Saturday, February 6, 2021

The Late Great Christopher Plummer

Christopher Plummer, who starred in such movies as The Sound of Music (1965), Triple Cross (1966), and The Man Who Would Be King (1975), died on February 5 2021 at the age of 91.

Christopher Plummer was born on December 13 1929 in Toronto, Ontario. His family divorced not long after he was born and he was raised by his mother in Senneville, Quebec. When he was young he wanted to be a concert pianist, but developed an interest in acting. He apprenticed at the Montreal Repertory Theatre.

Christopher Plummer made his television debut in 1953 in a Canadian production of Othello that aired on the TV series General Motors Presents. In the Fifties he guest starred on Studio One, Suspense, Broadway Television Theatre, The Web, Kraft Television Theatre, Producer's Showcase, General Electric Theatre, Appointment with Adventure, The Alcoa Hour, Eye on New York, Omnibus, Sunday Showcase, and Our American Heritage. He appeared in television productions of Little Moon of Alban, Johnny Belinda, A Doll's House, and The Philadelphia Story.

In the Sixties, Mr. Plummer appeared in the television movies Time Remembered, Cyrano De Bergerac, Hamlet at Elsinore, and The Secret of Michaelangelo. He appeared on the shows The Dupont Show of the Month. In the Seventies he appeared in the mini-series Arthur Hailey's The Moneychangers and Jesus of Nazareth. He appeared on the TV shows BBC Play of the Month, Witness to Yesterday, and The Sunday Drama. He appeared in the TV movies After the Fall, Riel, The Shadow Box, and Desperate Voyage

In the Eighties he appeared in the mini-series Little Gloria... Happy at Last, The Thorn Birds, Crossings, and Spearfield's Daughter. He guest starred on the show The Cosby Show. He appeared in the TV movies When the Circus Came to Town, Dial M for Murder, The Scarlet and the Black, Prototype, The Tin Soldier, A Hazard of Hearts, and Nabokov on Kafka.

In the Nineties Christopher Plummer was a regular on the TV series Counterstrike. He appeared in the TV movies Young Catherine, A Marriage: Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, The First Circle, and Secrets, A Stranger in the Mirror, Skeletons, Winchell, The Dinosaur Hunter, Possessed, and American Tragedy . He appeared in the mini-series Nuremberg.

In the Naughts he appeared in the TV movies On Golden Pond, Night Flight, Agent of Influence, Odd Job Jack, Our Fathers, and Four Minutes. He appeared in the mini-series The Summit. In the Teens, he appeared on the TV show Great Performances. He was a regular on the TV show Departure.

Christopher Plummer made his film debut in Stage Struck in 1958. In the late Fifties he also appeared in the film Wild Across the Everglades (1958). In the Sixties he appeared in the movies The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), The Sound of Music (1965), Inside Daisy Clover (1965), Triple Cross (1966), The Night of the Generals (1967), Oedipus the King (1968), Nobody Runs Forever (1968), Lock Up Your Daughters! (1969), Battle of Britain (1969), The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1969), and Waterloo (1970).

In the Seventies he appeared in the movies The Pyx (1973), The Spiral Staircase (1975), The Return of the Pink Panther (1975), Conduct Unbecoming (1975), Atentat u Sarajevu (1975), The Man Who Would Be King (1975), Aces High (1976), Uppdraget (1977), The Disappearance (1978), International Velvet (1978), The Silent Partner (1978), Starcrash (1978), Murder By Decree (1979), Hanover Street (1979), and Somewhere in Time (1980).

In the Eighties Christopher Plummer appeared in the films Eyewitness (1981), The Amateur (1981), Highpoint (1982), Ordeal by Innocence (1984), Dreamscape (1984), Lily in Love (1984), The Boy in Blue (1986), I Love N.Y. (1987), Dragnet (1987), Nosferatu a Venezia (1988), Shadow Dancing (1988), Souvenir (1989), Mindfield (1989), Where the Heart Is (1990), and Red Blooded American Girl (1990).

In the Nineties, Mr. Plummer appeared in the movies Firehead (1991), Money  (1991), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), Liar's Edge (1992), Impolite (1992), Malcolm X (1992), Wolf (1994), Crackerjack (1994), Dolores Claiborne (1995), Twelve Monkeys (1995), The Clown at Midnight (1998), Blackheart (1998), Hidden Agenda (1999), The Insider (1999), and Dracula 2000 (2000).

In the Naughts he appeared in the movies Lucky Break (1991), A Beautiful Mind (2001), Ararat (2002), Nicholas Nickleby (2002), Blizzard (2003), Cold Creak Manor (2003), National Treature (2004), Alexander (2004), Must Love Dogs (2005), Syriana (2005), The New World (2005), Inside Man (2006), The Lake House (2006), Man in the Chair (2007), Closing the Ring (2007), Emotional Arithmetic (2007), Already Dead (2008), Caesar and Cleopatra (2009), The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009), The Last Station (2009), Beginners (2010), and The Tempest (2010). He was the voice of Charles Muntz in Up (2009).

In the Teens Christopher Plummer appeared in the films Priest (2011), Barrymore (2011), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight (2013), Elsa & Fred (2014), Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014), The Forger (2014), Danny Collins (2015), Remember (2015), The Exception (2016), The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017), All the Money in the World (2017), Boundaries (2018), Cliffs of Freedom (2019), Knives Out (2019), and The Last Full Measure (2019).

Christopher Plummer appeared frequently on stage. He made his debut on Broadway in The Starcross Story in 1954. In the Fifties he also appeared on Broadway in Home is the Hero, The Dark is Light Enough, The Lark, Night of the Auk, and  J.B.. In the Sixties he appeared in Arturo Ui and The Royal Hunt of the Sun. In the Seventies he appeared in Cyrano De Bergerac and The Good Doctor. In the Eighties he appeared in Othello and Macbeth. In the Nineties Mr. Plummer appeared on Broadway in No Man's Land and Barrymore. In the Naughts he appeared in King Lear and Inherit the Wind.

Christopher Plummer was an incredible actor. He won two Tony Awards, two Emmys, and one Academy Award, and he was nominated multiple times for each of those awards. He won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Beginners, making him the oldest actor to ever win an Academy Award. It should be little wonder that Mr. Plummer should have been nominated many times for various awards, as he was extremely versatile. Throughout his career he played a wide range of historical figures, including Rommel in The Night of the Generals, Duke Wellington in Waterloo, Kipling in The Man Who Would Be King, and John Barrymore in Barrymore. Among the fictional characters played by Mr. Plummer was Sherlock Holmes in Murder By Decree. He was convincing in all of these roles.

Christopher Plummer's versatility extended to the sorts of movies he made. Over the years he appeared in dramas, period pieces, comedies, science fiction movies, and yet other sorts of films. He was as at home in the espionage thriller Triple Cross as he was the sci-fi movie Twelve Monkeys. What is more, he played many remarkable roles in various types of movies. In Inside Daisy Clover he played producer Charles Swann, a man who was equal parts manipulative and intimidating. He was an outright psychopath in The Silent Partner. In Beginners he played a role far removed from either of those he played in Inside Daisy Clover or The Silent Partner, playing an older man with cancer who is also coming to terms with the fact that he is gay. Even in movies that were not particularly good (Red Blooded American Girl, for example) Christopher Plummer could still deliver solid performances. Few actors ever had the sheer amount of talent that Christopher Plummer did.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Diana Millay Passes On

Diana Millay, who played Laura Collins on the classic soap opera Dark Shadows, died on January 8 2021 at the age of 85.

Diana Millay was born on June 7 1935 in Rye, New York. She was a child model for the Montgomery Ward catalogue. She was later a model for John Robert Powers's modelling agency. During summer vacations in high school, she appeared in summer stock productions.

Diana Millay made her television debut on Star Tonight in 1955. In the Fifties she guest starred on the shows The Investigator, Omnibus, Father Knows Best, The Westerner, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Lock Up, The Aquanauts, Stagecoach West, Dobie Gillis, Maverick, Michael Shayne, Thriller, The Rifleman, and The Tab Hunter Show. She appeared in the movie Street of Sinners (1957). She made her debut on Broadway in the play Fair Game in 1957. She also appeared in the production Drink to Me Only.

In 1966 Diana Millay was cast as Laura Collins on the soap opera Dark Shadows. She would be the first supernatural character on the show, pre-dating even the vampire Barnabas Collins. Laura Collins was actually an immortal entity known as the Phoenix that burns to death every 100 years only to be reborn. After the "Laura Collins the Phoenix" storyline ended, Diana Millay continued to appear on the show, playing different Laura Collinses through the ages. She guest starred on the shows The Tab Hunter Show, The Americans, Dante, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Perry Mason, Whispering Smith, Hawaiian Eye, Route 66, The New Breed, King of Diamonds, Target: The CorruptorsLaramie, The Dick Powell Show, Wagon Train, Tales of Wells FargoMy Three Sons, The United States Steel Hour, Rawhide, The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters, Redigo, Temple Houston, 77 Sunset Strip, The Eleventh Hour, Arrest and Trial, The Virginian, and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. She appeared in the film Tarzan and the Great River (1967). She appeared on Broadway in Boeing-Boeing.

In the early Seventies she continued to appear on Dark Shadows. She had a recurring role on the soap opera Secret Storm in 1971. She also appeared in the movie Night of Dark Shadows (1971).

Diana Millay also wrote the books I'd Rather Eat Than Act, The Power of Halloween, and How to Create Good Luck.

Diana Millay appeared frequently on television in the Fifties and Sixties, precisely because she was capable of playing a wide variety of characters. It can be little wonder why she was cast as Laura Collins, a role that by its very nature was demanding. Prior to the "Laura Collins the Phoenix" storyline Dark Shadows was a Gothic soap opera. With the "Laura Collins the Phoenix" story arc it became a supernatural soap opera. Had Diana Millay not excelled in the role of Laura Collins, it's very possible that Dark Shadows might not have continued its path to becoming a supernatural soap opera. That means we might never have been introduced to Barnabas Collins, but it might never have been the success that it was.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Mike Henry Passes On

Mike Henry, the former NFL player who starred as Tarzan in three movies, died on January 8 2021 at the age of 84. He had been diagnosed in 1988 with Parkinson's disease and for years had dealt with chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Mike Henry was born on August 15 1936 in Los Angeles. He played football in high school and played for the University of Southern California. Following his graduation from college. Mike Henry played for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1958 to 1961. He requested a transfer to the Los Angeles Rams as he was interested in becoming an actor.

Mike Henry made his film debut in a small role in Curfew Breakers in 1958. In the early Sixties he was the choice of Ed Graham Productions to play Batman in a prospective television series, that would have been more serious than the classic 1966 TV series Batman produced by William Dozier. Mike Henry never got a chance to play Batman, as Ed Graham lost the rights to the character. Mike Henry appeared in small roles in Spencer's Mountain (1963) and Palm Springs Weekend (1963) before playing Tarzan in three films: Tarzan and the Valley of Gold (1966), Tarzan and the Great River (1967), and Tarazan and the Jungle Boy (1968). Mike Henry was offered the lead role in the TV series Tarzan, but declined the role. It then went to Ron Ely. In the Sixties he also appeared in the movies The Green Berets (1968), More Dead Than Alive (1969), Number One (1969), and Rio Lobo (1970). He guest starred on the shows General Hospital, 77 Sunset Strip, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Daniel Boone, and Dan August.

In the Seventies Mike Henry guest starred in the M*A*S*H  "The M*A*S*H Olympics" as Major Margaret Houlihan's fiancé  Lt. Colonel Donald Penobscott. He also guest starred on the shows The Smith Family, The Wonderful World of Disney, The New Dick Van Dyke Show, Temperatures Rising, The Bob Newhart Show, The Six Million Dollar Man, Rhoda, and Lou Grant. He played Junior, the none too bright son of Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason), in the movies Smokey and the Bandit (1977) and Smokey and the Bandit II (1980). He appeared in the movies Skyjacked (1972), Soylent Green (1973), The Longest Yard (1974), Mean Johnny Barrows (1975), and Adiós Amigo (1975).

In the Eighties Mike Henry guest starred on Fantasy Island and appeared in the movies Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 (1983) and Outrageous Fortune (1987).

Athletes turned actors are generally not noted for their talent, but Mike Henry actually displayed talent in his acting career. Indeed, he played both Tarzan in three movies and Junior Justice in the "Smokey and the Bandits" movies, two roles that could not be more different. He was even convincing playing the corrupt Sheriff "Blue Tom" Hendricks in Rio Lobo. He gave solid performances in guest appearances on many television shows. While some athletes turned actors aren't known for their acting talent, Mike Henry should be.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

The Late Great Hal Holbrook

Hal Holbrook, well known for his one-man show Mark Twain Tonight, died on January 23 2021 at the age of 95.

Hal Holbrook was born on February 17 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio. He and his older sisters were abandoned by their parents when he was two years old. They were raised by their paternal grandparents. The Holbrook children and their grandparents initially lived in Weymouth, Massachusetts and later in Lakewood, Ohio. Hal Holbrook attended Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana. He graduated from Denison University in Granville, Ohio. At Denison University he did an honours project about Mark Twain. It would lead him to later develop his one-man show, Mark Twain Tonight. He trained in acting at HB Studio in New York City.

During World War II Hal Holbrook served in the United States Army, attaining the rank of staff sergeant. While in the Army he performed in various stage productions. He received an honourable discharge in 1946.

It was at Lock Haven State Teachers College in 1954 that Hal Holbrook first performed as Mark Twain. The performance came to the attention of Ed Sullivan, who featured him in the February 12 1956 episode of The Ed Sullivan Show. He also appeared on Tonight! in 1956 and Tonight Starring Jack Paar in 1958. Hal Holbrook made his television debut in 1954 in a recurring role on the soap opera The Brighter Day. During the Fifties he also appeared on the show Mr. Citizen.

In the Sixties Hal Holbrook made his debut on Broadway in Do You Know the Milky Way?. He appeared in the productions After the Fall, Marco Millions, Incident at Vichy, Man of La Mancha, his one-man show Mark Twain Tonight, The Apple Tree, I Never Sang for My Father,and  Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?. He made his film debut in The Group in 1966. He appeared in the movies Wild in the Streets (1968), The Brotherhood (1968), The People Next Door (1970), and The Great White Hope (1970). On television he played the lead on the TV show The Senator, part of the wheel series The Bold Ones. He guest starred on the shows Coronet Blue, The F.B.I., The Name of the Game, and The Wonderful World of Disney. He appeared in a television production of The Glass Menagerie and A Clear and Present Danger.

In the Seventies he played Abraham Lincoln in the television mini-series Lincoln. He appeared in such TV movies as Travis Logan D.A.; Goodbye, Raggedy Ann; That Certain Summer; Pueblo; 33 Hours in the Life of God; Our Town; Murder by Natural Causes; The Legend of the Golden Gun; When Hell Was in Session; and Off the Minnesota Strip. He appeared on the  TV shows Great Performances and Omnibus and the mini-series The Awakening Land. He appeared in the movies They Only Kill Their Masters (1972), Magnum Force (1973), The Girl from Petrovka (1974), All the President's Men (1976), Midway (1976), Rituals (1977), Julia (1977), Capricorn One (1977), Natural Enemies (1979), The Fog (1980), and The Kidnapping of the President (1980). On Broadway he appeared in a revival of Mark Twain Tonight.

In the Eighties Hal Holbrook played John Adams in the television mini-series George Washington, Abraham Lincoln in the mini-series North and South, Abraham Lincoln in the mini-series North and South: Book II, Dr. Andrew McKaig in the mini-series The Fortunate Pilgrim, and Jonas Coe in the mini-series Emma: Queen of the South Seas. He had a recurring role on the TV series Designing Women and in 1990 he began his regular role as Evan Evans on Evening Shade. He appeared in the TV movies The Killing of Randy Webster; The Three Wishes of Billy Grier; Behind Enemy Lines; Under Siege; Plaza Suite; Day One; Sorry, Wrong Number; and A Killing in a Small Town. He appeared in the movies Creepshow (1982), Girls Nite Out (1982), The Star Chamber (1983), Wall Street (1987), The Unholy (1988), and Fletch Lives (1989).

In the Nineties he continued to appear on the TV show Evening Shade. He guest starred on the shows The Outer Limits and Family Law. He appeared in the TV movies A Perry Mason Mystery: The Case of the Grimacing Governor, A Perry Mason Mystery: The Case of the Jealous Jokester, She Stood Alone: The Tailhook Scandal, Innocent Victims, Operation Delta Force, All the Winters That Have Been, The Third Twin, Beauty, My Own Country, and A Place Apart. On Broadway he appeared in An American Daughter. He appeared in the movies The Firm (1993), Carried Away (1997), Eye of God (1997), Hush (1998), Walking to the Waterline (1998), Judas Kiss (1998), Rusty: A Dog's Tale (1998), The Florentine (1999), The Bachelor (1999), Waking the Dead (2000), and Men of Honor (2000). He provided voices for the animated movies Cats Don't Dance (1997) and Hercules (1997).

In the Naughts Mr. Holbrook guest starred on the TV shows Becker; The West Wing; Good Morning, Miami; Hope & Faith; The Sopranos; NCIS; and ER. He had a regular role on the series The Event. He appeared on Broadway in Mark Twain Tonight. He appeared in the movies The Majestic (2001), Purpose (2002), Shade (2003), Into the Wild (2007), Killshot (2008), and That Evening Sun (2009), Flying Lessons (2010). 

In the Teens Hal Holbrook had a recurring role on the TV show Sons of Anarchy. He appeared on the TV shows Monday Mornings, Rectify, Bones, Grey's Anatomy, and Hawaii Five-0. He appeared in the movies Good Day for It (2011), Water for Elephants (2011), Lincoln (2012), Promised Land (2012), Savannah (2013), and Go With Me (2015).

Hal Holbrook had the amazing ability to transform himself entirely to any character he played. It for this reason that while he was best known for playing Mark Twain, he was cast as multiple historical figures. He played Abraham Lincoln more than once. Lloyd Bucher, the captain of the U.S.S. Pueblo, in the TV movie Pueblo. Commander Joseph Rochefort in Midway,  Jeremiah Denton in When Hell Was in Session, and John Adams in George Washington. Each time Mr. Holbrook was entirely convincing as the historical figure he was playing. Of course, Mr. Holbrook's talent extended beyond playing historical figures. Over the years he was nominated or won multiple Emmy Awards for everything from The Bold Ones: The Senator to Our Town. Hal Holbrook was definitely one of the most talented actors to emerge in the mid-20th Century.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Godspeed Ron Campbell

Animator Ron Campbell, who worked on the animated series The Beatles and Cool McCool as well as the film Yellow Submarine (1968), died on January 22 2021 at the age of 81.

Ron Campbell was born on December 26 1939 in Seymour, Victoria, Australia. He had wanted to become animator ever since he was six years old and learned that the "Tom and Jerry" cartoons he watched in the theatre were essentially drawings. He attended the Swinburne Art Institute in Melbourne.

Ron Campbell began his career in animation in the late Fifties, making animated commercials for Australian television. When Al Brodax of King Features looked to Australia to produce animated television shorts of "Krazy Kat" and "Beetle Bailey," Ron Campbell went to work for King Features. He served as an animator on both the "Krazy Kat" cartoons and the animated TV series The Beatles. Working for King Features, he directed segments the animated series The Beatles and Cool McCool. He also served as animator on the feature film Yellow Submarine. In the late Sixties he served as an animator on the animated TV series Moby Dick and the Mighty Mightor, The Adventures of Gulliver, the 1969 revival of Winky Dink and You, Harlem Globe Trotters.

In 1971 he founded his own animation studio Ron Campbell Films Inc. In the Seventies he served as animation director on The Big Blue Marble and Sesame Street. He was animator on Sealab 2020; The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan; Inch High, Private Eye; and Goober and the Ghost Chasers. He served as a story director or storyboard artist on The New Scooby-Doo Movies, Scooby's All Star Laff-A-Lympics, The All-New Popeye Hour, Galaxy Goof-Ups, Yogi's Space Race, The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show, Heathcliff, and ABC Weekend Specials.

In the Eighties Mr. Campbell served as animator on the TV specials My Smurfy Valentine and Which Witch is Which. He served as a story director or storyboard artist on the television series Space Stars, ABC Weekend Specials, Shirt Tales, The Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Puppy Hour, The Dukes, Pac-Man, Snorks, The Jetsons, Paw Paws, Yogi's Treasure Hunt, Ghostbusters, Bionic Six, Smurfs, Garbage Pail Kids, Police Academy: The Series, Camp Candy, Tiny Toon Adventures, DuckTales, and Bobby's World. He served as a story director or storyboard artist on the television specials My Smurfy Valentine, The Smurfs Springtime Special, The Smurfs Christmas Special, and The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones.

In the Nineties Ron Campbell did work for Disney and Nickelodeon. He served as an animator or animation timer on the TV shows Goof Troop, Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man, Rugrats,. and Rocket Power. He served as a storyboard artist or story director on Bobby's World, The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, James Bond Jr., Goof Troop, Darkwing Duck, Bonkers, Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man, Jumaji; Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Men in Black: The Series' Dragon Tales; Rugrats, and Rocket Power. He was an animator supervisor on the feature film Die Abenteuer von Pico und Columbus (1992).

In the Naughts Ron Campbell served as an animation timer on Rocket Power and an exposure sheet director on Ed, Edd n Eddy. He was a storyboard artist on the series Stuart Little.

Ron Campbell may not have been a household name, but over the years he worked on several classic animated projects. His work was literally seen by generations, from The Beatles and Cool McCool to Smurfs and DuckTales to Darkwing Duck and Rugrats. He certainly had talent as an animator. With Duane Crowther, Ron Campbell was charged with animating the connecting sequences on Yellow Submarine, ultimately animating 12 minutes of the film. Producer Al Brodax credited Ron Campbell and Duane Crowther with tying the film all together. From his work with King Features to Hanna-Barbera to Disney, many animated projects would not be the same without Ron Campbell.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Godspeed Hilton Valentine

Hilton Valentine, founding member and guitarist for The Animals, died on January 29 2021 at the age of 77.

Hilton Valentine was born in North Shields, Northumberland on May 21 1943. His mother bought him his first guitar when he was thirteen years of age. He taught himself to play. Like many young Englishmen, during the skiffle craze of the Fifties, he formed his own skiffle group called The Heppers. By 1959 The Heppers had evolved into a rock band called The Wildcats. The Wildcats proved to be popular and eventually recorded an LP at Morton Sound titled Sounds of The Wildcats.

It was in 1963 that bassist Chas Chandler recruited Hilton Valentine for a group named The Alan Price Combo. The Alan Price Combo eventually became The Animals. The Animals proved popular in Newcastle upon Tyne and the surrounding area. In 1964 they moved to London. They were signed to Columbia and had a transatlantic hit with their version of the standard "House of the Rising Sun." The single went to no. 1 on the UK singles chart, the Billboard Hot 100, and the Canadian singles chart. Their first album, The Animals, was released not long afterwards. It would also do well on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Animals would have several hits following "House of the Rising Sun," including "I'm Crying," "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," "We Gotta Get Out of This Place," and "Don't Bring Me Down."  The group also released the albums The Animals on Tour, Animal Tracks, and Animalisms. While The Animals had a great deal of success, by 1966 the original band had begin to disintegrate. Hilton Valentine left in September 1966 when the original line-up of The Animals fell apart. Eric Burdon and drummer Barry Jenkins continued with a new line-up as Eric Burdon and The Animals.

Hilton Valentine moved to California and released a solo album titled All In Your Head in 1969, as well as the single "It's All In Your Head"/"I'm A Dreamer." Afterwards he returned to the United Kingdom. Over the years he took part in various reunions of The Animals, including one from 1975 to 1976, and a second in 1983. The Nineties saw Hilton Valentine leading further incarnations of The Animals, including Hilton Valentine's Animals (in 1992) and Animals II (1993-1994), and further incarnations of the band into 2001. Along with Eric Burdon, Chas Chandler, Alan Price, and John Steel were inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.

In the Naughts, Hilton Valentine returned to his roots in skiffle. He formed the band Skiffledog and released the albums It's Folk 'N' Skiffle, Mate!, Skiffledog on Coburg ST, and Merry Skifflemas.

Hilton Valentine was one of the all-time great British guitarists. Indeed, an argument can be made that it was his opening chords on The Animals' version of "House of the Rising Sun" that made it a hit. Eric Burdon himself gave Mr. Valentine much of the credit for The Animals' success, saying in an interview with Guitar International that Hilton Valentine "...made the early Animals a rock band because I don't think the element of rock was in the band until we found him." Hilton Valentine's superb guitar work gave The Animals a sound quite different from other bands of the time. He certainly proved to be an influence on many guitarists that followed him.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Late Great Allan Burns

Without Allan Burns, 20th Century American broadcast television would not be the same. He wrote for the classic animated series Rocky and His Friends. With Chris Hayward he developed the format of the TV series The Munsters (created by Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher), Chris Hayward and Allan Burns later created the notorious sitcom My Mother the Car and wrote for such classic shows as He & She and Get Smart. With James L. Brooks, Allan Burns created The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Sadly, he died yesterday at the age of 85.

Allan Burns was born in Baltimore, Maryland on May 18 1935. He began his career writing for Jay Ward Productions on the shows Rocky and His Friends and Fractured Flickers. While with Jay Ward Productions he created the animated character of Cap'n Crunch for the Quaker cereal of the same name. He formed a partnership with Chris Hayward, their first work beyond Jay Ward Productions being the 1962 episode "The Wedding" of the sitcom Father of the Bride. Allan Burns and Chris Hayward went onto develop The Munsters from an idea by Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher. Afterwards they created the single season sitcom My Mother the Car. Producer Leonard Stern brought Allan Burns and Chris Hayward onto the sitcom He & She to write several episodes. Afterwards they wrote several episodes of Get Smart and served as story consultants on the show. In the late Sixties the partnership between Allan Burns and Chris Hayward dissolved. Allan Burns wrote episodes of Love, American Style and Room 222, serving as a producer on the latter show. Room 222 had been created by James L. Brooks, Impressed with Mr. Burns's work, Mr. Brooks formed a partnership with him. Together the two of them would create The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Allan Burns served as an executive producer on the show.

In the Seventies Alan Burns and James L. Brooks created the Mary Tyler Moore Show spin-off Rhoda, the sitcom Paul Sands in Friends and Lovers, and the Mary Tyler Moore Show spin-off Lou Grant. He co-wrote the animated TV special Carlton Your Doorman. Allan Burns also co-wrote the movies A Little Romance (1979) and Butch and Sundance: The Early Days (1979). In the Eighties Allan Burns co-created the sitcoms The Duck Factory and FM. He created the sitcom Eisenhower & Lutz. He wrote an episode of The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd. He co-wrote the movies Second Time Lucky (1984), Just the Way You Are (1984), and Just Between Friends (1986).

In the Nineties Allan Brooks co-created the sitcom Cutters.

When it comes to television writers who have had an impact upon me, Allan Burns would have to be near the top of the list. After all, he worked for many of the shows I watched in my childhood, including Rocky and His Friends, Get Smart, Room 222, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, and Lou Grant. Later I would discover the wonders of He & She, one of the most brilliant sitcoms of all time. And while it has often been listed as the worst show of all time, I think  My Mother the Car has been unfairly maligned. While the format may have been bizarre, it featured episodes that had the same sort of brilliance seen in Allan Burns's work with Jay Ward, on Get Smart, and on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Allan Burns had an instinct for what was funny, while at the same creating entirely convincing characters. If so much of his work would have so much impact, it was because he was such a talented writer. Television certainly would not be the same without him.