Saturday, September 8, 2018

The Late Great Bill Daily

Bill Daily, best known for playing Major Roger Healy on the classic sitcom I Dream of Jeannie and airline pilot Howard Borden on The Bob Newhart Show, died September 4 2018 at the age of 91.

Bill Healy was born on August 30 1927 in Des Moines, Iowa. His father died when he was very young and as a result Bill Healy was raised by his mother and various other relatives. In 1939 his family moved to Chicago. After graduating from Lane Technical High School, Mr. Daily pursued a career in music as a bassist with various jazz bands. It was during Bill Daily's career as a musician that he began performing stand-up comedy. During the Korean War he was drafted into the United States Army and served in an artillery unit before being transferred to an entertainment movement.

Following his service, Bill Daily studied stage and direction at the Goodman Theatre School in Chicago. He worked at WGN on Chicago Cubs games and was later hired as an announcer and floor manager at WMAQ in Chicago. There he wrote and performed on a daily variety show called Club 60. He continued to perform stand-up comedy during this period. It was at this time that he met Bob Newhart, an accountant who was just starting out in stand-up comedy. He hired Mr. Newhart for a Chicago-area television awards ceremony, where Mr. Newhart performed his famous "Abe Lincoln Press Agent" bit. On his days off Bill Daily would travel to Cleveland to write, direct, and perform on The Michael Douglas Show. Steve Allen appeared on the show in 1963 and, after seeing one of Bill Daily's bits on the show, invited him to appear on his syndicated show. Bill Daily then appeared on The New Steve Allen Show.  His appearance on the show soon led to other job offers.

Following his appearance on The New Steve Allen Show, Bill Daily guest starred on Bewitched, My Mother the Car, and The Farmer's Daughter. It was in 1965 that he began playing one of his most famous roles, that of Captain Roger Healy on I Dream of Jeannie. During the run of the show Roger was eventually promoted to major. In 1969 he appeared in the TV movie In Name Only.

In  1971 Bill Daily starred in an unsold pilot titled Inside O.U.T. In the early Seventies he guest starred on the TV shows Getting Together, The Mary Tyler Moore Show (in an episode that was a backdoor pilot for a show that didn't sell), and Love, American Style. In 1972 he began playing another one of his most famous roles, that of airline navigator (later pilot) Howard Borden on The Bob Newhart Show. He guest starred on the shows Flying High, $weepstake$, CHiPs, and The Love Boat.

In the Eighties, Bill Daily starred on three short-lived shows: Aloha Paradise (playing an assistant manager at a resort in Hawaii), Small & Frye (on which he appeared as Dr. Hanratty), and Starting from Scratch (on which he played veterinarian Dr. James Shepherd). He had a recurring role on Alf as psychiatrist Dr Larry Dykstra. He reprised his role as Roger Healy (now a Colonel) in the TV reunion movie I Dream of Jeannie... Fifteen Years Later. He guest starred on the shows The Powers of Matthew Star, Trapper John M.D.Comedy Factory, Newhart, and The Munsters Today.

In the Nineties Bill Daily guest starred on the TV shows Bob, George & Leo, The Naked Truth, and Caroline in the City. He appeared on The Bob Newhart Show 19th Anniversary Special and the TV reunion movie I Still Dream of Jeannie.

From the Sixties into the Eighties, Bill Daily was a panellist on a number of game shows, including The Hollywood Squares, Tattletales, and Match Game. Aside from The Mike Douglas Show (on which he appeared regularly from 1962 to 1964), he also appeared on several talk shows, including Della, The Dick Cavett Show, Dinah!, and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. A life-long fan of stage magic, in 1983 he hosted a series of syndicated specials on magic titled Bill Daily's Hocus-Pocus Gang. From 2006 to 2009 he was a guest host on Thursday mornings on Albuquerque radio station KBQI.

It might come as a surprise that while Bill Dailly had a large number of television credits, he only appeared in a few movies. He appeared in The Barefoot Executive (1971), Alligator II: The Mutation (1991), and Horrorween (2011).

Bill Daily was named the director of the New Mexico Film Commission in 1987. 

Bill Daily was a talented comedian with a gift for playing off-the-wall characters. Indeed, he played two of the most memorable characters in television history. On I Dream of Jeannie Roger Healy was a womaniser who always wanted to make a quick buck, and the only person besides Tony Nelson who knew that Jeannie was a genie. On The Bob Newhart Show Howard Borden was good natured, but somewhat inept anywhere except the cockpit of a plane. Over the years he played a number of lovable but slightly absurd characters, everything from a wholly incompetent Minneapolis city councilman on The Mary Tyler Moore Show to Dr. Dykstra on ALF (who was very close in disposition to Dr. Robert Hartley on The Bob Newhart Show). Few actors have the honour of starring in two classic sitcoms and playing a recurring role on a third. Bill Daily was able to do so because he was just so extremely talented.

Friday, September 7, 2018

The Late Great Burt Reynolds

Burt Reynolds, arguably one of the most popular actors of all time, died yesterday at the age of 82. The cause was a heart attack. He appeared in such films as Deliverance (1972), The Longest Yard (1974), Smokey and the Bandit (1977), and Boogie Nights (1997). He starred on such TV shows as Gunsmoke, Hawk, and Dan August.

Burt Reynolds was born on February 11 1936 in Lansing, Michigan. As his father was in the United States Army, Burt Reynolds's family moved frequently when he was a child. They lived in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for a time. While his father was stationed in Europe, the family lived in his mother's hometown of Lake City, Michigan. It was in 1946 that the family moved to Riviera Beach, Florida, where his father became the chief of police there. Having played football in high school, Burt Reynolds attended Florida State University on a football scholarship where he played halfback on the football team. During his sophomore year he injured his knee in the first game of the football season. Later in the year he was in a car accident that cost him his spleen and injured his other knee. These collective injuries affected his ability to play football, and he ultimately gave up any hopes of having a career in professional football.

Burt Reynolds considered becoming a police officer, but his father suggested that he finish college and become a parole officer instead. He attended Palm Beach Junior College where his English professor, Watson B. Duncan III, encouraged him to try out for the play Outward Bound. Cast in the lead role, Burt Reynolds won the1956 Florida State Drama Award for his role. The Florida State Drama Award included a scholarship to the Hyde Park Playhouse (a summer stock theatre located in Hyde Park, New York). It was while he was there that he met Joanne Woodward, who helped him find an agent.

Burt Reynolds made his television debut on an episode of Flight in 1958. In the late Fifties he guest starred on such TV shows as M Squad, The Lawless Years, Pony Express, Playhouse 90, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He was one of the two leads (along with Darren McGavin) on the short-lived show Riverboat. In 1961 he appeared on Broadway in Look, We've Come Through.

In the Sixties Burt Reynolds played blacksmith Quint Asper for three years on the TV show Gunsmoke. He played the title roles in the short lived crime dramas Hawk and Dan August. He guest starred on such shows as Michael Shayne, The Aquanauts, Naked City, Ripcord, Route 66, Perry Mason, The Twilight Zone, Flipper, 12 O' Clock High, Gentle Ben, The F.B.I., and Love, American Style. He made his film debut in the movie Angel Baby in 1961. He appeared in the films Armoured Command (1961), Operation C.I.A. (1965), Navajo Joe (1966), 100 Riles (1969), Sam Whiskey (1969), Impasse (1969), Shark! (1969), and Skillduggery (1970).

It was in the Seventies that Burt Reynolds became one of the most popular actors in the world. He starred in such films as Fuzz (1972),  Deliverance (1972), Shamus (1973), The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing (1973), White Lightning (1973), The Longest Yard (1974), At Long Last Love (1975), W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings (1975), Lucky Lady (1975), Hustle  (1975), Gator (1976), Smokey and the Bandit (1977), Semi-Tough (1977), The End (1978), Hooper (1978), Starting Over (1979), Rough Cut (1980), and Smokey and the Bandit II (1980).  In 1980 he returned to the role of Dan August in three television movies.

Burt Reynolds began the Eighties as one of the most popular movie stars in the world, but his popularity began to fade late in the decade after a series of flops. He appeared in such films as The Cannonball Run (1981), Paternity (1981), Sharky's Machine (1981), The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), Best Friends (1982), Stroker Ace (1983), Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 (1983), The Man Who Loved Women (1983), Cannonball Run II (1984), City Heat (1984), Stick (1985), Heat (1986), Malone (1987), Rent-a-Cop (1987), Physical Evidence (1989), Breaking In (1989), and Modern Love (1990). He was the voice of Charlie B. Barkin in All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989). He starred in the TV series B. L. Styker and later in the decade on the sitcom Evening Shade. He was the voice of Troy Garland on the sitcom Out of This World. He guest starred on The Golden Girls.

In the Nineties he continued to star in the sitcom Evening Shade. He guest starred on the shows Amazing Grace, Hope & Gloria, and Cybill.  He was a guest voice on the animated series King of the Hill. He appeared in the TV movie Hard Time and its two sequels. He appeared in such films as Cop and 1/2 (1993), The Maddening (1995), Citizen Ruth (1996), Striptease (1996), Boogie Nights (1997), Big City Blues (1996), Pups  (1996), Stringer (199), Mystery, Alaska (1999), Waterproof  (2000), The Crew (2000), and The Last Producer (2000).

In the Naughts Burt Reynolds guest starred on such TV shows as Ed, The King of Queens, Freddie, My Name is Earl, and Burn Notice. He was a guest voice on the animated shows Robot Chicken and Duck Dodgers. He appeared in such films as Driven (2001), Tempted (2001), Hotel (2001), Snapshots (2002), Time of the Wolf (2002), Without a Puzzle (2004), The Longest Yard (2005), The Dukes of Hazzard (2005), Cloud 9 (2006), Grilled (2006), Broken Bridges (2006), Deal (2008), and A Bunch of Amateurs (2008).

In the Naughts Mr. Reynolds appeared in the films Not Another Not Another Movie (2011), Pocket Listing (2016), Hollow Creek (2016), Apple of My Eye (2017), Dog Years (2017), Miami Love Affair (2017), Henri (2017), and Shadow Fighter (2018). He starred in the TV series Hitting the Breaks. He guest starred on the TV show In Sanity, Florida. He was a guest voice on the animated shows American Dad and Archer.

Burt Reynolds always took a self-effacing attitude towards his acting, but the fact is that he was a very good actor. While he was known for playing lovable rogues such as Bandit in Smokey and the Bandit, he played many roles that were quite different from Bandit. In Waterproof he played ageing Jewish storekeeper Eli Zeal. In Boogie Nights he played porn movie maker Jack Horner. Even his television roles varied a bit. Burt Reynolds once claimed to Johnny Carson that his character of Dan August only had two means of expression, "mean and meaner". Nearly 20 years after playing Dan August, he played the somewhat good-natured Wood Newton on Evening Shade.  In his guest appearance on Route 66 he played a young punk who harasses a character played by Tuesday Weld. It is likely that many will remember Burt Reynolds best as Bandit, but the fact is that he played a variety of roles and he played all of them well.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Crackerjack! Reunion in Chiswick on September 15

If you are a Brit of a certain age, changes are good that you remember the children's show Crackerjack!. It aired for around 28 years, from September 14 1955 to December 21 1984 (it was off in 1971) on the BBC. To celebrate the launch of the new book It's Friday, It's Crackerjack! by Alan Stafford, there will be a reunion of many of the show's cast and crew at St. Michael's Centre in Chiswick, London. Below is a press release for the event (copyright Alan Stafford, all rights reserved).



Don’t drop that cabbage!  Don’t crush that grape!  This September a host of stars from Friday’s teatime TV classic are getting back together to celebrate the 29-year run of CrackerjackCRACKERJACK!

They’re coming to Chiswick on Saturday 15th September for the book launch of It’s Friday, It’s Crackerjack!  And inevitably the conversation will turn to the show’s perennial stooge, short tubby bespectacled Peter Glaze.

When nervous newcomer Jan Hunt joined Crackerjack in 1975, Peter (who’d already clocked up 15 years on the show) gave her a useful tip: ‘Peter said to me, “Jan, it’s not live television. So if you think you’ve made a boo-boo, just go – poo bum willy wee-wee!  And of course they’ll have to stop.”’

Australian Rod McLennan took over from Leslie Crowther in 1968, and was the second in a long line of lanky comics to partner Peter: ‘I suppose he was the feed – although he looked funnier.  Physically he should have been the funny man, because he was little and portly and spoke very, very quickly.’
Alan J W Bell (of Last of the Summer Wine fame) directed Peter Glaze in several Crackerjack slapstick silent movies: ‘If you told him to pick up a bottle and look at it and let it fall out of your hand, he wouldn’t just drop it.  It would be a flurry of hands.  Everything he did was superbly mimed.  Had he been in America, he’d be a multi-millionaire, owning studios, because he just had the gift of performing.’

Peter’s third co-star, Don Maclean, recalls the boisterous studio audiences at BBC Television Theatre (now the Shepherds Bush Empire): ‘We had one group, they were a rough load of kids.  And they worked out that the microphones above their heads were the audience mikes.  So they were shouting four-letter words into these mikes.  And the sound men had a hell of a job blocking it all out.’

Hostess Jillian Comber joined back in 1960, assisting original host Eamonn Andrews with the Double or Drop quiz, where correct answers earned you armfuls of prizes while a dropped prize meant the dreaded cabbage: ‘If you had a clever child, or two that were really going to parry, then I had to put things in very difficult positions so that they would drop.  It was very unfair, but the timing on the live shows had to be so precise.’

Writer Tony Hare scripted many of the iconic musical finales, where costume drama collided with chart toppers, including a memorable rendition of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody: ‘It was the longest song they ever did.  They rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed it.  And they did it pretty well.  Even Glaze was alright, you know, he was screaming away.  And I remember Don Maclean saying, “Don’t you ever do that to us again!”’

In the 1980s Crackerjack bid farewell to Peter Glaze, and gained Stu Francis, the gunge tank, and the show’s first ever theme song, written and performed by Chas and Dave.  Hostess Sara Hollamby remembers: ‘The kids in the audience used to sing it as well.  It was absolutely deafening!  It made the hairs on your neck stand up on end.  It not only got the audience going, it was good for us as well.  You didn’t need a warmup guy with that.  It was a work of genius, that signature tune.’
All these Crackerjack stars, and more besides, will converge on the St Michael’s Centre in Chiswick on Saturday afternoon 15th September, to share anecdotes and sign copies of It’s Friday, it’s Crackerjack! by Alan Stafford, published by Fantom.  So Crackerjack pencils at the ready! 
Tickets (at £25, which includes a copy of the book) are available from where you’ll also find a full celebrity guest list.