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.