Saturday, May 15, 2021

"Stagger Lee" by Lloyd Price

The great Lloyd Price died on May 3. Today was busy so I was unable to write a eulogy for him, but I intend to do so tomorrow or Monday. In lieu of a eulogy, then, I will leave you with one of his many great performances, his rendition of the song "Stagger Lee."

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.