Monday, May 16, 2022

Godspeed Fred Ward

Fred Ward, who starred in such movies as The Right Stuff (1983), Tremors (1990), and Henry & June (1990), died on May 8 2022 at the age of 79.

Fred Ward was born on December 30 1942 in San Diego, California. He served in the United States Air Force, during which time he became interested in acting. He also worked a variety of other jobs, including fighting as a boxer and working as a lumberjack, janitor, and short order cook. He studied acting at the Herbert Berghof Studio in New York City. Afterwards he migrated to Italy where he dubbed Italian films into English.

Fred Ward made his television debut in the Italian mini-series L'età di Cosimo de Medici in 1973. In the late Seventies he guest starred on the shows Quincy, M.E. and The Incredible Hulk. He appeared in the TV movies Cartesius and Belle Starr. He made his movie debut in a small part in Ginger in the Morning in 1974. His first major role would be in Escape from Alcatraz in 1979. In the Seventies he also appeared in the movies Hearts of the West (1975), Tilt (1979), Cardiac Arrest (1979), and Carney (1980).

The Eighties saw Fred Ward's career take off. He played lead roles in the movies Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann (1983), The Right Stuff (1983), Remo Williams: The Adventures Begins (1985), UFOria (1985), The Prince of Pennsylvania (1988), Tremors (1990), and Henry & June (1990). He also appeared in the films Southern Comfort (1981), Silkwood (1983), Uncommon Valor (1983), Swing Shift (1984), Secret Admirer (1985), Off Limits (1988), Big Business (1988), Catchfire (1990), and Miami Blues (1990). He appeared on the television shows The Hitchhiker and American Playhouse, as well as the TV movie Florida Straits.

In the Nineties Mr. Ward appeared in the movies The Dark Wind (1991), Thunderheart (1992), The Player (1992), Equinox (1992), Bob Roberts (1992), Two Small Bodies (1993), Short Cuts (1993), Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994), Un bruit qui rend fou (1995), Chain Reaction (1996), Best Men (1997), Dangerous Beauty (1998), The Vivero Letter (1999), The Crow: Salvation (2000), The Chaos Factor (2000), Ropewalk (2000), Circus (2000), Road Trip (2000), and Red Team (2000). On television he appeared in the mini-series Invasion: Earth. He appeared in the movies Cast a Deadly Spell, Four Eyes and Six-Guns, ...First Do No Harm, Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, and Wild Iris. He guest starred on the TV shows American Playhouse and Gun.

In the Naughts Fred Ward appeared in the movies Joe Dirt (2001), Summer Catch (2001), Corky Romano (2001), Abandon (2002), Enough (2002), A.K.A. Birdseye (2002), Sweet Home Alabama (2002), Masked and Anonymous (2003), Funky Monkey (2004), Feast of Love (2007), Exit Speed (2008), Management (2008), L'affaire Farewell (2009), The Wild Stallion (2009), and Armored (2009). He guest starred on the TV shows ER, Grey's Anatomy, United States of Tara, and In Plain Sight. He appeared in the TV movies Coast to Coast and The Last Ride. He appeared in the mini-series 10.5.

In the Teens he appeared in the movies 30 Minutes or Less (2011) and 2 Guns (2013). He guest starred on the shows Leverage and True Detective.

Fred Ward was a versatile actor, equally adept at playing lead roles and character parts. He played such diverse historical figures as Gus Grissom, Henry Miller, Wyatt Earp, and John Vernon Bouvier III, and was convincing as all of them. He was at home in dramas such as The Right Stuff and Silkwood as he was genre films such as Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins and Tremors. What is more, Fred Ward was not afraid to play the occasional unsympathetic character. In Southern Comfort he played Corporal Lonnie Reece, a stubborn, belligerent Louisiana National Guardsman who was in constant conflict with his fellow Guardsman. In Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult he played the villain, bomber Rocco Dillon. Fred Ward seemed capable of playing any role he set out to play, and he always gave a good performance.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Bruce Lee's Television Career

Today Bruce Lee is best known as a movie star, who had appeared in such films as The Big Boss (1971), Fist of Fury (1972), and Enter the Dragon (1973). While Bruce Lee had begun his career as a child star in Hong Kong films, he began his career in the United States in television. Indeed, Kato on the 1966 TV series The Green Hornet remains one of his best known roles.

Bruce Lee was born in San Francisco on November 27 1940 while his father, famous Cantonese opera star Lee Hoi-chen, was there for an international opera tour. Bruce Lee was only four months old when his family returned to Hong Kong. Born to a family who worked in entertainment, Bruce Lee made his film debut when he was only a baby. He appeared in Golden Gate Girl (1941). From the late Forties to the late Fifties, Bruce Lee was a highly successful child star in Hong Kong. He had appeared in twenty films by the time he was 18.

Bruce Lee was first exposed to the martial arts St. Francis Xavier's College in Hong Kong, where Brother Edward, coach of the boxing team, acted as a mentor to him. It was after young Bruce was involved in various street brawls that his family decided that he required training in the martial arts. By 1958 he was skilled enough in the martial arts to win the Hong Kong schools boxing tournament. It was in 1959 that his family decided to send Bruce Lee to the United States. It was in Seattle that he would open his first martial arts school. He also began competing in various martial arts tournaments.

It was at a martial arts exhibition in Long Beach in 1964 that he was discovered by television producer William Dozier. Mr. Dozier was developing a show to be called Number One Son. Described as "a Chinese James Bond," the show would follow the adventures of Charlie Chan's eldest son, Lee Chan, hence the title. Bruce Lee even made a screen test for the show, which is available on YouTube. Unfortunately, ABC ultimately passed on the show.

William Dozier would go onto produce the smash hit TV show Batman. When it came time for him to cast his next television series, The Green Hornet, he had Bruce Lee in mind. The Green Hornet was based on the radio show of the same name that ran from 1936 to 1952. It centred on the vigilante of that name, whose alter ego was the publisher of the Daily Sentinel newspaper, Britt Reid. The Green Hornet was assisted in his fight against crime by his valet Kato.

The television series The Green Hornet differed from the radio show in some respects, but it still retained the idea of crusading newspaper publisher Britt Reid fighting crime as The Green Hornet and Kato assisting him in his fight against crime. Van Williams, who had appeared on the TV shows Bourbon Street Beat and Surfside 6, played Britt Reid/The Green Hornet. Bruce Lee played Kato. Bruce Lee would have an impact on both on the character of Kato and the television show. First, Bruce Lee insisted that Kato would not be a stereotype. He would not speak in broken English and he would not run around in a pigtail. Second, while it was originally planned for The Green Hornet to feature fisticuffs of the sort featured in any other American television show (including Batman), Bruce Lee insisted on the using the Chinese martial arts with which he was most familiar. As it turned out, Bruce Lee moved so swiftly in the show's fight sequences that the camera did not capture his movements. He then actually had to slow down for the show.

Regardless, Kato became the first character on an American show to regularly use Asian martial arts. Bruce Lee's appearance in the series ultimately led to increased interest in Asian martial arts across the Unites States. Van Williams and Bruce Lee as The Green Hornet and Kato would appear on producer William Dozier's other show, Batman, three times. The first time was a Batclimb cameo in "The Spell of Tut." For those unfamiliar with the TV series Batman, a Batclimb cameo occurred when Batman and Robin were climbing a building and some celebrity or popular character opened a window. The second and third times The Green Hornet and Kato appeared on Batman were in the episodes "A Piece of the Action" and "Batman's Satisfaction." It was the episode "Batman's Satisfaction" that featured a fight between Kato and Robin. The script actually called for Robin to win, perhaps because Batman was the more popular of the two shows and, after all, this was an episode of Batman. Bruce Lee absolutely refused to have Kato win the fight, and even walked off the set to make his point. The scene was ultimately rewritten so that the fight ended in a draw, particularly given no one believed Kato would lose in a fight with Robin.

Sadly, The Green Hornet was scheduled on Friday night against the popular Western/James Bond spoof The Wild Wild West on CBS and Tarzan on NBC. Its ratings were then disappointing. Even The Green Hornet and Kato's appearances on Batman did not help the show in the Nielsens. It was ultimately cancelled at the end of the 1966-1967 season.

This was hardly the end of Bruce Lee's career in American television. He guest starred on Ironside in the episode "Tagged for Murder" on October 26 1967 on NBC. In the episode Bruce Lee played a karate instructor, Leon Soo, in San Francisco's Chinatown. It was well over a year later that Bruce Lee guest starred on the Blondie episode "Pick on Someone Your Own Size" on January 9 1969 on CBS. Both Dagwood (Will Hutchins) and Alexander (Peter Robbins) are the victim of bullies, so Dagwood decides to enroll in martial arts classes. Bruce Lee played a karate instructor in the episode.

The Here Come the Brides episode "Marriage, Chinese Style" is unusual among Bruce Lee's television appearances in that it did not centre on his skill in martial arts. This episode centred on a Chinese woman named Toy Quin (Linda Dangcil) who has arrived in town for an arranged marriage. Her fiancé was played by Bruce Lee, Lin Sung. As it turns out, Lin Sung does not want to marry a woman he has never met. While martial arts was not the central focus of Bruce Lee's character in the episode, he does get to engage in some martial arts fight scenes. The episode aired on April 19 1969 on ABC.

Bruce Lee's final appearance in scripted American television would be a recurring role on the show Longsteet. Longstreet starred James Franciscus as insurance instructor Mike Longsteet, who had been blinded when a bomb exploded. Bruce Lee played Li Tsung, an antiques dealer and expert in martial arts who trains Longstreet in martial arts. Longstreet featured Jeet Kune Do, the martial arts philosophy developed by Bruce Lee, well before Enter the Dragon. Unfortunately, Longstreet was not a hit in the ratings and was cancelled at the end of the 1971-1972 season.

In 1971 Bruce Lee appeared in the Hong Kong martial arts movie The Big Boss, which propelled him to stardom across Asia. His 1972 movie, Fist of Fury, made Bruce Lee a star in the United States. Longstreet would then be his last appearance on American television. It was on July 20 1973 that Bruce Lee died at the age of 32. While Bruce Lee would become best known for his movies, his appearances on television arguably paved the way for his film superstardom. Indeed, it was in part the success of The Green Hornet in Hong Kong that would lead to his contract to appear in two films produced by Golden Harvest. It seems possible, then, that without Kato, there would never have been The Big Boss.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

"Heat Wave" by Martha and the Vandellas

This is our fourth straight day of temperatures reaching above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. We have broken temperature records most of this week. To give you an idea of how hot this is for early to mid May in Missouri, our average high temperature this year is about 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, long time readers of this blog know I have been miserable. I hate heat when combined with humidity, and for that reason I hate summer. I can somewhat handle 90+ degree temperatures in July, even though I don't like them, because I have had time to adapt to them. This May we went straight from below normal temperatures (the 50s and 60s) to temperatures that are far above normal.

Because of the heat, I am not in the mood to write a long blog post. I will then leave you with a song, namely "Heat Wave" by Martha and the Vandellas. The song was released on July 9 1963 and ultimately peaked at no. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. The songs takes a somewhat more positive view of heat waves than I have right now, describing a person's love for a fellow in terms of rising temperatures.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

The Late Great George Pérez

George Pérez, a comic book artist known for his work on The Avengers at Marvel in the Seventies, and The New Teen Titans, Crisis on Infinite Earths, and Wonder Woman at DC in the Eighties, died on May 6 2022 at the age of 67. The cause was complications from pancreatic cancer, with which he had been diagnosed in December 2021.

George Pérez was born on June 9 1954 in the South Bronx in New York City. His parents were Puerto Rican in descent. His father, Guzman Pérez, worked in meatpacking. His mother, Luz Maria Izquierdo, was a homemaker. George Pérez grew up reading superhero comic books and taught himself to draw.

George Pérez began work in the comic book industry as an assistant to artist Rich Buckler in 1973. He made his professional debut in Astonishing Tales no. 25 (August 1975) with a two page satire of Rich Buckler's character Deathlok. In 1975 he went to work on the Marvel magazine Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, where he co-created The White Tiger with Bill Mantlo. The White Tiger was the first Puerto Rican superhero. That same year he began drawing The Avengers with issue no. 141 (November 1975). He would remain with The Avengers until 1980. From 1977 to 1981 he also worked on Marvel Two-In-One. George Pérez also worked on such Marvel titles as Bizarre Adventures, Captain America, Creatures on the Loose, The Defenders, Fantastic Four, Inhumans, Iron Man, Logan's Run, Man Called Nova, Marvel Team-Up, and X-Men.

It was in 1980, while he was still working on The Avengers, that he began working with DC Comics. He drew the New Teen Titans preview story in DC Comics Presents no. 26  (October 1980) before going to work on the title The New Teen Titans. He would remain with the various Teen Titans titles until nearly the end of the decade. He was the penciller on DC Comics' historic crossover event, Crisis on Infinite Earths, which rebooted the DC Universe and included very nearly every DC character. Following Crisis on Infinite Earths George Pérez worked as both plotter and inker on the reboot of Wonder Woman. He returned to The New Teen Titans in 1988. In the Eighties, at DC, George Pérez also contributed to such titles as Action Comics, Adventures of Superman, All Star Squadron, Batman, Justice League of America, Secret Origins, Superman, the Swordquest miniseries, and World's Finest. In the Eighties he also did some work for Pacific Comics.

In the 1990s George Pérez returned to Marvel to work on the mini-series Infinity Gauntlet. He also worked on the mini-series Sachs and Violens, The Silver Surfer, Ultraforce/Avengers, and the Thunderbolts Annual 1997. Late in the decade he returned to The Avengers. In the Nineties he also worked on Topps Comics' adaptation of the movie Jurassic Park and on Crimson Plague at Event Comics and later Image Comics. He also returned to the Teen Titans at DC Comics and worked on Deathstroke the Terminator.

In the Naughts he worked on the DC/Marvel crossover mini-series JLA/Avengers. At DC Comics he worked on such titles as The Brave and the Bold, DC Universe, Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds, Infinite Crisis, Justice League of America, Justice Society of America, The Titans, and Wonder Woman. At Image Comics he worked on Witchblade no. 92 (December 2005). In the Teens he worked on the first issue of the mini-series Flashpoint: Secret Seven. He inked issues 1-4 of Green Arrow Vol. 5. He worked on Justice Society of America vol. 3 no. 50 (June 2011), Supergirl vol. 6 no. 8 (June 2012), Superman vol. 3 no. 1-6 (2011-2012), T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents no. 4 (April 2012), and World's Finest no. 1-7 (2012-2013)>

George Pérez was perhaps the premier artist of his generation. He was known for his realistic, highly detailed style, and had a particular gift for drawing large groups of characters. He would certainly have a lasting influence. Along with writer Marv Wolfman, he revitalized the Teen Titans, introducing several new characters (Cyborg, Raven, and Starfire) and making changes to others (Dick Grayson, the original Robin, became Nightwing, Beast Boy from Doom Patrol became Changeling, and so on). He co-created the first Puerto Rican superhero, White Tiger. He worked on Crisis on Infinite Earths, which changed DC Comics forever. He also revitalized Wonder Woman, and his influence can be seen on the two recent movies. He would have a lasting impact on artists to come.

George Pérez was also known for his kindness and his thoughtfulness of others. He was one of the founders of the Hero Initiative, a charity that helps comic book writes and artists in need. Perhaps more so than any other comic book creator George Pérez was known for his kindness to his fans. He was well known on the convention circuit for the time he devoted to his fans and his thoughtfulness towards them. When he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, after notifying his various relatives, he made sure to let his fans know.  If George Pérez was so loved in comic book fandom, it was not simply because he was a  great comic book artist. He was also a great man.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Posts on the TCM Classic Film Festival 2022

It is a sad fact of my life that I have never gotten to attend the TCM Classic Film Festival. The cost of travelling and lodging are beyond my meagre budget. Fortunately, I have always been able to live vicariously through friends who have attended the TCM Classic Film Festival and made blog posts about it. Here are a few of my fellow bloggers' posts on their experiences at this year's TCM Classic Film Festival. If you know of any other posts on this year's festival, please let me know so that I can add them.

Comet Over Hollywood:
"TCMFF highlights and genuine happiness"

Laura's Miscellaneous Musings:
"The 2022 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day One"
"The 2022 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day Two"
"The 2022 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day Three"

Once Upon a Screen:
"#TCMFF 2022: The Thrill of it All"

Out of the Past: A Classic Film Blog:
"2022 TCM Classic Film Festival: Opening Night Red Carpet Event"
"2022 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day #1 Recap"
"2022 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day #2 Recap"
"2022 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day #3 Recap"
"2022 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day #4 Recap"

Watching Classic Movies:
"TCM Classic Film Festival 2022 Back to the Big Screen, Woo Hoo!"

Friday, May 6, 2022

Perry Mason: "The Case of the Final Fade-Out"

This blog post is part of the Caftan Woman Blogathon Honoring Patricia Nolan-Hall, hosted by Jacqueline of Another Old Movie Blog and Patty of Lady Eve's Reel Life. For that reason I feel as if I should say something about Patricia Nolan-Hall, Paddy Lee to her many friends, before going onto the blog post proper. Paddy was author of the blog Caftan Woman. Paddy blogged for literally years. She launched Caftan Woman in 2008. She was also prolific. What is more, Paddy not only wrote her own blog, she also read many, many blogs and often left comments on them as well. Paddy had an enthusiasm for classic film and television that was unmatched by anyone. She had a sunny disposition and an uncanny knack for brightening anyone's day. She could also see the humour in most situations. Paddy had a very funny story about the time she was nearly run over by a garbage truck. I know it couldn't have been funny to her at the time, but Paddy told it in such a way that it was.With her positivity, her enthusiasm for classic film and television, and her devotion to her fellow bloggers, she was well loved in the classic film and television community,  I don't believe Paddy ever said so, but I have to think her favourite shows were Maverick and Perry Mason, as she wrote about those shows more than any other. For that reason, I chose to write about a Perry Mason episode for this blogathon. This one's for you, Paddy.
Today it seems as if every single television show has a series finale, but there was a time when they were relatively uncommon. Even when it was known ahead of time that a show was ending production, as when the producers of a show simply decided to bring it to a close, that show usually would not have a proper series finale. For example, the final episode of I Love Lucy differed little from other episodes of the show. That final episode, "The Ricardos Dedicate a Statue," centred on Ricky being chosen to dedicate statue that Lucy has inadvertently destroyed. That having been said, there were shows in the Fifties and Sixties that had proper series finales: The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Leave It To Beaver, and Route 66 being examples. Among those shows was Perry Mason.

Perry Mason centred on the defence attorney of that name and was based on the series of successful novels by Erle Stanley Gardner. It starred Raymond Burr in the title role, with Barbara Hale as his secretary Della Street and William Hopper as detective Paul Drake. Perry Mason was brought to television by Gail Patrick Jackson. If the name "Gail Patrick" sounds familiar, it is because she was an actress known for such movies as Death Takes a Holiday (1934), My Man Godfrey (1936), Stage Door (1937), and My Favorite Wife (1940). She was also a friend of Erle Stanley Gardner and she had a law degree from the University of Alabama to boot. As the executive producer on Perry Mason, she was one of the first women to work as a producer in American television.

Perry Mason
debuted on CBS on September 21 1957 and it proved to be a huge hit. It always beat its competition, including a brand new Western on NBC titled Bonanza in its first two seasons. While Perry Mason was a ratings behemoth in its early years, its ratings would decline over time. Ranking no. 5 for the year in its fifth season, by its eighth season it had tumbled to a still respectable no. 38 for the year. In the meantime, Bonanza had moved from Saturday night to Sunday night, where its ratings grew until by 1964 it was the no. 1 show on the air. It was then for the 1965-1966 season that CBS decided to move Perry Mason to Sunday night in hopes of demolishing Bonanza. The show's lead, Raymond Burr, had wanted to leave the show since its fifth season, but CBS kept persuading him to remain with it. During the ninth season he once more expressed his desire to leave the show. CBS persuaded him to stay for one more season, which would be shot entirely in colour. It was only three weeks after CBS had persuaded him to stay with Perry Mason that he read in the trade papers that it had been cancelled.

Fortunately, the producers of Perry Mason had enough time to fashion a series finale for the show. Even had "The Case of the Final Fade-Out" not been the series finale, it would have been far from a typical episode of Perry Mason. Indeed, in "The Case of the Final Fade-Out," Perry finds himself dealing with two murder cases, one after the other. What is more, his client in the first case is the murder victim in the second case. In the first case the victim is Barry Conrad (James Stacy), the arrogant and self-centred star of a television series who will back stab anyone to further his career. When he winds up dead, television producer Jackson Sidemark (Denver Pyle) finds himself accused of murder. In the second case, it is Jackson Sidemark who winds up murdered. Perry's client is elderly actress Winifred Glover (Estelle Winwood). "The Case of the Final Fade-Out" also features one of the show's most interesting guest casts. In addition to James Stacy, Denver Pyle, and Estelle Winwood, other guest stars are Jackie Coogan, Gerald Mohr, and, in a rare dramatic role, Dick Clark.

One has to think "The Case of the Final Fade-Out" was meant as a love letter to the show's fans, and as a result many of the show's crew appear in the episode. The murder of Barry Conrad having taken place on a television set, the witnesses on that set were naturally the crew working on that set. Many of the witnesses questioned regarding Barry Conrad's murder were  then actual members of the crew, including cameraman Dennis Dalzell, set decorator Carl Biddiscombe, costume supervisor Evelyn Carruth, and hairdresser Annabell Levy, among others. Gail Patrick Jackson even makes an appearance in the episode. At the bar in a restaurant, she is commenting, "I wouldn't want to go up against Bonanza (as mentioned earlier, Perry Mason was scheduled against Bonanza in its final season)." An actress who looks suspiciously like Barbara Hale also appears in the scene in the restaurant, playing a blonde starlet from the South. As if all of this was not enough, Erle Stanley Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason himself, appears as the judge in the second trial in the episode.

"The Case of the Final Fade-Out" was set at a television studio. Serving as the studio lot was none other other than the Chaplin Studios on N. La Brea Avenue in Hollywood. This is where many of Charlie Chaplin's classic movies were filmed, including The Kid, which starred a young Jackie Coogan. For Jackie Coogan, then, "The Case of the Final Fade-Out" must have seemed like old home week.

Many season finales, even those in the Sixties, offered, for lack of a better phrase, a note of finality to the particular series. In the series finale of Route 66, Tod Stiles gets married and gives up the open road. In the series finale of The Fugitive, Dr. Richard Kimble finally catches up with the One Armed Man and clears his name. This is not the case with "The Case of the Final Fade-Out." At the end of the episode, it finds Perry, Della, and Paul about to embark on their next case. Indeed, Perry has the last words in the episode (and the series, for that matter), "Now, it seems to me the place to start is at the beginning." At the same time, while "The Case of the Final Fade-Out" ends with life going on for Perry, Della, and Paul, one cannot mistake the episode as anything but a series finale, or at the very least a season finale. Made at a time when series finales were rare, "The Case of the Final Fade-Out" remains one of the best.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

"I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" by My Chemical Romance

It has been a long day so I am just going to leave you with a song. It's "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" by My Chemical Romance. The video is a take off on Eighties teen comedies and was shot at both Alexander Hamilton High School and Loyola High School in Los Angeles. The video was directed by Marc Webb, who would go on to direct episodes of The Office and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, as well as the movies The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014).

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan

The first American television show to feature an Asian American lead was The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong starring Anna May Wong, which debuted on the Dumont Television Network in 1951. It would be twenty one years before another American television show would debut with an Asian lead, and even then it would be a Saturday morning cartoon. The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan debuted on CBS on September 9 1972. It starred Keye Luke as detective Charlie Chan. Not only was Keye Luke the first male Asian lead on an American television show, but he was also the first and only person of Chinese ancestry to play the role in an American production. In the Charlie Chan movies, Keye Luke had played Chan's Number One son, Lee.

Well before the Seventies Charlie Chan was a source of controversy in the Chinese American community. The character has often been viewed as a stereotype, something that still holds true. It is perhaps for this reason that Charlie Chan as portrayed by Keye Luke on The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan differed a bit from the way the character was portrayed in the movies of the Thirties and Forties by Warner Oland and Sidney Toler. The broken English in which Chan spoke in the movies is gone in the animated cartoon. In The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan he speaks fluent, if somewhat formal, English. Similarly, the "Confucius say" type aphorisms Charlie Chan often quoted in the movies are also gone. An argument can be made that Charlie Chan is less of a stereotype in the cartoon than he is in the movies of the 1930s and 1940s.

Aside from the changes to Charlie Chan himself, The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan also departs from the movies with regards to Charlie Chan's family. While in the movies Charlie Chan is portrayed as having a large family, only his first three sons are ever portrayed as helping out on cases. Those sons were Number One Son Lee (Keye Luke), Number Two Son Jimmy (Victor Sen Yung), and Number Three Son Tommy (Benson Fong). In contrast, all ten of Charlie Chan's children are on hand in The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan. Furthermore, none of them are named "Lee" or "Jimmy" and the one named "Tom" would be the Number Four Son (Alan was Number Three).

The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan was one of a number of Scooby-Doo Where Are You! imitators that Hanna-Barbera churned out in the early Seventies. The series centred on  an apparently widowed Charlie Chan and his children, who travelled the world in the Chan Van solving mysteries. The kids were the serious eldest son Henry; the mischievous second oldest son and disguise artist Stanley; oldest daughter Suzie; third oldest son Alan, a mechanical genius who invented the Chan Van; second oldest daughter Anne, who is a bit of a tomboy; Tom, the fifth oldest son, who is an intellectual; Flip, the sixth oldest son, who tends to say whatever comes into his head; Nancy, the third oldest daughter, who is a bit of a klutz; Mimi, the youngest daughter who tends to be a bit forward; and Scooter, the youngest of the children, who tends to be impulsive. The Chan Van was one of many vehicles in Hanna-Barbera cartoons of the era that could change into yet other vehicles. For example, it could switch from the van it usually was to, say, dump truck. The family also had a dog named Choo-Choo, While Keye Luke as Charlie Chan was top billed, the episodes usually centred on the children.

Like many cartoons in the early Seventies, the oldest children on The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan had their own band and every episode would usually close with them performing some bubblegum pop song. The music for the show was produced by Don Kirshner, who had earlier produced the music for The Archie Show. Amazingly enough, no singles, let alone an album, of music from the album was ever released.

When The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan debuted, its voice cast was entirely Asian in ancestry. Robert Ito, best known as Sam Fujiyama on Quincy, M.E., was the voice of Henry. Brian Tochi, who would go onto play Tomoko Nogata in the Police Academy, was the voice of Alan. The voices of the other kids were as follows: Stephen Wong as Stanley; Virginia Ann Lee as Suzie; Leslie Kumamota as Anne; Michael Takamoto as Tom; Jay Jay Jue as Flip; Debbie Jue as Nancy; Leslie Juwai as Mimi; and Robin Toma as Scooter. After the first few episodes it was decided that the accents of the Asian American actors were too hard to understand, so many of the roles were recast, some with actors who were not Asian Amerian. Robert Ito and Brian Tochi were the only voices of the children who remained. Three of the roles were recast with Asian American actors. Cherylene Lee (who had guest starred as a child on such shows as Bachelor Father and Ben Casey), voiced both Suzie and Mimi. Beverly Kushida (who would go onto guest star on such shows as Kung Fu and The Six Million Dollar Man) was cast as the voice of Nancy. The other roles were cast with white actors: Lennie Weinrib (who had played H. R. Pufnstuf) as Stanley; Jodie Foster (yes, that Jodie Foster) as Anne; John Gunn as Tom; and Gene Andrusco as Flip.

As might be expected, The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan produced the usual merchandise associated with Saturday morning cartoons. There was a lunchbox from Thermos. Whitman produced an Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan jigsaw puzzle and a board game. Gold Key Comics published a comic book that lasted for four issues.

The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan did not prove to be overly successful. It ran only one season on Saturday mornings on CBS. Reruns of the show aired the following season on CBS on Sunday morning.

Although it is largely forgotten now, The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan was historic. It was only the second American television series to feature a lead of Asian descent. It was also the first American series in which the majority of characters were played by Asian Americans. What is more, the Chan kids each had their own distinct personalities and none of them could be considered stereotypes. The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan may have only been a Saturday morning cartoon, but it went well beyond many primetime shows of the time.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

David Birney Passes On

David Birney, who starred on such TV shows as Bridget Loves Bernie, Serpico, St. Elsewhere, Glitter, and Live Shot, died on April 29 2022 at the age of 83. The cause was Alzheimer’s disease.

David Birney was born on April 23 1939 in Washington, D.C. He grew up in Cleveland. He graduated from West High School. He received a degree in English literature from Dartmouth College in 1961 and then earned a master's degree in theatre from UCLA. He served in the United States Army. For a year he was with the Barter Theatre in  in Abingdon, Virginia. In 1967 as part of the New York Shakespeare Festival for Joseph Papp, David Birney appeared in The Comedy of Errors, King John, and Titus Andronicus. It was in 1967 that he made his television debut in the TV movie Saint Joan. That same year he appeared in the TV movie The Unvanquished and in a bit part as a waiter on the daytime serial The Edge of Night. He repeated his role in Saint Joan in 1968 on the TV series BBC Play of the Month. He made his Broadway debut in 1969 in The Miser. In 1970 he appeared on Broadway in The Good Woman of Setzuan.  From 1969 to 1970 he had a regular role on the soap opera Love is a Many Splendored Thing. From 1970 to 1971 he had a regular role on A World Apart.

In the Seventies he played Bernie Steinberg on the sitcom Bridget Loves Bernie. The show centred on the marriage between a Jewish man and a Catholic woman, and as such was a source of considerable controversy. It was cancelled after one season, perhaps for that reason, despite maintaining high ratings. It remains one of the highest rated shows to ever be cancelled. He also played the title character on the TV show Serpico, based on the movie of the same name. He played John Quincy Adams in the mini-series The Adams Chronicles. He also appeared in the mini-series Testimony of Two Men. David Birney guest starred on the shows The F.B.I., Ghost Story, Laugh-In, Orson Welles' Great Mysteries, The Wide World of Mystery, McMillan & Wife, Police Woman, Bronk, Cannon, Medical Center, The Streets of San Francisco, Police Story, Tales of the Unexpected, Hawaii Five-O, Fantasy Island, Greatest Heroes of the Bible, Family, and The Love Boat. David Birney appeared on Broadway in The Playboy of the Western World, An Enemy of the People, Antigone, and Amadeus. He made his film debut in Caravan to Vaccares (1974). In the Seventies he appeared in the movies Trial by Combat (1976), Au revoir à lundi (1979), and Oh God! Book II (1980).

In the Eighties he starred as Dr. Ben Samuels on St. Elsewhere. He also starred on the shows Glitter and Seal Morning. He guest starred on the shows CBS Afternoon Playhouse; The Love Boat; The Twilight Zone; CBS Schoolbreak Special; American Playhouse; Murder, She Wrote; and Matlock. He appeared in the mini-series Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls. He appeared in the movies Prettykill (1987) and Nightfall (1988). He appeared on Broadway is Benefactors.

In the Nineties David Birney starred on the TV Show Live Shot. He guest starred on the shows The Ray Bradbury Theatre; Murder, She Wrote; Burke's Law; Love Boat: The Next Wave; Sliders; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; and Poltergeist: The Legacy. He appeared in the movies The Naked Truth (1992) and The Comedy of Errors (2000). His last appearance was a guest shot on the TV show Without a Trace in 2007.

David Birney was a very talented and versatile actor. He was at home playing Jewish cab driver Bernie Steinberg on Bridget Loves Bernie as he was John Quincy Adams in The Adams Chronicles. He played police officer Serpico on the series of the same name and Dr. Samuels on St. Elsewhere. Over the years he played a wide variety of roles in everything from soap operas to science fiction.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Godspeed Joanna Barnes

Joanna Barnes, who appeared in such movies as Spartacus (1960) and The Parent Trap (1961), and guest starred on numerous television shows, died on April 29 2022 at the age of 87.

Joanna Barnes was born on November 15 1934 in  Boston, Massachusetts. She attended Milton Academy in Milton, Massachusetts. She majored in English at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. After graduation she received an offer to work for Time-Life. She tested for a part on The Ford Theatre as research for a magazine article she was writing. She wound up getting the role and played opposite Louis Jourdan.

In the late Fifties she also guest starred on the television shows Tales of the 77th Bengal Lancers; Playhouse 90; Conflict; Colt .45; Cheyenne; Steve Canyon; Hawaiian Eye; Beach Patrol; M Squad; Philip Marlowe; The Millionaire; The Man from Blackhawk; Mr. Lucky; General Electric Theatre; Alcoa Theatre; Richard Diamond, Private Detective; Dante; Maverick; Hot Off the Wire; Adventures in Paradise; and Bringing Up Baby. Joanna Barnes was a regular on the short-lived show 21 Beacon Street. She made her film debut in The Garment Jungle in 1957. In the late Fifties she appeared in the films No Time to Be Young (1957), Too Much, Too Soon (1957), Violent Road (1958), Onionhead (1958), Home Before Dark (1958), Auntie Mame (1958), Tarzan, the Ape Man (1958), and Spartacus (1960).

In the Sixties Joanna Barnes had a recurring role on the TV show The Trials of O'Brien. She was also a a regular panellist on What's My Line? and also appeared on To Tell the Truth. In 1967 she was the host of the talk show Dateline Hollywood. She guest starred on the shows Michael Shayne, Stagecoach West, The Tab Hunter Show, The Untouchables, The New Bob Cummings Show, The Investigators, Target: The Corrupters, Follow the Sun, Cain's Hundred, Bachelor Father, Laramie, Sam Benedict, Have Gun--Will Travel, The Eleventh Hour, Alcoa Premiere, Empire, The Beverly Hillbillies, 77 Sunset Strip, Arrest and Trial, The Farmer's Daughter, Dr. Kildare, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, Mannix, Judd for the Defense, The Name of the Game, and Nanny and the Professor. She appeared in the movie The Parent Trap (1961), The Purple Hills (1961), Goodbye Charlie (1964), Too Many Thieves (1966), The War Wagon (1967), and Don't Make Waves (1967).

In the Seventies Joanna Barnes guest starred on the television shows O'Hara United States Treasury; Alias Smith and Jones; Hawaii Five-O; Cool Million; Love, American Style; The New Perry Mason; McCloud; Marcus Welby, M.D.; Planet of the Apes; S.W.A.T.; Matt Helm; Ellery Queen; Quincy, M.E.; Executive Suite; The Betty White Show; Fantasy Island; Charlie's Angels; The Last Resort; and When the Whistle Blows. She appeared in the movies B.S. I Love You (1971) and I Wonder Who's Killing Her Now? (1975).

In the Eighties she guest starred on the TV series Barney Miller; Hart to Hart; Remington Steele; Trapper John, M.D.; Benson; Murder, She Wrote; Dolly; and Cheers. In the Nineties she appeared in The Parent Trap (1998), playing the mother of the gold digger she had played in the 1961 version. She made a guest appearance on the TV show Then Came You in 2000.

Joanna Barnes was also a successful novelist. She wrote the books The Deceivers, Pastora, Silverwood, and Who is Carla Hart?. She was a book reviewer for The Los Angeles Times and she wrote the syndicated column "Touching Home," about interior design.

Like many of my generation, Joanna Barnes will always be the child-hating gold digger Vicki Robinson in The Parent Trap (1961). She certainly excelled in the role. While she may always be remembered as Vicki in The Parent Trap (1961), she played other great roles as well. In Auntie Mame she played the snobbish debutante Gloria Upson, who is engaged to the title character's nephew Patrick (Roger Smith). In Spartacus she played the bloodthirsty Claudia Marius, one of the Romans for whom a gladiatorial fight is staged at the gladiator training school. Lest one think Miss Barnes never played nice roles, she was Jane in Tarzan, the Ape Man. She also played Lola on 21 Beacon Street, the ever resourceful secretary of private investigator Dennis Chase (Dennis Morgan). In The War Wagon she appears briefly as saloon hostess and old acquaintance of Lomax (Kirk Douglas), yet another character named Lola. Joanna Barnes was a versatile actress who did very well in "bad girl" roles, but could also play other sorts of roles just as well. She was certainly an enormous talent.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

The Late Great Neal Adams

The first comic book I can remember reading was Batman no. 234 (August 1971). The main story in that issue was "Half an Evil." Although I didn't know it at the time, it was historic as the first appearance of the villain Two-Face since 1954.  Both the cover of Batman no. 234 and the story "Half an Evil" were pencilled by Neal Adams. Over the next several years I would read several comic books featuring art by Neal Adams, everything from Batman to Green Lantern. He would ultimately become one of my favourite comic book artists, if not my favourite. Sadly, Neal Adams died yesterday, April 28 2022, at the age of 80. According to his wife Marilyn Adams, the cause was complications from sepsis.

Neal Adams was born on June 15 1941 in New York City. His father was in  the military, and so he spent much of his childhood on various U.S. Army bases. Neal Adams attended the School of Industrial Art in Manhattan and graduated in 1959. He submitted work to National Periodical Publications (the company then known informally and now known formally as DC Comics), but was continuously rejected). He found work at Archie Comics, drawing gag fillers for Archie's Joke Book Magazine. In the late Fifties he also worked as an assistant to cartoonist Howard Nostrand on the Bat Masterson newspaper strip for three months.

Neal Adams began the Sixties providing commercial art for the advertising industry. After freelancing for a time, he found work at the Johnstone and Cushing agency, an agency that specialized in comic strip style advertisements. In 1962 Mr. Adams went to work on the Ben Casey newspaper strip, remaining with the strip's 3 1/2 year run. For a few weeks in 1966 Neal Adams was a ghost artist on the hard boiled detective comic strip Peter Scratch. The following year he found work at Warren Publishing, providing art for their magazines Creepy and Eerie.

It was also in 1967 that Neal Adams finally found work at DC Comics. His first work was a penciller on the story "It's My Turn to Die" in the anthology title Our Army at War no. 182 (July 1967). That same year he also worked on DC's The Adventures of Bob Hope and The Adventures of Jerry Lewis. In 1967 he also did artwork for Star Spangled War Stories and a back-up story featuring the Elongated Man for Detective Comics no. 369 (November 1967). It was with Strange Adventures no. 206 (November 1967) that he began providing art for the "Deadman" feature. His cover for Strange Adventures no. 207 (December 1967) won the Alley Award for Best Cover. Neal Adams would continue drawing Deadman in Strange Adventures into 1969. In 1969, 1970, and 1971 he also did artwork for House of Mystery, Phantom Stranger, Teen Titans, Hot Wheels, Deadman back-up stories in Aquaman, Challengers of the Unknown, Witching Hour, and Justice League of America.

It was with The Brave and the Bold no. 79 (November 1968) that Neal Adams first worked on the character with whom he is most associated, Batman. He continued to work on The Brave and the Bold until issue no. 86 (September 1969). That issue featured the first appearance of Green Arrow's new costume, as well as the first time he wore a goatee. Neal Adams's work on The Brave and the Bold was the first step towards the revamp of the character that he would undertake with writer Denny O'Neil. In the stories Mr. Adams drew for The Brave and the Bold, scenes were often set at night and Batman was drawn more realistically and less cartoony than he had been before.

Neal Adams would again make history when he was teamed with Dennis O'Neil to write the "Batman" feature in Detective Comics no.395 (January 1970). Together Neal Adams and Dennis O'Neil took Batman away from the camp flavour that had developed with the TV show in 1966 and closer to the dark night avenger he had originally been. It was with Detective Comics no. 411 (May 1971) that they introduced Talia al Ghul. Her father, Ra's al Ghul, would be introduced in Batman no. 232 (June 1971). The two would soon number among Batman's most frequently featured foes. It was in "Half an Evil" in Batman no. 234 (August 1971) that they revived the Golden Age villain Two-Face after he had not appeared since 1954. With "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge!" in Batman #251 (Sept. 1973) they returned The Joker to the homicidal psychopath he had originally been.

Batman would not be the only character that Neal Adams and Dennis O'Neil revamped. Beginning with Green Lantern vol. 2 no. 76 (April 1970), they also revamped Green Lantern. The two of them teamed Green Lantern up with Green Arrow, the latter who would serve as the voice of the counter culture. Messrs. Adams and O'Neil's run on Green Lantern was characterised by stories that dealt with current issues. For example, Green Lantern no. 85-86 featured a two part story in which Green Arrow's former sidekick Speedy has become addicted to heroin. During their run they deal with such issues as racism, overpopulation, and pollution. Unfortunately, sales for Green Lantern were not particularly good and the series was cancelled with no. 88 (March 1972). The remaining stories of Neal Adams and Denny O'Neil's run on Green Lantern were published as backup stories in The Flash no. 217-219.

While Neal Adams was working at DC, he also did work for other companies. At Marvel, he provided artwork for X-Men no. 56-63 and no. 65 (February 1970). He also worked on Thor no. 180-181 (1970), Amazing Adventures no. 5-8 (1971), and The Avengers no. 93-96 (1971-1972). While working at DC he continued to occasionally work on Warren Publishing's Creepy and he worked on Vampirella no. 1 (September 1969).

It was while he was working for DC Comics that he also founded Continuity Associates with  Dick Giordano in 1971. Continuity Associates is an art and illustration studio originally based in New York City, but later expanding to Los Angeles, that originally produced advertising art and storyboards for motion pictures. While continuing to produce advertising art and storyboards for movies, Continuity Associates later became an art packager for such comic book publishers as Charlton and Marvel.

After the founding of Continuity Associates in 1971 and the cancellation of Green Lantern in 1972, Neal Adams's work for DC and comic books in general became more sporadic. /He continued work on Batman through 1974. He would do later work on the character, including the mini-series Batman Odyssey in 2010 and 2011, Batman Odyssey Vol 2 in 2011 and 2012, Batman Black and White, vol. 2, no. 1 in 2013, and the mini-series Batman vs. Ra's al Ghul from 2019 to 2021. In 1972 he illustrated El Diablo stories for Weird Western Tales and the artwork for the story "The Private Life of Clark Kent" in Superman no. 254. He did a Human Target back up story in Action Comics no. 425 in 1973. He worked on House of Mystery no. 228 in 1975. Neal Adams illustrated public service pages for Justice Includes All Children in 1976. He was the artist for Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali in 1978. He provided art for Detective Comics Vol. 2, no. 27 in 2014.  He did a story for Harley's Little Black Book in 2016 and that same year provided art for the miniseries Superman: The Coming of the Supermen. He provided art for The Kamandi Challenge no. 2 in 2017. From 2017 to 2018 he was the artist on the Deadman miniseries. He also did some more work for Marvel, including Amazing Adventures in 1973, Dracula Lives no. 2 in 1973, Monsters Unleashed no. 3 in 1973, Conan the Barbarian no. 37 in 1974, The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu in 1974, Savage Tales no. 4 in 1974, Savage Sword of Conan in 1976, Crazy no 2 in 1974, Kull and the Barbarians no. 2 in 1975, Epic Illustrated no. 7 in 1981, X-Men Giant-Size No. 3 in 2005, Young Avengers no. 3 in 2005, New Avengers, vol. 2, no. 16 in 2011, First X-Men no. 15 from 2012 to 2013, and Fantastic Four: Antithesis #1–4 in 2020. He also did some work for Charlton, including Emergency! and The Six Million Dollar Man in 1976. From the Seventies to the Teens he would do occasional work for publishers from Atlas/Seaboard to Dark Horse to DIW.

In addition to his work on comic books, he also did cover art for Ballantine Book's reprints of the Tarzan novels in the Seventies.

In 1984 Neal Adams formed Continuity Comics. Besides Neal Adams, the company also published work by such creators as Vincente Alazar, Dan Barry, Esteban Maroto, Bart Sears, and others. The company lasted until 1994.

Neal Adams was a vocal advocate for the rights of creators. As early as 1970 he attempted to unionize the industry. He was among the first to champion the return of original artwork to the artist, which would become an industry standard. In 1978 along with several others, he formed  the Comics Creators Guild, an attempt at a union for comic book creators. Ultimately, the Comics Creators Guild failed. Neal Adams was among those who lobbied for Superman creators to receive financial remuneration and credit as the creator of the character from DC Comics.

Neal Adams was among the most influential comic books artists of all time, if not the most influential He was a mentor to both Frank Miller, Bill Sienkiewicz, and influenced such artists as John Byrne, Howard Chaykin,  Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, and Jim Starlin. As to why Neal Adams influenced so many artists, it is simply that he was one of the artists to bring the realism to the pages of comic book. Neal Adams's work was a sharp break from the cartoony styles that had dominated comic books during the Golden Age and even into the Silver Age. His artwork was realistic and very detailed, from human anatomy to guns and vehicles. At the same time his work was infused with an energy rarely seen even in superhero comic books. More so than any other artist, Neal Adams's art was filled with drama.

Of course, Neal Adams's impact went beyond his talent as an artist. With writer Dennis O'Neil, he returned Batman to his roots as a dark night avenger, setting the stage for everything from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns to the "Dark Knight" film trilogy. Messrs. O'Neil and Adams also brought back Two-Face after a 17 year hiatus and took The Joker back to being the homicidal psychopath he had originally been. They also introduced such characters as Ra's al Ghul and his daughter Talia. With writer Frank Robbins, Neil Adams introduced the character of Man-Bat. While Dennis O'Neil revitalized Batman, they also brought relevance to the pages of Green Lantern, dealing with issues that had rarely, if ever, been addressed in comic books. It was in the pages of Green Lantern that Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams introduced DC's first Black superhero, the Green Lantern John Stewart. Neal Adam's achievements weren't limited to DC. When he was working on X-Men at Marvel, with Roy Thomas he introduced the character of Havok and brought back Magneto. While Neal Adams's run on X-Men would only last nine issues, it would have a lasting impact on the franchise.

Neal Adams revolutionized comic books to such a point that saying that comic books today would not be the same without him is not mere hyperbole. He brought realism to comic books, revitalized several characters, and introduced yet others. If both the comic book industry and comic book fans are mourning him so, it is because he was just that important.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

The Late Great James Bama

Today would have been legendary artist James Bama's 96th birthday. Mr. Bama was a large part of my childhood. He painted the covers of many of the covers of Bantam Books' reprints of the Doc Savage novels that I read voraciously as a kid. He also painted the box art for the first several Universal Monster model kits put out by Aurora Plastics Corporation. And while I didn't know at the time, he was even responsible for promotional artwork for the TV show Star Trek, a poster of which adorned my bedroom wall. Sadly, James Bama died April 24 2022 at the age of 95.

James Bama was born on April 28 1926 in Washington Heights, New York. He took an interest in art early, copying panels from Alex Raymond's comic strip Flash Gordon when he was growing up. He was only 15 when he made his first professional sale, a drawing of Yankee Stadium published in the New York Journal-American. He graduated from the High School of Music & Art in New York City. Following his graduation, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps. He served as a mechanic and also painted murals while in the service.

After he was demobilized, James Bama went to study at the Art Students League in New York. Among his instructors was painter and illustrator Frank J. Reilly. His first illustration for a paperback was A Bullet for Billy the Kid in 1950. In the Fifties he also did covers for such men's adventure magazines as For Men Only, Man's World, Men, Stag and True Action. When he was 24 he went to work for Cooper Studios, an advertising studio that did artwork for advertisements for such companies as Coca-Cola, Ford Motors, and General Electric. He continued to work for Cooper Studios into the Sixties.

In the Sixties James Bama continued to do covers for paperbacks. It was in 1961 that he created the box art for Aurora's first Universal Monsters model kit Frankenstein. He would continue to create box art for the Universal Monsters model kits, doing the first 22. In 1964 Bantam Books began publishing reprints of the Doc Savage pulp novels, starting with the first novel, The Man of Bronze. James Bama did that cover, and would ultimately create 62 covers for Bantam's Doc Savage reprints. He also continued to work for magazines, creating art work for such diverse publications as Argosy, Famous Monsters of Filmland, Readers Digest, and The Saturday Evening Post. Mr. Bama also worked in television, creating promotional work for both Bonanza and Star Trek. He also created the movie post for Cool Hand Luke.

In 1968 James Bama and his wife moved to Wyoming. He began painting Western subjects, both historical and contemporary. It was in 1971 that Mr. Bama decided to leave the world of illustration so he could concentrate on easel painting. James Bama proved very successful as a Western artist, with books collecting his artwork published.

Arguably, James Bama is one of the most popular artists of the mid to late 20th Century. His illustrations for the Doc Savage novels and his box art for the Aurora Universal Monster model kits both have cult followings. He also proved very successful as a Western artist. As both an illustrator and a painter he was a realist. Some of his artwork appeared so realistic that it could at times be mistaken for a photographs. His command of lighting in his artwork was only matched by a few other artists, and the colours in his artwork could often be intense. He was an ideal artist for paperback covers, but at the same time he was capable of producing truly great Western artwork. He certainly was one of the most talented illustrators and artists of the 20th Century.

James Bama's cover art for Aurora's Dracula model kit.

The cover of Bantam's reprint of the Doc Savage novel The Man of Bronze.

James Bama's promotional artwork for Bonanza.

James Bama's promotional artwork for Star Trek.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Mothers in the Movies on Sundays on Turner Classic Movies

Ann Blyth and Joan Crawford as Veda and Mildred in Mildred Pierce

The second Sunday in May is Mother's Day. To this end Turner Classic Movies is showing movies about motherhood the first four Sunday nights of May and all day Sunday, May 8 (Mother's Day) under the heading "Mothers in the Movies." The movies are a varied lot, from the seductive Mrs. Robinson of The Graduate (1967) to the devoted, if underappreciated Mildred Pierce from the 1945 movie of that name. Below is a schedule of the movies being show. The ones that I don't think you should miss are in bold. All times are Central.

Sunday, May 1
7:00 PM Imitation of Life (1959)
9:15 PM Stella Dallas (1937)

Saturday, May 7
11:15 PM No Man of Her Own (1950) (Noir Alley)

Sunday, May 8
1:15 AM Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story (2015)
3:00 AM The Graduate (1967)
6:00 AM The Catered Affair (1956)
7:00 AM The Old Maid (1939)
9:00 AM No Man of Her Own (1950) (Noir Alley)
11:00 AM Imitation of Life (1934)
1:00 PM The Sun Comes Up (1949)
3:00 PM Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965)
5:00 PM Madam X (1966)
7:00 PM I Remember Mama (1948)
9:30 PM Places in the Heart (1984)

Sunday, May 15
7:00 PM Pocketful of Miracles (1961)
9:30 PM So Big (1953)

Sunday, May 22
7:00 PM Mildred Pierce (1945)
9:00 PM Gypsy (1962)

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Wendy Goldman on ER

Vanessa Marquez as Nurse Wendy Goldman on ER
It was 25 years ago today that Vanessa Marquez last appeared as Nurse Wendy Goldman on ER. The episode was "Calling Dr. Hathaway." In the episode Wendy was helping the ER's desk clerk Jerry (Abraham Benrubi) and later physician assistant Jeanie Boulet (Gloria Reuben) catch a genetically engineered mouse that had escaped from the lab. At the time I doubt anyone, except for possibly the cast and crew of ER, realized it would be Vanessa's last episode. There was no publicity about her departure and Wendy simply disappeared from the show with very little explanation. Well before I ever knew Vanessa Marquez, Wendy Goldman was my favourite character on ER and I had a huge crush on her at the time. I definitely noticed Wendy's absence, wondering a few episodes into the fourth season where she was. I know from various friends and also various individuals online that Wendy was missed by a good many ER  fans. Despite Wendy's popularity, I noticed that the write-up on Wendy on the list of ER characters on Wikipedia is a mere stub. So too is the entry on Wendy on the ER wiki. This isn't unusual for the supporting characters--Nurse Lydia Wright (Ellen Crawford) was on the show for ten seasons and her wiki is a stub too. I then thought I would write my own wiki on Wendy Goldman, containing as much information as could be gleaned from the episodes as possible. Here it is.

Nurse Wendy Goldman was a recurring character on ER in its first three seasons. At least in the first season Wendy was a student nurse. It seems likely that in the pilot, "24 Hours," she had only been working the hospital for a short time. At the very least, she seems unfamiliar with Dr. Ross (George Clooney). When Ross comes into the ER to be treated for drunkenness, she asks Dr. Greene (Anthony Edwards), "Does he always do this?" In "Make of Two Hearts," when Wendy complains to Jerry about decorating the ER for Valentine's Day, she says, "I'm not a nurse in training, I'm a nurse in decorating!"

The viewer is told nothing about Wendy's background or family. From Wendy Goldman's name, viewers might assume that she is part Jewish. At the same time, viewers would have good reason to assume that she was a Latina as well, aside from the fact that Vanessa Marquez was Mexican American. Wendy is fluent in Spanish and sometimes serves as a translator when needed. In "Into That Good Night" she comforts a Spanish speaking patient in her native language. In "Love Among the Ruins" she translates for a Spanish speaking father whose son has gotten a coat hanger caught in his throat. In "Days Like This" Jerry, who does not speak Spanish, asks Wendy to help with a Spanish speaking mother seeking information on her son, who is in the hospital. Wendy may have had a Jewish father (hence her name) and a Latina mother.

Wendy is single. In "Faith," when the nurses are negotiating a new contract with the hospital, Haleh (Yvonne Freeman) says that the nurses will stand firm as far as their demands for a new contract go. Wendy tells her, "That's easy for you to say. You've got a husband with a job." It seems likely that for much of the time Wendy is working in the ER that she does not have a boyfriend either, at least going by how aggressively she flirts with dance instructor Mickey (Brian Wimmer) in "Last Call."

Wendy is sweet and soft hearted in demeanour, and often comforts patients. In "Make of Two Hearts" she holds a train victim's hand. Unfortunately, the train victim goes into a seizure and crushes her hand. In "Into that Good Night" she stroked the hair of the aforementioned Spanish speaking patient, who had been involved in a car accident. In "John Carter, M.D." it is Wendy who offers to call the parents of a little girl who was hit by car while riding her bicycle. In "Make of Two Hearts" Wendy is sad when she is told the patient who crushed her hand has died. In "The Healers" she admits to having cried when paramedics Shep (Ron Eldard) and Raul (Carlos Gómez) brought in a baby who died. Wendy's concern doesn't just extend to patients, but her co-workers in the ER as well. When Dr. Weaver (Laura Innes) is hit on the head by a falling clock, Wendy's first reaction is to ask, "Are you alright?" Wendy seems to be good with children. In "Chicago Heat" she reads Horton Hears a Who? to Dr. Greene's daughter Rachel. In "Blizzard" she is helping Patrick (Kevin Michael Richardson) entertain a little girl in the ER.

While Wendy is sweet and soft hearted, she does have a temper. As mentioned above, in "Make of Two Hearts," she complains about having to decorate the ER. Later in "Make of Two Hearts," she snaps at medical Deb Chen (Ming-Na Wen), who is high on acid, for not recognizing her when Deb is there to put a cast on her broken hand. In "House of Cards" she yells at medical student Deb Chen (Ming-Na Wen) when Deb attempts putting a central line into a patient's chest all by herself. In "No Brain, No Gain" Wendy shouts at Jerry and E-Ray (Charles Noland) when the two of them claim an MRI has somehow reversed E-Ray's polarity. 

While viewers are never told about any friends Wendy might have outside the ER, she appears to be close to many of her fellow employees in the ER. This is particularly true of her fellow nurses. In "Baby Shower" she brings a gigantic box containing a gift to a baby shower held at Doc Magoo's for Connie (Connie Oligaro). In "Welcome Back, Carter" Chuny (Laura Cerón) shows Wendy pictures of her riding a jet ski (presumably the photos were from Chuny's vacation). In  "Who's Appy Now?" Chuny and Wendy gossip about Dr. Greene in a mixture of English and Spanish. Wendy also appears to be particularly close to desk clerk Jerry, who sometimes involves her in his various schemes. In "Make of Two Hearts," when Wendy complains to Jerry about having to decorate the ER, he asks, "Can I help?" In "No Brain, No Gain," an anthropologist doing a comparison study on the mating rituals of birds and humans thinks Wendy and Jerry are flirting, although given she later yells at Jerry it seems likely the anthropologist mistook two friends joking around for flirting. At the very least, Wendy treats Jerry very differently from Mickey in "Last Call," in whom she was obviously interested. In "Calling Dr. Hathaway" Wendy helps Jerry put out live traps to catch the genetically engineered mouse and thus get a hefty financial reward.

For the  most part Wendy maintains a professional demeanour with the medical students and doctors in the ER. She often assists Carter (Noah Wylie) and the two seem genuinely fond of each other. In "Make of Two Hearts" when Dr. Lewis (Sherry Stringfield) snatches Carter's many Valentines away from him and starts reading them off, "Wendy" is among the names of women who gave Valentines to Carter. While Wendy isn't an exceedingly rare name, it isn't very common either, so viewers may have been safe in assuming it was Wendy Goldman who gave Carter a Valentine. Even so, given neither Wendy nor Carter mention the Valentine, it seems safe to assume that if it was Wendy Goldman who sent it, it was meant as a platonic gesture. Indeed, when Ross compliments her on volunteering to decorate the ER (to which she replies, "I didn't volunteer!"), she stuffs a little heart in the pocket of his lab coat.  Later in "Make of Two Hearts" even as Carter laughs at the cast Deb put on Wendy's hand, he tells her, "I'm sorry" and says he that he will fix it the next day. Wendy also often assists Ross and in "Luck of the Draw" Ross seems comfortable enough to tell her he has a son he has never seen  In "Night Shift" Wendy assists Weaver with a night shift study.

Wendy is intelligent, displaying a good deal of medical knowledge even when she was a student nurse. In "Luck of the Draw," when Dr. Lewis tells Wendy to give her patient 350 milligrams of dopamine, Wendy corrects her and says, "I think you mean micrograms." In "House of Cards" it is Wendy who determines that a junkie who was brought into the ER needs a central line, stating, "He hasn't any veins left." When Wendy goes to get Dr. Lewis to put the central line in, Deb attempts to do the procedure herself, entirely botching it. In "Men Plan, God Laughs," Dr. Greene asks if a patient has a peptic ulcer or a varices, Wendy correctly guesses he has a varices (although Haleh was correct in guessing he had a peptic ulcer--the patient had both). Wendy apparently enjoys learning new things. In "Whose Appy Now?" Wendy is reading info from a pamphlet on how often doctors wash their hands and even pick their noses. When she relays this information to Dr. Ross, he tells her that there is a limit to how informed he wants to be. While Wendy is very bright, in "Welcome Back, Carter," Carol (Julianna Margulies) tells Wendy that she has to get her ALCS certification. Wendy doesn't know what ACLS is (for the curious, it is short for "advanced cardiac life support"). Chuny tells her not to worry, that she will love it.

We only know a little about Wendy's pastimes and hobbies. In "Blizzard," during a very slow period at the ER, Wendy rollerblades through the ER. She apparently likes baking and cooking. In "Hell and High Water" Wendy bakes brownies for the ER staff, although they might not be very good. When Carter takes a bite out of one he makes a face. In "No Brain, No Gain" Wendy makes salt water taffy for the ER staff. Her taffy seems to be better than her brownies. At the very least, Jerry and patient Mr. Percy (William Sanderson) like it. It seems likely Wendy enjoys playing video games and may actually be good at them. In "Hell and High Water" she is among the staff who plays Doom on the ER's new computer and even suggests to Carol when she is playing the game that she uses the rocket launcher. Wendy also plays the lottery. In "Luck of the Draw" it is shown that she coordinates the ER staff's purchase of Lotto tickets. It also seems likely that Wendy is a fan of classic movies. In "Last Call," when describing dance instructor Mickey to Jeannie, she compares Mickey to a combination of Dennis Quaid, Robert Redford, and James Dean. While Wendy may be a fan of classic films, she apparently is not a fan of the NBA. In  "Baby Shower" Jerry claims to have met Scotty Pippen, but no one believes him. When Scotty Pippen shows up in the ER, Jerry goes to alert the doctors. Unfortunately, Scotty Pippen leaves while Jerry is gone. When Jerry gets back to the front desk, he asks Wendy if she's seen him. Wendy simply asks, "Is he kind of a tall guy?"

Wendy's talents go beyond the ER. In "Do One, Teach One, Kill One," she is writing a cover story on Dr. Greene for the nursing newsletter. In "Whose Appy Now?" Wendy states that she has National Guard duty that weekend.

Wendy Goldman last appeared on ER in "Calling Dr. Hathaway." Viewers are never told why she left or what happened to her. In the fourth season episode "Freak Show," Dr. Weaver tells Jeannie Boulet that Yoshi Takata (Gedde Watanabe) was hired to replace two nurses who left. It would be safe to assume Wendy was one of those nurses.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

The Late Great Robert Morse

I was a fan of Robert Morse long before he started playing Bert Cooper on Mad Men. I was a young adult when I first saw How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967). I would later see him in such films as The Loved One (1965) and A Guide for the Married Man (1967). By the time of the first season of Mad Men, then, I was already an admirer of Mr. Morse. Of course, Mad Men would become one of my favourite shows, in a large part because of Robert Morse's performance as Bert. Sadly, Robert Morse died yesterday, April 20 2022 , at the age of 90.

Robert Morse was born May 18 1931 in Newtown, Massachusetts. His mother, May, was a pianist. His father, Charles owned a chain of movie theatres. It was his music teacher Henry Lasker, at Newtown High School, who developed an interest in entertainment in young Robert Morse. During the Korean War he served in the United States Navy. Following the war, Mr, Morse moved to New York City where he trained at the American Theatre Wing. He got a job as a rehearsal singer for the game show Named That Tune. An agent heard him and signed him up.

Robert Morse made his debut on Broadway in The Matchmaker in 1955. Later in the Fifties he appeared on Broadway in Say, Darling and Take Me Along. He made his television debut in the soap opera The Secret Storm in 1954. In the Fifties he guest starred on the shows Goodyear Television Playhouse, The Alcoa Hour, The Phil Silvers Show, Matinee Theatre, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Play of the Week. He made his film debut in an uncredited role in the movie The Proud and the Profane (1956). He reprised the role of Barnaby Tucker in the film version of The Matchmaker (1958).

The Sixties were arguably the heyday of Robert Morse's career. From 1961 to 1965 he starred as J. Pierrepont Finch in the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying on Broadway. He reprised the role in the 1967 movie of the same name. He starred in the cult film The Loved One (1965) as well as the sex comedy A Guide for the Married Man (1967). He also appeared in the movies The Cardinal (1963), Honeymoon Hotel (1964), Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad (1967), Where Were You When the Lights Went Out (1969), and The Boatniks (1970). On television he starred in the short-lived, 1968 musical comedy series That's Life. He guest starred on the shows Shirley Temple's Storybook, Naked City, and The Red Skelton Show.

In the Seventies he appeared on Broadway in Sugar and So Long, 174th Street. He appeared on the television shows Alias Smith and Jones; Night Gallery; Love, American Style; and Fantasy Island. He provided voices for the animated specials The First Easter Rabbit and Jack Frost.   In the Eighties he appeared in the movies Hunk (1987) and The Emperor's New Clothes (1987).  He appeared on the TV shows All my Children; The Good Book; One Day at a Time; Masquerade; The Fall Guy; The Dukes of Hazzard; Tales of the Unexpected; Murder, She Wrote; Trapper John, M.D.; The Twilight Zone; and You Again?. He was the voice of Howler on Pound Puppies and was a guest voice on Monchchichis. He appeared on Broadway in Tru.

In the Nineties he starred on the television show City of Angels. He was a voice on the animated show ProStars. He appeared in the mini-series Wild Palms and The Wild West. He appeared on the TV shows American Playhouse, Union Square, and Suddenly Susan. He appeared in the TV movie Here Come the Munsters. He provided voices for the animated shows  Tiny Toon Adventures, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Superman, and The Wild Thornberrys.

It was in the Naughts that Robert Morse began a seven season run playing Bert Cooper on Mad Men. He appeared in the TV show Jeff Ltd. and provided a voice for an episode of The Legend of Korra. He appeared in the movie All About You (2002). In the Teens he starred in a season of American Crime Story and provided the voice of Santa Claus on Teen  Titans Go!. He appeared in the TV series Sofia the First and Corporate. He provided voices for an episode of Animals. He appeared in the parody TV movie Donald Trump's The Art of the Deal: The Movie and in the film The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez (2012).  He appeared on Broadway in The Front Page.

Robert Morse was a wonderful actor. He was a gifted singer and a fine dancer. He was also a great actor with a perfect sense of timing. He was as at home in musicals as he was in comedies as he was in dramas. He could play a wide variety of roles, from a young man planning his uncle's funeral (The Loved One) to a window cleaner turned corporate executive (How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying) to Grandpa Munster. Indeed, it is a demonstration of just how versatile Robert Morse was that his two most famous roles are in a musical comedy (How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying) and a television drama (Mad Men). What is more, Robert Morse was a success in multiple media, from Broadway to movies to television. If ever there was a triple threat, that was Robert Morse. There are very few talents as great as he was.