Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Godspeed Pat Hitchcock

Pat Hitchcock, the daughter of director Alfred Hitchcock and editor Alma Reville Hitchcock and an actress in her own right, died August 9 2021 at the age of 93.

Patricia Hitchcock was born on July 7 1928 in London. In 1939 the family moved to Los Angeles so her father could work in Hollywood. She was still a child when she decided that she wanted to act. She made her Broadway debut in 1942 in Solitaire. In 1944 she played the title role in Violet on Broadway. She graduated from Marymount High School in 1947. In 1949 she attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She also appeared in plays on the West End and made her television debut in the TV movie The Case of Thomas Pyke on the BBC. She made her film debut in her father's movie Stage Fright in 1950. She also appeared in the movie The Mudlark (1950).

In the Fifties Miss Hitchcock appeared in her father's film Strangers on a Train (1951) as Barbara Morton, the younger sister of Anne Morton (Ruth Roman). She appeared in a bit part in The Ten Commandments (1956) and a role in her father's classic Psycho (1960). In the Fifties she made several appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents as well as her father's other series Suspicion. She also guest starred on the show Suspense, My Little Margie, Front Row Center, Screen Directors Playhouse, Matinee Theatre, The Life of Riley, and Playhouse 90. She appeared on Broadway in The High Ground in 1951.

Pat Hitchcock retired from acting to raise her children, but she appeared in the TV movies  feature film Skateboard (1978)  and in the TV movies Ladies of the Corridor and Six Characters in Search of an Author.

Following her retirement from acting, Pat Hitchcock continued to contribute to Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. She served as an executive producer on the documentary The Man on Lincoln's Nose (2000), which centred on art director Robert F. Boyle. She co-wrote a biography on her mother, Alma Hitchcock: The Woman Behind the Man, with Laurent Bouzereau.

I have always thought Pat Hitchcock was underrated as an actress. She only appeared in Stage Fright briefly, but she was memorable as an enthusiastic acting student. In Strangers on a Train Miss Hitchcock stole every scene she was in as the slightly morbid, plain spoken Barbara Morton. Beyond her appearances in films, there was also her many appearances on television. She shined in her many appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, whether as a daughter seeking her missing mother in "Into Thin Air" or a rural schoolteacher in The Belfry. I always wished Pat Hitchcock had appeared in more movies and TV shows.

Of course, Pat Hitchcock also did a wonderful job of keeping her parents' legacies alive. She regularly appeared in documentaries about her parents and gave many interviews about them over the years. And while a good deal of attention was always paid to her father, Alfred Hitchcock, Pat Hitchcock made sure her mother Alma always got attention too. As both an actress  and a living tie to film history, she was wonderful.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Godspeed Markie Post

Markie Post, who played bail bondsman Terri Michaels on The Fall Guy, public defender Christine Sullivan on Night Court, and political reporter Georgie Anne Lahti Hartman on Hearts Afire, died on August 7 2021 at the age of 70 following a three year battle with cancer.

Markie Post was born November 4 1950 in Palo Alto, California. She attended Pomona College and later Lewis & Clark College in Oregon, from which she graduated. She began her career working behind the scenes on game shows. She wrote questions for Family Feud, selected prizes for The Price is Right, and worked as an associate producer on Double Dare. She first appeared in front of the camera as one of the card dealers on Card Sharks.

Markie Post made her debut in narrative television in 1979 in an episode of CHiPs. In the late Seventies she guest starred on the shows Barnaby Jones, The Incredible Hulk, The Lazarus Syndrome, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Hart to Hart, B.J. and the Bear, House Calls, and Eight is Enough. In 1980 she appeared in her first regular role on a show, the short-lived sitcom Semi-Tough.

It was in 1982 that she began played the role of bail bondsman Terri Michaels on The Fall Guy. She remained with the show until 1985, when she joined the cast of the classic comedy Night Court as public defender Christine Sullivan. She remained with Night Court for the rest of its run. During the Eighties she guest starred on the shows The Greatest American Hero, Simon & Simon, McLain's Law, Code Red, Matt Houston, The Love Boat, Cheers, Fantasy Island, Glitter, Scene of the Crime, The A-Team, and Hotel. She appeared in the mini-series The Gangster Chronicles. Miss Post also appeared in the movie Gangster Wars.

Markie Post continued to appear on Night Court into the early Nineties. In 1992 she began a three year run on Hearts Afire. She was also a regular on the show Odd Man Out. She guest starred on the show VR.5, Dave's World, and Twice in a Lifetime. She appeared in the movie There's Something About Mary (1998). In the Naughts she guest starred on the shows The District, Scrubs, Ghost Whisperer, and 30 Rock. She appeared in the movie Cook Off! (2007).

In the Teens she was a voice on the animated series Transformer Prime. She was a regular on the short-lived series Rack and Ruin. She had recurring roles on the shows Rack and Ruin, Chicago P.D., and The Kids Are Alright. She guest starred on the shows Man Up!, Back in the Game, Santa Clarita Diet, and Soundtrack. He appeared in the movies Muffin Top: A Love Story (2017) and Sweet Sweet Summertime (2017).

I have to confess that I always had a bit of a crush on Markie Post, and it went beyond the fact that she was beautiful. She simply shined in every role she played. I have no doubt that she will always be remembered best as Christine Sullivan on Night Court. In many ways the part seemed perfect for Miss Post. Christine was honest and warm hearted, and could even be naive at times. That having been said, Markie Post played many other roles. Georgie on Hearts Afire differed a good deal from Christine. She was sassy and could be bold at times. While Christine ended to be a bit of conformist, Georgie was a bit of a rebel. Some of her roles were even further removed from Christine. In the TV movie Tricks of the Trade she played a prostitute. Markie Post was good in nearly every role she ever played.

Monday, August 9, 2021

The Late Great Jane Withers

Jane Withers, the former child star who appeared in such movies as Bright Eyes (1934) and Boy Friend (1939) and later found fame as Josephine the Plumber in commercials for Comet cleanser, died on August 7 2021 at the age of 95.

Jane Withers was born on April 12 1926 in Atlanta, Georgia. She was only four years old when she was already singing and dancing and doing celebrity impersonations. She was cast on the Saturday morning children's radio program Aunt Sally's Kiddie Revue on WGST in Atlanta. Eventually she had her own radio show, Dixie's Dainty Dewdrop.

It was when Jane Withers was six years old that her family moved to Hollywood. She modelled for department stores and played bit parts in such movies as Handle with Care (1932) and Tailspin Tommy (1934). It was in 1934 that she was cast in a supporting role in Bright Eyes. She received her first lead role with Ginger in 1935.  Her career flourished in the 1930s, as she appeared in the movies The Farmer Takes a Wife (1935), This is the Life (1935), Paddy O'Day (1935), Gentle Julia (1936), Little Miss Nobody (1936), Pepper (1936), Can This Be Dixie? (1936), The Holy Terror (1937), Angel's Holiday (1937), Wild and Wooly (1937), 45 Fathers (1937), Checkers (1937), Rascals (1938), Keep Smiling (1938), Always in Trouble (1938), The Arizona Wildcat (1939), Boy Friend (1939), Chicken Wagon Family (1939), Pack Up Your Troubles (1939), High School (1940), Shooting High (1940), Girl From Avenue A (1940), and You Will Be Served. Jane Withers would become the only child star to finish a seven year contract. It was a mark of her success that Jane Withers was heavily merchandised. There were Jane Withers dresses, jewellery, paper doll books, handbags, and more.

In the Forties Jane Withers appeared in the movies Golden Hoofs (1941), Her First Beau (1941), A Very Young Lady (1941), Young America (1942), The Mad Martindales (1942), Small Town Debs (1942), Johnny Doughboy (1942), The North Star (1943), My Best Gal (1944), Faces in the Fog (1944), Affairs of Geraldine (1946), and Danger Street (1947).  She retired not long after completing Danger Street and before her marriage.

In 1954 Jane Withers got a divorce and she returned to acting in Giant (1956). She also appeared in the movie The Heart is a Rebel (1958). Miss Withers appeared on television in The United States Steel Hour, Peck's Bad Girl, and Bachelor Father.

It was in 1963 that Jane Withers first appeared as Josephine the Plumber in commercials for Comet cleanser. She would continue to appear on the role until 1975. She appeared on television in the shows  The Aquanauts, General Electric Theatre, Pete and Gladys, Bachelor Father, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Summer Playhouse, and The Munsters. She appeared in the movies The Right Approach (1961) and Captain Newman, M.D. (1963).

In the Seventies Jane Withers appeared on television in the TV movie All Together Now, ABC Weekend Specials, and The Love Boat. In he Eighties she appeared on television in the TV show Hart to Hart. In the Nineties she appeared on the TV shows Murder, She Wrote and Amazing Grace, and provided additional voices for Mickey Mouse Works. She provided a voice for the Disney animated movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996). On television in the Naughts she provided voices for the TV show House of Mouse.

Jane Withers attended the TCM Classic Film Festival multiple times. She also granted several interviews over the years.

Jane Withers was a remarkable actress, both as a child and as an adult. As a child she generally played mischievous little girls or tomboys, in sharp contrast to fellow child star Shirley Temple's sugary sweet characters. Even as a teenager she often played the smart-alecky  kid who was prone to get into trouble. As an adult she was the consummate character actress. In Giant she played Vashti Hake Snythe, the Benedicts' flamboyant neighbour who enjoyed spending the fortune she had earned from oil. In the Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode "How to Get Rid of Your Wife," Miss Withers played a wife so verbally abusive that her husband plots to get rid of her. In The Munsters episode "Pike's Pique" she played Fanny Pike, the somewhat paranoid wife of city official Borden T. Pike. Of course, she spent years playing Josephine the Plumber. Josephine was a lot like Miss Withers in real life; helpful and friendly. Jane Witheers took the role very seriously, even taking a course in plumbing.

While Jane Withers often played a brat on screen, in real life she was one of the nicest people one could meet. Starting in childhood, she had an extensive doll collection. When fans started sending the child star dolls, her parents required her to give one doll away to a needy child for every two she received. The generosity her parents taught her remained with her for the rest of her life. At the height of her career as a child star she was known to visit hospitals and orphanages. During World War II she not only took part in war bond drives, but toured military camps in the United States. Miss Withers was involved in dozens of charities. Having attended the TCM Classic Film Festival, I know several people who met Jane Withers in person. All of them have the same thing to say about her. She was one of the kindest, sweetest people one could ever meet, and gifted with a wonderful sense of humour. The height of Jane Withers's stardom may have been in the Thirties, but for many she remained a star for the entirety of her life.