Saturday, January 1, 2022

Happy New Year 2022

Here at A Shroud of Thoughts I like to begin the year with a bit of cheesecake. So, without further ado, here are this year's classic pinups!

The appropriately named Lois January is using part of her calendar as a skirt!

Piper Laurie is opening the New Year by relaxing on a large clock.

Cyd Charisse is opening 1950 spinning on a top.

Mara Corday likes to open the New Year with lots of balloons!

Debra Paget is so eager for the New Year to begin she is moving the clock up!

And last but not least, the lovely, leggy Ann Miller wishes everyone a Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 31, 2021

2021 Reaches Its End

I think I can speak for most people when I say that 2021 was not a good year. Like the year before it, it was dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The creation of vaccines gave some hope, and for a time businesses and theatres reopened. Unfortunately, the Omicron variant emerged and seems to have put us right back where we started. In New York City, Broadway theatres are closed again. In many places restaurants are closing again. As we enter 2022, it sometimes seems like the pandemic will never end.

Personally, I will always remember 2021 as a  year when some of my friends died. I had known Kelly Abbass since the days of MySpace. In August 2018 (have I mentioned how much I hate that month in that year) she was diagnosed with brain cancer. Sadly, this year she lost her battle with the disease. Kelly was an artistic model and she also sang. While she was an artistic model, she was at heart a sweet, small town, Canadian girl. She never missed wishing me a happy birthday, even as she was suffering from cancer. Every year she would post about her husband Steve's birthday and I would tell her to wish him a happy birthday and she said she would. She was perhaps the only person I know who was as big a Cheap Trick fan as I am.

Fellow blogger Steve Bailey of the blog Movie Movie Blog Blog died unexpectedly this year. This took me by surprise, as Steve was only a little older than me, even though he was not in good health. Steve had a wonderful, if twisted, sense of humour and he may well have been the biggest Jane Russell fan I knew. He was also a huge Beatles fan. He was a very active blogger and he participated in many blogathons. He was also a long time member of TCMParty.

Another long time friend who died this year was Channing Thomson. Channing was the king of movie posters and related memorabilia. Indeed, he had been in the movie poster business since 1985. I know only a few people who know more about classic film than Channing did. He was also gifted with a great sense of humour. He was one of the early members of TCMParty as well.

2021 also saw the deaths of many beloved celebrities. Indeed, it seems to have saved the most beloved celebrity for last. Television pioneer and legend Betty White died today at the age of 99. Like many her has shook me. I never met Betty, but I remember her from my earliest days and I always enjoyed seeing her on television and film. Betty White was a true pioneer. At age 18 she appeared on television for the first time, at which point the medium was still experimental. She produced her sitcom Life with Elizabeth, making her one of the few women at the time in total creative control of a TV show. Like nearly everyone, I adored Betty White and it hurts to know she didn't live to see her 100th birthday. I will post a eulogy for her January 3.

Sadly, this month also saw the death of Michael Nesmith, composer, singer, guitarist, movie producer, and Monkee. Anyone who has read this blog knows how much I love The Monkees, and Michael Nesmith was my favourite. I will freely admit that I grieved over Michael Nesmith more than any other celebrity save for John Lennon, George Harrison, and, for obvious reasons, my beloved Vanessa. I never met him, but he was part of my life since my early childhood. I loved his work with The Monkees and his solo work.

The year would see the deaths of other celebrities I love. Jane Powell was always one of my favourite actresses and she starred in some of my favourite movies: Royal Wedding (1951) and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). In addition to Betty White, we lost two other members of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Ed Asner played Lou Grant on the show, but he played so many other roles and did them all well. Cloris Leachman had a long career before The Mary Tyler Moore Show and a long career afterwards. She was truly a force to be reckoned with when it came to acting. Another great actress to die this year was Jessica Walter. There seemed to be no role she couldn't play. Of course, I am a fan of The Andy Griffith Show, so I was sad when I heard of Betty Lynn's death. She was Barney Fife's one true love, Thelma Lou, and no one could have played her better. Aside from Michael Nesmith, two other music artists close to my heart died this year. Charlie Watts was The Rolling Stones' drummer and a large part of why the band was so great. Don Everly was one half of The Everly Brothers, whose music created entire subgenres of rock. Mary Wilson was always my favourite of The Supremes, and the only one to stay with the group form its beginnings to their break-up in 1977.

Many beloved actors died this year. This is a short list of those who died. I apologize for leaving out anyone's favourites, but so many died this year it was hard to keep track. Among those who died were Barbara Shelley, Deezer D, Cicely Tyson, Hal Holbrook, Christopher Plummer, Yaphet Kotto, George Segal, Gavin MacLeod, Clarence Williams III, Ned Beatty, Frank Bonner, Jane Withers, Markie Post, Pat Hitchcock, Sonny Chiba, Michael Constantine, Willie Garson, Tommy Kirk, Peter Scolari, Dean Stockwell, Arlene Dahl, Eddie Mekka, and Cara Williams. The music world also saw several losses, including Michael Stanley, Jim Steinman, Lloyd Price, ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill, Moody Blues drummer Graeme Edge, and composer Stephen Sondheim. Among the others who died were comic book writer Dwayne McDuffie, magician Mark Wilson, children's writer Beverly Cleary, and novelist Anne Rice.

Streaming continued to be major news in 2021, although it is still not the dominant way of watching television. According to Nielsen, streaming platforms accounted for 28% of all television viewing. Most of my viewing tends to be older TV shows and movies, but I caught some of the streaming original shows this year. Doom Patrol is still my favourite streaming show and I watched its third season. I watched WandaVision and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is one of the best explorations of grief I have ever seen. I also watched The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and enjoyed it. I also enjoyed Only Murders in the Building, which was a lot of fun.

I can't say much about the movies released this year, as I haven't seen any. I have avoided the theatres this year and I forget to watch them on streaming. I want to see Dune and Passing. Some time I guess I will have to get caught up on them.

Anyhow, I hope that 2022 is a much better year. I hope that we can put this pandemic behind us and that everyone can enjoy peace and joy in the coming year. 2021 has been a rough year for all of us, and I think all of us need a break.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

TCM Spotlight on True Crime on Thursdays in January 2022

Every Thursday in January 2022 TCM Spotlight is on True Crime.. Every week Turner Classic Movies will be showing movies based on or, at the very least, inspired by actual crimes. The movies start at 8:00 PM Eastern//7:00 PM Central and run all night long.

As part of TCM Spotlight on True Crime, Turner Classic Movies is showing some truly great films. My suggestions as to the films you absolutely do not want to miss are as follows: Rope (1948), the Hitchcock movie based on the 1929 play of the same time, which was inspired by the murder of Bobby Franks in 1924 by Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb in Chicago; The Hitch-Hiker (1954), Ida Lupino's classic noir based on spree killer Billy Cook; In Cold Blood (1967), based on Truman Capote's non-fiction novel, which was in turn based on the murders of four members of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas in 1959; The French Connection (1971), which was inspired by the real-life pursuit of French heroin smuggler Alain Charnier; Dog Day Afternoon (1975), which was based on the August 22 1972 robbery of the Chase Manhattan branch in Brooklyn; and Double Indemnity (1944), the classic noir based on James M. Cain's novel of the same name, which was in turn inspired by a 1927 murder case in Queens, New York in which Ruth Snyder persuaded her boyfriend Judd Gray to kill her husband.

Below is a complete schedule of the movies airing on TCM Spotlight on True Crime. All times are Central.

Thursday, January 6
7:00 PM Rope (1948)
8:30 PM Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
10:30 PM Badlands (1973)
Friday, January 7
12:30 AM The Honeymoon Killers (1969)
2:35 AM The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1977)
5:00 AM The Hitch-Hiker (1953)

Thursday, January 13
7:00 PM In Cold Blood (1967)
9:30 PM The Boston Strangler (1968)
11:45 PM River's Edge (1986)
Friday, January 14
1:30 AM The Onion Field (1979)
3:45 AM 10 Rillington Place (1971)
5:45 AM The Strangler (1964)

Thursday, January 20
7:00 PM The French Connection (1971)
9:00 PM Patty Hearst (1988)
11:00 PM Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)
Friday, January 21
1:30 AM Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
3:45 AM Star 80 (1983)

Thursday, January 27
7:00 PM A Place in the Sun (1951)
9:15 PM Double Indemnity (1944)
11:15 PM The Phenix City Story (1955)
Friday, January 28
1:00 AM I Want to Live! (1958)
3:15 AM The Wrong Man (1956)

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Wanda Young of The Marvelettes Passes On

Wanda Young, who sang with the girl group The Marvelettes, died on December 19 2021 at the age  of 78. The cause was complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Wanda Young was born on August 9 1943 in Inkster, Michigan. She attended Inkster High School. She had planned to become a nurse, but then her classmate Georgia Dobbins left the local girl group The Marvels. Wanda Young was asked to audition and as a result took Miss Dobbins's place in the group. It was not long after Motown signed The Marvels that they were renamed The Marvelettes.

The Marvelettes gave Motown their first no. 1 hit when "Please Mr. Postman" topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961. The Marvelettes would follow the success of "Please Mr. Postman" with such hits as "Playboy," "Beechwood 4-5789," "Too Many Fish in the Sea," and "I'll Keep Holding On." Wanda Young took over lead vocals from Gladys Horton in 1965 and sang lead on their hits "Don't Mess with Bill," "The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game, and "My Baby Must Be a Magician." As the Sixties progressed, The Marvelettes would have fewer and fewer hits. The group disbanded in 1970. Wanda Young then recorded a solo album produced by Smokey Robinson which Motown released as The Return of The Marvelettes, even though no other Marvelettes appeared on the album.

It was in 1989 that Gladys Horton was offered a contract by Motorcity Records to record a new album as The Marvelettes. Wanda Young was the only Marvelette that Miss Horton interested in the project. the album, The Marvelettes Now!, featured both Gladys Horton and Wanda Young.

Wanda Young was a very talented singer. No less than Smokey Robinson wrote of her in his liner notes for The Marvelettes' compilation album Deliver: the Singles (1961-1971), "“Wanda had this little voice that was sexy to me, a little country kind of voice...I knew if I could get a song to her, it would be a smash." Miss Young's vocals were certainly bewitching and enriched The Marvelettes' records. While they may not be the be the best known girl group today, they remain one of the best.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Movies to Watch Between Christmas Day and New Year's Day

Ocean's 11 planning a rather unique New Year's Eve Party.

In some ways the week between Christmas Day and New Year's Day is a strange. In some ways it is as if society has stopped celebrating Christmas, even though in many Christian denominations Christmastide runs from December 25 to January 5. Businesses and even some private individuals  take down their decorations. Radio stations stop playing Christmas music. Television stations stop showing Christmas fare. At the same time it is as if Christmas has not totally gone away. Many people will keep their decorations up until New Year's Day. Cities will keep their decorations up until New Year's Day as well. And one will still see the stray Christmas themed commercial on television (usually car commercials). Simply because Christmas Day has passed doesn't mean one can no longer watch festive movies. In fact, there are some movies that in many ways are better suited to watching after Christmas Day than they are before. Here is a short list of movies one can watch following Christmas Day but before or including New Year's Day.

These movies generally fall into one of two categories. One are movies that begin shortly before Christmas and last until New Year's. The other are movies that either take place on New Year's or climax on New Year's. Ether way, New Year's and sometimes the days between Christmas Day and New Year's play a significant role in each of them.

After the Thin Man (1936): The Thin Man (1934) takes place right at Christmas. After the Thin Man takes place right after They Thin Man. so it begins with Nick and Nora returning from at the end of the first movie on New Year's Eve to find an unexpected New Year's party taking place in their home. While much of the plot takes place after New Year's Day, the party that opens the film makes it perfect viewing shortly before or on New Year's.

The Apartment (1960): The Apartment is considered by many (including myself) to be a Christmas movie. At the same time, it is also a New Year's Eve movie and suitable for viewing any time before Christmas up to New Year's Day. Indeed, The Apartment begins on November 1 and ends with New Year's Eve, with Christmas playing a significant role in the plot. Indeed, it might well have the most famous climax at New Year's eve ever. While my favourite time to watch The Apartment is New Year's Eve, it makes for great viewing any time before or after Christmas Day.

Bachelor Mother (1939): Many people think of Bachelor Mother as a Christmas movie, but it might be more accurate to describe it as a New Yea's movie. It begins on Christmas Eve, when Polly Parrish's (Ginger Rogers) seasonal employment at the department store John B. Merlin and Son, and ends on New Year's Day. Bachelor Mother literally then takes place in the week between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day, which might just make it the perfect movie for this time of year.

(1982): Diner is set in 1959 and takes place from the night of Christmas Day to New Year's Day. Like Bachelor Mother, it is then a perfect movie for this time of year.

Holiday Affair (1949): Holiday Affair is often counted as a Christmas movie, but it takes place shortly before Christmas and ends on New Year's Eve. A good deal of the plot is dedicated to Christmas Day. Like The Apartment, then, it is not only a perfect movie for Christmas viewing, but New Year's Viewing as well.

Holiday Inn (1942): Holiday Inn takes place over a year and devotes several holidays, including New Year's Eve. It even includes a song dedicated to New Year's, "Let's Start the New Year Right." Wh8le often thought of as a Christmas movie, this makes Holiday Inn the perfect movie for New Year's viewing.

Ocean's 11 (1960):
Ocean's 11 could well be the New Year's Eve movie. After all, the movie centres on a group of World War II veterans from the 82nd Airborne, who plan to rob five casinos in Las Vegas at the same time on New Year's Eve. The bulk of the plot then takes place in the days leading up to New Year's Eve and the night itself.

The Poseidon Adventure (1972): The Poseidon Adventure largely takes place on New Year's Eve, with the S.S. Poseidon hit by a tsunami and overturned even as its New Year's celebrations are taking place. Like Ocean's 11, then, this makes it very much a New Year's movie.

Sunset Boulevard (1950): Sunset Boulevard unfolds over a period of six months, but its memorable climax takes place on New Year's Eve. Of course, it's not a very happy New Year's Eve for anyone involved....

When Harry Met Sally (1989): When Harry Met Sally takes place over literally years, but its climax takes place on New Year's Eve. In fact, aside from The Apartment, it might have the most famous New Year's Eve climax of all time.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Sally Ann Howes Passes On

Sally Ann Howes, who appeared in the movies Dead of Night (1945) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1969), died on December 19 2021 at the age of 91.

Sally Ann Howes was born on July 20 1930 in St. John's Wood, London. She was the daughter of comedian Bobby Howes and actress Patricia Malone. During World War II her family moved to their house in Essendon, Hertfordshire. She appeared in school plays before making her film debut in Thursday Child (1943) as a young girl. She appeared in the film The Halfway House (1944) before appearing as Sally O'Hara as a girl attending a Christmas party that takes a turn for the macabre in Dead of Night (1945). For the remainder Sally Ann Howes appeared in such movies as Pink Sting and Sealing Wax (1945), The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1947), Anna Karenina (1948), My Sister and I (1948), The History of Mr. Polly (1949), Fools Rush In (1949), and Stop Press Girl (1949). She made her television debut in a production of Cinderella in 1950. She made her stage debut in Caprice in Glasgow in the same year.

In the Fifties Miss Howes appeared in the movies Honeymoon Deferred (1951) and The Admirable Crichton (1957). She appeared on the West End in such productions as Paint Your Wagon and A Hatful of Rain. She appeared on Broadway in My Fair Lady. She appeared on television in such productions as The Golden Year, Paint Your Wagon, and The Gift of the Magi. She guest starred on the shows Kaleidoscope, Buick-Electra Playhouse, and Sunday Showcase.

In the Sixties Sally Ann Howes appeared in the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). She guest starred on the shows Play of the Week, The United States Steel Hour, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, Run for Your Life, Journey Into Fear, Mission: Impossible, and Bracken's World. She appeared on stage in such productions as Brigadoon at New York City Center Light Opera Company, My Fair Lady at the Melody Top Theatre in Chicago, and Camelot at the Muny in St. Louis.

In the Seventies Sally Ann Howes guest starred on the shows The Virginian and Marcus Welby, M.D. She appeared in the TV movie The Hound of the Baskervilles. She appeared in the movie Death Ship (1980). For the remainder of her career Sally Ann Howes appeared almost exclusively on stage, in such productions as The Sound of Music at the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera in 1972, a British tour of The King and I in 1973, Hamlet at the Gardner Centre Theatre in Brighton in 1983, A Little Night Music at the Lincoln Center in 1992, and an American tour of My Fair Lady in 2008. She only appeared on television two more times, once when Live from Lincoln Center broadcast A Little Night Music in 1990 and two guest appearance on Secrets in 1992.

I have to think the majority of people will remember Sally Ann Howes as Truly Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and with her beautiful voice she was certainly suited to the role. That having been said, Miss Howes had a long career on stage and appeared in movies other than Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. In fact, I don't think I'm alone when my favourite role she played was Sally in Dead of Night. As a young teenager she gave a remarkable performance. She also gave solid performances on her various guest appearances on TV shows. For instance, on Mission: Impossible she played an agent for the Impossible Missions Force who must pose as a baroness and Phelps's wife. She was a remarkable actress with a good deal of talent.