Friday, January 25, 2019

The Late Great James Frawley

James Frawley, who directed a lion's share of the episodes of the classic TV show The Monkees as well as episodes of many other shows and feature films, died on January 22 2019 at the age of 82. He began his career as an actor, appearing on Broadway and on several different TV shows.

James Frawley was born on September 29 1936 in Houston, Texas. He began his acting career in New York City. He made his debut on Broadway in a small role in Becket in 1961. He also appeared on Broadway in the productions Arturo Ui and Anyone Can Whistle. He made his television debut in the television special Seasons of Youth in 1961. He made several guest appearances on TV shows in the Sixties, including appearances on such shows as Gunsmoke, The Outer Limits, The Bill Dana Show, Perry Mason, Burke's Law, Dr. Kildare, A Man Called Shenandoah, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Hogan's Heroes, My Favourite Martian, McHale's Navy, The F.B.I., I Spy, and The Fugitive.  He appeared in the films Greenwich Village Story (1963), Ladybug Ladybug (1963), The Troublemaker (1964), and Wild Wild Winter (1966).

In the mid-Sixties Mr. Frawley got a 16 mm camera, with which he shot two short films that he edited himself. The two films found their way to producers Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson. Messrs. Schneider and Rafelson then hired James Frawley to direct their new TV series The Monkees, finding the fact that he had been an improvisational actor with experience in doing comedy desirable. Mr. Frawley then not only directed the TV show The Monkees, but trained The Monkees in the art of improvisation. In the end James Frawley would direct 28 episodes of the show. He won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy for the episode "Royal Flush" and was nominated for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy for "The Devil and Peter Tork" the following year. In the Sixties James Frawley also directed episodes of That Girl and The Ugliest Girl in Town, as well as the failed pilots Holly Golightly and A Guide for the Married Man.

In the Seventies James Frawley directed the films The Christian Licorice Store, Kid Blue, The Big Bus, and The Muppet Movie. He directed episodes of The Texas Wheelers, Paper Moon, All That Glitters, Columbo, and The Eddie Capra Mysteries. He also directed the TV movies Delancey Street: The Crisis Within and Gridlock. He guest starred on the TV show Columbo and appeared in the movie Tracks (1976). He had a cameo in The Muppet Movie.

In the Eighties Mr. Frawley directed episodes of Mr. Merlin, The Devlin Connection, Tales of the Gold Monkey, Wizards and Warriors, Faerie Tale Theatre, Magnum P.I., Mike Hammer, The Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Cagney and Lacey, Columbo and Father Dowling Mysteries. He directed the feature film Fraternity Vacation (1985). He guest starred on the TV show CBS Summer Playhouse.

In the Nineties he directed episodes of Jake and the Fatman, The Trials of Rosie O'Neill, Crime & Punishment, Key West, Law & Order, Melrose Place, Earth 2, Picket Fences, American Gothic, Chicago Hope, The Big Easy, Spy Game, Alley McBeal, Vengeance Unlimited, Jack & Jill, The Practice, That's Life, and The Fugitive. He guest starred on the TV show American Gothic.

In the Naughts James Frawley directed episodes of The Division, Kate Brasher, Smallville, Thieves, Ed, Judging Amy, Related, Reunion, In Justice, The Book of Daniel, Three Moons Over Milford, Ghost Whisperer, Notes from the Underbelly, Side Order of Life, Dirty Sexy Money, Shark, Spellbound, Private Practice, and Grey's Anatomy.

Even if the only thing James Frawley had directed were his many episodes of The Monkees, he would have left a mark on television history. Indeed, while Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson created The Monkees and Paul Mazursky and Larry Tucker wrote the show's pilot, James Frawley was largely responsible for shaping the show as we know it. For six weeks Mr. Frawley trained The Monkees, two of who were not actors (Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork), in improvisation and acting. Once the show was in production he directed more episodes than anyone else, shaping The Monkees as the surreal comedy that combined elements of the French New Wave with Richard Lester's work on A Hard Day's Night (1964) and Help! (1965) and a good dose of Ernie Kovacs's visual humour. Mr. Frawley would go on to a very successful career as a television director, directing episodes of such TV shows as That Girl, Columbo, Mike Hammer, and Law & Order. Of course, James Frawley's directorial career included feature films, and The Muppet Movie remains enjoyable largely due to his direction. James Frawley was one of television's most remarkable directors and certainly one of its most innovative.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Godspeed Muriel Pavlow

British actress Muriel Pavlow died on January 19 2019 at the age of 97.

Muriel Pavlow was born on June 27 1921 in Lewisham, South East London. Her father, Boris Pavlov, was a Russian immigrant. Her mother, Germaine, was Swiss-French. Her father changed the last name to Pavlow so the name would sound more British. She began acting while very young. She made her film debut in 1934 in the Gracie Fields musical Sing As We Go!. In the Thirties she also appeared in the films A Romance in Flanders (1937) and John Halifax (1938). She made her television debut in 1937 as Gretel in a television production of Hansel and Gretel.

In the Forties Miss Pavlow appeared in the films Quiet Wedding (1941), Night Boat to Dublin (1946), and The Shop at Sly Corner (1947). On television she appeared in the TV movies Peter and Paul and Weep for the Cyclops, as well as a multi-part television production of Hamlet.

In the Fifties Muriel Pavlow played Joy Gibson, the love interest of Simon Sparrow (played by Sir Dirk Benedict), in the movies Doctor in the House (1954) and Doctor at Large (1957). She also appeared in the films It Started in Paradise (1952), The Net (1953), Malta Story (1953), Conflict of Wings (1954), Simon and Laura (1955), Reach for the Sky (1956), Eyewitness (1956), Tiger in the Smoke (1956), Rooney (1958), and Whirlpool (1959). On television she guest started on the TV programmes BBC Sunday-Night Theatre and Douglas Fairbanks Presents. She appeared in the TV movies Spring at Marino, Breakers Ahead, and The Mollusc.

In the Sixties Miss Pavlow appeared in the film Murder She Said (1961). She guest starred on the TV shows BBC Sunday-Night Play, Jezebel ex UK, Zero One, R3, and The Brian Rix Theatre of Laughter. In the Seventies she appeared in several episodes of Emmerdale Farm. She guest starred on the shows Dixon of Dock Green and The Ravelled Thread. In the Eighties she guest starred on The Last Evensong and Boon.

In the Nineties Muriel Pavlow guest starred on Surgical Spirit, Screen Two, The Bill, May to December, Crown Prosecutor, Men Behaving Badly, Poirot, and Black Books. She appeared in the mini-series The Rector's Wife, Oliver's Travels, and The Final Cut. She appeared in the TV movies Daisies in December and Heaven on Earth.

In the Naughts she appeared in the mini-series Perfect Strangers. She appeared in the TV movies Hotel! and Belonging. She guest starred on the TV show Coupling. Her last appearance on screen was in the movie Glorious 39 (2009).

Although she was not English in descent, Muriel Pavlow was often cast as the quintessential Englishwoman, always bravely standing by the man in her life. It was a role she played in Reach for the Sky, and even the two "Doctor" movies in which she appeared. And there can be little doubt she was suited to such roles. Pretty, but at the same time capable of looking prim, Miss Pavlow excelled in playing such heroines. That is not to say that she was not capable of other roles. On television she played everything from Ophelia in Hamlet to Queen Victoria on the TV show The Ravelled Thread. Muriel Pavlow was a remarkable actress who was always a pleasure to watch.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Late Great Kaye Ballard

Kaye Ballard, an actress, comedian, and singer who had a career on Broadway, film, and television, died on January 21 2019 at the age of 93. Along with Eve Arden she was the star of the Sixties sitcom The Mothers-in-Law and in the Seventies she was a semi-regular on The Doris Day Show.

Kaye Ballard was born Catherine Gloria Balotta on November 20 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio. She wanted to go into show business in childhood and passed up a scholarship to Cleveland Art College to do so. After graduating high school she got an agent and performed at various places around Cleveland. Initially she used the stage name Kay Ballad, which was soon changed to Kaye Ballard. She went on a burlesque tour and was then booked at the Bowery Room in Detroit. The Bowery Room's owner knew bandleader Spike Jones and recommended her to him. She was soon hired by Mr.  Jones. In addition to singing with Spike Jones's band, she also played the tuba, the flute, as well as engaging in comedy. She toured with Spike Jones for two years.

In 1946 she toured with the revue Three to Make Ready. In 1952 she made her debut on Broadway in Top Banana, as a replacement for the role of Betty Dillon (originally played by Rose Marie). In 1954 she appeared on Broadway in The Golden Apple. She made her television debut in 1950 on Abe Burrows' Almanac. She appeared on such variety and talk shows as The Colgate Comedy Hour, The Mel Torme Show, The Arthur Murray Party, The NBC Comedy Hour, and The Gary Moore Show. She made her debut in a dramatic role on television in an episode of Kraft Television Theatre. She played one of the ugly stepsisters in the 1957 television production of Cinderella (Julie Andrews played the title role). She made her film debut in 1958 in The Girl Most Likely.

In the Sixties she appeared on Broadway in Carnival! and The Beast in Me. In the Sixties she guest starred on the shows Play of the Week, The Patty Duke Show, The Red Skelton Show, and All My Children. She appeared on such variety shows and talk shows as Tonight Starring Jack Paar, The Perry Como Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Hollywood Palace, The Jerry Lewis Show, Della, and The Leslie Uggams Show. She appeared on several game shows through the decade, including Play Your Hunch, Password, I've Got a Secret, To Tell the Truth, and The Hollywood Squares. In 1967 she started playing the role of Kaye Buell on the sitcom The-Mothers-In-Law. While the show only lasted two years, it proved to be a success and has been seen in reruns in syndication ever since. In 1970 she started playing the recurring role of Angelea Pallucci on The Doris Day, a role she would play until 1972. She appeared in the films A House is Not a Home (1964) and Which Way to the Front (1970).

In the Seventies Kaye Ballard guest starred on the shows Love, American Style; The Montefuscos; Police Story; Alice; Flying High; Fantasy Island; The Dream Merchants; and The Love Boat. She appeared on such variety shows and talk shows as The David Frost Show, The Carol Burnett Show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Dinah!, The Merv Griffin Show, The Muppet Show, and The Mike Douglas Show. She appeared on such game shows as The $10,000 Pyramid, Match Game, and Hollywood Squares. She appeared on Broadway in Molly. She appeared in the films The Ritz (1976), Freaky Friday (1976), and Falling in Love Again (1980).

In the Eighties Kaye Ballard guest starred on such shows as The Love Boat, Here's Boomer, Trapper John M.D., The Law and Harry McGraw, Monsters, and The Munsters Today. She was a regular on the short-lived show What a Dummy. She appeared on Broadway in a revival of The Pirates of Penzance. She appeared in the films Pandemonium (1982), The Perils of P.K. (1986), Tiger Warsaw (1988), Modern Love (1990), Eternity (1990), and Fate (1990).

In the Nineties Miss Ballard appeared in the films Joey Takes a Cab (1991), Ava's Magical Adventure (1994), The Modern Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1998), Baby Geniuses (1999), and The Million Dollar Kid (2000). She provided a voice for the animated film Little Insects (2000). She guest starred on the TV shows Daddy Dearest and Due South.

Kaye Ballard was a woman of considerable talent. She had a gift for comedy. Miss Ballard was quite skilled at verbal comedy, always delivering lines with perfect timing. What is more, she had a great deal of wit, able to say the funniest things off the top of her head. At the same time she had a knack for physical comedy and could engage in slapstick with the best of them. Kaye Ballard was not a fantastic singer, but while she may not have had the best voice out there, but she could deliver a song with considerable feeling. In the end Kaye Ballard was a great, all-around entertainer.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve (1941)

The Lady Eve (1941) remains both one of Barbara Stanwyck and director-writer Preston Sturges's best known movies. Upon its release on February 25 1941 it proved to be a hit at the box office and also received a good deal of critical acclaim. It has since become regarded as a classic.

The Lady Eve centred on con artist Jean Harrington (played by Barbara Stanwyck) and her father "Colonel" Harrington (played by Charles Coburn). Their latest mark is shy ophidiologist Charles Poncefort Pike (played by Henry Fonda), who also happens to be the heir to the Pike Ale fortune. Unfortunately the daughter and father team of con artists, their plans go awry when Jean finds herself falling for Charles.

The Lady Eve was loosely based upon the story "Two Bad Hats" by Monckton Hoffe. Preston Struges almost completely reworked the story to the point that it very nearly seems like one of his originals. From the beginning Mr. Sturges wanted Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, and Charles Coburn in the lead roles. Paramount disagreed with him, and instead the studio considered a number of different actors for the leads. Both Brian Aherne and Joel McCrea were considered for the role of Charles Poncefort Pike. Madeleine Carroll and Paulette Goddard were considered for the role of Jean Harrington. Preston Sturges refused to budge with regards to the cast he wanted, so that in the end Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, and Charles Coburn were cast as the leads. Fresh from his success with The Great McGinty (1940), Paramount found it difficult to resist Mr. Sturges.

Indeed, for The Lady Eve Paramount gave Mr. Sturges his biggest budget for a movie to date. Much of that money went towards hiring Edith Head, who designed twenty five different gowns for Barbara Stanwyck. The budget was reflected in the film's sets as well.

It might come as a surprise to some, given how risqué the film is at times, that The Lady Eve had few problems with the Hays Office. The Hays Office rejected the initial script for The Lady Eve, pointing out various things they found objectionable. It appears that Preston Sturges only followed about half of their suggestions, leaving in a good deal of what they found objectionable. Regardless, the Hays Office approved the revised script.

While Barbara Stanwyck had appeared in comedies before (such as 1936's The Bride Walks Out) , the films Remember the Night (1940--it was written, but not directed by Preston Sturges) and The Lady Eve would mark a bit of a shift in her career. In the Thirties she was best known for dramas such as A Lost Lady (1934) and Stella Dallas (1937).  While Barbara Stanwyck would continue to appear in dramas in the Forties, some of her best known films from the decade would be comedies. Indeed, in addition to other comedies she made in the Forties, Ball of Fire (1941) and Christmas in Connecticut (1945) remain two of her best known films from the Forties. Miss Stanwyck may be best remembered for various dramatic roles in the Thirties, in the Forties she may be best remembered for her comedy roles.

The Lady Eve remains one of Barbara Stanwyck's best remembered films, and with good reason. It is one of Preston Sturges's sexiest, wittiest, funniest films ever made, and Miss Stanwyck shines in the role of Jean. While many might remember her best as Lily Powers in Baby Face (1933) or Stella Dallas in the movie of the same name, there are probably many others who probably remember her best as Jean in The Lady Eve.