Saturday, November 27, 2021

DC Comics' Pow Wow Smith

Native American characters are not particularly common in American comic books. That having been said, for much of the Fifties, National Periodical Publications published the adventures of a Native American detective. Pow Wow Smith may not be particularly well remembered today, but the character would prove successful for a time.

Pow Wow Smith was Ohiyesa, a Sioux Indian from Red Deer Valley. His skill with guns, the bow, and guns, not to mention his considerable talent as a detective, resulted him being hired as deputy sheriff in the town of Elkhorn. He later became the town's sheriff. While he prefers being called by his given name of Ohiyesa. the white people round him insist upon calling him "Pow Wow."

Pow Wow Smith first appeared in Detective Comics no. 151, September 1949. At that point his adventures were set in the present day. Pow Wow Smith would remain a back-up feature in Detective Comics until no. 202, December 1953. The character then moved to Western Comics no. 43, February 1954, where he became the cover feature. With Western Comics no. 44, April 1954, Pow Wow Smith's adventures shifted to the Old West without any explanation of why. While Pow Wow Smith was supplanted as the cover feature by Matt Savage Trail, Boss in 1959, he would remain apart of Western Comics until its final and 85th issue, February 1951. When DC Comics rebooted their title All-Star Western with issue 1, September 1970, Pow Wow Smith was its cover feature. He would remain a part of All--Star Western  for its first several issues.

An explanation for Pow Wow Smith existing both in the Old West and in the present day, with the present day Pow Wow Smith being identified as the descendant of the Pow Wow Smith of the Old West. As to his given name, it would appear that it was taken from the name of the Sioux physician also known as Charles Eastman. Dr. Eastman was well known for his works on Sioux history and one of the most eloquent commentators on Native American affairs.

Since the Seventies, Pow Wow Smith's appearances have been infrequent. He was one of the detectives from that title who appeared in Detective Comics no. 500, March 1981. The Old West version of Pow Wow Smith appeared in Armageddon: The Alien Agenda no. 3, January 1992. More recently the modern day version of Pow Wow Smith appeared in Robin Annual no. 6, August 1997. He would later appear in the Justice League Unlimited episode "The Once and Future Thing, Part One: Weird Western Tales." A time travel episode set in the Old West, only the villains address him as "Pow Wow."

While his nickname of "Pow Wow" is regrettable, Ohiyesa is important in the history of American comic books. He was one of the first Native American characters to have a regular series and one of the first to headline a comic book. The Pow Wow Smith feature was also one of the first to deal with racism against Native Americans, a subject rarely touched upon in comic books of the Fifties.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Christmas Movies on TCM in December 2021

Every December Turner Classic Movies shows several Christmas movies. I have no doubt that many look forward to watching their favourite holiday movies on TCM each year. Given how rough 2021 has been for many, I am guess classic movie buffs may be looking forward to Christmas movies on TCM next month more than usual.

Below is a schedule of Christmas movies airing on Turner Classic Movies in December 2021. Here I have to warn you that I have only included movies that meet my admittedly strict criteria for what is and isn't a Christmas movie. As much as I love Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)--it is one of my favourite movies of all time--I never have really thought of it as a Christmas movie, even though I can understand why some do. In cases of movies that I haven't seen, I included them as I have no way of knowing if they meet my criteria or not. BTW, if you are wondering about those criteria, you an find them here at my post "What Is a Christmas Movie." 

All times are Central.

Saturday, December 4
11:00 AM A Night at the Movies: Merry Christmas! (2011)
4:45 PM It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947)

Sunday, December 5
11:00 AM Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938)
1:00 PM Bundle of Joy (1956)
3:00 PM Bell, Book and Candle (1958)
5:00 PM The Bishop's Wife (1947)

Tuesday, December 7
7:00 PM The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

Saturday, December 11
1:00 AM Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
2:30 AM Santa Claus (1959)
11:00 AM A Christmas Carol (1938)
12:30 PM A Star in the Night (1945)
1:00 PM 3 Godfathers (1949)
3:00 PM Fitzwilly (1967)
5:00 PM The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942)
7:00 PM Lady on a Train (1945)

Sunday, December 12
11:00 AM All Mine to Give (1957)
1:00 PM O. Henry's Full House (1952)
3:15 PM Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
5:15 PM Remember the Night (1940)

Monday, December 13
1:00 AM Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1984)

Saturday, December 18
11:00 AM Meet John Doe (1941)
1:15 PM Susan Slept Here (1954)
3:15 PM In the Good Old Summertime (1949)
5:15 PM Holiday Affair (1949)

Sunday, December 19
9:15 PM The Holly and the Ivy (1952)
11:00 PM Christmas Past (1925)

Monday, December 20
8:00 AM The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942)
10:00 AM Cover Up (1949)
11:30 AM Crooks Anonymous (1962)
5:00 PM Lady on a Train (1945)
7:00 PM We're No Angels (1955)
9:00 PM Fitzwilly (1967)
11:00 PM Lady in the Lake (1947)

Tuesday, December 21
6:30 AM Three Godfathers (1936)
8:00 AM Bush Christmas (1947)
9:30 AM A Christmas Carol (1938)
11:00 AM Alias Boston Blackie (1942)
2:30 PM Period of Adjustment (1962)
4:30 PM The Lion in Winter (1968)
9:00 PM In the Good Old Summertime (1949)
11:00 PM The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

Wednesday December 22
11:00 AM All Mine to Give (1957)
7:00 PM Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
9:00 PM Holiday Affair (1949)
10:45 PM Desk Set (1957)

Thursday, December 23
12:45 AM The Apartment (1960)
3:00 AM Bachelor Mother (1939)
4:30 AM Bundle of Joy (1956)
11:00 AM A Carol for Another Christmas (1964)
12:45 PM Desk Set (1957)
3:00 PM Susan Slept Here (1954)
5:00 PM Bell, Book and Candle (1958)
7:00 PM It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947)
9:15 PM The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942)
11:15 PM The Cheaters (1945)

Friday, December 24
5:15 AM The Great Rupert (1950)
6:45 AM 3 Godfathers (1949)
8:45 AM Pocketful of Miracles (1961)
11:15 AM Holiday Affair (1949)
1:00 PM The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
3:00 PM Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
7:00 PM The Bishop's Wife (1947)
9:00 PM A Christmas Carol (1938)
10:30 PM Remember the Night (1940)

Saturday, December 25
12:30 AM Meet John Doe (1941)
2:45 AM Christmas Eve (1947)
5:00 AM Beyond Tomorrow (1940)
6:30 AM Star in the Night (1945)
7:00 AM Tenth Avenue Angel (1948)
11:30 AM Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938)
12:30 PM O. Henry's Full House (1952)
2:45 PM It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947)
5:00 PM In the Good Old Summertime (1949)

Monday, December 27
6:30 AM The Lion in Winter (1968)

Saturday, December 31
7:00 PM The Thin Man (1934)

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving 2021

Being part Cherokee, I am aware that many Native Americans view the holiday as a celebration of the genocide the colonists committed upon indigenous peoples and observe it as a day of mourning. What is more, I can fully understand their view. After all, much of the mythology of Thanksgiving is centred around the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Sadly, the Wampanoag, who according to legend dined with the Pilgrims, suffered greatly for their contact with the British colonists. That having been said, the Thanksgiving held at Plymouth was hardly the first to be held in what would become the United States, much less North America. Indeed, Native Americans had their own Thanksgiving rituals well before Europeans set foot in North America. The Seneca have Thanksgiving rituals that last four days, and other Iroquois nations have their own Thanksgiving rituals as well. The Cherokee have several different ceremonies at which we give thanks, including the Great New Moon Ceremony, the Exalting Bush Festival, and the Ripe Corn Ceremony.

My only real objection to the American holiday of Thanksgiving is the fact that it is attached to the mythology of the Pilgrims. To me, we simply need to divorce the Pilgrims myth from the holiday and observe it purely as a day of giving thanks. To me the act of giving thanks is very important and,in many way beneficial to the mental health of individuals. No less than Wilma Mankiller, the first woman to serve as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, recognized the importance of expressing one's gratitude. She said,  "We celebrate Thanksgiving along with the rest of America, maybe in different ways and for different reasons. Despite everything that's happened to us since we fed the Pilgrims, we still have our language, our culture, our distinct social system. Even in a nuclear age, we still have a tribal people."

Of course, central to any holiday are various traditions. Here at A Shroud of Thoughts it is a tradition to post vintage pinups. Here then are this year's pinups.

First up is Mary Doran riding a turkey.

Gale Robbins has trained her turkey to pull a cart!

Adele Jergens is taking her turkey for a walk!

Joey Heartherton's plans for her turkey seem less than benign...

Ann Blyth is wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

And, last but not least, Ann Miller is bringing the turkey!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

The Dark Side of Percy Helton

Most fans of classic film and classic television might be familiar with Percy Helton as the drunken Santa Claus at the beginning of Miracle on 34th Street (1947) or the much put-upon Commerce Bank clerk Homer Cratchit on The Beverly Hillbillies or even the voice of Piglet in Walt Disney's "Winnie the Pooh" animated shorts. Fans of film noir know that Percy Helton also appeared in several film noirs in his career, including Call Northside 777 (1948), Criss Cross (1949), Thieves' Highway (1949), and yet others. In many film noirs, Percy Helton played relatively decent characters, such as the overly cautious yet sympathetic bartender in Criss Cross. In yet other noirs Percy Helton played characters who were dishonest, unscrupulous, and even downright creepy.

An example of one of Percy Helton's more unsavoury characters can be seen in The Set-Up (1949). He plays Red, boxer Stoker Thompson's (Robert Ryan) trainer. Both Red and Stoker's manager Tiny (George Tobias) accept a bribe from a gangster for Stoker to take a dive in his next bout. To Red's credit, he warns Tiny that he had better tell Stoker that the bout has been fixed, reminding Tiny that the boxer can always punch him.Not only is Red dishonest, but he is a coward as well. When Stoker wins the bout, he flees the ring rather than face any consequences.

Percy Helton's follow-up to The Set-Up would find him playing another somewhat cowardly character  Petey in The Crooked Way (1949) is mild-mannered, small-time crook more than willing to grovel before any authority figure. His one redeeming quality is his love for his cat, a beautiful Maine Coon, whom he carries throughout the movie despite being allergic to feline dander. In the final gunfight he finally shows some bravery trying to protect his cat. He dies in the process.

If Red and Petey had some small sense of decency, it is safe to say that Doc Kennedy in Kiss Me Deadly (1955) has none. In the film Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) visits coroner Doc Kennedy (Percy Helton) for information regarding the recently deceased Christina (Cloris Leachman). Being entirely mercenary, Doc expects Hammer to pay for his information. Hammer offers to pay the coroner, but the amount the detective is offering does not met Doc's price. Hammer ends the negotiations over the price of Doc's information by slamming the coroner's fingers in a desk drawer. Naturally, Doc accepts Hammer's price afterwards.

If Red, Petey, and Doc seem unsavoury, they are nothing compared to Charlie Borg, the loathsome tailor in Wicked Woman (1953). Wicked Woman is hardly a good film. In fact, it is closer to being a camp classic than a noir classic. That having been said, Charlie Borg could well be Percy Helton's most memorable character. Charlie Borg is the neighbour of the film's main character, Billie Nash (Beverly Michaels), in an apartment house. The 5'2" Charlie is taken with the much taller Billie (some sources say Beverly Michaels was 5'9", but other sources indicate she was actually 5'11") from the moment he first sees her. Charlie loans her money and even cooks for her in hopes of making his dreams come true. He also spies on her constantly. This leads to Charlie figuring out Billie's plans with the handsome owner of the bar at which we works, Matt (Richard Egan). Of course, Charlie wastes no time in blackmailing Billie into having sex with him. Charlie may well be the most reprehensible character Percy Helton ever played. One certainly will never see Mr. Helton the same after having seen Wicked Woman.

Of course, these are not the only noirs in which Percy Helton appeared, nor the only films in which he played shady characters. In the end Percy Helton appeared in more film noirs than some better known names more closely associated with the genre. And while today he might be better associated with comedy, it can be argued that his most memorable performances emerged in the many film noirs in which he appeared.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Happy 10th Anniversary to the Blog Once Upon a Screen...

I want to congratulate my friend Aurora on her blog Once Upon a Screen...a classic film and TV blog turning ten years old as of today. Aurora published her first post on November 23 2011. Since then she has made many more posts on classic film and television. Aurora clearly loves classic film and classic television, and that shows in her posts. Her posts are immensely readable and I cannot recommend Once Upon a Screen... enough. My fellow bloggers may be familiar with Aurora as the co-host of the Hispanic Heritage Blogathon and the What a Character! Blogathon.

Anyhow, here's to a happy 10th anniversary for Aurora. I hope Once Upon a Screen... continues for another ten years and beyond!

Monday, November 22, 2021

Brute Force (1947)

The popular image of film noir is a movie centred on some down-on-his-luck schmuck who is drawn into a web of intrigue by a femme fatale. Not all film noirs fit this template, however, Brute Force (1947) being among them.Quite simply, the protagonists of Bute Force are already in prison for their crimes (the fictional Westgate Prison, to be precise).

The genesis for Brute Force began with producer Mark Hellinger, who had produced such films as They Drive By Night (1940), High Sierra (1941), and even the Jack Benny movie The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945).  It was after he had read an article by a former convict that he decided he wanted to make a prison movie. It would take nearly a decade for Mr. Hellinger to achieve his goal.

Mark Hellinger turned to Robert Patterson, a columnist for The San Francisco Examiner to develop the movie's story. Robert Patterson took inspiration from a real life incident, the Battle of Alcatraz, a particularly violent escape attempt on the part of armed convicts at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. Unfolding from May 2 to May 4 1946, two Federal Bureau of Prisons officers and three convicts were killed during the escape attempt. Richard Patterson's story was turned into a screenplay by Richard Brooks. Richard Brooks had written the screenplay for the camp classic Cobra Woman (1944), as well as the novel Crossfire upon which the 1947 film noir of the same name was based. Brute Force was directed by Jules Dassin, who had earlier directed The Canteville Ghost (1944).  Jule Dassin would go onto direct such classic noirs as The Naked City (1948), Thieves' Highway (1948), and Night and the City (1950).

While Brute Force is very much a film noir, it is also very much a message. Quite simply, it examines the corruption of the American prison system as it was in the Forties. Westgate Prison is overcrowded and underfunded. While the warden (Roman Bohen) has good intentions, he is seems ill-equipped to deal with the prison. Much of the day-to-day running of Westgate Prison falls to the head guard, Captain Munsey  (Hume Cronyn), an utter sadist who relies on stool pigeons to report anyone violating the rules and metes out punishments that are excessive for the beaches of the rules they are meant to punish. Given the conditions at Westgate Prison, it should come as no surprise that the prisoners, led by Joe Collins (Burt Lancaster), plot to break out.

Given it is set in a prison, one might be forgiven if they think Brute Force has all-male cast. That having been said, the women in the lives of the convicts do appear by way of flashbacks. Ann Blyth plays Joe's wife Ruth, who needs an operation for cancer. It is Ruth's illness that largely fuels Joe's desire to escape. Robert (Howard Duff) recalls Gina, a woman in Italy for whom he stole food from the ARmy.  When her father goes to turn Robert into the military police, she kills him. Naturally, Robert takes the blame for the killing. Tom's (Whit Bissell) wife (Ella Raines) is his excuse as to why he is in prison. She wanted a mink coat, so he cooked the books at work. Spencer's (John Hoyt) mind goes back to a con artist, Flossie (Anita Colby), who robs Spencer at gun point and then steals his car. Given Ella Raines and Anita Colby's characters, the portrayal of women in Brute Force is to some degree misogynistic, but then such misogyny is hardly alien to film noir.

What sets Brute Force apart from other film noirs, aside from its setting, is that it is an overly violent film for its era. Wilson (James O'Rear), one of the prison's snitches, is killed in a steel press in the workshop. Munsey beats a prisoner who is strapped to a chair. The violence of the climactic fight between Joe and Captain Munsey was such it ran afoul of the MPAA Production Code Administration. Even by today's standards, the violence in Brute Force can be shocking at times.

To a degree Brute Force seems dated (particularly in its portrayal of women), it remains a harrowing film about prison life in the Forties. It remains a hard-hitting critique of the prison system as it was at the time.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

"Born to Raise Hell" by Cheap Trick

"Born to Raise Hell" was one of four songs written by Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick and performed by Cheap Trick for the classic, Canadian animated feature film Rock & Rule (1983). Like the other Cheap Trick songs from Rock & Rule, it would remain unreleased until it appeared on the 1996 boxed set Sex, America, Cheap Trick. It was one of my favourite Cheap Trick songs. It also happens to one of their angriest. Sadly, "Born to Raise Hell" has also fit my mood the past few days.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Broken Arrow the TV Series

Native Americans did not fare well during the Golden Age of Hollywood. They did not fare particularly well in the early days of television either. Indeed, the most familiar Native American character to television viewers in the Fifties was probably The Lone Ranger's sidekick Tonto, who was something of a stereotype. Fortunately, things began to change in the late Forties with more sympathetic portrayals of Native Americans in films. Among the films with a more sympathetic portrayal of Native Americans was Broken Arrow (1950). It was the success of Broken Arrow (1950) that would lead to the television series Broken Arrow, one of two shows in the Fifties that centred on a Native American character (the other being Brave Eagle).

The movie Broken Arrow (1950) was based on the 1947 novel Blood Brother by Elliott Arnold. Like the novel, the movie was a fictionalized account of the friendship between Indian agent Tom Jeffords(James Stewart)  and  Chiricahua Apache chief Cochise (Jeff Chandler). While Cochise was played by a white actor (as were the other Native characters, with the exception of Geronimo, played by Jay Silverheels) , the movie was progressive for its time insofar as it presented a sympathetic view of both Cochise and the Apache. Not only was Broken Arrow nominated for three Oscars, but it also did very well at the box office. It was the eighth highest grossing film for 1950.

It was in 1955 that The 20th Century Fox Hour debuted on CBS. The 20th Century Fox Hour aired hour-long adaptation of 20th Century Fox movies. Among these movies was Broken Arrow, starring Ricardo Montalbán as Cochise and John Lupton as Tom Jeffords, which aired on May 2 1956. It was this episode of The 20th Century Fox Hour that led to the TV series Broken Arrow. Like the movie and the 20th Century Fox Hour before it, Cochise was once more played by someone who was not Native American. Michael Ansara was a Syrian American of Lebanese descent. Broken Arrow was not the first time he had played a Native American. He had played The Prophet in the 1952 Western Brave Warrior.  On television he had played a Native character on The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. For the role of Tom Jeffords, Broken Arrow retained John Lupton from the 20th Century Fox Hour episode.

Broken Arrow debuted on ABC on September 25 1956. It benefited from a particularly good time slot, following the hit Westerns Cheyenne (which rotated with the anthology show Conflict) and The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp at 9:00 PM Eastern/8:00 PM Central. It then did well enough in the ratings to be renewed for a second season. That second season would be its last. Broken Arrow was rerun on ABC from April to September 1959 as a summer replacement series.

As stated earlier, Broken Arrow was a [progressive show for its time. Its Native American characters were treated sympathetically and they did not speak in the stereotypical broken English seen on many other Westerns. The first three episodes more or less followed the plot of the 1950 movie. For the most part the villains were corrupt white men. An exception to this rule was Geronimo, who appears as Cochise's opponent in a few episodes. Even as Cochise's opponent, Geronimo was treated sympathetically.

Of course, Broken Arrow is a product of its time. Like the movie, to a degree it offers a romanticized,  idealized view of Native Americans. If the show does not cling entirely to the noble savage stereotype, it comes close. A greater objection to the show is that the Native American characters are not played by Native American actors. Sadly, this would remain the norm well into the Sixties.

Broken Arrow would not be the last time Michael Ansara played a Native American. During the 1959-1960 season on the TV show Law of the Plainsman, he played U.S. Marshal Sam Buckhart, an Apache who was educated at Harvard after saving the life of a U.S. Cavalry officer. Although it might be better remembered than Broken Arrow, it only lasted one season.

Broken Arrow is not a well-remembered show, but it is a significant one as the one of the first to present a sympathetic view of Native Americans, as well as one of the first to feature a Native American character as one of the leads.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

"California Dreamin'" by The Mamas and the Papas

Among my favourite songs by The Mamas and the Papas is "California Dreamin'." The song was written by John and Michelle Phillips in 1963 when they were still living in New York City and John Phillips was a member of the folk trio The Journeymen. The inspiration for the song came from the winter of 1963 in New York City, which was a particularly cold and brutal one. Michelle Phillips, who was born in Long Beach, California and had spent much of her life in the Los Angeles area, particularly missed California. The song, in which an individual finds himself longing for LA during a particularly bitter winter back East, is then to a degree autobiographical.

I have only been to Los Angeles once, but those few days I spent there are enough to make me miss the city at times. It is for that reason I do identify with the song to a degree. That having been said, it comes to my the most not in the winter, but instead in the summer. I tend to miss the somewhat drier, milder summer in Los Angeles when it is overly hot and muggy here! Of course, this means I have to change the lyrics to "California Dreamin'" a bit in my head when I listen to it in the summer.

Without further ado, here are The Mamas and the Papas with "California Dreamin'."

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Smoke Signals (1998)

Hollywood has not exactly been kind to Native Americans. During the Golden Age of Hollywood, Native American characters appeared almost exclusively in Westerns (Key Largo was an exception).  To make matters worse, Native Americans were almost always played by white men, and the portrayals were more often than not outright stereotypes. While Hollywood still has a long way to go in its treatment of Natives, things have improved somewhat in the past few decades. The movies Powwow Highway (1989) and Smoke Signals (1998) featured Native Americans in modern day settings and as full-fledged characters rather than stereotypes. What is more, the characters were played by Native Americans.

Indeed, Smoke Signals is singularly important in the history of Native Americans on film. It was the very first film to be written, directed, and co-produced by Native Americans. It remains one of the few films with a primarily Native American cast. While Native Americans had directed films before (James Young Deer and Edwin Carewe in the early years of American film), Smoke Signals was historic in the extent to which Native Americans were involved in its production.

Smoke Signals centres on two young  Coeur D'Alene Indians, Victor Joseph (Adam Beach) and Thomas Builds-the-Fire (Evan Adams). Victor is handsome and athletic, if a bit angry at life and his circumstances. Thomas is an eccentric storyteller committed to the traditions of the Coeur D'Alene. The two grew up together, but do not always get along due to the difference in their personalities. When Victor's father Arnold (Gary Farmer) dies in Phoenix, Arizona, Victor and Thomas make a road trip form the Coeur D'Alene Indian Reservation to bring back his ashes. The trip proves to be filled with self-discovery for both young men.

Smoke Signals was based on the short story "This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona" by Sherman Alexie from his book  The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Director Chris Eyre had read the book and contacted Sherman Alexie about the film rights. While others had approached Mr. Alexie about the film rights before, he gave his consent to Mr. Eyre as he wanted the first film adaptation of his work to be directed by a Native American. While Chris Eyre directed Smoke Signals, it was Sherman Alexie who wrote the film's screenplay

Smoke Signals was developed through the Native American and Indigenous Program at the Sundance Institute. The Sundance Institute was founded by Hollywood heavyweight Robert Redford to support independent filmmakers. The Native American Indigenous Program was started in 1994. Given it was developed through the Sundance Institute, it should come as no surprise that Smoke Signals premiered on January 16 1998 at the Sundance Film Festival. At the Sundance Film Festival Smoke Signals took away two trophies and was nominated for another. It won the Filmmaker's Trophy and the Audience Award. It was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize. Smoke Signals  would win many more awards. Smoke Signals also received good reviews and what is more, it did respectably well at the box office for an independent film.

Of course, Smoke Signals would not have had nearly as much impact had it not been a good film. Fortunately, it is a great film. Much of this is due to the cast. Both Adam Beach and Evan Adams give fantastic performances as Victor and Thomas respectively. Irene Bedard is remarkable as Suzy Song, a friend of Victor's father Arnold. All of the performances in the film are first rate, and the fact that Native American characters are played by Native American actors gives the film an authenticity it might not have had otherwise.

While the performances in the film are great, much of what makes Smoke Signals a superior film is its script. Smoke Signals subverts several Native American stereotypes. The phrase, "It's a good day to die," long associated, rightly or wrongly, with Native Americans is toyed with throughout the film. At one point Thomas remarks, "Sometimes it's a good day to die, and sometimes it's a good day to have breakfast." Randy Peone, the DJ on the reservation's radio station KREZ, says on the radio, "It's a good day to be indigenous!" Thomas and Victor discuss which historical Native Americans would have been good at basketball and even create a song about John Wayne's teeth (which they maintain are never visible). Smoke Signals also deals with such issues as domestic violence, alcoholism, child abandonment, and the sometimes dysfunctional relationships between fathers and sons.

Smoke Signals is historic with regards to Native Americans on film, it can be enjoyed as a coming of age movie by individuals of any ethnicity. It is by turns funny, touching, and even tragic, but it is always entertaining.

Monday, November 15, 2021

First Films Announced for the 2022 TCM Classic Film Festival

After two years of being a virtual event because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the TCM Classic Film Festival is returning to Hollywood.

Among the films being shown are new restorations of films. These include the world premiere of a new restoration of Giant (1956) and theatrical premieres of new restorations of A Star is Born (1937) and Angels with Dirty Faces (1938). Of course, the TCM Classic Film Festival is known for celebrating the anniversaries of classic films, so it should come as no surprise that there will be a 90th anniversary screening of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie The Gay Divorcee (1934). In celebration of Doris Day's 100th birthday is a special screening of the film The Pajama Game (1957). Also being shown are the classic musical It's Always Fair Weather (1955), Key Largo (1948) starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, the kungfu comedy Drunken Master II (1994), and the Sammy Davis, Jr. film A Man Called Adam (1966).

Friday, November 12, 2021

Godspeed Graeme Edge of The Moody Blues

Graeme Edge, The Moody Blues' drummer for the entirety of their history, died yesterday, November 11 2021, at the age of 80.

Graeme Edge was born on March 30 1941 in Rocester, Staffordshire. When he was only about six months old his family moved to Birmingham. His mother played piano as accompaniment to silent movies. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all sang in music halls. He had originally planned to become a draughtsman, although he managed a group called the Blue Rhythm Band. When the Blue Rhythm Band's drummer quit, Graeme Edge would up playing drums for the group for three weeks until they got a new drummer.

Graeme Edge formed the band The Silhouettes. He later co-founded Gerry Levene and The Avengers. Gerry Levene and The Avengers recorded one single for Decca, "Dr. Feelgood"/"It’s Driving Me Wild." The group also appeared on the British TV show Thank Your Lucky Stars. It was after Gary Levene and The Avengers broke up that Graham Edge formed The R&B Preachers, which included future Moody Blues members Denny Laine and Clint Warwick. After The R & B Preachers broke up, Messrs. Edge, Laine, and Warwick formed the M & B 5 with Ray Thomas. The M & B 5 were soon renamed The Moody Blues.

The Moody Blues signed with Decca Records in 1964. Their second single, "Go Now," was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Unfortunately, following singles did not perform as well. In 1966 Clint Warwick not only left the band, but the music business entirely. Later in the year Denny Laine also left. It was in late 1966 that John Lodge and Justin Hayward joined the band, establishing the classic line-up of The Moody Blues.

The Moody Blues would release a series of success albums, including Days of Future Past, In Search of the Lost Chord, On the Threshold of a Dream, A Question of Balance, To Our Children's Children,. Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, and Seventh Sojourn. As a poet, Graeme Edge provided the poems  "Morning Glory" and "Late Lament" for Days of Future Past, "Departure" and "The Word" for In Search of the Lost Chord, "In the Beginning" and "The Dream" for On the Threshold of a Dream, and others. He also contributed songs, such as "Higher and Higher" on To Our Children's Children.

In 1974 The Moody Blues took an extended break. Graeme Edge then formed the Graeme Edge Band. The Graeme Edge Band released two albums: Kick Off Your Muddy Blues in 1975 and Paradise Ballroom in 1977.

The Moody Blues reformed in 1978. The band returned with the album Octave, to which Graeme Edge contributed "I'll Be Level with You." The Moody Blues released several more albums. Graeme Edge contributed such songs as "22,000 Days" to Long Distance Voyager, "Going Nowhere" to The Present, and "Nothing Changes" to Strange Times.

In the Eighties he worked from time to time with the jazz combo Loud, Confident and Rong.

As a drummer Graeme Edge was very precise. He was also versatile, He went from the R&B influenced sound of the early Moody Blues to the progressive rock sound of the band's later years. In addition to drums he also provided The Moody Blues with a variety of percussion instruments, including tambourine and timpani. He even occasionally played piano. On top of being an excellent drummer, he was also a great poet, even reciting his own poems from time to time. "Morning Glory" and "Late Lament" remain highlights of Days of Future Past. It seems likely that The Moody Blues would not have been as successful as they were without Graeme Edge.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

The Late Great Lee Gordon of KRCG

If you live in the Columbia/Jefferson City, Missouri television market and you are anything older than a Zoomer, chances are good that you remember Lee Gordon. Lee Gordon worked for the Jefferson City station KRCG in various capacities for 53 years. It would not surprise me if he worked longer in the Columbia-Jefferson City market than any other on-air personality. Sadly, Lee Gordon died Tuesday, November 9, at the age of 85. The cause was complications of pulmonary disease.

Lee Gordon was born in Jefferson City and had deep roots in the capital city. An elementary school in Jefferson City is even named for his uncle, Thorpe Gordon. Lee Gordon was taking drama classes at Jefferson Junior College when KRCG was hiring a part-time announcer for the station. He began work at KRCG in April 1955, only a few weeks after the station had opened in February 1955. Mr. Gordon had only been working at KRCG when the station's full-time announcer quit. KRCG then offered him the job and he took it.

It was early in KRCG's history that he was the anchor for the station's 10:00 PM newscast, as well as its announcer for commercials. In 1956 he began his long stint as a weathercaster at the station. Lee Gordon also worked behind the scenes. In the days when KRCG produced a good deal of local programming, Lee Gordon directed many of those live local TV shows. In the days before ABC affiliate KCBJ (now KMIZ) opened in 1971, KRCG and Columbia station KOMU would divide up ABC programming between the two stations. It was Lee Gordon who chose which ABC shows would air on KRCG, everything from The Big Valley to The Johnny Cash Show. He served as KRCG's program manager and eventually its station manager.

Aside from his long stint as a weatherman on KRCG, many viewers might remember him best for playing Santa Claus on the station's long running children's show Showtime in the weeks before Christmas. He is also remembered as KRCG's horror host, The Count, on the station's horror movie anthology Tales of Terror in the early to mid Seventies. Tales of Terror included reruns of the classic TV series Thriller and such classic horror movies as Son of Frankenstein  (1939) and The Mummy (1932).

Lee Gordon retired in 2008 after having worked for KRCG for 53 years. Over the years he had offers to work in bigger markets, but KRCG would also match any offers that were made. Eventually he was content to remain with KRCG and continue living in Fulton, where he raised his family.

Having grown up in mid-Missouri I have very fond memories of Lee Gordon. He was one of the best on-air personalities to ever work in this market, both as an anchorman and a weatherman. He had an incredible, deep voice that was perfect not only for announcing, but for his roles as Santa Claus and The Count. He had a long career with KRCG, seeing television evolve from analog technology to digital technology. Both because of the length of his career and his talent as an on-air personality, Lee Gordon will remain one of the best remembered people to work in the Columba/Jefferson City television market.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Linda Carlson Passes On

Linda Carlson, who was a regular on the TV show Kaz and had a recurring role on the classic sitcom Newhart, died on October 26 2021 at the age of 76. She had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis for some time.

Linda Carlson was born on May 12 1945 in Knoxville, Tennessee. She appeared in school plays at  Edina Morningside High School in Minnesota. She received a bachelor's degree in speech and dramatic arts from the University of Iowa and a master's degree from New York University. In 1969 she appeared in the Negro Ensemble Company's production of The Harangues off Broadway . In 1973 she made her debut on Broadway in a revival of Full Circle. In the Seventies she was an understudy in the Broadway productions A Memory of Two Mondays / 27 Wagons Full of Cotton and They Knew What They Wanted.

Linda Carlson made her television debut as a regular on the short-lived drama Westside Medical. In the Seventies she played Katie McKenna on Kaz. She guest starred on the show Kojak and WKRP in Cincinnati.

In the Eighties she played the recurring role of Bev Dutton, the manager of the TV station on which Dick Loudon's television show aired, on the classic sitcom Newhart. She also appeared on the daytime soap opera Days of Our Lives. She guest starred on the shows Lou Grant; Quincy, M.E.; Remington Steele; St. Elsewhere, The Mississippi; Scarecrow and Mrs. King; Brothers; Cagney & Lacey; Growing Pains; Mr. President; My Two Dads; Christine Cromwell; and Father Dowling Mysteries.

In the Nineties Miss Carlson played Judge Beth Bornstein  on Murder One. She guest starred on the shows Baby Talk, Sisters, Double Rush, Space: Above and Beyond, Moloney, High Incident, The Pretender, Cracker, Michael Hayes, Clueless, and NYPD Blue. She appeared in the movies Honey, I Blew Up the Kid (1992), The Pickle (1993), and The Beverly Hillbillies (1993). In the Naughts she guest starredo n the shows NYPD Blue, Providence, and Passions.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

The Late Great Dean Stockwell

Dean Stockwell, who began his career as a child actor in such films as The Boy with Green Hair (1948) and The Happy Years (1950) before appearing in such films as Paris, Texas (1984) and Blue Velvet (1986) and the TV series Quantum Leap as an adult, died on November 7 2021 at the age of 85.

Dean Stockwell was born on March 5 1936 in North Hollywood, California. His father was actor Harry Stockwell, who had provided the singing voice of Prince Charming in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). His older brother was Guy Stockwell, who was later a regular on the TV shows Adventures in Paradise and The Richard Boone Show. As the son of an actor, Dean Stockwell grew up in both Los Angeles and New York City.

It was while appearing in Oklahoma! on Broadway that his father Harry Stockwell heard of the play Innocent Voyage that needed child actors. Both Guy Stockwell and Dean Stockwell auditioned for roles in Innocent Voyage and both were cast in the play. While Dean Stockwell's part was small and Innocent Voyage only ran on Broadway from November 15 1943 to December 18 1944, he was noticed by MGM who gave him a contract. Dean Stockwell made his film debut in The Valley of Decision in 1945. He had notable roles in Anchors Aweigh (1945), The Green Years (1946), The Boy with Green Hair (1948), and The Happy Years (1950). He played Nick Charles Jr. in Song of the Thin Man (1947). He also appeared in the movies Abbott and Costello in Hollywood (1945), Home, Sweet Homicide (1946), The Mighty McGurk (1947), The Arnelo Affair (1947), The Romance of Rosy Ridge (1947), Gentleman's Agreement (1947), Deep Waters (1948), Down to the Sea in Ships (1949), The Secret Garden (1949), and Kim (1950).

Dean Stockwell appeared in the movie Cattle Drive (1951) before taking a short break from acting. During this period he worked a number of odd jobs, from working on the railroad to working in a bakery. He returned to acting with the movie Gun for a Coward in 1956. He also made his second and last appearance on Broadway in the play Compulsion in 1957. He would reprise his role as Judd Steiner in the 1959 film adaptation of Compulsion. Dean Stockwell made his television debut in an episode of Front Row Center in 1956. In the mid to late Fifties he also appeared in the movies The Careless Years (1957) and Sons and Lovers (1960). He guest starred on the TV shows Matinee Theatre, Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, Wagon Train, The United States Steel Hour, Climax!, Men of Annapolis, Cimarron City, General Electric Theatre, Playhouse 90, Johnny Staccato, Buick-Electra Playhouse, Checkmate, and The DuPont Show with June Allyson.

In the Sixties Dean Stockwell had a recurring role on the TV series Dr. Kildare. He guest starred on the TV shows Outlaws, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Wagon Train, Bus Stop, The Twilight Zone, Alcoa Premiere, The Dick Powell Show, Combat!, The Greatest Show on Earth, The Defenders, The Eleventh Hour, Kraft Suspense Theatre, Burke's Law, The Danny Thomas Hour, Thirty-Minute Theatre, and Bonanza. He appeared in the movies Long Day's Journey into Night (1962), Rapture (1965), Psych-Out (1968), and The Dunwich Horror (1970).

In the Seventies Mr. Stockwell guest starred in the television shows Mannix, The F.B.I., Mission: Impossible, Night Gallery, Orson Welles' Great Mysteries, Dr. Simon Locke, The Streets of San Francisco, Columbo, Joe Forrester, Three for the Road, Cannon, Ellery Queen, Police Story, McCloud, Tales of the Unexpected, and Greatest Heroes of the Bible. He appeared in the movies The Last Movie (1971), The Loners (1973), The Werewolf of London (1973), The Pacific Connection (1974), Win, Place or Steal (1974), Tracks (1976),  Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976), One Away (1976), and She Came to the Valley (1979).

In 1989 Dean Stockwell began a five year run playing Admiral Al Calavicci on the TV series Quantum Leap. He was the voice of Duke Nukem on the animated series Captain Planet and the Planeteers. He guest starred on the shows Hart to Hart; The A-Team; Simon & Simon; Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense; Miami Vice; Hunter; Murder, She Wrote; and The Twilight Zone. He appeared in the mini-series Son of the Morning Star. During the Eighties he made several significant appearances in movies, playing Walt Henderson in Paris, Texas (1984), Doctor Yueh in Dune (1984), and Ben in Blue Velvet (1986). He also appeared in the movies Wrong is Right (1982), Human Highway (1982), Alsino y el cóndor (1982), To Kill a Stranger (1984), The Legend of Billie Jean (1985), To Live and Die of L.A. (1985), Once Bitten (1985), Papa Was a Preacher (1985), Gardens of Stone (1987), Beverly Hills Cop II (1987), The Time Guardian (1987), Banzai Runner (1987), The Blue Iguana (1988), Married to the Mob (1988), Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988), Palais Royale (1988), Buying Time (1988), Jorge, um Brasileiro (1989), Limit Up (1989), and Catchfire (1990).

In the Nineties he continued to appear as Al on Quantum Leap. He was a regular on the show Street Gear and The Tony Danza Show. He guest starred on the shows Burke's Law, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Chicago Hope, Snowy River: The McGregor Saga, Nowhere Man, The Commish, Can't Hurry Love, Ink, Popular Science, It's True!, The Drew Carey Show, and Cold Feet. He appeared in the movies Sandino (1991), The Player (1992), Friends and Enemies (1992), Chasers (1994), Mr. Wrong (1996), Naked Souls (1996), Last Resort (1996), Living in Peril (1997), McHale's Navy (1997), Midnight Blue (1997), Air Force One (1997), The Shadow Men (1997), The Rainmaker (1997), Sinbad: The Battle of the Dark Knights (1998), Restraining Order (1999), Water Damage (1999), The Venice Project (1999), Rites of Passage (1999), and The Flunky (2000).

In the Naughts Dean Stockwell had a recurring role the TV series First Monday. On JAG he played the recurring role of Secretary of the Navy Edward Sheffield. He also had a recurring role on the 2000s revival of Battlestar Galactica. He guest starred on the shows Star Trek: Enterprise, Stargate SG-1, and Crash. He appeared in the movies Face to Face (2001), CQ (2001), The Quickie (2001), Buffalo Soldiers (2001), Inferno (2002), The Manchurian Candidate (2004), and The Deal (2007).

In the Teens Dean Stockwell guest starred on the shows Elisted and NCIS. He appeared in the movies C.O.G. (2013), Max Rose (2013), Deep in the Darkness (2014), Persecuted (2014), and Entertainment (2015).

Dean Stockwell was an enormous talent. He was among the most natural child actors of all time, giving superb performances in The Boy with Green Hair and Kim, among other movies. As an adult he would play a wide variety of roles. He will always be remembered as Al, the womanizing rear admiral who assists Sam Beckett as he travels through time. He will also be remembered as the rather creepy Ben, who lip syncs to Roy Orbison's "In Dreams" in Blue Velvet. That having been said, he played many more roles throughout his career. He was Edmund, the younger son who may have tuberculosis, in Long Day's Journey into Night. He played Howard Hughes in Tucker: The Man and His Dream. From the attorney Bob Grimes in To Live and Die in L.A. to a mob boss in Married to the Mob, Dean Stockwell played many different roles. What is more he always gave a good performance.

Monday, November 8, 2021

He Walked By Night (1948)

The film movement known as film noir emerged in the 1940s. It was from film noir movement that the genre of the police procedural emerged. The late Forties saw a number of police procedural movies released, including T-Men (1947), The Naked City (1948), The Street with No Name (1948), and Mystery Street (1950). These police procedurals were shot in a semidocumentary style and focused on the procedure of law enforcement as they investigated a case. Among the best of the police procedurals released in the late Forties was He Walked By Night (1948).

He Walked By Night
centred on Roy Morgan (Richard Basehart), a former radio technician for a local police department turned thief who has shot a Los Angeles Police patrolman when he was nearly caught during his burglaries. He Walked By Night was inspired by the real life case of Erwin "Machine Gun" Walker, a former Glendale, California police radio operator and dispatcher who committed a spree of burglaries in Los Angeles County in 1945 and 1946. He engaged in more than one shoot out with law enforcement. The film had the working titles of 29 Clues and The L.A. Investigator before finally being titled He Walked by Night.

While Alfred L. Werker is credited as the director on He Walked by Night, most film scholars believe that Anthony Mann took over for Mr. Werker fairly early in the shooting of the film. To wit, He Walked by Night was shot in a semidocumentary style similar to Anthony Mann's earlier film T-Men and his later film Border Incident (1949). John Alton was the cinematographer on He Walked By Night. Not only had worked with Anthony Mann on T-Men and would work with him on Raw Deal (1948) and Border Incident, but he would become well-known for his work in film noir. In addition to Anthony Mann's films, John Alton also worked on such classic film noirs as Reign of Terror (1949), Mystery Street, and The Big Combo (1955). He Walked by Night featured some of John Alton's work, particularly the climax of the film shot in the storm drains of Los Angeles.

In addition to Anthony Mann's direction and John Alton's cinematography, He Walked by Night benefits from a strong script by John C. Higgins and Crane Wilbur, as well as the performances of the cast. Richard Basehart is chilling as Roy Morgan, the master criminal terrorizing Los Angeles County. Scott Brady and James Cardwell do a good job playing the police sergeants investigating the case, Marty Brennan and Chuck Jones.

He Walked By Night proved to be an influential film noir in more ways the one. In the movie Jack Webb played a forensics expert named Lee. He became friends with the police technical advisor on the film, Los Angles Police Detective Sergeant Marty Wynn. It was Jack Webb's discussions with Sgt. Marty Wynn that convinced him that police procedure could be realistically portrayed on a regularly scheduled radio show. This led to the radio show Dragnet. It debuted on 1949 and proved to be a huge hit. It made the transition to television in 1951.

He Walked By Night won the special prize for Best Police Film at the Locarno International Film Festival in 1949. It also received largely positive reviews and did very well at the box office. He Walked by Night would also have lasting impact through its bare bones approach to the police procedural. It was a direct inspiration for the radio show and television series Dragnet and, as a result, its influence can be felt on police procedurals to this day. Even the film's action sequences, particularly its climax, would have a lasting impact on both film and television. While He Walked by Night may not be as famous as Double Indemnity (1944) or The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), but there is every reason it should be.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

"Wovoka" by Redbone

Redbone holds a unique position in rock history as a Native American/Chicano band. And while they are best known for their 1973 hit "Come and Get Your Love," Redbone performed several songs that touched upon Native American subjects. Among these songs is the title track to their fifth album Wovoka.

The subject of the song "Wovoka" is the Paiute holy man of the same name. Born around 1856, he founded the second Ghost Dance movement. Following the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890, the Ghost Dance would decline in importance. Wovoka would remain an important leader in the Native American community until he died on September 20 1932.

"Wovoka" was the third single from the album Wovoka, following "We Were All at Wounded Knee" (unreleased in the United States) and "Come and Get Your Love." While "Come and Get Your Love" reached no. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, "Wovoka" did not chart on the Hot 100, but reached 101 on the Bubbling Under chart.

Friday, November 5, 2021

Godspeed Peter Scolari

Peter Scolari, who appeared on the classic sitcoms Bosom Buddies and Newhart, died on October 22 2021 at the age of 66. The cause was leukaemia.

Peter Scolari was born on September 12 1955 in New Rochelle, New York. He took an interest in acting in high school, and during his junior year he played the lead in the school's production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. After graduating from school he worked with the Colonnades Theatre Lab in New York City.

Peter Scholar made his film debut in the movie Take Off in 1978. He made his television debut in a guest appearance in the short-lived sitcom Angie in 1979. In 1980 he was a regular on the short-lived sitcom Goodtime Girls. He appeared in the television movie The Further Adventures of Wally Brown. It was in 1980 that he was cast in the role of Henry Desmond in the sitcom Bosom Buddies. He played opposite Tom Hanks, who played his roommate Kip Wilson. The show centred on two men who disguise themselves as women in order to rent an apartment at the Susan B. Anthony Hotel. While the show only lasted 37 episodes, it would develop a cult following over the years.

In 1983 Peter Scolari played one of the leads in the short-lived sitcom Baby Makes Five. It was in 1984 that he joined the cast of Newhart. He played Michael Harris, the producer of lead character Dick Loudan's television show. He remained with the show until the end of its run in 1990. He also guest starred on the television shows Remington Steele, Happy Days, Finder of Lost Loves, Hotel, Family Ties, Fresno, You Are the Jury, The Love Boat, Mike Hammer, The Twilight Zone, CBS Summer Playhouse, Trying Times, and Encyclopedia Brown. He appeared in the movies Imps* (1983), The Rosebud Beach Hotel (1984), and Corporate Affairs (1990).

In the Nineties he starred on the shows Family Album, Dweebs, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. He guest starred on the shows Nurses, Fallen Angels, Burke's Law, Empty Nest, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Touched by an Angel, The Mommies, A Whole New Ballgame, Can't Hurry Love, Dave's World, The Drew Carey Show, and The Nanny, George & Leo. He was a guest voice on such animated shows as Animaniacs, Batman: The Animated Series, Gargoyles, and Pinky and the Brain. He appeared in the movies Ticks (1993), Camp Nowhere (1994), and That Thing You Do! (1996).

In the Naughts Peter Scolari guest starred on the TV shows Touched by an Angel, Ally McBeal, Reba, The King of Queens, ER, The West Wing, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Listen Up, and Big Love. He appeared in the movies Sorority Boys (2002), Mentor (2006), Cathedral Pines (2006), Suburban Girl (2007), and a Plumm Summer (2007). He was the voice of Billy (the Lonely Boy) in The Polar Express (2004). He appeared on Broadway in Hairspray and Sly Fox.

In the Teens he had recurring roles on Gotham, Girls, Anthem: Homunculus, and Evil. He played the lead role in the mini-series Madoff. He guest starred on the shows White Collar, Odd Man Out, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, The Good Fight, Murphy Brown, and Blue Bloods. He appeared in the mini-series Fosse/Verdon and Lisey's Story. He was a guest voice on the animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold. He appeared in the movies Letting Go (2012), (Dean) (2016), Weight (2018), The Social Ones (2019), and Looks That Kill (2020). He appeared on Broadway in Magic/Bird, Lucky Guy, Bronx Bombers, and Wicked.

Peter Scolari was an excellent actor. As the nervous and overly emotional Michael Harris on Newhart he was part of what that sitcom such a classic. While his best known roles were in sitcoms, Peter Scolari was perfectly capable of more serious roles. On Evil he played Bishop Thomas Marx, the somewhat sceptical, if somewhat humorous, priest who assigned the protagonist David his cases. On Gotham he played the corrupt Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb, who is a secret alliance with mobster Carmine Falcone. Peter Scolari could play a wide variety of roles and play them very well

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

JoAnna Cameron Passes On

JoAnna Cameron, best known for playing the title role on the Saturday morning live-action television series Isis, died on October 15 2021 at the age of 73. The cause was complications from a stroke.

JoAnna Cameron was born on September 20 1948 in Vail, Colorado. In college she befriended Bob Hope's daughter Linda Hope. Bob Hope then cast her in the role of his character's daughter in the movie How to Commit Marriage (1969). In the late Sixties this led to guest appearances on TV shows The Bold Ones: The New Doctors, Medical Center, Daniel Boone, and The Name of the Game. She appeared three times as Nurse Anne McAndrews on Marcus Welby M.D. She appeared in the TV movie The Last of the Powerbrokers. She also appeared in the movie I Love My Wife (1970).

In 1975 she cast in the role of Andrea Thomas on Isis. Andrea Thomas had an ancient Egyptian amulet that would transform her into the superhero Isis, who had power over the elements and animals. The series ran for two seasons on Saturday morning on CBS and was then repeated for another season. Miss Cameron also guest starred on the shows Love, American Style; The Partners; Search; Columbo; Shazam! (as Isis); McMillan & Wife; Gibbsville; The Amazing Spider-Man; and Switch. She appeared in the TV movies The Great American Beauty Contest, A Time for Love, Sorority Kill, Night Games, It Couldn't Happen to a Nicer Guy, High Risk,. and Swan Song. She appeared in the movies Pretty Maids All in the Row (1971) and B.S. I Love You (1970). She also made several commercials, at one time holding record for having starred in the most commercials according to The Guinness Book of World Records.

In the late Seventies she went to work as the host of the U.S. Navy's Navy Network and even directed the half-hour documentary "Blue Angels in Razor Sharp" (1982). After she left the entertainment industry she worked in home healthcare as a nurse and later in marketing for various hotels.

The Secrets of Isis was historic as the first TV show centred on a female superhero, pre-dating The Bionic Woman by four months and Wonder Woman by seven months. In this way it paved away for further TV shows featuring superheroines. JoAnna Cameron was perfect in the role, giving a sincere performance and remaining convincing as both science teacher Andrea Thomas and superheroine Isis. The character made an impression, and remains remembered to this day. This was largely due to JoAnna Cameron's performance.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Happy Halloween 2021

Halloween is a time for tricks and treats. Here at A Shroud of Thoughts I can promise you there will be no tricks, although I do have a few treats for you. It is a Halloween tradition for me to post classic pinups, so here are this year's lovely ladies!

First up is one of the prettiest witches one will ever see, Morgan Fairchild circa 1981.

Next up is another lovely witch, Nancy Carroll!

Here's Madge Evans with a collection of masks!

Anne Neyland is flying on her broom!

Nan Wynn and Anita Louise appear to be awaiting the Great Pumpkin!

And last, but not least, is the lovely and leggy Anne Miller atop a Jack o'lantern!

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2021

The Baby Snooks Show: "Halloween" (1946)

Many, perhaps most, radio shows in the days of Old Time Radio had Halloween episodes. Indeed, The Jack Benny Program very nearly had one every year. The Baby Snooks Show, starring comedienne Fanny Brice as the title character, was among the many shows that had Halloween episodes. Indeed, the November 1 1946 episode "Halloween" is significant as one of the earliest references to trick or treating in popular culture.

Baby Snooks was a mischievous toddler created by Fanny Brice. Fanny Brice first played Baby Snooks on vaudeville, drawing inspiration for the name from George McManus's comic strip The Newlyweds, which featured an infant named Baby Snookums. She would later draw inspiration from the popular child star Baby Peggy. First appearing in a successful series of shorts starting in 1921, Miss Brice transformed Baby Snooks into a caricature of Baby Peggy. It was in 1934 that Fanny Brice began appearing as Baby Snooks in The Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway. Baby Snooks made her radio debut in 1936 on The Ziegfeld Follies of the Air. The following year Fanny Brice (then 46 years old) played Baby Snooks in the film Everybody Sings (1937).  Starting in 1938 she occasionally appeared on the radio show Good News of 1938. In 1940 Baby Snooks was a regular on Maxwell House Coffee Time.

It was in 1944 that Baby Snooks received her own radio show. The Baby Snooks Show starred Fanny Brice as Baby Snooks, who lives with her parents, Lanhcelot "Daddy" Higgins (played by Hanley Stafford) and Vera "Mommy" Higgins (played by Arlene Harris by the time of the 1946 Halloween episode). While Baby Snooks was essentially a good kid at heart, she had a rather impish sense for mischief, often driving Daddy up the wall.

In "Halloween" Baby Snooks is doing exactly that. As the episode starts, Baby Snooks wants to go out trick or treating with her friends. Unfortunately, Daddy won't let her as a doctor for the life insurance will be dropping by to examine him and he wants peace and quiet lest his blood pressure goes up. While Daddy is trying to rest, Baby Snooks gets on his nerves until he finally lets her go out trick or treating. It is then that Daddy dons a mask with huge tusks to scare the kids and teach them a lesson about running about and wreaking havoc on the streets. Unfortunately, Daddy's plan backfires when one of the fathers of Baby Snooks's friends takes offence at him scaring the kids, resulting in the two fathers pulling a series of pranks on each other that escalate in their outrageousness.

Of interest to those fascinated by the history of Halloween is the scene in which Baby Snooks and her friends are trick or treating. Here it must be pointed out that trick or treating was a relatively recent development. It had originated in Canada in the late Twenties and then spread throughout the United States in the 1930s. It is for that reason that one does not begin to see references to the custom until the 1940s. As odd as it might seem today, The Baby Snooks Show episode "Halloween" is then one of the earliest references to trick or treating in popular culture. In "Halloween"Baby Snooks and her friends trick or treat at announcer Harlow Wilcox's house. Mr. Wilcox gives the kids a treat of Jell-O. If that seems like an odd treat for Halloween, keep in mind that Jell-O was the show's sponsor and the scene is effectively a commercial for the product.

The Baby Snooks Show episode "Halloween" is a lot of fun, with Daddy's pranks growing more and more outrageous as the episode progresses. As might be expected, his pranks don't always work out as intended. Over all, it is an enjoyable listen any time around Halloween.

Friday, October 29, 2021

The 30th Anniversary of the TV Movie Locked Up: A Mother's Rage

Vanessa Marquez and Cheryl Ladd
It was thirty years ago today, October 29 1991, that the television movie Locked Up: A Mother's Rage debuted on The CBS Tuesday Movie. The movie centred on a single mother of three children, Annie Gallagher (Cheryl Ladd), who is wrongly convicted of selling drugs and sent to prison for 15 years. Her sister Cathy was played by Jean Smart, who must take care of Annie's children while she is locked up. Locked Up: A Mother's Rage follows Annie's adjustment to life in prison and the impact it had on her children. As to why I would be writing about a thirty year old television movie, it starred my dear friend Vanessa Marquez in one of her earliest major roles. She played Yolanda, nicknamed "Yo-Yo," who was sent to prison killing her abusive boyfriend, apparently in self defence.

Locked Up: A Mother's Rage was based on the documentary They're Doing My Time (1988), directed by Patricia Foulkrod. They're Doing My Time centred on the plight of children whose mothers have been sent to prison. They're Doing my Time  aired on PBS in July 1989.  In fact, the original title of Locked Up: A Mothers Rage was the same as the documentary, They're Doing My Time.

While Locked Up: A Mother's Rage was inspired by the documentary They're Doing My Time and even begins with the prerequisite "Based on a True Story," it is in many ways a typical of TV movies of the era. The script takes a simplistic approach to the social problems it is tackling, with some things presented in purely black and white. Indeed, such complicated topics as motherhood and incarceration are reduced to their simplest terms. And while Locked Up: A Mother's Rage is supposed to have been "based on a true story," the subplot involving Cathy's marital difficulties seem unreealistic, especially given its resolution. At time some of the characters seem to act with no reason other than it is required of the plot.

That Locked Up: A Mother's Rage is a rather typical TV movie of the Nineties is even exemplified by the performances of its two leads. Both Cheryl Ladd and Jean Smart's performances are sincere, but they are overwrought in a way that most performances in 1990s TV movies tended to be. Similarly, the performances of the actors playing Annie's children also tend to be over the top. While the film's script and the performances of its two leads might dissuade one from watching Locked Up: A Mother's Ragek, the performances of its supporting players make it worth watching.  Angela Bassett did a good job of portraying Willie, a inmate who is initially unfriendly to Annie but eventually befriends her. Diana Muldaur does well as Frances "the Quaker Lady," a social worker seeking to help the inmates. One of the best performances is given by Kimberly Scott, who plays Sherisse. Sherisse is in charge of the prison library and helps Annie in her fight to be released. As to my dear Vanessa Marquez, she also gives one of the best performance s in the film. Her role as Yo-Yo could not have been an easy one to play, particularly given what she's goes through in the film, but Vanessa made Yo-Yo and the subplot dedicated to her believable.

Locked Up: A Mother's Rage was repeated on July 19 1992 on The CBS Sunday Movie. For the remainder of the Nineties, like many made-for-TV movies "based on a true story," it would be rerun on the cable channel Lifetime.Locked Up: A Mother's Rage was released on DVD in the mid-Naughts, although for some strange reason it was retitled The Other Side of Love. It is under that title that today it can be found on some streaming services. Personally, I think the original title was better, particularly given The Other Side of Love has nothing to do with the film's plot.

Locked Up: A Mother's Rage
is a rather typical made-for-TV movie from the 1990s, overwrought and tending to oversimplify many of the issues it addresses. That having been said, it is worth watching for the performances of the supporting cast. And while I might be biased, it is worth for Vanessa Marquez's performance as Yo-Yo, one of her earliest and best roles.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

The Woman Who Came Back (1945)

As hard as it might be to believe, prior to the Seventies horror movies rarely mentioned Halloween. In fact, during the Golden Age of Hollywood, comedies, such as The Boy Friend (1939), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), and Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), referenced Halloween more often than horror movies. One horror movie made during the Golden Age that referenced Halloween was The Woman Who Came Back (1945). Even though it was made in the mid-Forties, The Woman Who Came Back was one of the earliest horror movies to mention the holiday.

In The Woman Who Came Back Lorna Webster (Nancy Kelly) is returning to her home town of Eben Rock on the night of Halloween. She is descended from Judge Elijah Webster, a notorious witch-hunter who had several women burned at the stake for witchcraft. She is sleeping on the bus when an old woman boards it in the middle of nowhere. The old woman claims that she is one of the witches hanged by Elijah Webster. She further claims that she made a deal with the Devil so that when she dies her spirit will enter the body of a young woman over the course of 300 years. The bus on which Lorna is riding crashes and she is the only survivor. While recovering in Eben Rock she begins to suspect that the spirit of the old witch has entered her. Worse yet, after a series of strange incidents, the residents of Eben Rock tend to believe this too. Only the local minister, Reverend Jim Stevens (Otto Kruger) and her love interest, Dr. Matt Adams (John Loder), believe otherwise.

In the mid-Forties movies about witchcraft and diabolism became somewhat fashionable. In 1942 I Married a Witch took a humorous look at witchcraft. Val Lewton's The Seventh Victim (1943) centred on a Satanic cult. In the horror movie Weird Woman (1944) based on Fritz Leiber's novel Conjure Wife, a professor's wife is suspected of being a witch. Given the release of movies about witchcraft or diabolism, it should come as no surprise that Republic Pictures made The Woman Who Came Back.

Republic Pictures was not particularly known for the quality of its horror movies. Some examples of Republic's horror movies are The Lady and the Monster (1944) and The Catman of Paris (1946), neither of which are particularly respected. While Republic Pictures was not known for quality horror movies, The Woman Who Came Back is the exception. In fact, it could very nearly be a Val Lewton movie save for the fact that Val Lewton did not produce it. Like Mr. Lewton's movies, The Woman Who Came Back relies more upon the power of suggestion and the film's atmosphere than anything graphic. Like Val Lewton's films, The Woman Who Came Back has a deliberate pace that allows the suspense in the film to build and build. If the movie has one flaw, it is in its ending, which goes to a bit too much effort to explain everything. One has to suspect Val Lewton would have given it a more ambiguous ending.

The Woman Who Came Back benefits from a capable cast. Nancy Kelly, who would later play the mother of the title character in The Bad Seed (1956), is very convincing as Lorna as the character's hysteria gradually grows throughout the movie. Veteran character actor Otto Kruger is great as Reverend Stevens, the voice of reason in the small town of Eben Rock. John Loder is also quite good.

While Halloween does not play an overly large role in The Woman Who Came Back, given the era it is significant that the holiday is mentioned at all. Halloween certainly adds weight to the idea that Lorna may be a witch given the bus crash takes place on the holiday. When Lorna arrives at the tavern in town following the bus crash, there are children dressed in costumes. Given how rarely Halloween was mentioned in horror movies prior to the Seventies, even the small role Halloween plays in The Woman Who Came Back is notable.

I would recommend The Woman Who Came Back to anyone who enjoys 1940s horror movies, particularly those made by Val Lewton. It is a remarkable film put out by a studio not often known for the quality of its horror movies.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Halloween is Grinch Night

While animated Halloween television specials were common from the late Seventies into the Eighties, there was a time when they were virtually unknown on American television. As hard as it may be to believe, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, which debuted in 1966, was the first animated Halloween special. When Halloween is Grinch Night debuted in 1977, it was then one of the earliest animated Halloween specials in the history of American television history.

Halloween is Grinch Night was based on the well-known character created by Dr. Seuss and its teleplay was written by Dr. Seuss as well. Although it is sometimes referred to as a sequel to How the Grinch Stole Christmas, it was intended as a prequel to that special. Indeed, in Halloween is Grinch Night, it is clear that the Grinch's heart has yet to grow three sizes. In Halloween is Grinch Night, a Sour-Sweet Wind descends upon Whoville. This causes the Whos to take refuge in their homes, as they know the wind means the Grinch will be in a bad mood. And indeed he is. The Grinch descends upon Whoville to wreak havoc, only to be confronted by a young Who named Eukariah.

While Halloween is Grinch Night was a prequel to How the Grinch Stole Christmas, it was made by a different production company. How the Grinch Made Christmas was made by Cat in the Hat Productions in conjunction with MGM. It was directed by Chuck Jones. Staring with The Cat in the Hat in 1971, DePatie-Freleng Enterprises began producing a series of animated specials based on the works of Dr. Seuss. Halloween is Grinch Night was directed by Gerard Baldwin, who had earlier directed several episodes of the Jay Ward television series Rocky and His Friends and George of the Jungle. Halloween is Grinch Night was also broadcast on another network than the previous Dr. Seuss specials. Starting with How the Grinch Stole Christmas, every single Dr. Seuss special had aired on CBS. Halloween is Grinch Night was the first of several Dr. Seuss specials to air on ABC.

Halloween is Grinch Night
would also have a slightly different cast from How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Boris Karloff, who provided the original voice of the Grinch, had died February 2 1969. Hans Conried then provided the voice of the Grinch in Halloween is Grinch Night. While Dallas McKennon provided the voice of the Grinch's dog Max in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Henry Gibson provided his voice in Halloween is Grinch Night. Returning from How the Grinch Stole Christmas was singer Thurl Ravenscroft, who provided vocals on the songs.

While many of the Dr. Seuss animated specials were based on specific Dr. Seuss books, Halloween is Grinch Night was not. It was instead an original work. That is not to say that it did not draw upon some of Dr. Seuss's books. The howling Hakken-Kraks come from Dr. Seuss's book Oh, the Places You'll Go!. A landscape of tall mushrooms was drawn from the book Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!. Other imagery from the special also resembles that found in yet other Dr. Seuss's books.

Despite its title, Halloween is never specifically mentioned in Halloween is Grinch Night. This could be the reason that when released on VHS the special was re-titled It's Grinch Night or simply Grinch Night. That having been said, Grinch Night would seem to be the Who's equivalent of Halloween. It takes place when the Sour-Sweet Wind arrives. Of course, Halloween marks the beginning of colder weather in some parts of the United States. Furthermore, the use of the imagery of ghosts and monsters by Grinch to try to scare the Whos would indicate that Grinch Night is similar to Halloween.

Halloween is Grinch Night won the Emmy for Oustanding Children's Program. That having been said, it would not repeat the success of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It would be repeated regularly on ABC in the late Seventies and Eighties. In the Nineties it would enter syndication.

Halloween is Grinch Night may not have been as successful as How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but it is fondly remembered by many Gen Xers and older Millennials. It was the second work in any medium to feature the Grinch and one of the earliest animated Halloween specials.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Halloween Ads From the Past

Given how much of a role trick or treating plays in the modern day celebration of Halloween, most people probably think of ads for candy when they think of the holiday. As the celebration of Halloween grew in the 20th Century, companies would capitalize on Halloween to advertise products that I doubt many would associate with the day. Here are a few ads from the past for products that really wouldn't seem to have much to do with Halloween.

Hot dogs are not the first food to come to mind when it comes to Halloween, but for a portion of the 20th Century certain people wanted them to be. In the 1940s makers of Skinless Frankfurthers or Wieners created their own mascot, the Weeny Witch, and then spent a few decades trying to convince people to incorporate hot dogs into their Halloween celebrations. In some ads they even encouraged Halloween games involving hot dogs, such as "bobbing for franks..."

This ad for Lucky Strike cigarettes not only incorporates Halloween imagery in the form of a jack o'lantern, but references to the U.S. Navy football team and encourages people to buy U.S. Defence Bonds.

Like cigarettes, beer is not exactly something one necessarily associates with Halloween. That didn't stop Schlitz from including Halloween imagery in this 1956 ad.

Coffee is not necessarily associated with Halloween either. Regardless, this ad for Chase & Sanborn Instant Coffee from 1956 uses Halloween imagery.

Here is an ad for Royal Crown Cola (also known as RC Cola) from 1961.