Saturday, January 2, 2021

Announcing the 7th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon

I am announcing A Shroud of Thoughts' sixth annual "Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon". The first six 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 19, 20, and 21.

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 1996 (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 1996. 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 19, March 20, or March 21 2020.

7. On March 19 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 gmail.com.

Below is a roster of participants and the topics they are covering. Come March 19 I will make a post that will include all of the posts in the blogathon.

A Shroud of Thoughts: The Wild Wild West, "The Night of the Murderous Spring"  

Realweegiemidget Reviews: Hammer House of Horror, "Visitor from the Grave"

Retro Ramblings: The Twilight Zone, "Will the Real Martians Stand Up"

Dubsism: The Rockford Files, "Drought at Indianhead River"

Caftan Woman: Barney Miller, "Fog"

Films From Beyond the Time Barrier: The Outer Limits, "O.B.IT."

Crítica Retrô: Alfred Hitchcock Presents, "Into Thin Air"

A Scunner Darkley: Dark Shadows, Episode 702

Hamlette's Soliloquy: The Andy Griffith Show, "The Haunted House"

Moon in Gemini: Mork & Mindy, "Mork Runs Away"

Whimisically Classic: Gilligan's Island, "Don't Bug The Mosquitoes

The Sacred in the Secular: Maverick, "The Seventh Hand"

John V's Eclectic Avenue: Thriller, "The Grim Reaper"

Coffee, Classics, and Craziness: Mission: Impossible, "Submarine"

Taking Up Room; Red Dwarf, "Forward Backward"

Another Old Moive Blog: Decoy, "Fiesta at Midnight"

Smoke in the Library: The Adventures of Superman, "The Stolen Costume"

Elisabeth Grace Foley: Stagecoach West, "The Remounts"

In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood: I Love Lucy, "LA At Last"

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






Friday, January 1, 2021

Happy New Year 2021

Okay, to be blunt, 2020 sucked. But here we are in a brand new, shiny year. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that I hope 2021 is a much better year than 2020 was. Anyway, it is my custom on certain holidays to post classic pinups, and New Year's Day is one of those holiday. I do hope you appreciate these classic pictures of lovely ladies and a few gentlemen...
First up is Ava Gardner and a few of her admirers.

Next is Dona Drake, who is welcoming 1943 with a bang!
 
Cyd Charisse is ripping through 1952!

Buster Keaton is making his New Year resolutions. 

Sally Blane is welcoming 1928. 

And finally, Ann Miller welcomes the New Year! 

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Good Riddance to 2020

I think most people can agree that 2020 has not been a good year. It has been a year that has been dominated by a pandemic that has so far caused 1.8 million deaths worldwide. In the United States and elsewhere the pandemic has resulted in the largest economic recession since the Great Depression. It has been a year full of disasters, from bushfires in the western United States and Australia to multiple hurricanes. More so than other years, 2020 has seen the death of many beloved celebrities as well.

As mentioned above, 2020 has been dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic. To prevent its spread many places have locked down, with stay-at-home orders in place. Of course, this has caused many to work from home and yet others to lose their jobs entirely. Restaurants, museums, theatres, and other venues have closed for long periods of time. While the pandemic would have a large impact on many, I have to admit that in some ways my life has changed very little. I have worked from home for the past nine years and, being a bit of a homebody, I rarely go out except to get groceries. I don't generally eat at restaurants and my trips to the cinema are infrequent. The only real difference now is that when I do go out I wear a mask and remain six feet away from other people.

In other ways, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a big impact on me. I have cousins and friends who have contracted COVID-19 and survived. I have also lost two friends to COVID-19. One was an older gentleman who had been in bad health the past few years, but the other was a woman who was only ten years older than I am and had been in fairly good health. Even if I hadn't lost any friends to COVID-19, however, I don't see how anyone but a sociopath could not feel the impact of the disease. The United States currently stands at 341,000 deaths caused by COVID-19. Many are out of work and yet others are not making the money they once did. I think only someone totally without empathy would not react to that.

Of course, as sad as the COVID-19 pandemic has been, it is not entirely what has made 2020 a very bad year for me. It was on March 2 2020 that the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office released their report on the officer involved shooting of my beloved Vanessa Marquez. The report came to the conclusion that the officers who shot her acted in self defence and strongly implied that Vanessa was suicidal. To do so the report omitted evidence (such as interviews with Vanessa's friends, all of who said she wasn't suicidal), relied too much on the testimony of one of the officers who shot Vanessa, and even misrepresented some of the facts. Indeed, the report claims I am "a woman from Oklahoma" and claims that I told the paramedics that Vanessa wasn't acting right when I said no such thing. Furthermore, according to the damage claim filed on behalf of Vanessa's mother, the claim of Gilberto Carrillo (one of the officers who shot Vanessa) that she pointed a BB gun at them is false.

It seems to me that District Attorney Jackie Lacey and her office were less concerned with getting to the truth of the matter than satisfying the local police union by not charging the officers. I think they fully realized the report would not stand up to close inspection and could adversely affect Lacey's re-election campaign, which is why I think it was released on March 2 2020, the day before the election. As it was, that same day, Jackie Lacey's husband David Lacey pointed a gun at unarmed Black Lives Matters protestors. And as it was, the March 3 election resulted in a run-off election that Lacey ultimately lost. Anyway, I have already posted about my criticisms of the report. You can read it at "Justice for Vanessa Marquez."

To make matters worse, it was also on March 2 2020 that the City of South Pasadena, California released an edited video of the officer involved shooting of Vanessa. They did this without warning Vanessa's mother Delia or anyone else who knew Vanessa that they would do so. Various media outlets insisted on sharing the video. I was particularly angered by the tabloid television show Inside Edition, who referred to Vanessa as "mentally disturbed (she was no such thing)" and the tabloid the Daily Mail. Both received angry emails from me informing them of the truth. Neither apologized, but at least the Daily Mail published a much more sympathetic story when the lawsuit was filed on behalf of Vanessa's mother.

What South Pasadena thought to accomplish with the release of the video I don't know, as it does not absolve Officers Gilberto Carrillo and Christopher Perez of their guilt. Indeed, I know of at least one person who has watched the video who has said that in doing so he watched those officers murder his friend. I also have to condemn South Pasadena in the way they handled the release of the video. They should have warned Vanessa's mother that they were going to do so and they should not have released it to the media at large. But then South Pasadena has behaved abominably throughout this whole ordeal. They have consistently ignored Vanessa's mother. And despite the fact that I have written them several times over the past two years and four months, they have not acknowledged even one of my letters.

To make matters worse, it was in October that South Pasadena Police Chief Joe Ortiz claimed that the officers present in Vanessa's apartment on August 30 2020 complied with the South Pasadena Police Department's use of force policies. If what those officers did that day was "by the book," then it is obvious to me that the South Pasadena Police Department's use of force policies should be changed. I am convinced that those officers present in Vanessa's apartment that day behaved unprofessionally, inappropriately, and irresponsibly.  Indeed, after having examined the evidence in Vanessa's case for two years and four months now, I am still so convinced of the officers' unprofessional conduct that I believe that had I been in Vanessa's apartment that day they would have shot me as well. Curiously, in November Joe Ortiz announced his intention to retire in March 2021. All I have to say is that if Ortiz honestly thought for a moment that Gilberto Carrillo's use of force was justified, then in my opinion he should never have chosen law enforcement as a profession.

By now you probably realize that I spent much of 2020 both angry and hurt. I have to admit I was foolish enough to think that the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office would hold the officers who murdered Vanessa accountable. I did not count on the fact that Jackie Lacey has always been supportive of police unions and has always been hesitant to charge officers in cases of misconduct. As far as I am concerned, Gilberto Carrillo and Christopher Perez belong in prison for the rest of their lives without parole. It is because the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office failed to get justice for Vanessa that on June 24 2020 a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Vanessa's mother.

Of course, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office and the City of South Pasadena aren't the only people I would be angry with over Vanessa this year. I am also angry at actor George Clooney. George Clooney has spoken out against police violence this year, namely with regards to George Floyd and Breonna Taylor's murders, yet he has never spoken out against the murder of his ER co-star Vanessa Marquez. In my opinion, if Clooney ever cared about racism in the United States and the murder of innocent people by police officers, he would spoken out on behalf of Vanessa long ago.

While we are on the subject of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor's murders, I must admit that I was happy to see the mass protests against police violence that occurred this summer. It might surprise some to learn that I do have enormous respect for law enforcement officers. I come from a law enforcement family and I have friends who are police officers. That having been said, as the murders of Vanessa Marquez, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor have proven, there are some very bad cops out there. The plain truth is that Latinos, Native Americans, and Blacks are killed in disproportionate numbers when compared to other ethnicities. I was glad to see that a large number of people rose up and demanded that it stop.

As rough as 2020 has been for me, I must admit that some good things have come out of the year. Stephanie DeWolfe, the South Pasadena City Manager who issued a rather cold and callous statement on September 2 2018 regarding Vanessa's murder, was forced out of office in September. I don't think I had anything to do with it, but I had been demanding that she be fired for nearly the past two years. It was this November that Jackie Lacey lost the Los Angeles County District Attorney race to George Gascón. I don't know if George Gascón will be a better district attorney or not, but he is reform minded and that bodes well. At any rate, I think he would have to be an improvement over Jackie Lacey, who seems to care more for keeping the police unions happy than justice for the average person or law and order for society at large.

Perhaps the happiest night of 2020 for me was September 30 2020, when Turner Classic Movies aired Stand and Deliver (1988). On Twitter I hosted the TCMParty for it. For the intro and outro, Ben Makiewicz interviewed Edward James Olmos, but as far as those who participated in the Stand and Deliver TCMParty were concerned, it was Vanessa Marquez who was the star. I have to admit that I broke down crying at the outpouring of love for Vanessa. So many told how she had touched their lives. To me it was one of the finest tributes Vanessa could have ever received.

With regards to entertainment in 2020, for some time motion pictures and television shows were on hold because of the pandemic. With many theatres closed throughout the United States, the releases of movies from Black Widow to Wonder Woman 1984 were delayed. This fall the broadcast television networks debuted little in the way of new shows and many old shows did not return. Some of the old shows are returning in January 2021, but for others it will be even later.

Of course, because of the pandemic streaming media received a boost. As it was, streaming was already growing in 2019. That year saw the debut of Disney+. This year has seen the debuts of Peacock and HBO Max. With many theatres closed, some movies have been released straight to streaming. Disney elected to debut some of their movies on Disney+ rather than theatres. Warner Bros. announced that for the year of 2021, their movies will be released simultaneously to theatres and to HBO Max. Some have seen this as the death knell for theatres, which have already been hurt by the pandemic. As for myself, I am not so sure about that. Quite simply, I don't think people who prefer to watch movies on streaming media are necessarily the same people who watch movies in theatres. Even if a movie is available on streaming, I think many people who prefer to see movies in theatre will go see that movie in the theatre. If a movie is in theatres, but not yet on streaming media, people who prefer to watch movies on streaming media will simply wait until that movie is available in streaming. I think theatre goers and streaming media viewers are, to some degree, different audiences. Because of that, movie theatres will survive.

I wish I could talk about the new shows that debuted this year, but because the fall television season was pretty much delayed I really don't have anything to say. There were quite a few shows that debuted on streaming, but I must confess I don't watch much on streaming media beyond movies and old favourites. I did watch the 2nd season of The Umbrella Academy, the first season of The Mandalorian, and every season of Doom Patrol. I can tell you that some of the hits on streaming media this year appear to be Cobra Kai, The Mandalorian, The Queen's Gambit, and The Witcher.

Sadly, 2020 seems to have seen the deaths of more celebrities than most years. What is more, it took some of the biggest names in entertainment history. Olivia de Havilland was not the last star from the Golden Age of Hollywood (Ann Blyth and a few others are still alive), but she was certainly the last major star from the era. Dame Diana Rigg saw success on stage, in television, and in motion pictures, but for many she will remain Emma Peel from The Avengers. Honor Blackman, who played John Steed's previous partner, Cathy Gale, also died earlier in the year. Sean Connery, the first actor to play James Bond in feature films, died this year. 2020 also took one of the great television legends, Carl Reiner, cast member of Your Show of Shows and creator of The Dick Van Dyke Show. With regards to music, we lost Little Richard, Steve Priest of Sweet, Fleetwood Mac founder Peter Green, Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne, Dame Vera Lynn, Spencer Davis, and Phyllis McGuire, the remaining member of the McGuire Sisters. For many 2020 saved the cruellest death for the end of the year. Dawn Wells played Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island, and in doing so became America's sweetheart. The list of those who died in 2020 is a long one, far too many for me to list here, but some of those who also died were guitarist Eddie Van Halen,  Buck Henry, Robert Conrad, James Drury, Edd Byrnes, Terry Jones, Orson Bean, Jerry Stiller, Alex Trebeck, Max Von Sydow, Chadwick Bowman, Rhonda Fleming, Marge Champion, Pamela Tiffin, Dame Barbara Windsor, cartoonist Mort Drucker, and comic book writer Denny O'Neil.

As I said earlier, I think most people can agree that 2020 was not a good year. For me it was dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the utter and complete failure of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office to get justice for my dearest Vanessa Marquez. As bad as 2020 has been, however, I still have hope for 2021. As I interpret decades as running from 1 to 10 (there was no year 0 CE, after all), 2021 is the start of a new decade. The United States will have a new president. Even as I write this, vaccines for COVID-19 are being distributed. It is a cliché, but it is often the case that it is darkest before the dawn. 2020 may have been a bad year, but with 2021 there is reason for hope.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Late Great Dawn Wells

Among my childhood crushes was Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island. I was far from being alone in this, as it seems as if every other man a bit older than me, my own age, or a bit younger than me had a crush on Mary Ann. In fact, I think if one did a survey of Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and older Millennials as to their childhood crushes, Mary Ann could very well come in at no. 1.  Of the cast of Gilligan's Island, it was always Dawn Wells who received the most fan mail. In polls as to whom people prefer, Mary Ann or Ginger, Mary Ann always seems to win, often by a large margin. Sadly, Dawn Wells died today, December 30 2020, from complications due to COVID-19 at the age of 82.

Dawn Wells was born on October 18 1938 in Reno, Nevada. As a young girl she wanted to be a dancer, but her plans changed after she shattered her knee. At Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri she majored in chemistry. She later studied at the University of Washington in Seattle. In 1959 she was crowned Miss Nevada and participated in the Miss America pageant.

Miss Wells later moved to Los Angeles to pursue her career in acting. She made her television debut in an episode of The Roaring 20's in 1961. She went on to become a frequent guest star on American television shows in the early Sixties. She appeared several times on Warner Bros.' various shows, including Maverick, Cheyenne, 77 Sunset Strip, Lawman, Surfiside 6, and Hawaiian Eye. She also appeared on such shows as Wagon Train, Everglades!, Tales of Wells Fargo, Boanaza, 87th Precinct, Laramie, Ripcord, The Third Man, Channing, The Joey Bishop Show, Burke's Law, and Valentine's Day. It was in 1964 that she began a three year run as Mary Ann Summers on Gilligan's Island. The show proved popular even in its initial network run, and was cancelled after three seasons only because the previously cancelled Gunsmoke had been returned to the network schedule. It would prove even more popular as a syndicated rerun, and it can still be found on local stations, cable channels, and streaming services around the country.

For the remainder of the Sixties, Dawn Wells guest starred on the shows The Invaders, The Wild Wild West, Bonanza, and The F.B.I. She made her film debut in Palm Spring Weekend (1963) and appeared in the movie The New Interns (1964).

In the Seventies, Dawn Wells reprised her role as Mary Ann on the television reunion movies Rescue from Gilligan's Island and The Castaways on Gilligan's Island. She guest starred on Vegas, Hagen, and The Love Boat. Miss Wells appeared in the movies Winterhawk (1975), The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1978), and Return to Boggy Creek (1977).

In 1982 Dawn Wells appeared on Broadway in They're Playing Our Song. She reprised her role as Mary Ann (and voiced Ginger as well) on the Saturday morning cartoon Gilligan's Planet, as well as the television reunion movie The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island and a guest appearance on the sitcom Alf. She guest starred on the shows Fantasy Island, Matt Houston, and Growing Pains. She appeared in the TV movie High School U.S.A.

In the Nineties Miss Wells reprised her role as Mary Ann on episodes of Baywatch and Herman's Head, as well as an unaired episode of Meego. She played Darlene in an episode of Roseanne that featured a Gilligan's Island parody. She guest starred on Columbo. She reprised her role as Mary Ann in the feature film Lover's Knot (1995).

In the Naughts Dawn Wells guest starred on Whatever Happened To? and Pastor Greg. She appeared in the movies Super Sucker (2002) and Forever For Now (2004). In the Teens she she appeared in the films Silent But Deadly (2012) and This is Our Time (2013). She guest starred on the TV shows The Bold and the Beautiful, Heaven's Waiting Room, See Ya, Kaplan's Korner, and the animated series The Epic Adventures of Captain Underpants.

Dawn Wells also appeared in several theatrical productions throughout the Seventies and Eighties. She appeared in national tours of Chapter Two, They're Playing Our Song, The Odd Couple, and others. Miss Wells was active in several charities, including Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, Terry Lee Wells Foundation, and the Elephant Sanctuary. For 15 years she hosted and produced the Children's Miracle Network broadcasts in Columbia, Missouri.

Dawn Wells's role as Mary Ann Summer was so iconic and such a major part of American pop culture in the late 20th Century that many often forget that she did play other roles. She was a frequent guest star on television shows in the Sixties, playing everything from a dance hall girl on Tales of Wells Fargo to a young woman whose grandfather has sheltered her from the world. Dawn Wells always gave good performances whenever she appeared on television.

Of course, it is as Mary Ann that nearly everyone will remember Dawn Wells. And it is with good reason. Never mind the fact that Mary Ann could cook, sew, and do numerous other things, never mind that she was beautiful, I think the appeal of Mary Ann was that she was sweet, warm-hearted, honest, and loyal. One never had to worry about her being rude, and if one were lucky enough to win her heart, they knew she would never stray. Mary Ann embodied the qualities that almost everyone would like to find in a man or woman.

If Dawn Wells did such a good job of playing Mary Ann, it is perhaps because she was very much like the character. Not only did many of my fellow classic movie and television fans get to meet her, so did many people around mid-Missouri, including my own sister (she kind of rubbed in, given I have had a crush on Mary Ann since I was a kid). According to everyone, Dawn Wells was exactly what you would expect her to be: sweet, gracious, charming, considerate, and down-to-earth. If so many of us were just a little bit in love with Dawn Wells, it is not because she played Mary Ann, but because she was the warm, thoughtful girl-next-door in real life as well.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Noir Alley in January 2021

As a fan of Noir Alley on Turner Classic Movies, January is a bit of a special month. After all, with February Noir Alley will be pre-empted by TCM's 31 Days of Oscar programming block. While I never try to miss Noir Alley, in January I make absolutely certain I don't. As to this January, it features an old favourite, another movie I have also seen before, and some movies new to me.

January 2, The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945): I have never seen this film, although I have always wanted to. It was directed by Robert Siodmak (who also directed such films as the 1946 version of The Killers and The Crimson Pirate) and stars George Sanders, Geraldine Fitzgerald, and Ella Raines. As to the plot, it centres on bachelor Harry Quincey who lives with his two single sisters. Problems arise after he develops a romance with a colleague.

January 9, The Glass Key (1942): This is the old favourite to which I was referring. The Glass Key is based on the Dashiell Hammett novel of the same name. It stars Brian Donelvy as a political boss, Alan Ladd as his right hand man, and Veronica Lake as the woman they develop a rivalry over.

January 16, Witness to Murder (1954): This is another film I haven't seen, but I want to, particularly given it stars Barbara Stanwyck. Barbara Stanwyck plays the witness of the title, who sees a young woman being strangled to death.

January 23, Born to Kill (1947): I haven't seen Born to Kill yet, but it is intriguing. It was directed by Robert Wise and stars Claire Trevor and Lawrence Tierney. The cast alone makes me want to see the movie.

January 30, The Killers (1964): This is not the classic 1946 version of The Killers, but the 1964 movie of the name. Despite being based on the same Ernest Hemingway short story of  the same time, it has an entirely different plot. While it is not as good as The Killers (1946), it does stand up on is own, and features some solid performances from Lee Marvin, Clu Gulagher, and Claude Akins.

Monday, December 28, 2020

The Studio System on Tuesdays on TCM in January

The theme for Tuesday nights on Turner Classic Movies this January is "The Studio System." While I am sure that most classic movie buffs are aware of what the studio system was, for those of you who might not be, the studio system was the system under which the American movie industry operated during much of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Under the studio system the film industry was controlled by only a few major studios, many of who owned their own theatre chains and used block booking (a practice whereby multiple films would be sold to theatres at once) to further sell the movies they made. Under the studio system most stars were under contract to studios, who effectively controlled their careers. As to the major studios who operated under the studio system, they were the Big Five (MGM, Paramount, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, and RKO) and the Little Three (Universal, Columbia, and United Artists).

During The Studio System on Tuesday nights in January, TCM will show movies that characterized the various  major studios during the Golden Age of Hollywood. For MGM they will be showing such films as The Women (1939) and The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946). For Paramount they will be showing such films as I'm No Angel (1933) and The Nutty Professor (1963). For Warner Bros. they will be showing such films as The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and The Maltese Falcon (1941). For 20th Century Fox they will be showing such films as The Mark of Zorro (1941) and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947). For RKO they'll be showing such films as Swing Time (1936) and Citizen Kane (1941). For Universal they are showing such films as Dracula (1931) and It Started with Eve (1941). For Columbia they will be showing such films as His Girl Friday (1940) and Gilda (1946).

I am not going to be recommending any films as I usually would, as every single film being shown on "The Studio System" on Tuesday nights in January is a classic and worth checking out. Quite simply this is not only one of the best line-ups ever on Turner Classic Movies, it is a line-up featuring some of the greatest films ever made. That having been said, I do have two caveats about the films selected for "The Studio System." The first is that the only musical being show as representative of MGM is Summer Stock (1950). Given how closely associated MGM is with the Hollywood musical in most people's minds (people think of MGM and musicals the same way they think of Warner Bros. and gangster movies or Universal and horror movies), I would think they would have shown at least one other MGM musical. The Wizard of Oz (1939), Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), Singin' in the Rain (1952), or Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) would have been great choices. The second is that out of the various "Road to..." movies produced by Paramount, they chose Road to Utopia (1946). While I love Road to Utopia, I think I can speak for most fans of the "Road to..." movies when I say they should have shown Road to Morocco (1942), generally considered to be the best of the "Road to..." movies.

Regardless, The Studio System on Tuesday nights on TCM in January is well worth checking out, whether one is an experienced classic movie buff revisiting old favourites or a new fan discovering some of the best movies ever made.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Godspeed Chad Stuart

Chad Stuart, who with Jeremy Clyde formed the British music duo Chad & Jeremy, died on December 20 2020 at the age of 79. The cause was pneumonia. Chad & Jeremy had a string of hits in the United States in the 1960s.

Chad Stuart was born David Stuart Chadwick on December 10 1941 in Windermere, Cumbria. His father was a foreman in the lumber industry, while his mother was a nurse. His family moved to West Hartlepool, although Chad Stuart spent much of his childhood at Durham Cathedral Chorister School. As a chorister he received a scholarship to the school.

Afterwards he attended the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, which is where he met Jeremy Clyde. The pair's backgrounds couldn't be more different. Chad Stuart hailed from a northern town, while Jeremy Clyde grew up in Buckinghamshire and is the great grandson of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. Regardless, they quickly became friends. By 1962 the two were performing as a folk music duo.

In 1963 Chad & Jeremy regularly performed at a coffeehouse named Tina's. It was there that they were discovered by composer John Barry. Mr. Barry got the duo signed to the small recording label Ember. It was on Ember that their first single, "Yesterday's Gone," was released in the United Kingdom. There it was a minor hit, peaking at no. 37 on the singles chart.

With the demand for British music artists in the United States in the wake of Beatlemania, Chad & Jeremy arrived in the U.S. in 1964. While their folk music bore little resemblance to such popular beat groups as The Beatles, The Kinks, and The Hollies, nonetheless they proved successful in the United Stats. Released on the minor label World Artists Records, "Yesterday's Gone' went to no. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100. They would have even more success with the single "A Summer Song." While the song did not chart at all in the United Kingdom, it went all the way to no. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. Their first album, Yesterday's Gone, was released in the United States in July 1964.

With their success in the United States, Chad & Jeremy appeared frequently on television in the Sixties, more so in the United States than the United Kingdom. . In the United Kingdom they appeared on Thank Your Lucky Stars. In the U.S. they appeared on such music and variety shows as Shindig!, Hollywood a Go Go, The Merv Griffin Show, Where the Action Is, American Bandstand, The Andy Williams Show, Hullabaloo, The Hollywood Palace, The Red Skelton Show, and The Kraft Summer Music Hall. They appeared on The Julie London Special. They even appeared together on the game show The Hollywood Squares. Unlike many music groups of the time, Chad & Jeremy also appeared frequently on narrative television programs. They guest starred on The Dick Van Dyke Show (playing a group called The Redcoats), The Patty Duke Show, Laredo, and Batman. The Laredo episode, "That's Noway, Thataway," was a backdoor pilot for a pilot for a Western series that would have starred Chad & Jeremy as British actors in the Old West. Chad Stuart also provided the voice of Vulture in the classic Disney movie The Jungle Book (1967).

Chad and Jeremy continued to have hits in the United States through 1966, including "Willow Weep for Me," "If I Loved You," "Before and After," and "Distant Shores." Following "You Are She (which only reached no. 87 on the Billboard Hot 100) in 1966, their singles failed to chart. They released several albums between 1964 and 1965, including Chad & Jeremy Sing for You, Before and After, and I Don't Want to Lose You Baby. They became more ambitious with their albums Distant Shores, Of Cabbages and Kings, and The Ark. They also recorded songs for the movie Three in the Attic (1968).

It was in 1968 that Chad & Jeremy broke up.  Jeremy Clyde continued his acting career, while Chad Stuart continued to work in the music industry. He continued to perform for a time, even opening for the band Mountain. He also worked as a staff producer for A&M Records. Later he composed commercial jingles for radio and gave music lessons. Chad & Jeremy reunited to record the album Chad Stuart & Jeremy Clyde, released in 1983. From 1984 to 1985 they appeared together in the West End production of Pump Boys and Dinettes. In 1986 they toured the United States with other British Invasion bands Freddie and the Dreamers, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Searchers, and The Mindbenders. In 1987 they had a two-week residency at Harrah's in Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

In 2002 Chad & Jeremy recorded a new version of "Yesterday's Gone" as an additional track for the album In Concert (The Official Bootleg), which contained performances from their residency at Harrah's. In 2003 they appeared on the PBS special Pop-Rock Reunion. They re-recorded many of their songs for the album Ark-elogy, which was released in 2008 with the 40th anniversary of The Ark. 2010 saw the release of Chad & Jeremy's last album, the limited-edition Fifty Years On.

I have always thought that Chad & Jeremy have been under appreciated as music artists. Their hit songs were pleasant and conveyed both intimacy and longing. They were a sharp contrast to the more aggressiveness of rock music at the time and the rawness of the folk music of the time. Of Cabbages and Kings and The Ark, from later in their career, are often dismissed, but both albums show the musical genius of Chad & Jeremy. Side one of Of Cabbages and Kings features some of the most artful songs to emerge from the Psychedelic Era. Over all, The Ark was even better than Of Cabbages and Kings, a mix of psychedelia, British wit, and rich orchestration. Unfortunately, The Ark was abandoned by Columbia Records as Chad & Jeremy broke up. I rather have to think Chad & Jeremy will always be remembered for "Yesterday's Gone" and "The Summer Song," both tunes worthy of being called classics, but they did so much more worth listening to and worth being rediscovered.