Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Olga San Juan, the Puerto Rican Pepper Pot

Before Héctor Elizondo and Raul Julia, even before Rita Moreno, there was Olga San Juan. Olga San Juan was one of the earliest Puerto Rican stars to appear in American movies. What is more, she was a true triple threat. She could sing, she could dance, and she could act. When Olga San Juan appeared in a movie, one couldn't help but take notice of her.

Olga San Juan was born on March 16 1927 in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Her father was Luis San Juan, a World War I whose regiment guarded the Panama Canal. After the war he returned to Puerto Rico and got married. He and his wife Mercedes later moved to New York City. The family moved back to Puerto Rico when Olga San Juan was three. When she was five they moved to Spanish Harlem in New York City. Olga San Juan's talent manifested when she was still very young. She began taking dance lessons when she was only three years old When she was was only eleven when she and other schoolchildren performed for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the White House. Growing up she was part of a Puerto Rican children's club called Infancia Hispania, of which future musician and bandleader Tito Puente was also a member. Olga San Juan and Tito Puente's mother would put together shows for the children to perform.

Olga San Juan's father fell ill when she was in the ninth grade, and she was forced to leave high school to pursue work. She found it performing at at such places as the Hotel Astor and the El Morocco. She was only sixteen when she became a "Copa Girl" at the famed Copacabana. She eventually formed her own act, Olga San Juan and Her Rumba Band. She caught the eye of Paramount Pictures, who signed her to a contract in 1943. Olga San Juan made her film debut in the short subject "Caribbean Romance" in 1943. She made her feature film debut the following year in a small role in Rainbow Island (1944). She had the lead role in the short "Bombalera" (1945), where she was dubbed "the Cuban Cyclone" despite being Puerto Rican. "Bombalera" was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Two-reel.

Olga San Juan appeared in the movie adaptation of the popular radio show Duffy's Tavern (1945) before appearing in what could be considered her breakthrough role. Blue Skies (1946) starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Olga San Juan played nightclub singer Nita Nova, and there was no way anyone could not take notice of her in the film. She performed the number "You'd Be Surprised," as well as the duet "I'll See You in C-U-B-A" with Bing Crosby. She performed the song "Heat Wave," during which she also danced with Fred Astaire.

Miss San Juan followed Blue Skies as one of the leads in the film Variety Girl (1947), in which she performed the song "He Can Waltz." She also has what may be the best scene in the film, in which she causes a ruckus in a restaurant to draw attention to herself. In Are You With It? (1948) she played the female lead opposite Donald O'Connor. In the movie she got to perform the numbers "Daddy, Surprise Me" and I'm Looking for a Prince of a Fella."  Olga San Juan would also have significant roles in One Touch of Venus (1948), The Countess of Monte Cristo (1948) and The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend (1949). In One Touch of Venus she performed "Don't Look Now My Heart is Showing" and "That's Him." In "The Countess of Monte Cristo" she performed "Count Your Blessings," "Who Believes in Santa Claus," and "The Friendly Polka." Surprisingly, she had no songs in The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend.

Like other musical comedy stars, such as Ann Miller, Betty Grable, and Rita Hayworth, Olga San Juan was a popular pinup girl. Given her looks, this should come as no  surprise. Even a cursory search on Google Images reveals that Miss San Juan did pinup pictures for such holidays as Christmas, New Year's Day, Halloween, and even St. Patrick's Day. Of course, what set Olga San Juan apart from other pinup girls is that she was Puerto Rican. Quite simply, she was one of the first Latina pinups, not to mention one of the earliest Latina sex symbols.

Olga San Juan also appeared on radio in the Forties and Fifties. She appeared on both Command Performance and Lux Radio Theatre. In 1951 she guest starred on Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.

Sadly, The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend would be Olga San Juan's last appearance in a major motion picture. Following her marriage to Edmond O'Brien in 1948, she largely retired from movies. That is not to say that Miss San Juan disappeared from the public eye. She played Jennifer Rumson on Broadway in Paint Your Wagon in 1951 and 1952. She also made several appearances on television in the late Forties and in the Fifties, on the shows The Ed Wynn Show, The Peter Lind Hayes Show, The Paul Whiteman's Goodyear Revue, The Kate Smith Evening Hour, Texaco Star Theatre Starring Milton Berle, The Rosemary Clooney Show, The Lux Show, and The George Jessel Show. She made a rare dramatic appearance on television in the syndicated crime drama Johnny Midnight, on which her husband Edmond O'Brien was the star, in 1960. She made one last appearance on television in 1964 on The Mike Douglas Show.

Olga San Juan was nicknamed "the Puerto Rican Pepper Pot," and it easy to understand how she earned that nickname when seeing her on screen. In her tiny frame Olga San Juan seemed to contain an abundance of energy, not to mention a forceful personality. When combined with her incredible voice and her talent as a dancer, it was impossible to take one's eyes off her when she was on the screen.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

TCM's The Plot Thickens Season 4: Here Comes Pam

Turner Classic Movies' podcast The Plot Thickens returns on October 25 2022 with its fourth season, Here Comes Pam. This season focuses on legendary actress Pam Grier, the star of such films as Coffy (1973), Foxy Brown (1974), Friday Foster (1975), and Jackie Brown (1997).  The podcast will take a close look at her career and her life.

For the podcast Pam Grier sat down with Ben Mankiewicz for over twenty hours of interviews. In addition to Miss Grier, The Plot Thickens Season 4: Here Comes Pam will also feature interviews with her family, her friends, and those who have worked with her, including Quentin Tarantino, Gloria Steinem, Philip Bailey, Michael Schultz, and more.

Along with the launch of the fourth season of The Plot Thickens, on October 19 and October 26 2022, Turner Classic Movies will show several of Pam Grier's movies. A schedule of the films is below. All times are Central.

October 19 2022:
7:00 PM Greased Lightning (1977)
9:00 PM Friday Foster (1975)
11:00 PM Hit Man (1973)

October 26 2022:
7:00 PM Sheba Baby (1975)
9:00 PM Coffy (1973)
11:00 PM Foxy Brown (1974)

Sunday, October 2, 2022

The 60th Anniversary of Combat!

It was 60 years ago today, on October 2 1962, that the TV series Combat! debuted on ABC. That season saw the beginning of a cycle of shows set during World War II, so that Combat! was among the first shows in the Sixties set during the Second World War. It proved to be successful, receiving moderately good ratings during its network run and lasting five seasons. It would also receive a good deal of critical acclaim.

Combat! followed American solders belonging to the second platoon of K Company, which was part of 361st Regiment, as they made their way through Nazi Germany following D-Day.2nd.  Lt. Gil Hanley (Rick Jason) was the commander of the second platoon, In the pilot he was a Technical Sergeant when the 361st Regiment landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day. He was promoted to second lieutenant when the platoon's original lieutenant was killed. Sgt. Chip Saunders (Vic Morrow) was the squad leader, and close friends with Lt. Hanley. With the show from the beginning to its end were various men in the squad: Private "Caje" LeMay (Pierre Jalbert); Private William Kirby (Jack Hogan); and Private "Littlejohn" (Dick Peabody). Their original medic was Doc Walton (Steven Rogers), who disappeared without explanation after the first season. He was replaced by Doc (Conlan Carter), whose full name was never given. He remained with the show for the rest of its run. Private Billy Nelson (Tom Lowell) and Private Braddock (played by comedian Shecky Greene) were only on the show in its first season.

The Fifties saw a start of a prolonged cycle towards World War II that would last into the Seventies. It should then come as no surprise that the 1962/1963 season saw the start of a cycle towards TV shows about World War II with three different shows set during World War II debuting that season. The Gallant Men debuted only a few days after Combat! and centred on American soldiers fighting in Italy during the Second World War. It only lasted one season. More successful was McHaley's Navy, a sitcom centred on the crew of a PT boat based in the South Pacific. It ran for four seasons. It would be the success of Combat! that would lead to other World War II dramas, including 12 O'Clock High, The Wackiest Ship in the Army, and The Rat Patrol.

Combat! was created by screenwriter Robert Pirosh. He had collaborated with George Seaton on the classic Marx Brothers movies A Night at the Opera (1935) and A Day at the Races (1937). He also contributed to the musical comedy Song of the Islands (1942), the comedy Rings on Her Fingers (1942), and the classic I Married a Witch (1942). During World War II he served with the 320th Regiment, 35th Infantry Division as a Master Sergeant. He served in both the Ardennes and Rhineland campaigns. It was perhaps because of his service during World War II that following the war his focus shifted from comedies to more serious works. In 1949 his screenplay for the movie Battleground won the Academy Award for Best Story and Screenplay. He would revisit World War II with the movies Go for Broke! (1951) and  Hell is for Heroes (1962). Robert Pirosh's World War II movies are noted for their realism, and for portraying soldiers as vulnerable human beings rather than cardboard heroes.

It was not long after he finished Hell is for Heroes that Robert Pirosh approached producer Selig Seligman with the idea for a television series to be called Men in Combat that follow a squad of soldiers from D-Day to the liberation of Paris. Like his movies, Men in Combat would offer a realistic depiction of war and would feature soldiers who were often vulnerable and sometimes even questioned what they were asked to do. Selig Seligman would become the show's executive producer.

ABC approved a pilot for the prospective series. The pilot, "A Day in June," was shot in December 1961. By that time  the prospective new show was being referred to as Combat Platoon in the press. It was in April that ABC announced it had picked up the new show, now titled Combat!.

Unfortunately, Robert Pirosh would not remain with the show he created. Neither of the show's two leads, Rick Jason and Vic Morrow, particularly cared for Mr. Pirosh's pilot. Vic Morrow disliked it so much that he actually considered leaving the show before it had even begun. It following the shooting of the pilot and ABC picking up Combat! that executive producer Selig Seligman fired Robert Pirosh as the show's producer and replaced him with Robert Blees. A few other changes were also made, including dropping some of the characters.

Combat! debuted to largely positive reviews. Combat! also did relatively well in the ratings. While it did not make the top thirty shows for the year in its first two seasons, in its third season it was the 10th highest rated show for the year. Combat! never did quite so well again, but it would run for another two years.

Much of the success of Combat! was perhaps its emphasis on realism. Before the series began filming, executive producer Selig Seligman actually had the cast go through a week of basic training at the Army's Infantry Training Center at Fort Ord in northern California. Selig Seligman made a request to the United States Army that they assign a technical advisor to Combat!. Preferably, Mr. Seligman wanted someone who had be at D-Day. The Army Maj. Homer Jones as the show's technical advisor. He had served with the 82nd Airborne's 508th Parachute Infantry and was a veteran of D-Day. Great care was taken to sure that every American and German uniform featured on the show was accurate to the era. For the most part whenever German soldiers spoke to each other, it was in German.

Beyond the accuracy with which Combat! portrayed World War II, Combat! was not so much an action show as it was a show that examined the human condition through the lens of World War II. The soldiers on the show were portrayed as human beings, subject to human frailties and sometimes wrestling with questions regarding morals and ethics.  The debut episode, "Forgotten Front," had the squad having to interrogate a German soldier who was already questioning his own loyalties. "The Celebrity" involved a professional baseball player turned soldier who freezes during combat. In "The Wounded Don't Cry," Sgt. Saunders finds himself in an uneasy alliance with a German soldier as they must travel to get plasma for a German field hospital in a French village. In point of view, Sgt. Saunders faced court martial.

In addition to quality writing, Combat! also benefited from superior direction. Before the show began filming, Robert Altman, who would later establish a name for himself in feature films, was hired to direct every other episode of the first season. Ted Post, another veteran television director who would go onto feature films, also directed several episodes. Burt Kennedy, who had already written several Westerns and would establish himself as a director in the genre, also directed many episodes of Combat!. It also benefited from both good cinematography and good editing. Robert B. Hauser, the director of photography on Combat! during its first season, was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography for Television. William Mace was nominated for the American Cinema Editors Award for Best Edited Television Program for the episode "Escape to Nowhere."

The success of Combat! did lead to some merchandising. In 1963 Ideal Toy Company produced a Combat! board game. In 1964 Whitman Publishing produced a young adult novel titled Combat! The Counterattack by Francis M. Davis. There were also three tie-in novels written by Harold Cain and published by Lancer Publishing. The three novels (Combat! in 1963, Combat!: Men Not Heroes also in 1963,  and Combat!: No Rest for Heroes in 1965) were not particularly loyal to the TV series.

After five seasons on the air, ABC cancelled Combat! in the spring of 1967. While Combat! would no longer air on the network, that would not mean that ABC would be without an hour-long, World War II drama for the 1967-1968 season. Garrison's Gorillas was also produced by Selig Seligman's Selmur Productions. In fact, the unaired pilot of Garrison's Gorillas was aired as an episode of Combat!, with Lt. Hanley introducing a group of commandos. If Garrison's Gorillas had not sold, the pilot could then air as an episode of Combat!. As it turned out, Garrison's Gorillas would not see the success that Combat! had. It ran for only one season.

Following its network run, Combat! entered syndication. It proved to be successful, not only in the United States, but as far afield as Australia, Brazil, Canada, Greece, Peru, South Korea, and yet other countries. Over the years it has aired on such television venues as Encore Action and MeTV. Since 2020 it has aired on the Heroes & Icons channel.

Lasting five seasons, Combat! was American television's longest running World War II drama. As mentioned earlier, it was largely the success of Combat! that led to a cycle of World War II shows (both comedies and dramas) during the Sixties. Had Combat!not been a success, it is very possible that 12 O'Clock High, The Wackiest Ship in the Army, The Rat Patrol, and Garrison's Gorillas might never had made it to the air. Combat! has also been cited as an influence by both director Steven Spielberg and actor/director Tom Hanks, and the show even had an impact on Steven Spielberg's movie Saving Private Ryan (1998). At a time when escapism was in fashion on television, Combat! offered an authentic look at World War II and emphasis on its characters. Unlike other TV shows and movies of the era, it certainly did not romanticize the war. Sixty years after its debut, Combat! stands as an extraordinary achievement on television.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

"How Can I Wait" by Olga San Juan

I was planning to do a post on Olga San Juan today, but I find myself suffering from some sort of early autumn cold. For now then, I will leave you with Olga San Juan performing "How Can I Wait?" from Paint Your Wagon. Olga San Juan played Jennifer Rumson in the Broadway show from its premiere on November 12 1951 to July 19 1952.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Cheers Turns 40

It was 40 years ago today, on September 30 1982, the classic sitcom Cheers debuted in NBC. Debuting to low ratings, it became one of the most successful shows of the Eighties. Except for its first two seasons, it ranked in the top twenty for each season. For its seven seasons it ranked in the top ten. Following its original network run, it would see enormous success as a syndicated rerun. It is still seen today on local stations and cable channels.

Cheers centred on the bar of the same name, located in Boston. Its owner was Sam Malone (Ted Danson), a former Major League baseball player who was also a womanizer. At the beginning of the show he hired a new waitress, Diane Chambers (Shelley Long) a graduate student attending Boston University who eventually has an on-again/off again relationship with Sam. Coach (Nicolas Colasanto) was a retired baseball coach and a bartender at Cheers who was apparently in the early stages of dementia. Carla Tortelli (Rhea Pearlman) was a  long time waitress at Cheers and the mother of five children known for not always being polite to customers. Norm (George Wendt) was one of Cheers's regulars and an accountant who is only occasionally employed. Joining the cast very early was Cliff (John Ratzenberger), another regular at Cheer and a postman who thinks he knows everything. Over the years there would be a few changes to the cast, with some characters leaving and other characters joining the cast.

Cheers was created by brothers Glen and Les Charles and James Burrows. The Charles brothers had written for such shows as The Bob Newhart Show and M*A*S*H. James Burrows had directed episodes of the shows The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart Show. Initially the three men conceived of something along the lines of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, in which a group of co-workers behave as if they were family. They considered an American version of British sitcom Fawlty Towers, but then changed their idea to a bar, whereupon they drew upon the classic radio show Duffy's Tavern for inspiration. Different cities were considered for the location of the bar, including Barstow, California and Kansas City, Missouri. Eventually they decided to set their planned show on the East Coast and settled upon the location of Boston. They found the Bull & Finch Pub in a Boston phone book and asked the owner, Tom Kershaw, if they could shoot photos of the exterior and the interior for the show. Mr. Kershaw charged the producers only $1. The Bull & Finch Pub has since made a good deal of money from being the real-life bar upon which Cheers was modelled.

Initially the character of Sam Malone was to be a former football player and former NFL player Fred Dryer was considered for the role. The part eventually went to Ted Danson, who had more experience as an actor, having appeared in soap operas and several guest appearances on prime time shows. With the casting of Ted Danson, Sam was then made a former baseball player, the producers feeling that would be more believable than having Sam a former player in the NFL. Shelly Long, who had already appeared in the movies Caveman (1981) and Night Shift (1982), and had been recommended by others to the producers. The character of Cliff was created after John Ratzenberger had auditioned for the part of Norm, which went to George Wendt. After the audition John Ratzenberger asked the producers if they planned to have a bar "know-it-all," something common to most bars. As a result, Cliff Clavin was created.

Cheers debuted to low ratings. Its debut episode ranked 77 out of 100 shows in the Nielsen ratings for the week. Over the coming weeks, ratings did not rise particularly well either. Fortunately, Brandon Tartikoff, then president of NBC, saw something in the show and protected it from cancellation. The ratings for Cheers rose during the summer and it ultimately ranked no. 74 for the year. Its ratings improved immensely in its second season, so that it ranked no. 34 for the season. Its ratings would rise more in its third season, when it came in at no. 13 for the year. By its fourth season Cheers was one of the most popular shows on the air. It ranked no. 5 that season and would remain in the top ten for the rest of its run.

Over its eleven seasons, Cheers would evolve. The early seasons centred a good deal on the relationship between Sam and Diane, which modelled largely after the relationship between characters played by Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in their movies. Over time Cheers became more of a ensemble show, with more and more episodes centring around Carla, Norm, Cliff, and other characters.

For a show that ran eleven years, Cheers had a surprisingly stable cast, with few of the original actors departing. It was following the third season that Nicholas Colasanto died due to his heart condition. Woody Harrelson was then introduced as Woody Boyd, the bartender who replaced Coach. Woody was a naive and none-too-bright Midwesterner. It was following the fifth season that Shelley Long left Cheers to pursue other projects. Diane was written out of the show as having left Boston. It was with the sixth season that the character of Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley) was introduced. A corporation had bought Cheers from Sam and Rebecca was its new manager. Once Sam regained control of Cheers, Rebecca would remain, first as a waitress and then once more as its manager.

It was during the third season that one major character would be introduced to the show. Originally psychiatrist Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) was a recurring character and a love interest for Diane. In the fourth season Diane dumped Frasier at the altar, after which he became a regular at Cheers. It was with the fifth season that Frasier became part of the main cast.

As successful as Cheers was, it should be no surprise that the show would produce spin-offs. Nick Tortelli (Dan Hedaya) was Carla's ex-husband and a recurring character on Cheers early in its run. He had married again, this time to Loretta (Jean Kasem). They were eventually spun-off into their own show, The Tortellis. On The Tortellis, Nick and Loretta are now in Las Vegas. The Tortellis would not prove successful, running for only 13 episodes. After the cancellation of The Tortellis the characters would once more appear on Cheers.

While The Tortellis failed, the second spin-off of Cheers, Frasier, was nearly as successful as the original show. Indeed, it also ran for eleven seasons. On Frasier, Frasier Crane had returned to his hometown of Seattle, where he became a local radio host. He moves in with his elderly father (John Mahoney), His younger brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce) was also a psychiatrist. Daphne Moon (Jane Leeves) was Frasier's father Martin's live-in caretaker, with whom Niles was in love. Roz Doyle (Peri iGilpin) was the producer of Frasier's radio show. Except for Rebecca, every single remaining character from Cheers would appear on Frasier on one time or another.

While Wings was not a spinoff of Cheers, the two shows seemed to exist in a shared universe. Wings was created by Cheers veterans  David Angell, Peter Casey and David Lee. Cliff and Norm as well as Frasier and his wife Lilith appeared in episodes of Wings, while Rebecca had a cameo in yet another episode. St. Elsewhere also appears to exist in the same shared universe. In the St. Elsewhere episode "Cheers," Westphall, Craig, and Auschlander visit Cheers, which is apparently only manned by Carla at the time. As might be expected, Norm and Cliff are there.

After eleven seasons, Ted Danson decided it was time to move onto other things. Rather than continue the show without Sam, the production team then decided to bring the show to an end. Given Cheers had run eleven years and was still a high rated show, NBC then pulled out all the stops for the series finale. A whole night was dedicated to "One for the Road," the final episode of the show. In addition to the episode itself, NBC aired a retrospective of the show. Following the episode the network aired an interview with the cast by Jay Leno. As might be expected, "One for the Road" was very successful in the Nielsen ratings, with  a 64 or 62 share. It is currently the third highest rated series finale after all time, after the M*A*S*H finale "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" and The Fugitive finale "The Judgement Part 2." It remains the fourth highest episode of an American television, after the M*A*S*H, after the M*A*S*H finale, the Dallas episode "Who Done It," and the Fugitive finale.

As mentioned earlier, Cheers would go onto a highly successful run as a syndicated rerun and can still be found in syndication on local stations and cable channels. All eleven seasons have been released on DVD. The entire run of the show is also available on several streaming services.

Throughout its run Cheers earned 111 Emmy nominations, with 28 wins.

The success of Cheers can largely be chalked up to its characters. Its creators had set out to create a show about a group of co-workers who interact like a family. Ultimately, they created a show about a group of co-workers and their customers who interact as a family. Much like such shows as The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show before it, Cheers centred on a close-knit group of friends with who the average person could identify. In many ways the show was summed up by the title of its theme song, "Where Everybody Knows Your Name."

When it came to sitcoms, Cheers was also a bit of a pioneer. It was its third season that Cheers began using serialized storylines, with story arcs that would last through several episodes. It was also with that season that Cheers began using season finale cliffhangers. There had certainly been shows that had used serialized story lines before (The Beverly Hillbillies being one), but Cheers was still among the earliest. As to cliffhangers, very few sitcoms prior to Cheers had ever used them. If many of today's sitcoms are serialized today, it is largely because of the success of Cheers.

Cheers was one of the most successful shows of the Eighties and ultimately one of the most successful shows of all time. It remains widely available, both in syndication and on streaming services. It is one of those very few shows that has maintained its popularity for forty years. It is safe to say it will still be popular in another forty.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Turner Classic Movies Remembers the Hollywood Blacklist This October

It was not long after World War II that the period known as the Second Red Scare began in the United States. It was a time of widespread fear of the infiltration of American society by Communism and other leftist ideologies. It was only a matter of time before right-wing, anti-Communist ideologues turned their eyes towards Hollywood. It was on July 29 1946 that William R. Wilkerson, founder and publisher of The Hollywood Reporter, published a column naming several "Communist sympathizers" in the film industry (among them screenwriters Dalton Trumbo, Howard Koch, and Ring Lardner Jr.). It was in October 1947 that  the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) subpoenaed several figures from the film industry to testify at hearings regarding Communist infiltration of Hollywood. It was the beginning of the Hollywood Blacklist, a blacklist that denied employment to any actors, directors, writers, and other entertainment professionals perceived as being Communists, Communist sympathizers, or just too far to the left. Ultimately the Hollywood Blacklist, as well as the red baiting that occurred throughout the era, was not about punishing actual Communists. Legendary actress Marsha Hunt, who found herself blacklisted, said of the Blacklist, "But then I was told, once I was blacklisted, you see, I was an articulate liberal, and that was bad. I was told that in fact it wasn’t really about communism — that was the thing that frightened everybody — it was about control and about power."

This October Turner Classic Movies is observing the 75th anniversary of the Hollywood Blacklist the last three Wednesdays of October (October 13, October 20, and October 27). On October 13 TCM will debut the documentary High Noon on the Waterfront (2022). TCM describes the documentary as, " inventive remembrance of the impact of the Hollywood Blacklist on two American classics, High Noon (1952) and On the Waterfront (1954), rendered as a visually mesmerizing dialogue between Carl Foreman (voiced by Edward Norton) and Elia Kazan (voiced by John Turturro)." Each Wednesday TCM will show the works of those affected by the Hollywood Blacklist as well as movies about the Blacklist, including: High Noon (1952), directed by Carl Foreman; On the Waterfront (1954), directed by Elia Kazan; the documentary Marsha Hunt's Sweet Adversity (2015); Salt of the Earth (1954), directed by Herbert Biberman; and others.

Below is a schedule the movies TCM is showing in observation of the 75th anniversary of the Hollywood Blacklist. All times are Central.

Wednesday, October 13:
7:00 PM High Noon on the Waterfront (2022)
7:30 PM High Noon (1952)
9:00 PM High Noon on the Waterfront (2022)
9:30 PM On the Waterfront (1954)
11:30 PM High Noon on the Waterfront (2022)

Thursday, October 14:
12:00 AM Marsha Hunt's Sweet Adversity (2015)
2:00 PM Carnegie Hall (1947)

Wednesday, October 20:
7:00 PM Salt of the Earth (1954)
9:00 PM A King in New York (1957)
11:00 PM The Brave One (1956)

Thursday, October 21:
1:00 AM Time Without Pity (1957)
2:30 AM The Boy with Green Hair (1948)

Wednesday, October 27:
7:00 PM The Way We Were (1973)
9:15 The Front (1976)
11:00 PM The Majestic (2001)

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Viva Hollywood: The Legacy of Latin and Hispanic Artists in American Film by Luis I. Reyes

Both in front of the camera and behind the scenes, Latinos have been a part of the film industry from the beginning. Unfortunately, representation of Latinos in Hollywood has never been particularly good. Worse yet, often their contributions to the history of American film have gone unrecognized. Even today, representation of Latinos in film and television remains low. According to UCLA's Hollywood Diversity Report from 2021, Latinos only accounted for 7.1% of lead roles and 7,7% of all roles.

Viva Hollywood: The Legacy of Latin and Hispanic Artists in American Film by Luis I. Reyes is a comprehensive history of the stars, artists, movies, achievements, and impact of the Latino and Hispanic communities in the history of American film. Luis I. Reyes may be familiar to many classic movie fans as the author of the 1995 book Hispanics in Hollywood and Made in Mexico: Hollywood South of the Border. He has also served as a unit publicist on such films as Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985), American Me (1992), and My Family (1995) and the TV movies The Josephine Baker Story and The Cisco Kid. Viva Hollywood: The Legacy of Latin and Hispanic Artists in American Film includes a foreword by Jimmy Smits, who has starred in such films as Old Gringo (1989), My Family (1995), and three Stars Wars movies, as well as such TV shows as L.A. Law, NYPD Blue, and The West Wing.

The focus of Viva Hollywood: The Legacy of Latin and Hispanic Artists in American Film is on the stars and artists behind the scenes who contributed to Hollywood history. It covers a span from the very beginnings of Hollywood cinema to the present day. As might be expected, it touches upon the major Latino and Hispanic stars in movie history, from such legends as Antonio Moreno and Gilbert Roland during the Silent Era, Lupe Vélez, Cesar Romero, Maria Montez, and Pedro Armendáriz from the Golden Age of Hollywood, and Rita Moreno, Raquel Welch, Raul Julia, and Andy Garcia from later eras. What sets Viva Hollywood: The Legacy of Latin and Hispanic Artists in American Film apart from other books is that Luis I. Reyes not only covers famous Latino and Hispanic actors, but also musicians, screenwriters, directors, and other artists. Mr. Reyes has extensive write ups on such legends as pianist José Iturbi, bandleader Xavier Cugat, and director Robert Ramirez. A whole chapter is dedicated to Latino and Hispanics' contributions to some of the greatest films ever made, including sculptor Marcel Delgado and matte painter Mario Larrinaga's contributions to King Kong (1933); Francisco "Chico: Day's contributions as first assistant director to The Ten Commandments (1956); and choreographer Alex Romero's contributions to Jailhouse Rock (1957), among others. Viva Hollywood: The Legacy of Latin and Hispanic Artists in American Film mentions a large number of movies important in the history of Latinos in Hollywood, including the "Mexican Spitfire" series, Border Incident (1949), The Ring (1957), Zoot Suit (1981), and Stand and Deliver (1988).

Luis L. Reyes recognizes that films are not made in a vacuum, and as a result he addresses some of the historic events that would have an impact on Latinos and Hispanics in film. He devotes a good deal of space to such history as World War II, the Zoot Suit Riots, the Good Neighbour policy, and  the Chicano Movement. Not only can the reader learn a good deal about the history of Latinos and Hispanics in film, but the over all history of Latinos in the United States since the advent of film.

Viva Hollywood: The Legacy of Latin and Hispanic Artists in American Film also happens to be a very attractive book. It has a beautiful red dust jacket featuring Latino and Hispanic screen legends prominently. The interior of the book is also attractive, and features several photos throughout. Amanda Richmond designed both the book's cover and interior, and she is to be commended for a job well done.

Viva Hollywood: The Legacy of Latin and Hispanic Artists in American Film is also very easy to read. Luis I. Reyes writes in a concise, yet readable style that allows him to pack a good deal of information in a relatively small space. What is more, he spares no details. Not only will those new to classic film and particularly those new to the history of Latinos and Hispanics in classic films learn some things, but so too will those of us who already know a good deal about Latino and Hispanic film history.

Over the years Turner Classic Movies and Running Press have published many fine volumes on various aspects of film history, and Viva Hollywood: The Legacy of Latin and Hispanic Artists in American Film is one of their best. It is an in-depth, comprehensive, and loving look at the history of Latinos and Hispanics in classic American films. It will certainly be a welcome addition to any classic film buff's library.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Hammer Horrors on Turner Classic Movies in October 2022

If there is one month that fans of classic horror movies look forward to more than any other, it may well be October. Much of the reason for this is because every October Turner Classic Movies shows a wide swathe of horror classics. And among those horror classics TCM shows each October, one is guaranteed to see several produced by legendary studio Hammer Film Productions Ltd. From The Curse of Frankenstein in 1957 to To the Devil a Daughter in 1976, Hammer released several horror movies now considered classics. For my fellow Hammer Films fans, then, here is a schedule of when TCM will be showing the classic Hammer Horrors. All time are Central.

Monday, October 3 2022
11:15 AM The Witches (1966--also known as The Devil's Own)

Monday, October 10 2022
5:00 AM Quatermass and the Pit (1967--also known as Five Million Years to Earth)

Tuesday, October 25 2022
8:00 AM Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1965)
11:30 AM Rasputin the Mad Monk (1966)
3:00 PM Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)
4:45 PM The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)

Monday, October 31 2022
10:30 AM The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
12:30 PM The Mummy (1959)
2:00 PM The Devil Rides Out (1968--also known as The Devil's Bride)
3:45 PM Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)
5:30 PM Plague of the Zombies (1966)

Monday, September 26, 2022

The 60th Anniversary of The Beverly Hillbillies

The Beverly Hillbillies debuted sixty years ago today, on September 26 1962, on CBS. It proved to be a hit immediately after its debut and has remained popular ever since. After ending its run in 1971, The Beverly Hillbillies went onto a highly successful run in syndication. Over the years it has aired on such cable channels as TBS, Nick at Nite, TV Land, WGN, and The Hallmark Channel. It can still be seen on such outlets MeTV, Circle, Classic Reruns TV, GAC Family, and ZLiving. While most people probably realize that The Beverly Hillbillies has always been a popular show, what many may not realize that it is also one of the most successful TV shows of all time.

The Beverly Hillbillies centred on a hillbilly family who moved from the Ozarks to Beverly Hills after their patriarch, Jed Clampett (Buddy Ebsen), found oil on his land. Although collectively known as "the Clampetts," they were not a traditional nuclear family as usually seen on television at the time. In fact, aside from Jed himself, only his daughter Elly May (Donna Douglas) shared the last name "Clampett." Elly May was a tomboy skilled in hunting, climbing trees, and even wrestling, who loved animals. Moving to Beverly Hills with Jed and Elly May was Jed's mother in law, Granny. Granny's full-name was Daisy Moses and while the rest of the family appear to have come from the Ozarks, Granny came from Tennessee. Granny brewed moonshine, which she claimed was for medicinal purposes, and took great pride in being an M.D. ("Mountain Doctor").  Since Jed, Elly May, and Granny couldn't drive, it was Elly May's cousin Jethro Bodine (Max Baer Jr.) who drove them to Beverly Hills in an ancient truck. Jethro was not very bright, but fancied himself as being intelligent (he was proud of his "sixth grade education"). Pearl Bodine (Bea Benaderat), was Jethro's mother and Jed's cousin, who often came into conflict with Granny. Jed kept his money in the Commerce Bank of Beverly Bills, of which Milburn Drysdale (Raymond Bailey) was president. Mr. Drydsale was consumed by his love of money, and would do nearly anything to keep the Clampetts' money in his bank. He even moved the Clampetts next door to him, something that did not sit well with is blueblood wife, Margaret Drysdale (Harriet McGibbon). Mr. Drysdale's secretary, Jane Hathaway (Nancy Kulp) acted as a voice of reason to Mr. Drysdale.  She frequently questioned her boss's schemes and sometimes even defied him if she thought he had gone too far. Even though she was educated at Vassar, Miss Jane (as the Clampetts called her) treated the Clampetts as equals and friends.

The Beverly Hillbillies was the creation of Paul Henning, who was a seasoned veteran of writing situation comedies at the time. He got his start in radio with a script for Fibber McGee and Molly and wound up spending 15 years with the show. He went on to work with The Burns and Allen Show on radio and made the transition with the show when it moved to television. He created The Bob Cummings Show (also known as Love That Bob), which ran for five season and saw success as a syndicated rerun.

Paul Henning not only had considerable experience with sitcoms when he created The Beverly Hillbillies, but he also has some experience with actual mountain folk. He was born and raised in Independence, Missouri. As a Boy Scout he would go on camping trips to the Ozarks where he encountered real life hillbillies. Not only had he met mountain folk in real life, but he also had some experience in writing rural humour. While at the radio station KMBC in Kansas City early in his career, he was both a writer and cast member on Happy Hollow, a show described as "a down-home program featuring traditional music, country humour, and the corn-fed wisdom of 'Uncle Ezra'." With Stanley Shapiro on both The RCA Victor Show and The Dennis Day Show, he created the character of Charley Weaver, a rural character that performer Cliff Arquette adopted for his own. He also wrote two episodes of The Real McCoys, the show that would spark the upsurge in rural comedies during the Sixties.

It was in the early Sixties that Al Simon, an executive at Filmways, approached Paul Henning about writing a pilot for them. Paul Henning drew upon his experiences with hillfolk and his love of rural humour to create what was initially titled The Hillbillies of Beverly Hills. The title was soon changed to The Beverly Hillbillies, which created some problems for the producers. Country musician Zeke Manners had a band called The Beverly Hill Billies in the Thirties that proved to be somewhat popular on radio at the time. Fortunately, the producers and Zeke Manners were able to work out a deal so that the TV show would keep its title The Beverly Hillbillies.

The Beverly Hillbillies was pitched to ABC, the home of earlier hillbilly hit The Real McCoys. ABC turned the show down. Ultimately, CBS picked the show up. Unfortunately, they scheduled it against the popular show Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall on NBC. To make matters worse, CBS gave the new show absolutely no promotion. Filmways then mounted their own promotional campaign.  Filmways produced a series of 20 to 60 second spots that started airing in 85 cities six weeks prior to the debut of the show.

As it turned out, The Beverly Hillbillies proved to be the smash hit of the 1962-1963 season. It debuted to a 28 ratings share, and its ratings simply improved from there.  By only its fourth week on the air, The Beverly Hillbillies became the no. 1 show on network television, with a phenomenal 33.7 ratings share. In the end it became the the first show in the history of television to be no. 1 for the year during its very first season (here I must point out that The $64000 Question was a summer replacement before becoming the no. 1 show for the 1955-1956 season).

The Beverly Hillbillies would remain the no. 1 show on the air in its second season. Indeed, if anything, it became even more successful, actually breaking records in the ratings with several episodes. To this day the January 8 1964 episode "The Giant Jackrabbit" remains the highest rated, half hour episode of a sitcom to this day. What is more, seven other episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies aired in late 1963 and early 1964 remain among the most watched programmes on American television for all time. The Beverly Hillbillies would not maintain such incredibly high ratings for the entirety of its run, but it still did respectably well. Ultimately it spent five of its seasons in the top ten show for the years and three in the top twenty. It was only in its final season that it failed to reach the top thirty.

While The Beverly Hillbillies debuted to phenomenal ratings, it also received some of the worst reviews for any show in the history of American television. Rick Du Brow of UPI wrote about the show, "The series aimed low and hit its target."  William K. Sarmento in The Lowell Sun commented that, "...last night’s premiere of The Beverly Hillbillies was an insult to the intelligence of the most moronic viewer," and remarked, "The show is a cross between The Real McCoys and L’il Abner." William K. Sarmento wasn't the only critic to bring up The Real McCoys in a review of The Beverly Hillbillies. Variety wrote the show off as an imitation of The Real McCoys and further wrote that it was "...painful to sit through" and "...improbable and impossible as the characters who people it."  No less than The New York Times called the show "...strained and unfunny."

Although it might have seemed so at the time, not every review of The Beverly Hillbillies was negative. Cynthia Lowry of Associated Press actually liked the show and wrote, " promises to be uninhibited and amusing if the writers remember to add enough branch water to the corn." One individual with much more intellectual clout than any television critic also genuinely liked the show. Cultural critic and writer Gilbert Seldes wrote essays on the show for both the December 15 1962 issue of TV Guide and January 5 1963 issues of The Saturday Review. He pointed out that while  the typical formula for comedy was "real people in unreal situations", the formula for comedy on The Beverly Hillbillies was "unreal people in unreal situations."

For a show that ran nine seasons, The Beverly Hillbillies saw very little change in its cast over the years. The core characters of Jed, Granny, Elly Mae, Jethro, Mr. Drysdale, and Jane Hathaway all remained with the show for the entirety of its run. The second season of the show would see one major change in its cast. During its first season Jed's cousin Pearl Bodine was a recurring character on The Beverly Hillbillies. The Beverly Hillbillies producer and creator Paul Henning had known Bea Benaderet since their days on radio working on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show (on which she played George and Gracie's neighbour Blanche Morton). He had long admired her as a comedic talent and thought that after years of playing supporting roles it was time for her to be a lead in a situation comedy. He then created the sitcom Petticoat Junction as a vehicle for Bea Benaderet. After last appearing in the first season episode, "The Psychiatrist Gets Clampetted," Pearl made one last appearance on the show in the sixth season episode "Greetings from the President" in 1967.

While the central cast of The Beverly Hillbillies would remain intact for its whole run, various recurring characters would come and go. John Brewster (Frank Wilcox), the executive of O.K. Oil Company (the company that bought the rights to the oil on Jed's land ) was a recurring character for the show's first five seasons. Elverna Bradshaw (Elvia Allman), Granny's rival from the hills, was a recurring character on the show from its first season to its eighth season. John Cushing (Roy Roberts), the president of the Commerce Bank's rival Merchants Bank, who was always trying to lure the Clampetts away to his institution, appeared on the show as a recurring character from its third to its sixth season. Dash Riprock, a handsome actor who started out as one of Elly May's suitors and became friends with the Clampetts, appeared from the show's third season to its seventh season. Dr. Roy Clyburn (Fred Clark) was Mr. Drysdale's doctor who was always trying to keep Granny from practising her mountain medicine. He was a recurring character from the show's second season to its fifth season. Late in the show's run famed character actor Percy Helton played Homer Cratchit, a bank clerk at Commerce Bank who had worked under Mr. Drysdale's father. Daneille Mardi played the recurring role of British Commerce Bank secretary Helen Thompson.

It would be another actress who played a secretary at Commerce Bank who might well be the most famous person to have a recurring role on The Beverly Hillbillies. Sharon Tate had been signed to a seven year contract with Filmways by its president Martin Rashonoff in 1963. Considered for the role of Billie Jo Bradley on Petticoat Junction, Mr. Rashonoff thought she needed more confidence and cast her in a guest appearance on the Filmways show Mister Ed and then in the role of secretary Janet Trego on The Beverly Hillbillies. Sharon Tate first appeared on The Beverly Hillbillies in the show's second season, playing a student named Mary at a school Elly May was attending. She first appeared as Janet Trego in the second season episode "Jethro's First Love." She continued to appear as Janet Trego until the show's fourth season. By that point her movie career was beginning and she no longer appeared on the show. It is to be noted that the naturally blonde Sharon Tate played Janet in a brunette wig.

One of the most unusual recurring characters to appear on The Beverly Hillbillies was Jethro's twin sister Jethrine. Jethrine was played by Max Baer Jr. in drag. While many people probably assume Max Baer Jr. played Jethrine using a falsetto voice, in reality her voice was provided by Paul Henning's daughter Linda Kaye. Linda Kaye later played Betty Jo Bradley on Petticoat Junction. Jethrine appeared in several episodes of the first season and made her last appearance in the second season episode "Christmas with the Clampetts."

There were many more recurring characters on The Beverly Hillbillies than I have listed here. Some would appear for several seasons, others for only one story arc. Of course, this was one of the ways in which The Beverly Hillbillies differed from other sitcoms of its day or sitcoms before it. Other sitcoms of the Sixties were episodic, with their plots neatly wrapped up  in one episode. The Beverly Hillbillies featured story arcs that would unfold over multiple episodes. Among the story arcs on The Beverly Hillbillies were the Clampetts inheriting a castle in England; Jethro playing Robin Hood in Griffith Park and leading a band of hippies as his "Merry Men;" Jethro opening his own talent agency on the fifth floor of the Commerce Bank building; and yet others. The Beverly Hillbillies was hardly serialized the way modern TV shows are, but it did utilize plots that would unfold over several episodes. This made it a pioneer in television, particularly with regards to sitcoms.

Another way in which The Beverly Hillbillies differed from earlier sitcoms is that on many of the domestic comedies episodes would revolve around a crisis that were neatly resolved in a half hour, often with some sort of moral to the story. On The Beverly Hillbillies often various crises would not be resolved at the end of an episode, and there was generally no moral to the story. Quite simply, on The Beverly Hillbillies the emphasis was on comedy, with no real concern to resolving the personal problems of the characters in any given episode. As Gilbert Seldes pointed out, the formula for comedy on The Beverly Hillbillies was "unreal people in unreal situations."

One more way that The Beverly Hillbillies differed from many sitcoms is that it existed in a shared universe with Petticoat Junction and Green Acres. While the Warner Bros. Westerns and detective shows of the late Fifties and early Sixties existed in a shared universe, this was something that had not been seen in sitcoms before. Hooterville, the small town that served as the setting for both Petticoat Junction and Green Acres, was first referenced in in the sixth episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, "Trick or Treat." It was during the show's seventh season that the Clampetts, as well as Mr. Drysdale and Miss Jane, actually visited Hooterville, spending both Thanksgiving and Christmas there. Afterwards Frank Cady would make a few guest appearances as Sam Drucker from Petitcoat Junction and Green Acres on The Beverly Hillbillies.  "The Clampett-Hewes Empire", that aired in the 1970-1971 season, would be the last crossover episode between The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres. Of course, since then there have been other sitcoms that have existed in shared universes (Cheers Wings, The Tortellis, and Frasier being an example).

For the most part The Beverly Hillbillies concentrated on its central cast and recurring characters rather than frequently featuring guest stars, although over the years several big names appeared on the show. Blue grass legends Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs would guest star as themselves in a few episodes. The two of them had written the show's theme song, "The Ballad of Jed Clampett." Their fictional wives on the show were played by Joi Lansing (who played Lester Flatt's wife) and Midge Ware (who played Earl Scrugg's wife). Perhaps the biggest name to appear on the show was John Wayne, who had a cameo in the fifth season episode "The Indians Are Coming." Gloria Swanson was another big name to appear on The Beverly Hillbillies, playing herself in the fifth season episode "The Gloria Swanson Story."  Julie Newmar guest starred in the fourth season episode "The Beautiful Maid," playing an actress Mr. Drysdale installed as a maid in the Clampett household so she can learn their backwoods dialect for a role (the episode aired on March 30 1966, only two weeks after she had made her debut as Catwoman on Batman). Ted Cassidy guest starred on the fifth season episode "The Dahlia Feud" as Mr. Ted, Mrs. Drysdale's nearly invulnerable gardener (even Granny's shotgun didn't phase him). Phil Silvers played shifty conman "Honest John" in the eighth season episodes "Jed Buys Central Park" and "The Clampetts in New York." Among other things, he "sold" Jed Central Park. It was in the following episode that what might have been the biggest name besides John Wayne appeared. In "Manhattan Hillbillies" Sammy Davis Jr. played a New York City police officer. Sammy Davis Jr. was friends with Dick Wesson, who wrote several episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies from its first season to its last.

Another famous face appeared in the pilot of The Beverly Hillbillies. Robert Osborne, the film historian who worked for The Hollywood Reporter and gained everlasting fame as the first host of Turner Classic Movies, had at one time been an actor. In the pilot for The Beverly Hillbillies Robert Osborne played Mr. Drysdale's young assistant, Jeff Taylor. He was offered a regular role on the show, but turned it down thinking that the pilot would never sell.

As might be expected of a show that became a smash it nearly upon its debut, there was some Beverly Hillbillies merchandise on the shelves in the Sixties. Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs released "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" as a single and it went to no. 1 on the Billboard Country chart and no. 44 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 1963 a soundtrack album for the TV series was released, with the cast performing in character. In 1966 Irene Ryan released a single as Granny entitled "Granny's Mini-skirt." Standard Toycraft put out a Beverly Hillbillies board game, while Milton Bradley put out a Beverly Hillbillies card game. Aladdin manufactured a Beverly Hillbillies lunchbox with a Thermos. In 1963 Ben Cooper released Halloween costumes based on The Beverly Hillbillies Later, in the late Sixties and early Seventies, Halco would put out their own Halloween costumes based on the show. Dell Comics published several issues of a Beverly Hillbillies comic book from 1963 to 1971.

As mentioned earlier, The Beverly Hillbillies did very well in the ratings. It ranked no. 1 for the year in its first two seasons, and spent five years in the top ten and another three in the top twenty. It was only with its ninth and final season that it failed to make the top thirty of the Nielsen ratings for the year. Much of the reason the show might have fallen in the ratings may have been the fact that CBS moved it from its long time Wednesday time slot to a new time slot on Tuesday. There it faced strong competition from The Mod Squad. While the ratings for The Beverly Hillbillies had dropped, they were still high enough that any other season it might have been renewed. Unfortunately, the 1970-1971 season was the year of the Rural Purge.

As early as 1967 CBS was concerned about its ageing and largely rural audience. At the time it was reported that CBS wanted to redo its schedule to better compete with NBC for the younger, 18-49 year old demographic desired by Madison Avenue. It was in 1969 that Robert D. Wood became president of CBS. He was concerned with both the network's falling ratings (although it was still no. 1 each season) and concerned that it was not attracting younger viewers. It was in June 1970 he appointed Fred Silverman as Vice President, Programs, essentially the head of CBS's programming department. It would be Fred Silverman who hit upon improving the network's fortunes by cancelling nearly every single show that appealed to an older, rural audience at once.

Of course, much of the impetus for the Rural Purge was not simply making CBS better able to compete with NBC for younger viewers, but also the fact that the Prime Time Access Rule was going into effect at the start of the 1971-1972 season. The Prime Time Access Rule cut several hours from the networks' prime time schedules each week. The FCC had enacted the Prime Time Access Rule out of concerns over the amount of control the networks exerted over the production and distribution of television shows. The FCC hoped that the rule would create more diverse programming on local stations by letting them air different sorts of shows in time slots that once belonged the networks. Regardless, because of the Prime Time Access Rule, the networks had to cancel many more TV shows than they ever had before. In the case of CBS, the network used it as a chance to get rid of shows that appealed to rural audiences and older audiences in hopes of attracting younger viewers.

It was with its ninth season that The Beverly Hillbillies was cancelled, although it might well have been renewed any other season. Green Acres, Mayberry R.F.D., and the variety show Hee Haw were also cancelled. The latter two shows ranked in the top twenty for the year, making them among the highest rated shows ever cancelled. The Beverly Hillbillies had been the smash hit of the 1962-1963 season. It ended its run cancelled en masse with several other shows.

The Beverly Hillbillies was gone, but hardly forgotten. From  the late Seventies into the Eighties, TV reunion movies were popular on American broadcast television. With the continued popularity of The Beverly Hillbillies it was perhaps inevitable that there would be a TV reunion movie. That TV movie, Return of The Beverly Hillbillies, aired on October 6 1981. Irene Ryan had died in 1973 and Raymond Bailey in 1980, so Granny and Mr. Drysdale were noticeably absent from the reunion movie. Max Baer Jr., who had been typecast as Jethro, did not want to return for the reunion movie and so Ray Young played the role. While The Beverly Hillbillies had become much more highly regarded than it had upon its debut, Return of the Beverly Hillbillies received bad reviews from critics and received mediocre ratings. Even fans were not too happy with the TV reunion movie.

In 1993 CBS aired a retrospective of The Beverly Hillbillies, The Legend of the Beverly Hillbillies. Buddy Epsen, Donna Douglas, and Max Baer Jr. reunited for the special. The special proved successful, ranking fourth in the Nielsen ratings for the week. Interestingly enough, The Legend of the Beverly Hillbillies treated the 1981 TV reunion movie as if it has never happened.

That same year a feature film based on the TV show was released. The Beverly Hillbillies (1993) starred Jim Varney as Jed, Cloris Leachman as Granny, Erika Eliniak as Elly Mae, Dabney Coleman as Mr. Drysdale, and Lily Tomlin as Jane Hathway. The movie was released to abysmal reviews. It also did poorly at the box office. Perhaps audiences did not appreciate a beloved sitcom being resurrected as a film with 1990s humour, some of which could be considered offensive (it is inconceivable that the Clampetts, or any real residents of the Ozarks, would eat "roadkill stew").

Today The Beverly Hillbillies can still be seen on various television outlets and is available on streaming services. The show that many critics in 1962 thought was insulting to the intelligence of audiences is now regarded as a classic. Quite simply, many critics in 1962 did not seem to grasp that The Beverly Hillbillies was different from anything before it. As mentioned earlier, it threw the standard, domestic comedy format of episodes whereby crises would be neatly resolved in a half hour out the window. Not only were situations in many episodes left unresolved at the end, but the comedy in The Beverly Hillbillies was often so broad that it could be considered absurdist. The show certainly had no pretence towards realism.

Beyond the fact that the comedy of The Beverly Hillbillies was extremely broad, it also differed from its contemporaries (not to mention earlier sitcoms) in that it acted as a social satire. The honest, hard working Clampetts were often contrasted with the often hypocritical city folk of Beverly Hills and Los Angeles. While the show served as an attack on the upper class of Beverly Hills, it also acknowledged the changes in society throughout the Sixties. Over its seasons it spoofed Hollywood, beatniks, dance crazes, the spy craze, the counterculture (to which it was somewhat sympathetic), the student movement, feminism, environmentalism, jogging, and the growing interest in Eastern religions. While The Beverly Hillbillies never addressed the Vietnam War or the anti-war movement, it did acknowledge that the world around the Clampetts was changing, which was more than many of the sitcoms of the era did.

The Beverly Hillbillies' influence would be seen in future "fish out of the water" comedies, including sister show Green Acres, Newhart, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, The Nanny, and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Derided by critics upon its debut, it became phenomenally successful with episodes still ranking among the most watched of all time. While it never reached those heights of success ever since, it remains popular to this day and still maintains a large and faithful following.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Godspeed Louise Fletcher

Actress Louise Fletcher, best known for playing the cruel Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and who also played Bajoran religious leader Kai Winn Adami on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, died yesterday, September 23 2022, at the age of 88.

Louise Fletcher was born on July 22 1934 in Birmingham, Alabama. Both of her parents were deaf and she would learn sign language while young. As a little girl Louise Fletcher was very shy and her parents sent her to live with an aunt in Texas, who helped teach her how to speak. She attended Ramsay High School in Birmingham, and then the University of North Carolina where she received a bachelor's degree in drama. She and some friends made a trip to Los Angeles and Louise Fletcher decided to stay there. She worked as a reception while taking acting classes at night under legendary character actor and acting teacher Jeff Corey.

Louise Fletcher made her debut in an episode of the single season, syndicated anthology series Flight. In the late Fifties she guest starred on the shows Playhouse 90, Bat Masterson, Yancy Derringer, Lawman, Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip, The Untouchables, One Step Beyond, Markham, Wagon Train, The Millionaire, Sugarfoot, Tate, and Perry Mason.

In the Sixties Louise Fletcher guest starred on The Best of the Post and The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp. She made her film debut in A Gathering of Eagles in 1963. It was following the birth of her two sons that she took a break from acting in order to raise them. She returned to acting after nearly ten years. She guest starred on the TV series Medical Center in 1973 and in the Seventies went onto appear in the television movies Can Ellen Be Saved? and Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery. She received acclaim for her role as Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1976), for which she also won the Academy Award for Best Actress. Louise Fletcher also appeared in the movies Thieves Like Us (1974), Russian Roulette (1975), Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), The Cheap Detective (1978), The Lady in Red (1979), The Magician of Lublin (1979), Natural Enemies (1979), The Lucky Star (1980), and Mama Dracula (1980).

In the Eighties Miss Fletcher appeared in the movies Strange Behavior (1981), Talk to Me (1982), Strange Invaders (1983), Brainstorm (1983), Grizzly II: The Predator (1983), Firestarter (1984), Once Upon a Time in America (1984), Invaders from Mars (1986), The Boy Who Could Fly (1986), Nobody's Fool (1986), Flowers in the Attic (1987), Two Moon Junction (1988), Best of the Best (1989), Shadowzone (1990), and Blue Steel (1990). She appeared in the TV movies Islands, A Summer to Remember, Last Waltz on the Tightrope, Second Serve, J. Edgar Hoover, The Karen Carpenter Story, Final Notice, and Nightmare on the 13th Floor. She guest starred on the shows Worlds Beyond, The Twilight Zone, and In the Heat of the Night.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. She also had regular roles on the TV shows The Boys of Twilight and VR.5. She guest starred on two episodes of Picket Fences as the mother of Laurie Bey (Marlee Martin). She also guest starred on the shows Tales from the Crypt, The Ray Bradbury Theatre, Civil Wars, Profiler, The Practice, Fantasy Island, Brimstone, and Any Day Now. She appeared in the mini-series In a Child's Name and The Fire Next Time. She appeared in the movies The Player (1992), Blind Vision (1992), On Deadly Ground (1994), Giorgino (1994), Tryst (1994), Tollbooth (1994), Virtuosity (1995), Return to Two Moon Junction (1995), Mulholland Falls (1996), Edge & Pen (1996), Frankenstein and Me (1996), 2 Days in the Valley (1996), High School High (1996), Gone Fishin' (1997), The Girl Gets Moe (1997), Hollywood Salome (1998), Love Kills (1998), Cruel Intentions (1999), A Map to the World (1999), The Contact (1999), Big Eden (2000), Very Mean Men (2000), and More Dogs Than Bones (2000).

In the Naughts Louise Fletcher appeared in the movies After Image (2001), Touched by a Killer (2001), Manna from Heaven (2002), Silver Man (2003), Finding Home (2003), Dancing in Twilight (2004), Clipping Adam (2004), Aurora Borealis (2005), Fat Rose and Squeaky (2006), The Last Sin Eater (2007), and The Genesis Code (2010). She guest starred on the shows It's All Relative, Joan of Arcadia, Wonderfalls, 7th Heaven, ER, Heroes, and Private Practice.

In the Teens she had a recurring role on the TV show Shameless. She guest starred on the show Girlboss. She appeared in the TV movies Of Two Minds and Bad Girls. She appeared in the movies Cassadaga (2011) and A Perfect Man (2013).

Louise Fletcher was an incredible actress. Her performance as Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is among the greatest in movie history. Indeed, Nurse Ratched ranked no. 5 in AFI's 2003 list "100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains." As well known as Louise Fletcher was as Nurse Ratched, she played many other roles in her career. As Kai Winn Adami she went from an overly zealous religious leader in the beginning to a major villain on the show towards its end. Her talent was on display very early in her career. In the Bat Masterson episode "Cheyenne Club" she played a woman whose father calls upon Bat to make sure her fiancé doesn't cheat at cards. In the Eighties version of The Twilight Zone, in the episode "The Hunters," she played an archaeologist investigating a cave in which something seems to be moving around. In Firestarter she played the wife of a farmer who kindly takes Andy and his pyrokinetic daughter Charlie in when they are running from The Shop (officially called  the Department of Scientific Intelligence ). Throughout her career Louise Fletcher played a wide variety of roles and played all of them convincingly.

Friday, September 23, 2022

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967)

This post is part of the Fifth Broadway Bound Blogathon Hosted by Taking Up Room)

In the Sixties, as is still the case now, Broadway musicals were often adapted as films. As to the Broadway musicals themselves, they might spring from original concept (such as Stop the World I Want to Get Off), based on earlier play or plays (A Funny Thing Happened on the Forum, based on Plautus's  Pseudolus, Miles Gloriosus, and Mostellaria), or a book (Oliver!, based on Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist). One would not expect to see a Broadway musical based on a parody of self-help books. Even so, that is exactly the case with How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

The musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying  was based on the book How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying: The Dastard's Guide to Fame and Fortune by Shepherd Mead, published in 1952. It is a satire of self-help books, popular then as now. In the case of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying: The Dastard's Guide to Fame and Fortune, it satirizes office work of the sort done for large companies by dishing out often outrageous advice on how to get ahead at work. To some degree How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying: The Dastard's Guide to Fame and Fortune owes something to The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship: Or the Art of Winning Games Without Actually Cheating by Stephen Potter, a parody of self-help books which sought to advise the reader on how to win games. Stephen Potter would write further self-help book parodies, including Lifemanship: With a Summary of Recent Researches in Gamesmanship (1950) One-Upmanship: Being Some Account of the Activities and Teachings of the Lifemanship Correspondence College of One-Upness and Games Lifemastery (1954), and Christmas-ship; or, The Art of Giving and Receiving (1956).

Although it was a parody, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying: The Dastard's Guide to Fame and Fortune did have some basis in reality. It was based on Stephen Mead's career at the advertising agency Benton & Bowles. He joined the agency in 1936, working in the mail room, and eventually became a vice president. It was while he was working at Benton & Bowles that he wrote the book in his spare time.  How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying: The Dastard's Guide to Fame and Fortune proved to be a best seller. It attracted the attention of Willie Gilbert and Jack Weinstock, who wrote a play based on the work in 1955 that went unproduced for five years. It was talent agent Abe Newborn who came up with the idea of adapting the book as a musical. To this end, he brought his idea to producers  Cy Feuer and Ernest H. Martin, who had been responsible for Guys and Dolls. Abe Burrows worked on the musical's book with Willie Gilbert and Jack Weinstock. The legendary Frank Loesser, who had written "Once in Love with Amy" for Where's Charley? and several of the songs for Guys and Dolls, wrote the lyrics and music for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Willie Gilbert was the director, while Bob Fosse was responsible for the choreography, with the choreography in "Treasure Hunt" sequence having been created by an obscure choreographer named Hugh Lambert.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying opened on October 14 1961 at the 46th Street Theatre. It proved to be highly successful. It opened to largely positive reviews and won eight Tony Awards (it was nominated for nine). It ultimately ran for 1417 performances, finally closing on March 6 1965.

As the original book How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying: The Dastard's Guide to Fame and Fortune was a parody of self-help books, it has neither plot nor characters. When Willie Gilbert and Jack Weinstock wrote their original play and then when they turned it into a musical with Abe Burrows, they had to provide it with both a plot and characters. To do so, they used author Shepherd Mead's career as inspiration. The plot centres on J. Pierrepont Finch, a young window washer who picks up the book How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Using the book as a guide, he then gets a job in the mail room of the World Wide Wicket Company and then proceeds to use the book to work his way up the corporate ladder.

Given the success of the Broadway musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, it should come as no surprise that it would be adapted as a movie. United Artists paid $1 million dollars for the film rights to the musical. For the most part the movie version use the cast of the Broadway play. Robert Morse (J. Pierrepont Finch) Rudy Vallee (World Wide Wicket Company president J. B. Bigley), and Ruth Kobart (Mr. Bigley's secretary Miss Jones) all reprised their roles from the Broadway production. Michele Lee had replaced Bonnie Scott on Broadway as Finch's love interest, the secretary Rosemary Pilkington, and played the role in the film. Maureen Arthur replaced Virginia Martin as Mr. Bigley's mistress Hedy LaRue on Broadway, and played the role in the movie.

Some changes were made from the Broadway musical for the movie. In the original Broadway musical, J. Pierrepont Finch is a much edgier character, and so the character was softened a bit. The songs Love From a Heart of Gold," "Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm," and "Cinderella Darling." were all cut for

the film. A portion of the song "Coffee Break" was included in the movie. As it appears on the movie's soundtrack album, some think the song may have been filmed, but the scene scrapped for whatever reason. In the case of "Paris Original," its music is simply heard in the background.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967) was released on March 9 1967 to largely positive reviews. Unfortunately, it failed at the box office. It made its television debut on NBC Saturday Night at the Movies on November 25 1972. It would be through repeated showings on television that it would develop a following. It was released on DVD in 2003 and is available on various streaming services.

Even today How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967) holds up well. Quite simply, the comedy in the movie is so good that it would work well even without the songs and musical sequences. Indeed, while most of the comedy in the film is centred on work in an office, it also takes shots at such things as college sports rivalries. And while many of the situations in the film are exaggerated for humorous effect, anyone who has worked in an office, particularly one for a large corporation, will recognize many of them as true to working in an office. The characters are also enjoyable. Even when J. Pierrepont Finch is at his most devious, one can't help but root for him.

One can see echoes of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in such workplace comedies as The Secret To my Success (1987) and Working Girl (1988) . And while How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is a comedy with somewhat exaggerated situations, it may well have had an influence on the TV drama Mad Men. Indeed on Mad Men Robert Morse (J. Pierrepont Finch himself) played Bert Cooper, the senior partner of the advertising agency Sterling Cooper. Bert would recommend the works of Ayn Rand to others from time to time. One had to wonder if he didn't recommend the book How to Succeed in Business by Shepherd Mead as well....

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Irene Papas Passes On

Greek actress Irene Papas, who appeared in such films as The Guns of Navarone (1961) and Z  (1969), died on September 14 2022 at the age of 96.

Irene Papas was born Irene Lelekou on September 3 1926 in the village of Chiliomodi, Greece. She was seven years old when her family moved to Athens. She was 15 when she began studying acting, dance, and singing at the Royal School of Dramatic Art in Athens. She graduated in 1948.

She began her acting career on stage before making her film career in 1948 in Hamenoi angeloi. In the Fifties she appeared in the films Nekri politeia (1951) and Le infedeli (1953) before appearing her first English language film in 1953. She appeared in the movies Una di quelle (1953), Vortice (1953), Teodora, imperatrice di Bisanzio (1954), Attila (1954), The Missing Scientists (1955), Tribute to a Bad Man (1956), Psit... koritsia! (1959), I limni ton stenagmon (1959), and Bouboulina (1959). She made her television debut in the episode of Italian TV show I tre moschettieri (The Three Musketeers). For the remainder of the Fifties she appeared in the TV shows Studio One, Kraft Television Theatre, Matinee Theatre, and Climax!.

In the Sixties Irene Papas appeared in the movies The Guns of Navarone (1961), Ilektra (1962), The Moon-Spinners (1964), Alexis Zorbas (1964), Zeugin aus der Hölle (1966),Roger la Honte (1966), Ta skalopatia(1966), A ciascuno il suo (1967), The Desperate Ones (1967), The Brotherhood (1968), Z (1969), Ecce Homo (1969), A Dream of Kings (1969), and Anne of the Thousand Days (1969). She made her Broadway in That Summer - That Fall in 1967. On television she played Penelope in the mini-series Odissea.

In the Seventies she appeared in the movies The Trojan Women (1971), N.P. il segreto (1971), Un posto ideale per uccidere (1971), Roma bene (1971), Non si sevizia un paperino (1972), Piazza pulita (1973), Sutjeska (1973), Le farò da padre (1974), The Message (1976), Ifigeneia (1977), Noces de sang (1977), L'uomo di Corleone (1977), Cristo si è fermato a Eboli (1979), Bloodline (1979), Un'ombra nell'ombra (1979), and Lion of the Desert (1980).  On television she appeared in the mini-series Moses the Lawgiver. She appeared on Broadway in Medea and The Bacchae.

In the Eighties Irene Papas appeared in the movies L'assistente sociale tutto pepe (1981), Sarâb (1982), Eréndira (1983), Il disertore (1983), Afghanistan pourquoi? (1983), Into the Night (1985), The Assisi Underground (1985), Sweet Country (1987), Cronaca di una morte annunciata (1987), High Season (1987), and Island (1989). She appeared in the mini-series All'ombra della grande quercia, A Mala de Cartão, and Oceano.

In the Nineties she appeared in the movies Pano, kato kai plagios (1992), Lettera da Parigi (1993), Party (1996), Inquietude (1998), and Yerma (1998). On television she appeared in the mini-series L'ispettore anticrimine and The Odyssey.In the Naughts she appeared in the movies Captain Corelli's Mandolin (2001), Podzimní návrat (2001), ...kai to treno paei ston ourano (2001), Um Filme Falado (2003), and Ecuba - Il film (2004). She guest starred on the TV show Short Cuts.

Irene Papas was an incredible actress who could say more with her eyes than many actors could with words.She was impressive as resistance fighter Maria Pappadimos in The Guns of Navarone. What might have been her best performance was the grieving widow of a political activist in Z. She gave easily the best performance, playing Catherine of Aragon, in Anne of the Thousand Days. In The Trojan Women she held her own against Katharine Hepburn. Irene Papas was a great actress with an incredible range that few other actors have.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Godspeed Henry Silva

Henry Silva, who appeared in such films as Ocean's 11 and The Manchurian Candidate (1962), died on September 14 2022 at the age of 95.

Henry Silva was born on September 23 1926 in Brooklyn, New York. His parents were Italian and Puerto Rican in descent. He grew up in Spanish Harlem, and quit school when he was only 13. He supported himself as a dishwasher and later a waiter while taking drama classes. He made his television debut in 1950 in an episode of Armstrong Circle Theatre and also appeared in episodes of Lights Out, and Goodyear Television Playhouse. He made his film debut in an uncredited role in Viva Zapata! (1952). He made his Broadway debut in Camino Real in 1953.  In 1955 he auditioned for the Actors Studio and was accepted.

In the late Fifties Henry Silva appeared in the movies Crowded Paradise (1956), The Tall T (1956), A Hatful of Rain (1957), The Law and Jake Wade (1958), The Bravados (1958), Ride a Crooked Trail (1958), Green Mansions (1959), The Jayhawkers! (1959), and Cinderfella (1960). He played Roger Corneal in Ocean's 11 (1960). He appeared on the TV shows Producer's Showcase, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, West Point, Suspicion, Climax!, Alcoa Theatre, Adventures in Paradise, Hotel de Paree, and The Untouchables . He appeared on Broadway in A Hatful of Rain.

In the Sixties Henry Silva appeared in the movies Sergeants 3 (1962), The Manchurian Candidate (1962), A Gathering of Eagles (1963), Johnny Cool (1963), The Secret Invasion (1964), Je vous salue, mafia! (1965), The Reward (1965), The Return of Mr. Moto (1965), The Plainsman (1966), Un fiume di dollari (1966), Matchless (1967), Assassination (1967), Quella carogna dell'ispettore Sterling (1968), Never a Dull Moment (1968), Probabilità zero (1969), and The Animals (1970). He guest starred on the TV show The Untouchables, Dr. Kildare, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Stoney Burke, The Outer Limits, Arrest and Trial, Breaking Point, Insight, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Wagon Train, Daniel Boone, Run for Your Life, Tarzan, Laredo, Cimarron Strip, The Danny Thomas Hour, The High Chaparral, I Spy, Mission: Impossible, Hawaii Five-O, It Takes a Thief, and San Francisco International Airport.

In the Seventies Henry Silva appeared in the movies Man and Boy (1971), La mala ordina (1972), L'insolent (1973),  Il boss (1973), Les hommes (1973), Zinksärge für die Goldjungen (1973), Quelli che contano (1974), Milano odia: la polizia non può sparare (1974), Fatevi vivi, la polizia non interverrà (1974), Zanna Bianca alla riscossa (1975), L'uomo della strada fa giustizia (1975), Shoot (1976), Poliziotti violenti (1976), Il trucido e lo sbirro (1976), Napoli spara! (1977), Woo fork (1977), Love and Bullets (1979), Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979), Thirst (1979), Day of the Assassin (1979),   Fukkatsu no hi (1980), and Alligator (1980). He guest starred on the TV shows Night Gallery, Bearcats!, The Sixth Sense, The Streets of San Francisco, The F.B.I., Switch, and Quark.

In the Eighties Henry Silva appeared in the movies Sharky's Machine (1981), Wrong is Right (1982), Trapped (1982), Megaforce (1982), Chained Heat (1983), Fuga dal Bronx (1983), Razza violenta (1984), Cannonball Run II (1984), Lust in the Dust (1984), Cane arrabbiato (1984), Code of Silence (1985), Killer contro killers (1985), Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (1986), Bulletproof (1987), Amazon Women on the Moon (1987), Above the Law (1988), Fists of Steel (1989), Trained to Kill (1989), La via della droga (1989), Cyborg - Il guerriero d'acciaio (1989), and Dick Tracy (1990). In television he appeared in the TV movie Happy.

In the Nineties Mr. Silva appeared in the movies L'ultima meta (1991), South Beach (1993), The Harvest (1993), Il silenzio dei prosciutti (1994), Fatal Choice (1995), Drifting School (1995), Mad Dog Time (1996), The Prince (1996), The End of Violence (1997), Unconditional Love (1999), and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. On television he was the voice of Bane on Batman: The Animated Series, The New Adventures of Batman, and 1990s animated Superman series. He guest starred on Buddy Faro. His last appearance on screen was a cameo in the movie Ocean's Eleven (2001).

Henry Silva was a remarkable actor. He was the last surviving member of Ocean's 11, and he stood out as Roger Corneal in the film. He gave a solid performance in the title role in Johnny Cool, an expatriate American in Rome who finds himself involved with the Sicilian mob. He was also impressive as the trigger happy Chink in The Tall T. While it might seem as if Henry Silva always played tough guys, he was capable of other roles. In L'uomo della strada fa giustizia, he played an average man who takes revenge when the law fails to get justice against his daughter's killers. In Canonball Run II he parodied his earlier characters playing Slim a henchman of  Don Don Canneloni (Charles Nelson Reilly). Henry Silva was a very talented actor who gave a number of great performances throughout his career.