was already familiar with Leonard Maltin from the TV show Entertainment Tonight. I had also long been an animation fan and had seen many of the key classic films beyond those made by Disney and Warner Bros. I had even seen the Fleischer brothers' Gulliver's Travels. That having been said, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons taught me a lot, to the point that I used to joke that everything I learned about animation I learned from Leonard Maltin. That is not quite true now, but it is definitely a must read book for any student of animation history.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Why Twitter Should Not Display "Likes" in One's Timeline

Many months ago when I visited Twitter I noticed something that rather annoyed me in my timeline. Quite simply, Twitter was displaying "likes" (what was once called "favourites") there. As to why this annoyed me, it is because to me Twitter's timeline should consist of only two things: tweets and retweets. "Likes" are neither tweets nor retweets, so to my mind they have no business being there.

Indeed, I don't particularly care what others might like on Twitter and, what is more, I suspect many Twitter users are like me in that regard. Indeed, a Google search reveals various articles full of tricks to hide "likes" on one's Twitter timeline. There is even a Stylish userstyle that was designed to hide "likes", but sadly it has not been updated in ages and no longer seems to work. It seems clear to me that many, perhaps most Twitter users don't want to see "likes" in their timelines.

Sadly, for the moment there seems to be very little one can do about "likes" in one's timeline. The only means I have found of reliably dealing with them on Firefox is to click the little down arrow in the corner of the "like" and mark it "I don't like this tweet". Eventually "likes" will stop displaying in one's timeline, but only for about a month. They will then reappear and one will have to go through the whole process again.

As it is, I rather suspect most people have some expectation of privacy when it comes to their "likes". They certainly don't expect for those "likes" to be displayed for all of Twitter to see. While others knowing I liked a particular tweet doesn't bother me, I do sympathise with those who don't want their "likes" known to the whole world. I have to wonder that many of these people have stopped liking Tweets entirely. I am sure that was probably not Twitter's intention.

It seems to me given many people don't want "likes" displayed in their timelines and many probably would rather their "likes" be somewhat more private that Twitter should entirely cease displaying "likes" on individual's timelines. Short of that, Twitter should give users the option of hiding "likes" in their timeline. I rather think they would be surprised at how many people would choose that option! Until such time, I suppose I will be manually hiding "likes" on my timeline at least once a month...

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

TCM's Summer Under the Stars 2018

August is a month that most Turner Classic Movies fans look forward to. Quite simply, it is the month of Summer Under the Stars, the month long event in which TCM devotes each whole day to a single star. Like most TCM fans I always look forward to Summer Under the Stars, even though I do wish they would continue to air Noir Alley during the month!

Anyway, this year's Summer Under the Stars looks to be a particularly good one. One thing I like about the 2018 edition of Summer Under the Stars is that they are featuring stars that have not often been seen during previous Summers Under the Stars. An example of this is Lionel Atwill, best known for playing a mad scientist in such films as Doctor X (1932). The entire day of August 3 is devoted to his films. Another star not often seen during Summer Under the Stars is Queen of Noir Audrey Totter, whose films will air on August 6. On August 14 TCM will air the films of Lupe Vélez. Although best known for the "Mexican Spitfire" movies, Miss Vélez starred in many other films. Other stars TCM are honouring this year include Dorothy Malone, George Brent, Peter Finch, Miriam Hopkins, Anita Louise, Carroll Baker, Lew Ayres, and Marcello Mastroianni. It is nice for this year's Summer Under the Stars TCM is honouring more than the usual suspects.

Of course, most years I am sometimes puzzled by the movies that Turner Classic Movies chooses to air during Summer of the Stars. For me this is particularly true in the case of Frank Sinatra, whom they will honour on August 1. On that day TCM is airing neither Ocean's 11 (1960) nor The Manchurian Candidate (1962), which I consider to be Mr. Sinatra's two best films. To me this would be something akin to devoting a day to Harrison Ford and airing neither Star Wars (1977) nor Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Another bit of strange programming for me occurs on August 23, when Turner Classic Movies honours the lovely Virginia Mayo. They are showing none of the films she made with Danny Kaye, many of which number among my favourite movies Miss Mayo ever made.

That having been said, there are probably some good reasons for TCM not airing some films during Summer Under the Stars. I know that there are simply many films to which TCM does not own the rights. Timer Warner (TCM's parent company) owns the Warner Brothers library, the MGM library prior to 1986,  much of the RKO library, and various other film properties. Time Warner does not own most of the Paramount library (much of which is now owned by Universal Studios), the 20th Century Fox library (most of which is still owned by 20th Century Fox), or the various films produced by the British studios. In other cases I think Turner Classic Movies might avoid films that it airs often during other times of year (this might be why The Manchurian Candidate and Ocean's 11 are missing from the schedule for Frank Sinatra).

Of course, the fact that TCM doesn't show some films during Summer Under the Stars is a minor quibble. Turner Classic Movies generally does a sterling job programming for the event, and I always look forward to it every year. I have no doubt that many TCM fans' DVRs will be doing overtime during the month! I won't even mind missing Noir Alley (well, not much anyway).

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Robert Wolders Passes On

Robert Wolders, who was one of the stars of the TV Western Laredo and appeared in the film Beau Geste (1966), died on July 12 2018 at the age of 81.

Robert Wolders was born on September 28 1936 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. He made his television debut in  an episode of the TV show Flipper in 1965. He was a regular starting in its second season on the TV show Laredo, playing the role of Erik Hunter. In the Sixties he guest starred on such shows as Run for Your Life, Daniel Boone, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Name of the Game, The F.B.I., Dan August, and Bewitched. He appeared in the movies Beau Geste (1966), Tobruk (1967), and Kemek (1970).

In the Seventies, he guest starred on the shows Banacek, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and McMillan & Wife. He appeared in the films Raid on Rommel (1971) and Interval (1973).

Monday, July 23, 2018

Godspeed Roger Perry

Roger Perry, who guest starred on many television shows from the Fifties to the Nineties, died on July 12 2018 at the age of 85. The cause was prostate cancer.

Roger Perry was born on May 7 1933 in Davenport, Iowa. In the early Fifties he served in intelligence in the United States Air Force. He signed with Desliu, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz's legendary studio that produced I Love Lucy and would go onto produce The Untouchables, Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, and Mannix. He made his television debut in an episode of Westinghouse Desliu Playhouse in 1959. In the late Fifties he guest starred on such shows as December Bride, Whirlybirds, The Texans, and U.S. Marshal. He was one of the stars of the short-lived show Harrigan and Son. He made his movie debut in The Flying Fontaines in 1959.

In the Sixties Mr. Perry was one of the stars of the short-lived drama Arrest and Trial, a show that could be seen as a forerunner of Law & Order. He guest starred on such shows as Dr. Kildare, The Eleventh Hour, Sam Benedict, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Broadside, The Munsters, 12 O' Clock High, The Andy Griffith Show, Star Trek, Combat!, The Invaders, The Felony Squad, Judd for the Defence, Lancer, Adam-12, Dan August, The New Doctors, and Insight. He appeared in the movies Follow The Boys (1963), The Cat (1966), You've Got to Be Smart (1967), Heaven with a Gun (1969), and Count Yorga, Vampire (1970).

In the Seventies Roger Perry guest starred on such show as Alias Smith and Jones; Nanny and the Professor; Love, American Style; Ironside; Tenafly; The F.B.I.; The Bob Newhart Show; Mannix; Marcus Welby M.D.; Hawaii Five-O; The Six Million Dollar Man; Wonder Woman; Quincy M.E.; and Barnaby Jones. He appeared in the movies The Return of Count Yorga (1971), The Thing with Two Heads (1972), and Roller Boogie (1979).

In the Eighties Roger Perry was a regular on The Facts of Life and Falcon Crest. He guest starred on the show B.J. and the Bear, Here's Boomer, and The Fall Guy. He appeared in the movie Operation Warzone (1988). He later appeared in the movies Dirty Love (2005) and Wreckage (2010).

Roger Perry was also a composer. He wrote the song "A Kid Again" and composed the scores for Make a Promise, Keep a Promise and a musical version of Shaw's You Never Can Tell. He appeared on stage with then wife Jo Anne Worley in such productions as The First Hundred Years, Hanging by a Thread, and The Happiness Bench.

There should be little wonder that Roger Perry made so many guest appearances on television as he was a marvellous actor. He could play a wide variety of roles, from a young man who develops an interest in Marilyn on The Munsters to Captain John Christopher, the 1960s Air Force pilot who is inadvertently beamed aboard the Enterprise on Star Trek to corrupt  Tuscany Valley Board of Supervisors member John Costello on Falcon Crest. Over the years he played everything from lawyers to police officers to military officers to criminals, and he did all of them well.