Thursday, May 13, 2021

The Late Great Norman Lloyd

It is a rare thing that I cry over the death of a celebrity, but when I heard that Norman Lloyd had died on May 11 2021 at the age of 106, I shed several tears. I realize that 106 is a ripe old age to live to. I realize that Mr. Lloyd had a full life, appearing on Broadway, in film, on radio, and on television. His career lasted nearly 90 years and his marriage to his beloved wife Peggy lasted 75 years, until her death in 2011. He worked with such legends as Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, and Alfred Hitchcock. Still, in my selfishness I had hoped we might have Norman Lloyd a bit longer. It was not simply because he was a living repository of entertainment history. It was not simply because he was an immensely talented actor and an incredible public speaker. It was because he was an impeccable gentleman filled with congeniality, warmth, and an incredible wit. In some ways he seemed as much like a friend's beloved uncle as he did a legendary star. Indeed, it seems to me that classic film buffs are mourning Norman Lloyd's death much more than many bigger named stars.

Norman Lloyd was born Norman Perlmutter on November 8 1914 in Jersey City, New Jersey. He grew up in Brooklyn. His mother loved the theatre, and so she took him to elocution lessons to get rid of his Brooklyn accent. She also enrolled him in lessons for singing and dancing. His debut came when he was still a  child, performing "Father, Get the Hammer, There's a Fly on Baby's Head" at a local ladies club. As a child he performed in vaudeville and at women's clubs, and he was a professional performer by age nine. He made his debut on Broadway when he was still a teenager, in the play Crime in 1927. At age 15, while still in high school, he had started studies at New York University, but he left after his sophomore year.

It was in the early Thirties that he apprenticed with the Civic Repertory Theatre in New York City, the home of the stage company of actress Eva La Gallienne. In 1935 he appeared in the play Noah on Broadway. He acted as part of the Work Progress Administration's Federal Theatre Project. This included  the Living Newspaper Unit of the Federal Theatre Project of the WPA, which dramatized current affairs. He appeared in the Living Newspaper Unit's production of Power on Broadway in 1937. He met Orson Welles and John Houseman trough the Living Newspaper Unit, and they asked him to join their new acting company, the Mercury Theatre. He appeared in the Mercury Theatre's 1938 productions Julius Caesar and Shoemaker's Holiday. In the late Thirties Norman Lloyd appeared in a variety of broadcasts of New York City experimental television station W2XBS, including the production The Streets of New York in 1939. In 1940 he appeared on Broadway in Medicine Show, a production staged by Jules Dassin. On radio he appeared on Columbia Workshop in the October 27 1937 episode "I've Got the Tune" and on The Listener's Playhouse in the June 13 1940 episode "No Program Tonight, or The Director's Dilemma."

Norman Lloyd made his film debut in the short "The Forgotten Man" in 1941. His feature film debut would be an auspicious one, playing Frank Fry in Alfred Hitchcock's movie Saboteur (1942). It would the beginning of a long friendship between Messrs. Lloyd and Hitchcock. In the Forties Norman Lloyd would also appear in Alfred Hitchcock's film Spellbound (1945). During the decade he also appeared in the movies The Unseen (1945), Within These Walls (1945), The Southerner (1945), A Walk in the Sun (1945), A Letter for Evie (1946), Young Widow (1946), The Green Years (1946), The Beginning or the End (1947), No Minor Vices (1948), Calamity Jane and Sam Bass (1949), Reign of Terror (1949), Scene of the Crime (1949), Buccaneer's Girl (1949), and The Flame and the Arrow (1950). Norman Lloyd continued appear on Broadway, appearing in the productions Liberty Jones, Village Green, and Ask My Friend Sandy. He appeared on radio in such shows as Columbia Workshop, Cavalcade of America, Words at War, Arthur Hopkins Presents, Suspense, and Columbia Presents Corwin.

In the Fifties Norman Lloyd appeared on television in the shows The United States Steel Hour, Kraft Television Theatre, On Trial, General Electric Theatre, One Step Beyond, New Comedy Showcase, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He also became a television producer during the decade. In 1957 he became an associate producer on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. In 1960 he also produced an episode of Startime. He also began directing television, including episodes of the shows Chevron Playhouse, Gruen Guild Theatre, The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse, and Omnibus, as well as several episodes of  Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Norman Lloyd appeared in the movies Flame of Stamboul (1951), M (1951), He Ran All the Way (1951), The Light Touch (1952), and Limelight (1952). He appeared on Broadway in King Lear; Madam, Will You Walk; The Golden Apple; Measure for Measure; and The Taming of the Shrew.

Norman Lloyd spent most of the Sixties as a television producer. In the early part of the decade he continued to serve as an associate producer on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He served as a producer and executive producer on the hour-long continuation of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. He was an executive producer on the show Journey into the Unknown and a producer on the show The Name of the Game. He appeared in episodes of both Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Most Deadly Game. He directed episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and the TV movies Companions in Nightmare and The Smugglers.

In the Seventies Norman Lloyd was a producer on several TV movies, including such telefilms as What's a Nice Girl Like You...?, The Bravos, Incident at Vichy, The Carpenters, The Last of Mrs. Lincoln, and Philemon. He directed the Columbo episode "Lady in Waiting," as well as such TV movies as Awake and Sing, The Carpenters, Knuckle, Philemon, and Actor. He guest starred on the show Night Gallery; O' Hara, U.S. Treasury; and Kojak. He appeared in the TV movies The Scarecrow, Gondola, The Dark Secret of Harvest Home, and Beggarman, Thief. He appeared in the films Audrey Rose (1977), FM (1978), and The Nude Bomb (1980).

It was in 1982 that Norman Lloyd began playing the role of Dr. Daniel Auschlander, the Chief of Services at St. Eligius Hospital on the classic TV show St. Elsewhere. He remained with the show for the entirety of its run. He also guest starred on the shows Quincy, M.E.; The Paper Chase; The Twilight Zone; Murder, She Wrote; and Wiseguy. He was a producer on the syndicated series Tales of the Unexpected. He directed episodes of Tales of the Unexpected; and Insight;. He appeared in the movies Jaws of Satan (1981) and Dead Poets Society (1989).

In the Nineties Mr. Lloyd was a regular on the short-lived sitcom Home Fires and on the science fiction series Seven Days. He guest starred on the shows Civil Wars; Star Trek: The Next Generation; Murder, She Wrote; The Practice; and Wings. He appeared in the TV movies Fail Safe. He appeared in the movies Kabuto (1991), The Age of Innocence (1993), and The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (2000). He appeared in the short subject "The Song of the Lark."

In the Naughts Norman Lloyd guest starred on The Practice and Modern Family. From the Naughts into the Teens he appeared in the movies In Her Shows (2005), A Place for Heroes (2014), and Trainwreck (2015).

Norman Lloyd worked extensively with Turner Classic Movies. He attended every single TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood except one. He also attended the TCM Classic Cruise in 2011 and 2013. Mr. Lloyd was well known for his talent for storytelling as well as his remarkable memory.

Norman Lloyd had an utterly unique career. He did nearly everything one could in the entertainment industry. He acted on stage, on radio, on film, and in television. He produced TV shows and TV movies. He directed TV shows and TV movies. What is more, he served as a living repository of information on the entertainment industry during the Golden Age of Hollywood and beyond. Not only was his career remarkably long, perhaps longer than any other performer, but he was also prolific for most of that career.

As an actor Norman Lloyd was a singular talent. Throughout his career he gave a number of great performances, beginning with his feature film debut in Saboteur. In Jean Renoir's The Southerner he played the rather odd, somewhat dull nephew of Henry Devers (J. Carroll Naish), Finley. In Spellbound he played Mr. Garmes, one of the inmates at the mental hospital Green Manors. In Charlie Chaplin's Limelight he played Mr. Bodalink, the dance instructor. In Dead Poets Society he played the overly traditional headmaster Gale Nolan. His television performances were no less remarkable than his appearances on film. In the comedic Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "Design for Loving," he played a frustrated husband who gets a robot duplicate of himself to spend time with his wife. In the Murder , She Wrote episode he played an old friend of main character Jessica Fletcher. If Mr. Lloyd is well remembered as Dr. Auschlander on St. Elsewhere, it is not simply because it is one of his later roles, but because he was so very good in it. Norman Lloyd played a wide variety of roles, from those who were mildly neurotic to those who were downright mentally disturbed, from villains to heroes.

Of course, Norman Lloyd worked behind the scenes as well. He was an associate producer on Alfred Hitchcock Presents and a producer on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. He directed episodes of everything form Alfred Hitchcock Presents to several television movies. And he did all of this while continuing to act.

Norman Lloyd is being mourned by the classic film community in a way usually reserved for much bigger names. This is not because he worked with some of the biggest names in film history or even because he was one of the last ties to the Golden Age of Hollywood. It is because he was such a remarkable man. He worked extensively with TCM and it was not unusual to see him a the TCM Classic Film Festival. As someone who was a regular at the TCM Classic Film Festival, I then have several friends who had the opportunity to meet him in person. Every single one of them said the same thing. Norman Lloyd was congenial and charming, and possessed a great sense of humour and an incredible wit. He was a man who realized his fans loved him and who loved them back. In the end, Norman Lloyd was not simply an incredible talent with a remarkably long and diverse career, he was a true gentleman well known for his friendliness and kindness. For that TCM fans and classic film buffs will miss him.

Monday, May 10, 2021

TCM Classic Film Festival 2021


The TCM Classic Film Festival 2021 ended last night. Because of the ongoing pandemic, the festival was once again virtual. That having been said, it was a lot of fun and I am sad that it is over. 

On the Wednesday before opening night, I watched an episode of Hollywood Forever Cemetery tour guide Karie Bible's series Hollywood Kitchen featuring Victoria Mature with her father Victor Mature's recipe for orange bourbon bread pudding. I am a huge fan of Victor Mature and I am fortunate to know both Karie and Victoria, so it was a lot of fun. If you haven't seen Karie's Hollywood Kitchen., you should do so. Episodes are available on YouTube and you can read the blog with the recipes here.

Part of what made this year's festival fun were the Zoom events they held each day. I was only able to attend one, the Opening Night Toast with the Hosts. The event was hosted by Scott McGee, TCM's Senior Director of Original Programming and included every host of TCM: Ben Mankiewicz, Professor Jacqueline Stewart, Eddie Muller, Alicia Malone, and Dave Karger. It was enjoyable watching the hosts answer various questions, and many of my TCMParty pals were there too. On Wednesday they had a Meet TCM Zoom Event, on Friday they had Curating the Classics, on Saturday they had Sight and Sound Makers: A Chat with Ben Burtt & Craig Barron, and on Sunday She May Be a Movie Star, But She's Just Mom to Me.

I do have to say that I wish I had been able to watch more movies during this Festival. It seems that it is harder to work TCM around my schedule in early May than it is mid-April! I did get to see some of my favourite movies. I watched West Side Story (1961) on Thursday. On Friday I watched SF Sketchfest's table read of Plan 9 from Outer Space and then the movie itself. Saturday was the big day for me. I watched the documentary Nichols & May: Take Two Saturday morning. I have been a huge fan of Nichols & May for years. In the afternoon I was the guest host for the TCMParty for Bullitt (1968). It was enjoyable tweeting trivia to the movie. It was made even more enjoyable by Speeding Bullitt, a podcast devoted to Steve McQueen. They tweeted a good deal of additional trivia (I am thinking next time they show Bullitt, they should guest host). Following Bullitt I watched the restoration of They Won't Believe Me (1947). Fifteen minutes that had been cut from the film were restored, using the original nitrate of the film to do so. The live tweet on TCMParty for They Won't Believe Me was hosted by the Czar of Noir himself, Eddie Muller. The last film I watched during the festival was I Remember Mama (1949). It is nearly the perfect movie for Mother's Day. An additional treat was that prior to the movie they aired one of Robert Osborne's old intros for the film.

Next year's TCM Classic Film Festival should be in person in Hollywood again. I am hoping that next year I will be able to attend it for the first time.  That having been said, I have enjoyed both last year and this year's virtual festivals. Both were very enjoyable and it is always fun to take part in events with one's fellow TCM fans.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

TCM Classic Film Festival Opening Night

Tonight the 2021 edition of the TCM Classic Film Festival opens with West Side Story (1961), complete with a cast reunion featuring Rita Moreno, George Chakiris and Russ Tamblyn. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year's TCMFF (as it is abbreviated by Turner Classic Movies and its fans) is virtual. Movies will be shown on both TCM and HBO Max, with various events unfolding on both. As might be expected, much of the action will be on Twitter, with various live tweets (both official and unofficial).

I am certainly looking forward to this year's TCM Classic Film Festival. Later today there will be an Opening Night Toast with the Hosts at Club TCM on Zoom. Over the next few days there will be other Club TCM Zoom events, including Curating the Classics on Friday, Sight and Sound Makers: A Chat with Ben Burtt & Craig Barron on Saturday, and She May Be a Movie Star, But She’s Just Mom to Me on Sunday. On TCM there will be the interview with Sophia Loren from the 2016 TCMFF, a table read of Plan 9 from Outer Space by SF Sketchfest, and documentaries on legendary animator Tex Avery and comedy team Nichols & May.

And, of course, there are movies. I am particularly looking forward to the world premiere of a 4K restoration of They Won't Believe Me (1947). They are showing many of my favourites, although I will have to DVR some of them because they are on late at night: Ocean's 11 (1960), My Favorite Wife (1940), The Man Who Would Be King (1975), The Producers (1968), Strangers on a Train (1951), and Breathless (1960). Saturday I will be hosting the TCMParty live tweet for Bullitt (1968). It's a way of honouring local boy Steve McQueen (he spent much of his youth in Slater, Missouri, which is only a few miles away from my hometown).

If I had ever attended the TCM Classic Film Festival in person, I had always planned on dressing up. I would wear a suit and tie for the entirety of the festival. Given this is a virtual festival, I will likely wear a t-shirt and sweatpants. That having been said, I will wear the prerequisite pins and buttons. I have several TCM pins, as well as the TCMFF 2021 pin. I will also wear the Vanessa Marquez pin that I designed and was distributed at the 2019 TCM Classic Film Festival, as well as the one my friend Pam designed and also distributed at the same festival. I always told Vanessa that if I got to go to TCMFF I would drag her along, even if I had to carry her. This way she can be at this year's TCMFF after a fashion.

Anyway, this year's TCMFF looks to be three and a half days of fun. I certainly look forward to interacting with my friends and fellow TCM fans this weekend!

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Billie Hayes Passes On

Billie Hayes, who played Mammy Yokum in Li'l Abner (1959) and Witchiepoo in the Saturday morning show H. R. Pufnstuf, died on April 29 2021 at the age of 96.

Billie Hayes was born Billie Armstrong Brosch on August 5 1924 in Du Quoin, Illinois. She began her career when she was only nine years old, tap dancing in local clubs. It was while she was in high school that she began playing with Vince Genovese's orchestra. Afterwards she toured with her own solo act in Chicago and around the Midwest. Eventually she moved to New York City.

After performing around New York City, Billie Hayes played lead roles in producer J. J. Shubert's roadshow productions of The Student Prince, The Merry Widow, and Blossom Time. She made her debut on Broadway in New Faces of 1956. She replaced Charlotte Rae was Mammy Yokum on Broadway in Li'l Abner. She reprised the role when it was adapted as the 1959 movie.

In the Sixties Billie Hayes guest starred on the TV shows The Monroes and The Monkees. She played Witchiepoo in the single season of H. R. Pufnstuf. She reprised the role in the movie spun off from the TV series, Pufnstuf.

In the Seventies Billie Hayes reprised her role as Mammy Yokum in a television adaptation of the musical Li'l Abner. She guest starred on Bewitched, Donnie and Marie, Wonderbug, Tabitha, and The Krofft Superstar Hour. She reprised her role as Witchiepoo in  The Paul Lynde Halloween Special. She played the regular role of Weenie the Genie in the Saturday morning show Lidsville.

In the Eighties Billie Hayes's career started including a good deal of voice work. She performed additional voices on the television cartoon Trollkins, as well as the series Paw Paws. She was a guest voice on such animated TV series as The Gary Coleman Show, The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries, The Real Ghostbusters, and The Further Adventures of SuperTed. She guest starred on the shows Trapper John, M.D.; Murder, She Wrote; General Hospital; Mathnet, and Square One TV. She appeared in the movie Snowballing (1985) and was one of the voices in the classic Disney animated movie The Black Cauldron (1985).

In the Nineties Billie Hayes regularly provided voices for the animated TV shows Problem Child and The Brothers Flub. She provided guest voices for the animated shows TaleSpin, Darkwing Duck, Bokners, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man, Rugrats, and Johnny Bravo. She provided additional voices for The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). In the Naughts she was a guest voice on the animated series The Powerpuff Girls, Teen Titans, Grim & Evil, The Batman, and W.I.T.C.H. She provided a voice for the animated movie Shrek Forever After (2010).  In the Naught she was a guest voice on the animated shows Bubble Guppies and Teen Titans Go!. She was the voice of Mrs. Neederlander on Transformers: Rescue Bots.

Billie Hayes was a wonderful actress. Indeed, she was only in her thirties when she first played Mammy Yokum on Broadway and in the feature film Li'l Abner. For those of you unfamiliar with Li'l Abner, Mammy was well past her thirties. And while I am not familiar with H. R. Pufnstuf (the title character creeped me out as a child), I know from The Paul Lynde Halloween Special she was excellent as Witchiepoo.  Of course, Billie Hayes played more than old hillbilly women and witches. She did well Weenie the Genie, the friend of protagonist Mark (Butch Patrick) on Lidsville. Whether as the ancient hillbilly Maw on The Monkees or a witch on Bewitched, Billie Hayes was a delight to see. Of course, she was also a gifted voice artist, lending her voice to hundreds of hours of cartoons. She was a remarkable character actress who could play a wide array of roles.

Monday, May 3, 2021

The Late Great Olympia Dukakis

Olympia Dukakis who starred in such movies as Moonstruck (1987) and Steel Magnolias (1989), died at age 89.

Olympia Dukakis was born on June 20 1931 in Lowell, Massachusetts. She graduated from Boston University, where she majored in physical therapy. She would later return to Boston University to receive a Master's degree in performing arts. In 1958 she moved to New York City where she taught drama at New York University while pursuing her acting career. In 1962 she was an understudy for the role of Miss Bordereau in the play The Aspen Papers on Broadway. In 1964 she appeared on Broadway in Abraham Cochrane. She made her television debut in a guest appearance on The Nurses in 1962. That same year she guest starred on Dr. Kildare. She made her television debut in a bit part in the movie Twice a Man (1964). In the Sixties she also appeared in the movies Lilith (1964), Stiletto (1969), and John and Mary (1969).

In the Seventies Miss Dukakis appeared on Broadway in Who's Who in Hell. On television she guest starred on the shows Great Performances, The Andros Targets, The Doctors, and Breaking Away. She appeared in the movies Made for Each Other (1971), Sisters (1972), Death Wish (1974), The Wanderers (1979), Rich Kids (1979), and The Idolmaker (1980).

In the Eighties Olympia Dukakis had a recurring role on the soap opera Search for Tomorrow. She guest starred on the television shows American Playhouse, One of the Boys, and The Equalizer.  She appeared on Broadway in  Social Security. Arguably, the Eighties were the height of Olympia Dukakis's movie career. She played Rose Castorini, the mother of Cher's character, in Moonstruck, for which she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Two years later she played Clairee Belcher in Steel Magnolias. During the decade she also appeared in the movies Movie Madness (1982), Wall of Glass (1985), Working Girl (1988), Look Who's Talking (1989), Dad (1990), In the Spirit (1990), and Look Who's Talking Too (1990).

In the Nineties Olympia Dukakis appeared in the mini-series Sinatra and Tales of the City. She guest starred on the shows The General Motors Playwrights Theatre, Touched by an Angel, and Joan of Arc. She also appeared in several TV movies. She appeared in the movies Over the Hill (1992), Look Who's Talking Now (1993), The Cemetery Club (1993), Digger (1993), Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994),  I Love Trouble (1994), Dead Badge (1995), Jeffrey (1995), Mighty Aphrodite (1995), Mr. Holland's Opus (1995), Never Too Late (1996), Jerusalem (1996), Milk & Money (1996), Picture Perfect (1997), Balkan Island: The Last Story of the Century (1997), Jane Austen's Mafia! (1998), Better Living (1998), and Brooklyn Sonnet (2000). She appeared on Broadway in Rose.

In the Naughts Olympia Dukakis had recurring roles in the television shows Center of the Universe and Bored to Death. She appeared in the mini-series Further Tales of the City. She guest starred on the shows The Wonderful World of Disney, The Simpsons, Frasier, It's All Relative, Numb3rs, and Worst Week. She appeared in the TV movies The Librarian: Quest for the Spear and The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines. She appeared in the films The Intended (2002), The Event (2003), Charlie's War (2003), The Thing About My Parents (2005), The Great New Wonderful (2005), 3 Needles (2005), Whiskey School (2005), Jesus, Mary and Joey (2005), Away from Her (2006), Day on Fire (2006), Upside Out (2006), and In the Land of Women (2007).

In the Teens Olympia Dukakis had a recurring role on the shows Sex & Violence, Forgive Me, Switch, and Tales of the City. She guest starred on the show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and F to 7th. She appeared in the movies Birds of a Feather (2011), Cloudburst (2011), Montana Amazon (2012), The Last Keepers (2013), A Little Game (2014), 7 Chinese Brothers (2015), Emily & Tim (2015), The Infiltrator (106), Broken Links (2016), and Change in the Air (2018). She is set to appear in the film Not to Forget later this year.

Olympia Dukakis was a wonderful actress and she played a number of great characters. She was Loretta's exacting mother in Moostruck. In Steel Magnolias she played strong willed widow Clairee. In Mr. Holland's Opus she was the tough Principal Helen Jacobs, who stresses to the title character the importance of teaching. Through the years Olympia Dukakis gave a number of great performances and played a number of great roles.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Godspeed Johnny Crawford

Johnny Crawford, the actor and singer best known  for playing Mark McCain on the classic Western television series The Rifleman, died yesterday, April 29 2021, at the age of 75. He had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in 2019. More recently, he had contracted COVID-19 and still later pneumonia.

Johnny Crawford was born on March 26 1946 in Los Angeles, California. His father was television editor Robert Crawford Sr. His older brother, Bobby Crawford, would also go into acting. Johnny Crawford appeared on television while still very young. He made his television debut in 1950 on The Pinky Lee Show. In 1951 he sang on The Steve Allen Show. It was in 1955 that he became one of the first 24 Mouseketeers on The Mickey Mouse Club. Johnny Crawford would only last on The Mickey Mouse Club for its first season. At the end of that season it was decided to reduce the number of Mosueketeers on the show to 12 and so he was released from his contract.

While he was no longer on The Mickey Mouse Club, Johnny Crawford was not without work. He guest starred on such shows as Chevron Hall of Stars, Lux Video Theatre, The Lone Ranger, Cavalcade of America, The Count of Monte Cristo, Climax!, The O. Henry Playhouse, The Sheriff of Cochise, Telephone, Crossroads, The Frank Sinatra Show, The Millionaire, The Loretta Young Show, Mr. Adams and Eve, Have Gun--Will Travel, Make Room for Daddy, Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, Whirlybirds, Zane Grey Theatre, Wagon Train, Playhouse 90, Trackdown, Matinee Theatre, The Restless Gun, and Tales of Wells Fargo. He appeared in the movies Courage of Black Beauty (1957) and The Space Children (1958).

It was in 1959 that he began playing Mark McCain on The Rifleman. Mark McCain was the son of the title character, Lucas McCain (Chuck Connors), and the two of them lived on a homestead outside North Fork, New Mexico Territory. The show was historic as it was the first American television series ever to feature a single parent raising a child. It also differed from previous Westerns on American television up to that time as it was as much a family drama as it was a Western. The Rifleman was well received critically and did very well in the ratings. In 1959 Johnny Crawford was nominated for the Emmy for Best Supporting Actor in a Dramatic Series for his role as Mark McCain.

In the Sixties Johnny Crawford guest starred on the shows The Donna Reed Show, and The Dick Powell Show. In 1965 he guest starred on the TV show Branded, which starred his former Rifleman co-star Chuck Connors. During the decade he also guest starred on the shows Mr. Novak, Mister Ed, Rawhide, Lancer, Hawaii Five-O, and The Big Valley. In the mid-Sixties he served in the United States Army. He appeared in the movies Indian Point (1965), Village of the Giants (1965), The Restless Ones (1965), and El Dorado (1966). He played the title role in the movie short "The Resurrection of Bronco Billy."

Early in the Sixties, Johnny Crawford also had a successful recording career. His first single, "Daydreams," was released in 1961 and went to no. 70 on the Billboard Hot 100. From 1961 to 1968 he released 16 singles, four of which entered the top forty. His single "Cindy's Birthday" went to no. 8. He released the albums The Captivating Johnny Crawford, Young Man's Fancy, and Rumors, in addition to two greatest hits collections.

In the Seventies Johnny Crawford guest starred on the shows Cade's County and Little House on the Prairie. He appeared in the movies The Naked Ape (1973), The Inbreaker (1974), and The Great Texas Dynamite Chase (1976). In the Eighties Johnny Crawford played the recurring role of Prince Ignatius on the TV show Crossbow. He guest starred on Movie Macabre; Murder, She Wrote; and Paradise. He also began a career as a crooner. Late in the Eighties, Johnny Crawford was the lead vocalist for Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks. In 1990 he formed Crawford Music Services, which provided music for live events.

It was in 1992 that he formed the Johnny Crawford Dance Orchestra, a vintage dance orchestra that played at special events. The Orchestra released a live album in 2008, Sweepin' the Clouds Away. In the Nineties he reprised his role as Mark McCain in the TV movie The Gambler Returns: Luck of the Draw. He also appeared in the TV movie Rupert Patterson Wants to Be a Super Hero.He appeared in the movie The Thirteenth Floor (1999). His final appearance on film was in the movie Bill Tilghman and the Outlaws (2019), playing silent screen Western star William S. Hart.

While chances are good that Johnny Crawford will always be remembered as Mark McCain on The Rifleman, he was a man of multiple talents. He gave solid performances not only on The Rifleman and Crossbow, but in multiple guest appearances on TV shows and movies as well. He was a pastor's son who becomes involved with a disturbed young girl in The Restless Ones. In the Big Valley episode "The Other Side of Justice," on which Stockton's former sheriff went on a killing spree, he played a young deputy. Of course, Johnny Crawford wasn't just an actor, but a talented singer as well. While many young actors developed singing careers in the early sixties, Johnny Crawford was actually good at it. He was impressive as the leader of the Johnny Crawford Dance Orchestra. Johnny Crawford may always be remembered as Mark McCain, but he did so much more.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

The Late Great Michael Collins

Apollo 11, the NASA mission that landed men on the moon, was one of the greatest achievements in the history of humanity. Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon, followed by Buzz Aldrin. Of the three astronauts who formed the crew of Apollo 11, one would never set foot on the moon. Michael Collins was the pilot of the command module Columbia. Major General Collins achievement in taking Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon and then bring them back to Earth was impressive. He circled the moon alone and went through a list of 117 contingencies should anything go wrong. For docking with the lunar module Eagle Michael Collins had a notebook with 18 different scenarios. Michael Collins executed the docking procedure perfectly. After his work with NASA, Michael Collins would continue to be an advocate for space exploration. Sadly, Michael Collins died yesterday, April 28 2021, at the age of 90. The cause was cancer.

Michael Collins was born on October 31 1930 in Rome. His father was Major General James Lawton Collins, who was then a U.S. military attaché in Rome. As his father was in the United States Army, Michael Collins spent his childhood in a variety of places. It was following the start of World War II that his family moved to Washington, D.C. He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point and graduated with Bachelor of Science degree. Due to his interest in aeronautics and wanting to avoid any accusations of nepotism if he joined the United States Army, following his graduation he enlisted in the United States Air Force.

Michael Collins trained as a fighter pilot and aircraft maintenance officer before becoming a test pilot. He was inspired by NASA's Mercury Atlas 6 mission, in which John Glenn circled the Earth three times, on February 20 1962 to become an astronaut. He applied for the second group of astronauts, but he was not accepted. When NASA later called for a third group of astronauts, Michael Collins applied to become an astronaut and was accepted. He served as the back up pilot for Gemini 7 and the pilot on Gemini 10, the latter of which was his first space flight. He was assigned to the backup crew for Apollo 2, but the mission was ultimately cancelled.

In 1968 Michael Collins had to have surgery for a slipped disc. He served on Apollo 8 as a capsule commander, an astronaut at Mission Control who communicates directly with the crew. By the time of Apollo 11, Michael Collins had completely recovered from his surgery. He not only served as the pilot of the Command Module Columbia, but also designed the mission patch for Apollo 11.

Michael Collins elected not to venture into space following Apollo 11, even though NASA's rotation of crew would have made him commander of both Apollo 14 and Apollo 17. He did not wish to go undergo three more years of rigorous training and he wanted to spend more time with his family. He served as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs from January 6 1970 to April 11 1971. Afterwards he served as Director of National Air and Space Museum. He later became a vice president of LTV Aerospace and then founded his own consulting firm, Michael Collins Associates.

Throughout it all Michael Collins remained a tireless advocate for space exploration. In 1974 his autobiography Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journeys was published. He also wrote the books Flying to the Moon and Other Strange Places (1976) and Mission to Mars (1990).

Michael Collins never thought of himself as a hero. He once said, "Heroes abound, and should be revered as such, but don’t count astronauts among them. We work very hard; we did our jobs to near perfection, but that was what we had hired on to do. . . . Celebrities? What nonsense." I have to think many Americans would disagree with him. Major General Collins did things that not only took highly specialized skills, but an extraordinary amount of courage. He did things only a very few of us could do. What is more, he made history. He took astronauts to the Moon and brought them home and he did it for the very first time. Any number of things could have gone wrong, any number of mistakes could have been made, but Michael Collins did it without error. After his career as an astronaut, Michael Collins continued to support space exploration and was instrumental in the establishment of the National Air and Space Museum. Thee can be no doubt that many of today's astronauts owe their careers to him, and many young people who have gone into careers in science probably do as well.

Monday, April 26, 2021

The 93rd Academy Awards

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, last night's Academy Awards ceremony was a bit different. Opinion seems to be divided with regards to the scaled down, streamlined ceremony, with some people hating it and others loving it. As for myself, I am a bit divided on it myself. On the one hand, it was nice not having to sit through insufferable dance numbers and unfunny comedy sketches for a change. On the other hand, I really miss having an Oscars host and I don't see where it would have hurt for them to have a few movie clips. I have missed the presence of a host for the last few years and I missed the film clips this year.

One thing I did not like is that this year's Oscars were presented out of order. Traditionally, Best Picture is always the last award presented of the night, with Best Director being the penultimate award given. For whatever reason, last night the Best Director award was given early in the evening, while the Lead Actor and Actress awards were given after Best Picture. Aside from the fact that his breaks with tradition, to me it made the whole end of the ceremony anti-climactic. Best Picture has always been acknowledged as the biggest award of the night. For me, at least, my interest in the awards were not as strong as it is prior to Best Picture being presented. I suspect that is true of many people.

Of course, I thought the presentation of Best Actor was handled very badly. Joaquin Phoenix couldn't have made his disappointment at Anthony Hopkins's winning the award for The Father over Chadwick Boseman for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom more obvious. Worse yet, Mr. Phoenix simply accepted the award on Anthony Hopkins's behalf when, according to The Guardian, Mr. Hopkins's co-star Olivia Colman was in the audience and prepared to accept the award on his behalf should he win. Regardless of who he wanted to win, Joaquin Phoenix's behaviour was unacceptable in an Oscar presenter. Of course, here I have to note that Mr. Phoenix was not the only one who was disappointed that Chadwick Boseman did not win. As for myself, I have seen neither The Father nor Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, so I don't have an opinion. I do have friends who think Mr. Hopkins entirely deserved to win the Oscar for Best Actor.

While Joaquin Phoenix's behaviour and the abrupt ending to the ceremony were definitely among the Academy Awards' low points last night, the night did have some very fine moments. Like many, I was touched by director Thomas Vinterberg's acceptance speech for the Oscar for Best International Feature Film for Another Round. For those who don't know, Mr. Vinterberg's daughter, Ida, died in an automobile when Another Round was only a few days in production. Of her death and the film, he said, "Before her death it was an ambition to make a life-affirming film; that became a necessity. I wanted to celebrate the life that we lose so easily." Mr. Vinterberg's acceptance speech was then not merely an acceptance speech, but a beautiful tribute to his daughter Ida.

This year the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award was given to both the Motion Picture & Television Fund and Tyler Perry. Both awards were well deserved, and both presentations were inspiring. The Motion Picture & Television Fund is the first organization to win the award. For those unfamiliar with The Motion Picture & Television Fund, they are a charity that cares for those in the movie and television industries who have no families or limited income. Of course, Tyler Perry is well known for his humanitarianism. His acceptance speech last night called on people to "refuse hate."

Another highlight for me last night night was Korean actress Yuh-jung Youn winning Best Supporting Actress for her role as Soon-ja in the movie Minari.  From the very beginning she was both charming and funny. Despite being a film and television legend in Korea, Yuh-jung Youn behaved as many of us would upon meeting actor Brad Pitt, a bit starstruck. If a Korean icon being starstruck at meeting Brad Pitt was not enough, Yuh-jung Youn was genuinely happy at winning Best Supporting Actress, while exhibiting a high degree of humility. She mentioned every single one of her fellow nominees. Her speech was easily the funniest and most charming acceptance speech of the night. Here it must be pointed out that Yuh-jung Youn's win was historic. She is the first Korean actress to win an acting award and only the second Asian to win the Best Supporting Actress Award.

Yet another highlight for me was Rita Moreno presenting the Best Picture award. Miss Moreno was beautiful, charming, and funny, as always. Of course, as a matter of full disclosure I have to admit that I have had a crush on Miss Moreno since I was eight years old, so that for me she is always beautiful, charming, and funny.

Here I have to say this year's Academy Awards were much more inclusive than past years have been. Many more people of colour were nominated in categories and even won. Chloé Zhao was both nominated for and won the Best Director award for Nomadland. Chadwick Boseman, Riz Ahmed, and Steven Yeun were nominated for Best Actor. Viola Davis and Andra Day were nominated for Best Actress. Daniel Kaluuya and Yuh-jung Youn won Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress respectively. While there is still room for progress, the Academy Awards were much better this year in acknowledging the contributions of people in colour.

While the 93rd Academy Awards had some high points last night, the In Memoriam segment was one of its low points. I have to admit that last night the Academy included many more beloved stars than they have in In Memoriam segments the past several years. In the past several years they have excluded such big names as Andy Griffith, Polly Bergen,Robert Vaughn, and Tim Conway, among many others. In 2019 they even excluded my dearest friend Vanessa Marquez, despite an online petition that exceeded 12,000 signatures.

Fortunately, this year's In Memoriam included actors that I suspect they would have excluded in prior years, including Cicely Tyson, Cloris Leachman, Yapht Kotto, Paula Kelly, Wilford Brimley, Marge Champion, and Dame Diana Rigg. That having been said, they did exclude three people who should have absolutely been included in the In Memoriam segment. While Honor Blackman may be best remembered as Mrs. Cathy Gale on The Avengers, she also made several movies, including a turn as Hera in Jason and the Argonauts (1964). Like Honor Blackman, Jessica Walter may have been best known for her work in television, but she appeared in several movies, including Grand Prix (1966), Play Misty for Me (1971), and The Flamingo Kid (1984). They also excluded composer Adam Schesinger. While many of will best remember him for his work with power pop band Fountains of Wayne, he worked a good deal in motion pictures. He even wrote an Oscar nominated song, "That Thing You Do!," for the movie of the same name. Adam Schlesinger's omission is particularly galling given Angela Bassett in her introduction to the In Memoriam mentioned the many COVID-19 deaths last year. Mr. Schlesinger died from COVID-19 on April 1 2020.

While last night's In Memoriam included more beloved actors than most, it also proved to be one of the worst In Memoriam segments the Academy Awards ever produced. It seemed to move forward at warp speed, with each person shown for only microseconds. Given we lost such big names as Olivia de Havilland, Cloris Leachman, Sean Connery, and yet others this past year, the speed at which the Academy rushed through the In Memoriam segment seemed downright disrespectful. Their choice of song to accompany the In Memoriam segment only made matters worse. Don't get me wrong. I love "As" by Stevie Wonder. I also love "Got to Get You into My Life" by The Beatles, but I wouldn't want it played during an In Memoriam segment! The problem with "As" is that it much too upbeat for something as solemn as an In Memoriam segment.

Anyway, I think the Academy has to face some facts with regards to the In Memoriam segment. First, it is one of the highlights of the night for the viewing audience at home. It is a chance for them to acknowledge the stars they love. For that reason, it should not be rushed and it should be accompanied by a suitable song. Second, beloved stars should be included in the In Memoriam segment, regardless of how much time that adds to the segment. When the audience wants to see Andy Griffith, Vanessa Marquez, or Honor Blackman during the In Memoriam segment, you had damn well better include them. In the end the In Memoriam segment should not be made for the Academy, it should be made for the audience at home.

Over all I cannot say I was as unhappy with the 93rd Academy Awards as I have been some others. I did like the scaled-down ceremony in that it was free of the dance numbers and unfunny comedy routines that have bogged down some ceremonies the past few years. On the other hand, I really did not like that the awards were presented out of their traditional order. Best Picture had been the final award since 1927 for a reason. I also wish that for once the Academy would do the In Memoriam justice. They really need to take care that the stars audiences love, like Jessica Walter and Honor Blackman, are included, even if it makes the In Memoriam longer. And the In Memoriam should not be rushed through. If it last four minutes and a half (the average length of a TCM Remembers segment), then so be it. The Academy Awards are a chance for the movie industry to show off. It is a chance to thank movie fans for their continued patronage of movies in the past year. Sadly, the past many years, the Academy has missed their mark in both showing off and making sure that they are grateful for movie audiences.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

TCM Spotlight: Order in the Court in May 2021

Gregory Peck in To Kill a
Mockingbird

Each Wednesday night this May, Turner Classic Movies will be showing films set in the courtroom. On TCM Spotlight: Order in the Court, the channel will show courtroom movies ranging from those focused on murder trials to those that aren't quite so serious.

TCM Spotlight: Order in the Court begins on Wednesday, May 5 with movies centred around murder trials. Wednesday, May 12 features comedies set in the courtroom. Wednesday, May 19 centres on military trials. Finally, on Wednesday, May 26 movies focused on various social issues will air. Below is the schedule for TCM Spotlight: Order in the Court. Among the films airing are 12 Angry Men (1957) and Anatomy of a Murder (1959) on May 5, Adam's Rib (1949) and The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) on May 12, Judgement at Nuremberg (1961) and Paths of Glory (1958) on May 19, and To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and Inherit the Wind (1960) on May 26.

TCM Spotlight: Order  in the Court looks like it will feature a large number of great movies. If I have only one caveat about it, I think I would have tried to fit The Caine Mutiny (1951) on May 19. It possibly my favourite movie touching upon a court martial. Regardless, TCM Spotlight: Order in the Court is something to look forward to in May.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Godspeed Tempest Storm

Tempest Storm, the legendary burlesque performer, died on April 20221 at the age of 93.

Tempest Storm was born Annie Blanche Banks on February 29 1928 in Eastman, Georgia. She left school when she was in seventh grade to work as a waitress. At age 14 she married a Marine in order to emancipate herself and escape parental abuse. The marriage was annulled after only 24 hours. She was 15 when she married a shoe salesman from Columbus. It was six months the she left for Hollywood.

She was 17 years old when she was working as a cocktail waitress in Los Angeles when a customer told her that she would be great as a striptease performer. She auditioned for Follies Theatre talent manager Lillian Hunt who hired her as a chorus girl. It was after a month that she became a stripper. Lillian Hunt told her that she needed a stage name and gave her a choice between "Sunny Day" and "Tempest Storm." Six years later she would legally change her name to "Tempest Storm."

Tempest Storm would go onto become of the most successful burlesque performers of all time. She first performed in Las Vegas in 1951 at the Embassy Club. She was a regular performer at the El Rey theatre in Oakland, California. She moved to Portland, Oregon in 1953, initially performing at the Star Theatre there before moving to the Capital Theatre in Portland. In 1956 Tempest Storm became the highest paid burlesque performer of all time when she signed 10 year contract with the Bryan-Engles burlesque production company. In 1957 she began performing at the Dunes in Las Vegas.

>Tempest Storm appeared in burlesque movies such as Irving Klaw's Teaserama (1955) alongside Bettie Page,  as well as such films as French Peepshow (1950), Paris After Midnight (1951), and Striptease Girl (1952). In 1973 she opened for The James Gang while they were on tour, even playing Carnegie Hall. She headlined on the Las Vegas Strip as late as 1987. Tempest Storm retired in 1995, but performed would still perform occasionally. In 1999 she performed at the O'Farrell Theatre in San Francisco, California in honour of the theatre's 30th anniversary.

Alongside such performers as Sally Rand, Gypsy Rose Lee, Lili St. Cyr, and Blaze Starr, Tempest Storm was responsible for bringing burlesque into the mainstream.. Indeed, she was among those who elevated striptease to an artform. In 1969 she gold The Wall Street Journal, "I think taking off all your clothes--and I've never taken off all my clothes--is not only immoral but boring. There has to be something left to the imagination. If you taken everything off, you please a few morons and chase all the nice people away." Tempest Storm's knowledge of the importance of the tease,  and the skilful way in which she teased, gave her a career that lasted nearly 50 years. She was truly the last of the great strippers.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

The Late Great Jim Steinman

Jim Steinman, the composer, lyricist, and record producer who worked with Meat Loaf and other artists from Bonnie Tyler to The Sisters of Mercy, died on April 19 2021 at the age of 73. The cause was kidney failure.

Jim Steinman was born on November 1 1947 in Hewlett, New York. He graduated from George W. Hewlett High School in 1965. He earned a bachelor's degree from Amherst College in 1969.

It was at Amherst College that Jim Steinman began his career as a composer. In 1968 he was responsible for music for adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's A Man's a Man. That same year Ge directed a production of The Beard at the college. It was in in the summer of 1968 that he contributed music to the Island Theatre Workshop's adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's Baal that took place at Martha's Vineyard.

It was while he was a senior at Amherst College Jim Steinman wrote the musical The Dream Engine in order to fulfil the requirements for an independent study course. The musical was performed in April 1969 at the Kirby Theatre at Amherst College and later played in Holyoke for a few performances. In 1971 Jim Steinman was responsible for the music in the puppet show Ubu, an adaptation of Alfred Jarry's 1888 play Ubu on the Hill. In 1972 he worked with his friend from college, Barry Keating, on a musical entitled Rhinegold at the Mercer Arts Center. Rhinegold was inspired by Richard Wagner's opera Das Rheingold.

It was in 1973 that his song "Happy Ending" appeared on Yvonne Ellman's album Fool for Love, making it Jim Steinman's first song to be commercially recorded and released. It was also in 1973 that Jim Steinman wrote the musical More Than You Deserve. Among the actors in the musical was Meat Loaf. The song "More Than You Deserve," from the musical of the same name, was released as a single. It was in 1975 that Jim Steinman provided music and lyrics to Thomas Babe's Kid Champion at the New York Shakespeare Festival.

In 1976 Jim Steinman provided the music for the musical The Confidence Man (based on the novel by Herman Melville), with the book and lyrics by Ray Errol Fox. It was in 1977, while Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf were with The National Lampoon Roadshow, that Jim Steinman began development of what would become Meat Loaf's album Bat Out of Hell. Released in October 1977, Bat Out of Hell went to no. 14 on the Billboard album chart, no, 9 on the UK album chart, and did well elsewhere in the world. It produced the hit singles "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth," "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad," and "Paradise by the Dashboard Light." In 1979 Mr. Steinman wrote the theme to the sitcom Delta House. He wrote the score for the 1980 feature film A Small Circle of Friends.

Bat Out of Hell was followed by Meat Loaf's album Dead Ringer and Jim Steinman's only solo album, Bad for Good, both in 1981. Jim Steinman produced Bonnie Tyler's 1983 album Faster Than the Speed of Night and wrote two songs for it, including the hit "Total Eclipse of the Heart." That same year he wrote the song "Making Love Out of Nothing at All" for Air Supply. In 1984 he produced Billy Squier's album Signs of Life. That same year he contributed two songs to Meat Loaf's album Bad Attitude. He provided the songs "Nowhere Fast" and "Tonight Is What It Means to Be Young" for the movie Streets of Fire (1984).

In 1986 Jim Steinman produced Bonnie Tyler's album Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire and wrote four songs for the album, including the song "Holding Out for a Hero" (earlier featured in the movie Footloose). In 1987 Jim Steinman produced the song "This Corrosion" for The Sisters of Mercy's album Floodland. In 1989 he provided two songs for the movie Rude Awakenings. That same year the album Original Sin was released. It was by Pandora's Box, a group assembled by Jim Steinman. It was the following year that Jim Steinman co-wrote the song "More" with lead singer Andrew Eldritch for The Sisters of Mercy's album Vision Thing.

It was in 1993 that Jim Steinman reunited with Meat Loaf for the album Bat Out of Hell Two II: Back in Hell. The album produced the hit "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)." He would provide two songs for Meat Loaf's follow up, Welcome to the Neighbourhood. That same year he provided two songs for Bonnie Tyler's album Free Spirit. He provided lyrics for Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1996 musical Whistle Down the Wind. He composed the music for the musical Tanz der Vampire (based on Roman Polanski's movie The Fearless Vampire Killers). Its book was by Michael Kunze. It made its premiere in Vienna in 1997.

The Naughts would see Jim Steinman's song "A Kiss Is a Terrible Thing to Waste" featured on The Everly Brothers' album On the Wings of a Nightingale: The Mercury Studio Recordings. He composed several songs on Meat Loaf's album 2006 Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster is Loose. Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf had begun work on the album in 2001, but Mr. Steinman did not ultimately produce the album. The album had been at the centre of a dispute over the phrase "Bat Out of Hell," which Jim Steinman had trademarked. In the Teens Jim Steinman contributed to Meat Loaf's album Braver Than We Are. He composed the music and wrote the book for Bat Out of Hell: The Musical. It premiered at the Manchester Opera House on February 17 2017.

Jim Steinman's songs were as close to grand opera as rock music ever came. His work was bigger than life and often over the top, something for which critics sometimes looked down on his music. And while he may not have always been a favourite of the critics, he was a favourite with music consumers. He produced several hits over the years and a good argument can be made that the careers of Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler would not have been the same without him. Certainly is music produced much of the soundtracks of younger Baby Boomers and Gen Xer's lives. To use myself as an example, Bat Out of Hell remains one of my favourite albums of all time. Jim Steinman was certainly one of the best composers of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Godspeed Felix Silla

Felix Silla, who played Cousin Itt on the classic sitcom The Addams Family  and the maniacal villain in the film The Black Bird (1975), died on April 16 2021 at the age of 84. The cause was pancreatic cancer.

Felix Silla was born in  Roccacasale, Italy on January 11 1937. He moved to the United States in 1955. He performed with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus for seven years as a trapeze artist, tumbler, and bareback horseman. In 1962 he moved to Hollywood where he began his career as a stuntman and actor.

Mr. Silla made his television debut in an episode of Grindl in 1963. He made his debut as Cousin Itt on The Addams Family in the episode "Cousin Itt Visits the Addams Family" and appeared several more times on the show. The voice of Cousin Itt was provided by Tony Magro. At the same time that he was appearing on The Addams Family, Felix Silla was also the stunt double for actor Butch Patrick on the other "monster" comedy of the Sixties, The Munsters. He appeared as one of the Talosians in the original Star Trek pilot "The Cage." In the Sixties he guest starred on the TV shows Bonanza, Petticoat Junction, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., The Monkees, and Bewitched. He also played Polka Dotted Horse on the Saturday morning TV series H. R. Pufnstuf. He appeared in the movies She Freak (1967), Point Blank (1967), Planet of the Apes (1968), The April Fools (1969), Justine (1969), and Pufnstuf (1970). He performed stunts for the movies A Ticklish Affair (1963) and The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming (1966).

In the Seventies Felix Silla played Lucifer on Battlestar Galactica (the voice was provided by Jonathan Harris) and Twiki on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (the voice was provided by Mel Blanc). He played Colonel Poom on the Saturday morning show Lidsville and had the recurring role of Chuck on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. He reprised his role as Itt on the 1977 television reunion movie Halloween with the New Addams Family. He guest starred on the shows Bewitched and Night Gallery. He appeared in the mini-series Lincoln. He appeared in the movies Little Cigars (1973), Sssssss (1973), The Black Bird (1975), Mastermind (1976), Black Samurai (1976), Demon Seed (1977), The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977), The Manitou (1978), Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979), and The Brood (1979). He performed stunts for the movies Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973), Earthquake (1974), The Towering Inferno (1974), The Hindenburg (1975), Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979), and When Time Ran Out (1980).

In the Eighties Felix Silla continued to appear on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century during the first year of the decade. He guest starred on the TV shows Mork & Mindy, The Dukes of Hazzard, and Married...with Children. He appeared in the movies Under the Rainbow (1981), The Sting II (1983), Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983), Meatballs Part II, Ragewar (1984), House (1985), and Spaceballs (1987). He performed stunts for E.T. the Extra-Terrestial  (1982), Poltergeist (1982), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Howard the Duck (1984), Weekend Warriors (1986), The Golden Child (1986), The Monster Squad (1987), and Phantasm II (1988).

In the Nineties he appeared in the movies Batman Returns (1992) and Galgameth (1996). He performed stunts for Batman Returns (1992). In the Teens he appeared in the movies CHARACTERz (2016) and the 2018 mini-series Meet Slate.

Felix Silla also played in a band, The Harmonica Band, that even performed in Las Vegas.

Felix Silla was extremely versatile. Because of his small size (he was only 3'11"), he was often called upon to be the stunt double for children. He played a variety of roles through the years, from a "leprechaun" on Bonanza to a goblin on Bewitched to one of the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi. As Cousin Itt and Twiki he got to play recurring roles. And he played only the body in many of his roles, he was entirely wonderful when he actually got to speak in a part. A perfect example of this is his role as Litvak in The Black Bird. Felix Silla was perfect as the half-crazed villain. For younger Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, Felix Silla generated many fond memories.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Godspeed Helen McCrory

Helen McCrory, who played Narcissa Malfoy in the "Harry Potter" movie series and Aunt Polly on the TV show Peaky Blinders, died today, April 16, 2021, at the age of 52. The cause was cancer.

Helen McCrory was born on August 17 1968 in Paddington, London. She studied at Queenswood School near Hatfield, Hertfordshire. She studied acting at the Drama Centre in London. She began her career in 1990, acting on stage. Miss McCrory made her television debut in 1993 in an episode of Full Stretch. She was a regular on the TV shows The Fragile Heart and North Sqaure. She played the title character in the mini-series Anna Karenina. She appeared on the TV shows Performance and Trial & Retribution, as well as several television movies. Helen McCrory film debut in Uncovered in 1994. In the Nineties she appeared in the movies Interview with the Vampire (1994), The James Gang (1997), Dad Savage (1998), and Hotel Splendide (2000).

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010). She appeared in the movies Charlotte Gray (2001), The Count of Monte Cristo (2002), Enduring Love (2004), Casanova (2005), The Queen (2006), Becoming Jane (2007), Flashbacks of a Fool (2008), and 4,2,3,1 (2010). She was the voice of Mrs. Bean in The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009). She had regular roles on the TV Shows The Jury, Dickens, and Life. She appeared in the mini-series In a Land of Plenty, Charles II: The Power and the Passion, and Messiah: The Harrowing. She guest starred on Doctor Who.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Part 2(2011). She appeared in the movies Hugo (2011), Flying Bind (2012), Skyfall (2012), The Last of the Haussmans (2012), Mational Theatre Live: Medea (2014), A Little Chaos (2014), The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death (2014), Bill (2015), National Theatre Live: The Deep Blue Sea (2016), and Their Finest (2016). She provided the voice of Louise Cheavalier in Losing Vincent (2017). She played regular roles on the TV shows Penny Dreadful, Peaky Blinders, and His Dark Materials. She appeared in the mini-series Leaving, To Appomattax, Fearless, MotherFatherSon, Quiz, and Raodkill. She guest starred on the TV show Inside No. 9.

Hugo she played an altogether nicer character, actress Jehanne D'Alcy, the wife of film pioneer Georges Méliès. Miss McCrory was incredible as Polly Gray, the matriarch of the Shelby family and treasurer of the title gang in Peaky Blinders. Polly was exceptionally strong willed and exceptionally intelligent, not to mention extremely loyal to her family. Throughout her career she played a number of historical and literary figures, including Barbara Palmer, 1st Duchess of Cleveland (in Charles II: The Power and the Passion); Cherie Blair (in The Queen); Anna Karenina in the mini-series of the same name, and so on. Regardless of the role, she always did them well.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

TCM Announces Its Line-Up for the TCM Classic Film Festival 2021

Today Turner Classic Movies announced the line-up for the TCM Classic Film Festival 2021. Like last year, this year's festival will be virtual. Unlike last year, it will not only unfold on Turner Classic Movies, but also on HBO Max. Club TCM will even be back this year, with events taking place on Zoom. This year's line-up for the TCM Classic Film Festival 2021 looks to be a good one.

Below are my picks for what to watch each day during this festival. All times are Central.

Opening Night, Thursday, May 6
7:00 PM West Side Story (1961), includes a reunion discussion with Rita Moreno, George Chakiris, and Russ Tamblyn
10:15 PM Mean Streets (1973)
12:30 AM Doctor X (1932), newly restored by UCLA Film and Television Archive and The Film Foundation in association with Warner Bros. Entertainment.
2:00 AM Ocean's 11 (1960)
4:45 AM My Favorite Wife (1940)

Friday, May 71:00 PM Wuthering Heights (1939)
4:15 PM The Man Who Would Be King (1975)
12:15 AM The Producers (1968)

Saturday, May 8
7:00 AM Tex Avery, The King of Cartoons (1988)
9:00 AM Ride the High Country (1963)
10:45 AM Nichols and May: Take Two
4:45 PM Bullitt (1968)

Closing Night, May 9
7:15 AM Stranger on a Train (1951)
1:15 PM Places in the Heart (1984)
1:15 AM Breathless (1960)

There will also be content available on HBO Max, including tributes to Danny Glover, Ali McGraw, and Martin Short, as well as introductions by various directors of some of their most iconic films. On HBO Max will also be Essentials, each of which includes festival extras. I don't subscribe to HBO Max and have no plans to do so, but if you do, then I think you might want to check out The Thin Man (1934), Top Hat (1935), The Maltese Falcon (1941), and Bullitt (1968).

As I mentioned earlier, there will also be Club TCM events on Zoom for the festival. As of yet Turner Classic Movies has not published a schedule of events.

Anyway, for a complete look at TCM's schedule for the festival, you might want to visit its website here.

Monday, April 12, 2021

How WarnerMedia Could Fix HBO Max

AT&T recently announced that they expect to reach a total number of global subscribers of 120 million to 150 million subscribers to HBO Max by the end of 2025. Personally, I think they are being far too overly optimistic. Despite the high hopes that AT&T and its subsidiary WarnerMedia Direct had for HBO Max, it really hasn't taken off the way they had hoped it would. While it has had some successes (such as The Flight Attendant), it still has a problem with attracting new subscribers.

In fact, HBO Max lags far behind many of its competitors. Streaming giant Netflix had a total of 73.4 million subscribers in the US as of the end of last year. HBO Max also lags behind Disney+, which announced in February that it had  surpassed 94.9 million subscribers in the United States. In comparison, HBO Max began 2021 with 41.5 million subscribers. That is only up 6.9 millions subscribers from the 34.5 million subscribers HBO Max had begun 2020 with. HBO Max is then lagging well behind Netflix and Disney+ in adding subscribers.

The addition of only 6.9 million subscribers seems especially significant given WarnerMedia Direct's efforts to add subscribers. Earlier this year they moved all video content from former streaming service DC Universe to HBO Max, including such popular series as Doom Patrol and Harley Quinn. Next month the Turner Classic Movies Hub of HBO Max will host exclusive content for the 2021 TCM Classic Film Festival. Even Warner Bros. movies, which would usually be released to theatres first and then later to streaming services, have premiered simultaneously in cinemas and on HBO Max. Despite this, the streaming service still hasn't seen significant gains in subscribers the way some of its competitors have.

Of course, the question is why HBO Max is lagging behind some of its competitors in subscribers. I think the primary reason may be its price. At $14.99 a month, HBO Max costs as much as the basic prices for Netflix and Hulu combined. $14.99 is then rather costly given one would get much more content with both a basic Netflix subscription and a basic Hulu subscription for the same price. Indeed, HBO Max has only a little more content than Peacock, which has a free tier as well as a $4.99 tier and a $9/99 tier.

Now I am not sure why HBO Max costs so much. My suspicion is that it is the presence of content from HBO. I have watched streaming media for over ten years and one thing I have learned is that any content from HBO, whether it is a made-for-TV movie or an episode of one of their shows, costs much more than similar material from other outlets. I remember I considered watching Game of Thrones on Amazon Prime until I saw how much a single episode cost. While I cannot say why HBO movies and TV shows are so expensive to stream, I am guessing it may be because HBO is  a premium channel. Perhaps they are concerned that if they made their content inexpensive to stream, then people wouldn't subscribe to HBO.

If that is the case, I can see two ways that WarnerMedia can improve their chances in the streaming arena. The first is to create at least two tiers with regards to HBO Max, one less expensive than the other. On the less expensive tier one would get access to the DC Hub, the TCM Hub, the Studio Ghibli hub, the Looney Tunes hub, and so on. On the more expensive tier one would not only get access to those hubs, but the HBO Max Originals and HBO content as well. I think this would encourage more people to subscribe, even if it was only to the lower tier. I personally have no interest in HBO content and very little interest in HBO Max original shows, but I am very interested in content from DC, TCM, Warner Bros., and so on (speaking of Warner Bros., when are they going to add classic Warner Bros. shows like Maverick and 77 Sunset Strip to HBO Max?).

The second way that WarnerMedia could improve their chances in the streaming arena is to simply break HBO Max up into two different streaming services. One could simply be an online version of the Warner Archive (not unlike the Warner Archive streaming service of a few years ago), which would feature content from DC, TCM, Warner Bros., and so on. The other streaming service would feature HBO content and original content. I don't think this solution would be as good as simply introducing tiers to HBO Max, but I think it might well be more viable than HBO Max the way it is now.

As it is, right now I worry that WarnerMedia may be putting their eggs all in one basket with regards to HBO Max. While it certainly has content that would draw in subscribers, its cost per month probably keeps many of them away. I already subscribe to a few streaming services, and I am unwilling to give up any of them to subscribe to HBO Max, particularly as I would probably have to give up more than one of them. If WarnerMedia introduced tiers to HBO Max or if they simply broke it ups into two different streaming services, they would be much more likely to get my money. I think that might be true of a lot of potential subscribers.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Godspeed Anne Beatts

Anne Beatts, who was a writer on Saturday Night Live in its earliest years and created the classic sitcom Square Pegs, died on April 7 2021 at age 74.

Anne Beatts was born on February 25 1947 in Buffalo, New York. She grew up in Somers, New York. She attended McGill University in Montreal. While there she worked on the campus newspaper, The McGill Daily. It was following her graduation from McGill University that she moved to New York City. She became the first woman to write for National Lampoon. While with National Lampoon she worked on the magazine's stage show National Lampoon Lemmings. She also co-wrote the American version of the French/Belgian adult animated film Tarzoon: Shame of the Jungle with Michael O'Donoghue.

It was in 1975 that Anne Beatts signed with NBC's new series Saturday Night Live, making her among the earliest writers on the show. Ms. Beatts wrote many of the television commercial parodies for the shows and created the recurring "Nerds" sketches.  It was not unusual for Anne Beatts to appear in front of the camera as well on Saturday Night Live, often in small, uncredited parts in sketches. She remained with Saturday Night Live from 1975 to 1980. She also wrote material for the comedy documentary Gilda Live (1980).

Following Saturday Night Live, Anne Beatts created the classic sitcom, Square Pegs, which ran on CBS from 1982 to 1983. The series proved to be a hit with critics and, while it was routinely bested in the ratings by That's Incredible on ABC, proved popular with the key demographic (18 to 54 year olds). CBS only cancelled the series because of rampant drug use on the set. In addition to serving as the show's executive producer and a writer, Anne Beatts appeared in two episodes of the show as Miss Rezucha. Following Square Pegs, in the Eighties Anne Beatts wrote an episode of Faerie Tale Theatre. She served as a producer on the sitcom A Different World. She wrote the book for the jukebox musical Leader of the Pack.

In the Nineties Anne Beatts served as a writer and executive producer on The Stephanie Miller Show. She served as a writer and an executive producer on the show The Belles of Bleaker Street. She wrote episodes of Murphy Brown, Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child, and Hollywood Off-Ramp. In the Naughts she wrote episodes of Committed. She served an executive producer on Dr. Lupe's Love Picante. Most recently she was working with Judy Belushi-Pisano and Dan Aykroyd on an animated Blues Brothers series.

Anne Beatts also co-wrote the book Titters: The First Collection of Humor by Women with  Deanne Stillman and the books Titters 101 and The Mom Book with Deanne Stillman and Judith Jacklin Belushi.

Anne Beatts was a brilliant writer. Her commercial parodies on Saturday Night Live were often the funniest parts of the show. Square Pegs remains one of the best, most realistic sitcoms about high school life to ever air. She was gifted with a dark sense of humour, characterized by a sharp wit and and a talent for satire. Her comedy was often characterized by small details that might be overlooked by other writers. If Square Pegs remains better known than many high school sitcoms that lasted longer, if it perhaps because Anne Beatts included various details that other shows have missed. As part of both National Lampoon and SNL when it was at its best, as well as the creator of Square Pegs, Anne Beatts was one of the best comedic writers of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Godspeed James Hampton

James Hampton, who played Trooper Hannibal Dobbs on the classic sitcom F Troop and appeared in the movie The Longest Yard (1974), died on April 7 2021 at the age of 84. The cause was complications from Parkinson's disease.

James Hampton was born on July 9 1936 in Oklahoma City. He grew up in Dallas, Texas. He attended North Texas State College in Denton, Texas. He held such jobs as bodyguard, bartender, and photojournalist before he was drafted into the United States Army. Interestingly enough given his role on F Troop, he served in the cavalry at Fort Knox before being stationed in Germany. Following his stint in the Army, James Hampton studied acting under Baruch Lumet at the Knox Street Theatre in Dallas. He acted at the Casa Mañana Theatre in Fort Worth and also performed summer stock in Texas. He moved to New York to pursue his career in acting. He appeared in the short "The Cliff Dwellers" (1962), which was nominated for the Oscar for Best Short Subject, Live Action Subjects. This led to Mr. Hampton's first trip to Los Angeles, where he was signed by agent Walter Kohner.

James Hampton made his television debut in an episode of Gunsmoke in 1963. He guest starred on such shows as Death Valley Days, Gomer Pyle: USMC, Gunsmoke, and Rawhide before being cast as Trooper Hannibal Dobbs on F Troop. Trooper Dobbs was the troop's bumbling bugler, who could play both "Dixie" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," but could manage such bugle calls as "Reveille" or "Charge." F Troop only lasted two seasons, but proved to be a success in syndication. Afterwards James Hampton played the regular role of ranch hand Leroy B. Simpson on the three seasons of The Doris Day Show. In the Sixties he also guest starred on Bracken's World. He made his film debut in Soldier Blue in 1970.

In the Seventies James Hampton had a recurring role on the Saturday morning, live action show The Red Hand Gang. He guest starred on The Wonderful World of Disney; The F.B.I.; Hawkins; Love, American Style; Run, Buddy, Run; The Manhunter; Mannix; The Rockford Files; Mary; Kaz, B.A.D.Cats; The Dukes of Hazzard, and Insight. He appeared in the mini-series Centennial. He appeared in the movies Justin Morgan Had a Horse (1972), The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing (1973), The Longest Yard (1974), W. W. and the Dixie Dance Kings (1975), Mackintosh and T.J. (1975), Hustle (1975), Hawmps! (1975), The Cat from Outer Space (1978), The China Syndrome (1979), and Hangar 18 (1980).

In the Eighties James Hampton was a lead on the short--lived sitcom Maggie and a regular voice on the animated series Teen Wolf. He had a recurring role on the soap opera Days of Our Lives in 1989. He guest starred on the shows Insight; Tales of the Gold Monkey; Boone; Goodnight, Beantown; The Greatest American Hero; Matt Houston; Otherworld; Who's the Boss?; Simon & Simon; Murder, She Wrote; Crazy Like a Fox; Punky Brewster; She's the Sheriff; Superboy; Mama's Family; 1st & Ten; Perfect Strangers; Newhart; Full House; and Get a Life. He appeared in the movies Condorman (1981), Teen Wolf (1985), Teen Wolf Too (1987), Police Academy 5: Assignment: Miami Beach (1988), Pump Up the Volume (1990), and The Giant of Thunder Mountain (1990).

In the Nineties Mr. Hampton guest starred on Evening Shade, Valerie, Hearts Afire, Melrose Place, Hope & Gloria, and Fired Up. He broke into television directing with Evening Shade. He directed several episodes of the show, as well as several episodes of the shows Hearts Afire; Boston Commons; Grace Under Fire; Sister, Sister; and Smart Guy. He also directed episodes of Kirk; Hudson Street; American Pie; The Tony Danza Show; Rude Awakening; Katie Joplin; Linc's; and Zoe, Duncan, Jack & Jane. He appeared in the movies Sling Blade (1996), Lost in the Pershing Point Hotel (2000), and Danny and Max (2009).

In the Naughts James Hampton appeared in the movie Fire from Below (2009). In the Teens he appeared in the movies The Last Ride (2011), Jacob (2011), Flutter (2014), Big Stone Gap (2014), and Divine Access (2015).

James Hampton excelled in playing comedic bumblers like Trooper Dobbs on F Troop and Leroy on The Doris Day Show, but he was capable of other roles. In the final episode of Mannix, "Hardball," he played a villain as far removed from Trooper Dobbs as one could get. In The China Syndrome he played Bill Gibson, the public relations man who keeps his calm during an accident at his company's nuclear power plant. In Sling Blade he played psychiatrist Jerry Woolridge. While there is no doubt that James Hampton will always be known as Trooper Hobbs, he performed a wide variety of other roles as well.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

The 20th Anniversary of the BET Television Movie Fire & Ice (2001)

Vanessa Marquez &
Lark Voorhies
Last night marked twenty years since the TV movie Fire & Ice (2001) made its television debut. on BET (Black Entertainment Television). The made-for-TV movie centred on a senator's daughter and co-owner of a high-tech home security firm (Lark Voorhies). Following a scandal involving her ex-boyfriend, she falls in love with a late night television show host (Kadeem Hardison). If you are wondering why I am writing about a made-for-TV romance movie, it's because Fire and Ice marked the last appearance on screen of my dearest Vanessa Marquez save for an exploitative reality show (which I won't name here) and a cameo in the Star Wars fan film Return of Pink Five (2007).

Fire & Ice was based on the romance novel Fire and Ice by Carla Fredd. The novel was published in 1995 by Arabesque, an imprint of BET Books dedicated to romance novels. Arabesque was launched by BET Books (the publishing arm of cable channel BET) in July 1994 and was dedicated to publishing African American-themed novels. It was in 1999 that BET began adapting Arabesque romance novels as television movies, making ten of them in 1999 alone. After airing on BET, these made-for-TV movies would be released on VHS and DVD.

Here it should be pointed out that while Fire & Ice (2001) made its television debut on BET on April 6 2001, its premiere occurred a little over a week earlier. On March 27 2001 a private screening was held at the club Brave New World in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After its television debut on BET, Fire & Ice had encore showings on BET on April 14 2001 and June 25 2001.

Going by online reviews of Fire & Ice (2001), fans of romance movies appear to have positive opinions of the film. As someone who does not count made-for-TV romance movies among his favourites, I find Fire & Ice largely conforms to the formulae of the genre: woman meets man, woman and man don't get along, woman and man go on a date, woman and man fall in love, and so on. That having been said, Lark Voorhies (best known for Saved by the Bell) and Kadeem Hardison (who may be best known from the sitcom A Different World) give sincere performances that make Fire & Ice enjoyable. Fire & Ice also benefits from good performances from its other performers. Tempest Bledsoe (best known for The Cosby Show) does well as Lark Voorhies' partner at the security firm, even lending some humour to the proceedings. Here I have to point out that Fire & Ice was rare for the early Naughts in portraying African Americans in important positions. Lark Voorhies and Tempest Bledsoe's characters Holly Aimes and Pam Moore head a home security firm. Kaddem Hardison's character Michael Williams is a late night TV show host.  

As to Vanessa Marquez, she plays one of the security firm's technicians, Wanda Hernandez. As Wanda, Vanessa acts as comedy relief, adding a bit of humour to Fire & Ice. While the role isn't too different from Wendy Goldman on ER or Janice Ramos on Malcolm & Eddie, she still gives one of the best performances in the film, if not the best. And while I realize I am probably biased on this point, I think Vanessa looks her loveliest on screen in Fire & Ice. While Vanessa Marquez is not listed very high on the credits of Fire  & Ice, she actually appears more in the film than some of the actors listed higher in the credits than her. Here I have to point out that the character of  Wanda was changed from the novel. In the novel the character of the head technician is named "Wanda Johnson" and we really don't know her ethnicity. In the made-for-TV movie she is named "Wanda Hernandez" and she is clearly a Latina.

Over all Fire & Ice (2001) is a well done, made-for-TV movie. Even people who are not fans of the romance genre might find the movie enjoyable. Certainly, after twenty years Fire & Ice remains popular and still appears on various streaming services and cable channels from time to time. It also remains available on DVD. Of course, for me the movie occupies a special place as the last made-for-TV movie in which my dearest Vanessa Marquez appeared.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Gloria Henry Passes On

Gloria Henry, who appeared in movies with Gene Autry, George Raft, and Marlene Dietrich, and played the title character's mother on the sitcom Dennis the Menace, died on April 3 2021. It was the day after her 98th birthday.

Gloria Henry was born Gloria McEniry on April 3 1923 in New Orleans. She studied at the Worcester Art Museum School in Massachusetts. After graduating from school she moved to Los Angeles where she began work in radio, where she performed in both radio shows and commercials. She signed to Columbia Pictures in 1946. She made her film debut in the following year in Sport of Kings 91947). In the late Forties she appeared in the movies Keeper of the Bees (1947), Bulldog Drummond Strike Back (1947),  Adventures in Silverado (1948), Port Said (1948), The Arkansas Swing (1948), The Strawberry Roan (1948), Triple Threat (1948), Racing Luck (1948), Rusty Saves a Life (1948), Johnny Allegro (1949), Air Hostess (1949), Miss Grant Takes Richmond (1949), Feudin' Rhythm (1949), Riders in the Sky (1949), Kill the Umpire (1950), Rookie Fireman (1950), The Tougher They Come (1950), Counterspy Meets Scotland Yard (1950), and Lightning Guns (1950).

In the Fifties Miss Henry had a regular role on the television series The Files of Jeffrey Jones. It was at the very end of the decade that she began playing Dennis's mother Alice Mitchell on the classic sitcom Dennis the Menace. She guest starred on the shows Fireside Theatre, My Little Margie, The Ford Television Theatre, The Abbott and Costello Show, Mr. & Mrs. North, TV Reader's Digest, Navy Log, Father Knows Best, Perry Mason, The Walter Winchell File, Tales of Wells Fargo, The Life of Riley, Broken Arrow, Rescue 8, Alcoa Theatre, and The Thin Man. She appeared in the films Al Jennings of Oklahoma (1951), Yellow Fin (1951), Rancho Notorious (1952), Hot News (1953), and Gang War (1958).

In the early Sixties Gloria Henry continued to appear on Dennis the Menace. Following Dennis the Menace, she became typecast in motherly roles, so she only appeared occasionally afterwards. On television she guest starred on the shows Hazel and The Farmer's Daughter in the Sixties, The Brady Brides, Bare Essence, Simon & Simon, Newhart, Silver Spoons, Easy Street, Our House, Dragnet, Dallas, Mr. Belvedere, and Doogie Howser M.D. in the Eighties, Sisters in the Nineties, and Parkes and Recreation  in the Teens. She appeared in the movies Doin' Time on Planet Earth (1988) and Her Minor Thing (2005).

While Gloria Henry is now best known as Dennis the Menace's mother, she was a versatile actress who could play a wide variety of roles. She played wholesome romantic interests opposite Gene Autry In Johnny Allegro she played the title character's sweet-natured assistant in a floral shop. In the Abbott and Costello Show episode she played the boys' sexy neighbour who takes advantage of Lou to break up with her gangster boyfriend. In the debut Perry Mason episode, "The Case of the Restless Redhead" she played movie star Helene Chaney. Gloria Henry was capable of a wide range of roles and performed all of them well.