Saturday, January 4, 2020

Elizabeth Sellars Passes On

Elizabeth Sellars, who appeared in films from The Barefoot Contessa (1954) to The Mummy's Shroud (1967), died on December 30 2019 at the age of 98.

Elizabeth Sellars was born on May 6 1921 in Glasgow, Scotland. She initially studied law, but was persuaded to attended an audition with actor Cedric Hardwicke's niece Jean Hardwicke, who was then Miss Sellars's housemate. Afterwards she studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She made her London stage debut in The Brothers Karamazov. She later acted with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Elizabeth Sellars made her television debut in a TV production of The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus in 1947. She made her movie debut in Floodtide in 1949. She appeared in the films Madeleine and Guilt Is My Shadow in 1950. In the Fifties she appeared in the films Cloudburst (1951), Night Was Our Friend (1951), Hunted (1952), The Gentle Gunman (1952), The Long Memory (1953), The Broken Horseshoe (1953), Recoil (1953), Three's Company (1953), Forbidden Cargo (1954), The Barefoot Contessa (1954), Désirée (1954), Prince of Players (1955), Three Cases of Murder (1955), The Last Man to Hang (1956), The Man in the Sky (1957), The Shiralee (1957), Law and Disorder (1958), Jet Storm (1959), The Day They Robbed the Bank of England (1960), and Never Let Go (1960). She appeared on television in the TV series Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Presents, The DuPont Show of the Month, BBC Sunday-Night Theatre, Armchair Theatre, Suspense, and ITV Playhouse.

In the Sixties Miss Sellars appeared in the movies The Webster Boy (1962), 55 Days at Peking (1963), The Chalk Garden (1964), and The Mummy's Shroud (1967). She had a regular role on the British TV series R3. She guest starred on the shows One Step Beyond, BBC Sunday-Night Play, Drama 61-67, First Night, Love Story, Thirty-Minute Theatre, This Man Craig, The Power Game, The Wednesday Play, ITV Play of the Week, The Avengers, and W. Somerset Maugham.

In the Seventies she appeared in the movie The Hireling (1973). She appeared on the TV shows Shadows of Fear, Late Night Theatre, Churchill's People, Shades of Greene, and Beasts. In the Eighties she appeared in the mini-series Number 10 and Winter Sunlight. She guest starred on the TV shows Play for Today, Farrington of the F.O., The Play on One, and Made in Heaven.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Announcing the Sixth Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon

I am announcing A Shroud of Thoughts' sixth annual "Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon". The first five 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 on March 20, 21, and 22.

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 at 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 are at least 25 years old. That means one cannot write posts on episodes from shows that debuted after 1995 (nothing from CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, let alone Blackish). 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. Law & Order debuted in 1990 and ran until 2010, so that its final season aired after 1995. Because Law & Order is over 25 years old, however, one could still write about an episode that aired in the 2009-2010 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 20, March 21, or March 22 2020.

7. On March 20 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 20 I will make a post that will include all of the posts in the blogathon.

A Shroud of Thoughts: Batman, "The Purr-fect Crime"/"Better Luck Next Time"

Moon in GeminiThe Six Wives of Henry VIII, "Catherine Howard"

Caftan Woman: Magnum P.I., "Holmes is Where the Heart Is"

In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood: I Love Lucy

Crítica Retrô: Top Cat, "Choo Choo Goes Ga Ga" 

Hamlette's Soliloquy: The Big Valley, "Gunfight in Limbo" 

The Midnite Drive-In: The Dick Van Dyke Show, "It May Look Like a Walnut" 

Taking Up Room: McGyver, "Halloween Knights"

Once Upon a Screen...The Mary Tyler Moore Show, "The Lars Affair"

Dubsism: The Rockford Files, "The Competitive Edge"

The Wonderful World of Cinema: The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, "See the Monkey Dance"

The Horn Section: The High Chaparral, "It Takes a Smart Man"

The Movie RatTiny Toons, "Acme Bowl"

A Scunner DarklyBaywatch Nights, "Night Whispers"

Whimsically Classic: Beverly Hills, 90120 "Rebel With a Cause"

Hollywood Genes: Faerie Tale Theatre, "The Boy Who Left Home to Find out About the Shivers"

Various Ramblings of a Nostalgic Italian: Sanford and Son, "Home Sweet Home"

Realweegiemidget Reviews Films TV Books and moreThe Fall Guy, "Reluctant Traveling Companion"

The Everyday Cinephile: Police Squad!, "Testimony of Evil (Dead Men Don't Laugh)"

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

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy New Year 2020

Well, it is officially 2020. As my long-time readers would expect, here are some classic New Year pinups for you.

First up is Mary Martin, who is welcoming the year 1946.

Next is Yvette Mimieux, who is celebrating the start of 1961.

Debra Paget is welcoming 1953.

Gloria DeHaven is ringing in 1955.

Barbara Eden is welcoming 1963.

And you couldn't have a New Year without Ann Miller!

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Farewell to 2019

There are many who believe that 2019 is the end of the decade of the Teens. I am not one of them, as I honestly don't think the Twenties will begin until January 1 2021 (if you want to know why, read this post). Regardless, the end of any year is a good time for looking back and 2019 is no different in that regard.

In many ways 2019 was not an easy year for me. After all, the year began only four months after my beloved Vanessa Marquez had been shot and killed by police officers in South Pasadena, California. I then began 2019 heavily grieving and, although I am better than I was at the beginning of the year, I am still grieving. As 2019 began I was still crying on a regular basis, sometime multiple times a day. It is still not unusual for something I associate with her (a memory, a song, a movie) to trigger a flood of tears. Even now I miss talking to her on the phone and texting with her, and interacting with her on various social networks. For me Vanessa's death is an open wound from which I am convinced I will never recover. I may learn to live with it, but I am convinced that I will carry the pain of her absence for the rest of my life. The fact is that for me Vanessa was not merely a close friend, but a woman I adore more than anyone else in my life. Even now I cannot use the past tense when speaking of my feelings for her. Vanessa may have died, but my love for her has not.

At the same time that I was (and still am) grieving, I was (and still am) very, very angry. Vanessa was not mentally ill, nor was she suicidal. She certainly was not violent. I cannot see how anyone could possibly feel threatened by someone as tiny as Vanessa was (she was only 5' 3" and 87 pounds when she died). For those reasons and others I am convinced that the police officers who shot her acted inappropriately, unprofessionally, and irresponsibly in dealing with Vanessa. In fact, I am convinced that the persons who killed Vanessa behaved so carelessly and recklessly that they are at least guilty of voluntary manslaughter or possibly even second degree murder.

Worse yet, South Pasadena's behaviour since Vanessa's death has left much to be desired. In my opinion, their city manager's statement as of September 1 2018 regarding Vanessa's death was grounded in assumptions that I don't think were supported by the available evidence at the time (keep in mind the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department's investigation had only begun the previous day). The statement also lacked any sort of empathy or sympathy for those of us who love Vanessa and did not take into account that we were grieving a dear friend. I know that I was not only angered by the statement, but I was very, very hurt by it as well, this at the lowest point in my entire life.  South Pasadena has released no information regarding Vanessa's death in the year and four months since she died. They have not even responded to even one of the many letters I have written them. Making matters even worse is the fact that Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey has not said whether she plans to prosecute the police officers who shot Vanessa or declare that they were within their rights to do so. Given that Lacey has never prosecuted police officers in officer involved shooting cases, even when it seems clear to many that they were in the wrong, I have my doubts that she will ever do either. I have then spent the entirety of 2019 not only mourning my dearest Vanessa, but angry that what I perceive as a heinous crime committed against her might well go unpunished.

Of course, although it might have seemed that way at times, 2019 was not all bad for me. It was around October 2018 that Vanessa's Stand and Deliver (1988) co-star Lydia Nicole set up a petition asking that Vanessa be included in the on-air In Memoriams of both the SAG Awards and the Oscars. Both Paula Guthat, a close mutual friend as well as the co-founder of #TCMParty, and I tweeted the petition almost daily from October onwards, and yet others shared it as well. In the end neither the Screen Actors Guild nor the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences included Vanessa Marquez in their on-air In Memoriams. That having been said, over 12,000 people signed the petition. What is more, the petition received nationwide attention, as did the failure of the Academy to include her in their on-air In Memoriam. It made me happy to know that so many people cared enough about the woman I love more than any other in my life that they were willing to sign a petition to see that she was remembered in the on-air In Memoriams of both the SAG Awards and the Oscars. Vanessa had many more fans than she thought she did.

It was also this year that I created a pinback button in memory of Vanessa to be handed out at the 2019 TCM Classic Film Festival. Vanessa had always wanted to go to the festival, but never got the chance. I thought this would be a way that I could memorialise her as well as see that she was present at the festival after a fashion. I only made a limited number of the pinback buttons, and they proved popular enough that I fear many who wanted one did not get one (I am going to have to make more). Vanessa was well loved by the TCM fan community and by many at Turner Classic Movies itself. She was one of the original members of #TCMParty, the group of fans who live tweet films on TCM using that hashtag, and was adored for her openness, warm-heartedness, enthusiasm, and her knowledge of classic film and the film industry. Paula Guthat referred to her as "the Sweetheart of #TCMParty."

It would be because of Vanessa that I would make my first trip to California. I had always wanted to go out there and see her, but I never did get the chance. It was then in July that I boarded a plane and flew to Hollywood to attend a special screening of Stand and Deliver at the LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes and to scatter Vanessa's ashes. Both were extremely emotional experiences. At the screening of Stand and Deliver there was an incredible outpouring of love for Vanessa. The members of the cast of Stand and Deliver made sure that she was remembered at the event. Acclaimed cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz was there, with the tribute he had made to Vanessa in his comic strip La Cucaracha. It was an extremely emotional experience for me and I have to confess that while watching Stand and Deliver I cried a bit at the scene in which Vanessa's character, Ana Delgado, was standing in the doorway (it is the scene that Turner Classic Movies used in the 2018 TCM Remembers). Anyway, I had been in touch with Daniel before attending the screening, but I got to meet much of the rest of the cast of the movie, as well as producer and screenwriter Tom Musca.

As I mentioned above, part of the reason for the trip was also to scatter Vanessa's ashes. I am not yet at liberty to say where we scattered her ashes (a very few of you already know), but it was one of the most emotional experiences of my life. It was a beautiful day for it. We did it in the early morning when there was a heavy fog in the Hollywood Hills. As we scattered Vanessa's ashes I found myself overwhelmed to the point that I did something I have never done before. I broke down crying for the first time in front of anyone other than my closest family. We are talking ugly crying here, not just a few tears. For Vanessa, then, I flew on a plane for the first time (I have always been terrified of them and that initial flight was frightening), among other things. Among the good things that came out of my trip to California is that I am now in touch with Vanessa's mother and we have grown rather close.

Of course, not every important event in my year was necessarily related to Vanessa. Every year TCM Backlot holds a TCM in Your Hometown contest. This year it was St. Louis that won the contest. It was then on September 26 2019 that my friend Meredith of the blog Vitaphone Dreamer and I journeyed to St. Louis to see Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) at the Tivoli Theatre there. Before the movie a VIP meet and greet was held at the Moonrise Hotel (a few blocks away from the Tivoli), which I attended. It was there that I got to meet Margaret O'Brien (who played Tootie in the movie) and I got to meet Ben Mankiewicz in person (I had previously introduced A Hard Day's Night with him as part of TCM's Fan Favourites series). I also got to meet Annette of Hometowns to Hollywood, Diana Bosch of the blog Flickin' Out and currently with TCM, and Yacov Freedman, who runs TCM Backot, in person. Before the movie was a Q&A between Ben Mankiewicz and Margaret O'Brien, which was quite fun as one could imagine. As to Meet Me in St. Louis, it has always been one of my all-time favourite movies and it is simply amazing on the big screen.

That's enough about me. I am sure many of you who are reading this post would rather hear about popular culture in the year 2019. Once more this year the top movies at the box office were either sequels or remakes. The number one movie of the year was Marvel's The Avengers: Endgame. At number two was Disney's remake of their animated film The Lion King. At number three was another sequel, Pixar's Toy Story 4. In the number 4 spot was the only original movie in the top five, Captain Marvel (the Marvel comics character, not the original Fawcett Comics character). The fifth highest grossing movie of the year was Disney's Frozen II, another sequel. While looking at the top five might seem bleak to some given the remakes and sequels, there were actually some movies in the theatres I would like to have seen this year, although I only got to see one. I thoroughly enjoyed Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and it could possibly be my favourite Quentin Tarantino movie of all time. I also wanted to see Booksmart, Dolemite is My Name, The Irishman, and, especially, Knives Out. I did not get to see any of them. Yes, I know some of them are on Netflix, but sadly I haven't had access to a Netflix account since October. I plan on seeing The Rise of Skywalker in the theatre, but it will probably be next year before I do so.

Between the old broadcast networks, the cable channels, and streaming services, it has gotten increasingly difficult to determine what the most popular television shows are. The big hit on the broadcast networks this year was The Masked Singer, which I really have no desire to see. Other than The Masked Singer, it seems to me that ratings for the broadcast networks were dominated by older shows. The Big Bang Theory ended its run and got phenomenal ratings in the process. Both NCIS and Young Sheldon continued to get high ratings. As far as the broadcast networks go, the only new show that hooked me is Stumptown, a detective drama based on the graphic novels of the same name. As far as the cable channels go, Game of Thrones ended its run and dominated the ratings as well. Big Little Lies and Watchmen, also on HBO, also did well. Of course, television is increasingly dominated by the streaming services. Netflix saw success with the TV series Stranger Things, The Witcher, The Umbrella Academy, and Dead to Me. Netflix continued to expand into movies, with The Irishman and Murder Mystery. On Amazon The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel continues to do well. Of course, this year saw the emergence of new streaming services, among them Disney+. On Disney+, The Mandalorian, a show set in the Star Wars universe, appears to be a hit.

Of course, what many will remember about 2019 is the sheer number of celebrity deaths this year. As my loyal readers know, I regularly eulogise pop culture figures on this blog. This year there were so many people dying that I did not have a full week free of any eulogies until the week of February 10. After that I would not have another full week full of eulogies until the week of May 19. What is more, some very big names died this year. Among them was one of the last stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Doris Day. What is more Miss Day was not only a movie star, but a very successful singer as well. Tim Conway, a television megastar known for McHale's Navy and The Carol Burnett Show, died the same week as Doris Day. Among the sadder deaths for me this year was Diahann Carroll. I have adored the actress and singer since childhood. Stanley Donen directed some of my all time favourite movies of all time. In fact, not counting The Wizard of Oz (1939) and A Hard Day's Night (1964), he directed my two favourite musicals of all time: Singin' in the Rain (1954) and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). An entire list of the actors, directors, and writers who died this year would take up a good bit of space, and there were so many that I could not eulogise all of them on this blog. Here then is a list of some of the people who died in 2019: Carol Channing, Kaye Ballard, James Frawley, Dick Miller, Julie Adams, Albert Finney, Stanley Donen, Luke Perry, Larry Cohen, Julia Lockwood, Agnes Varda, John Singleton, Peter Mayhew, Billy Drago, Rip Torn, Rutger Hauer, Peter Fonda, Valerie Harper, Carol Lynley, Rip Taylor, writer D. C. Fontana, René Auberjonois, Anna Karina, Danny Aiello, Lee Mendelson, and Sue Lyon. Here I want to stress that this list does not include everyone I eulogised on this blog this year, as it would possibly occupy a very large part of the page!

Several music artists also died this year, among them some of my favourites. I have been a fan of The Monkees since I was a very young child, so that I was very hurt when I heard Peter Tork died. Another one of my favourites to die this year was Ric Ocasek. I had been a fan of The Cars since their first album came out in 1978. Others who died this year were Hal Blaine, Dick Dale, Leon Redbone, Eddie Money, Ginger Baker, and Neil Innes.

With regards to this blog, A Shroud of Thoughts celebrated its fifteenth anniversary on June 4. Even without all the eulogies it has been a busy year on the blog. I held both the Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon in March and the Rule Britannia blogathon in August. I also took part in several other blogathons, including the Great Villain Blogathon and the What a Character! Blogathon (two of my favourites). This year saw several TV show anniversaries, so I wrote posts about Turn-On, Bonanza, Dobie Gillis, The Untouchables, and others.

For me 2019 has been a sad year, the first full year I have ever spent without Vanessa. That having been said, the year also had its highlights for me, memories I will keep for the rest of my life. I am hoping that 2020 will see

Monday, December 30, 2019

Godspeed Neil Innes

Neil Innes, best known for The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, The Beatles pastiche The Rutles, and his work with Monty Python, died yesterday, December 29 2019, at the age of 75.

Neil Innes was born on December 9 1944 in Danbury, Essex. His father was a warrant officer serving in the British Army in West Germany. He then spent his first several years in West Germany. From when he was 7 years old until he was 14 years old he took piano lessons. He also learned to play the guitar. Once the family returned to the United Kingdom, Neil Innes attended Thorpe St. Andrew School in Norfolk, the Norwich School of Design, and Goldsmith's College in London.

It was while he was at Goldsmith's College that he joined The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, which had been formed by Vivian Stanshall and Rodney Slater. It would ultimately be Neil Innes and Vivian Stanshall who would write most of the band's material. The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band had a minor hit in Britain with "I'm the Urban Spaceman." They released the albums Gorilla, The Doughnuts in Granny's Greenhouse, Tadpoles, Keynsham, and Let's Make Up and Be Friendly. The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band appeared regularly on the TV show Do Not Adjust Your Set. They made a notable appearance in The Beatles' television special Magical Mystery Tour, performing "Death Cab for Cutie."

After The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah band disbanded, Neil Innes played in the band GRIMMS, which ultimately released three albums. He also began a close association with Monty Python's Flying Circus. He contributed music to their albums Monty Python's Previous Record (1972) and The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief (1973). He wrote songs and sketches for the final series of Monty Python's Flying Circus and even appeared in two sketches on the series. He would also appear in Monty Python's movies Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) and The Life of Brian (1979), as well as Terry Gilliam's debut feature film as a director, Jabberwocky (1977). In 1973 he also appeared live with Monty Python in the UK and Canada.

In 1976 Neil Innes and Eric Idle joined the comedy sketch television series Rutland Weekend Television. The show ran for two series. One of the sketches on the show featured a Beatles pastiche called The Rutles. Neil Innes played Ron Nasty, a character loosely based on John Lennon. The sketch lead to two appearances on Saturday Night Live and then the television movie The Rutles: All You Need is Cash. A soundtrack album for All You Need is Cash, The Rutles, was released in 1978. Through the years there would be other Rutles related projects. In 1996 The Rutles released a parody of The Beatles' Anthology, Archaeology. In 2002 The Rutles 2: Can't Buy Me Lunch, a parody of the television special The Beatles: Revolution.

Following The Rutles: All You Need is Cash, Neil Innes had his own show, The Innes Book of Records, which ran for three series. He also composed music for the shows Jane, The Raggy Dolls, The Riddlers, and East of the Moon. Mr. Innes played the magician in the children's TV series Puddle Lane. He appeared in the movies The Missionary (1982) and Erik the Viking (1989).

Later in his career Neil Innes appeared on the children's shows East of the Moon and The Raggy Dolls. He appeared in the movie Not the Messiah: He's a Very Naughty Boy (2010).

Over the years Neil Innes also released several solo albums and participated in reunions of The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

Neil Genius was also an incredible music talent and a comic genius. He wrote some extremely listenable songs with The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band that, at the same time, could be very funny. He was also versatile. He could write an Elvis pastiche such as "Death Cab for Cutie" as well as The Beatles pastiches for The Rutles projects. Such was his talent that he was one of the few people who was not a member of Monty Python to be credited on Monty Python's Circus. People often have either musical talent or comic talent. Neil Innes had both.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Roaring '20s on Film on Turner Classic Movies This January

Louise Brooks in Pandora's Box
Okay, I honestly don't believe the new decade will begin until January 1 2021 (if you want to know why, read this post), but I am looking forward to the TCM Spotlight on the 1920s each Wednesday in January. The Roaring '20s features movies both made during the Twenties and movies made later that are set in the decade.

The fun begins on January 1 2019 with Gangsters Part I, which features such films as The Roaring Twenties (1939), The Public Enemy (1931), The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (1960), and other films. On January 8 2019 is Gangsters Part II, which includes Some Like It Hot (1959), The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967), Scarface (1931), and Al Capone (1959). January 15 is dedicated to Prohibition & Bootleggers. It features such films as The Wet Parade (1932), Once Upon a Time in America (1984), and The Purple Gang (1959). January 22 is devoted to Speakeasies & Nightclubs. It includes the films Incendiary Blonde (1945), Bugsy Malone (1976), Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964), and others. January 29 is dedicated to Flappers. It features such films as Our Dancing Daughters (1928), Why Be Good? (1929), Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), It (1927),  and Pandora's Box (1929).

As far as I am concerned this is a stellar lineup. My only complaint is that I wish they were showing Pandora's Box earlier (it airs at 2:30 AM Central). For me, at least, on the screen Louise Brooks was the archetypal flapper, so that if Turner Classic Movies is spotlighting flappers her films should be front and centre. Regardless, I have always been fascinated by the Twenties and I looking forward to the TCM Spotlight on the Roaring Twenties. I am sure other TCM fans will be as well!