Saturday, April 22, 2023

The 100th Anniversary of Bettie Page's Birth

It was on this date 100 years ago that Bettie Page was born in Nashville, Tennessee. I eulogized Miss Page upon the occasion of her death in 2008, so I won't write an in-depth post now. Even so, I do want to say a few words about Bettie Page this evening. Short of a few Golden Age movie stars, there can be no doubt that Bettie Page is the most famous pinup of all time. Indeed, she has been called "the Queen of the Pinups" with good reason. Beyond her enduring popularity nearly seventy years after her pinup career ended, she may possibly be the most photographed woman of all time, with an estimated 20,000 photographs.

Bettie Page would certainly have an impact on popular culture. She had a lasting impact on comic books. I have seen claims that the look of Batman's opponent Poison Ivy was originally inspired by Miss Page, although I have been unable to confirm that. Cliff Secord's love interest in Dave Stevens's comic book feature The Rocketeer, Betty, was based on Bettie Page. Dave Stevens would later meet Bettie Page and the two would become close friends. There would later be Bettie Page comic books, including series published by Dark Horse Comics and Dynamite Entertainment. Bettie Page also had an impact on pop music. It is fairly obvious that Katy Perry took her look (dark hair with bangs) from Bettie Page. And, of course, Bettie Page has inspired songs, including "Bettie Page" by Public Image Ltd. and Royal Crown Revue's song "Port-au-Prince (Travels with Betty Page)." Bettie Page would also have an impact on film. Her look inspired Jenny (as the character of Betty was renamed) in the 1991 film adaptation of The Rocketeer, as well as Rosario Dawson's character in Death Proof (2007). Burlesque model Dita Von Teese has drawn upon Bettie Page for inspiration from time to time. Today Bettie Page's image graces everything from kitchen magnets to Zippo lighters to playing cards.

In tribute to Bettie Page on the 100th anniversary of her birth, here are a few of her classic photos (for those who worry about such things, they are all PG rated).

Friday, April 21, 2023

"Twilight Time" by The Platters

My usual tree pollen allergies have me feeling a bit under the weather today, so instead of a full-fledged blog post, I thought I would leave you with a song. In this case, it's "Twilight Time" by the Platters.

"Twilight Time" originated as a poem written by Samuel "Buck" Ram in college. Buck Ram's poem was later set to music by the instrumental group The Three Suns in 1944. The Three Suns recorded an instrumental version that same year. It was also that year that Les Brown and His Band of Renown recorded an instrumental version, which served as the "B" side of their single "Sentimental Journey."

It was in 1953 that Buck Ram began working with The Platters, and he wrote their first major hit, "Only You (and You Alone)." The Platters would have further hits, including "The Great Pretender (also written by Buck Ram)" in 1955 and "My Prayer" in 1956. The Platters recorded "Twilight Time" in 1958, complete with the lyrics Buck Ram had written years ago. Amazingly enough, Mercury Records decided that "Twilight Time" would be the B-side of "Out of My Mind."

Fortunately, "Twilight Time" would not remain the "B" side of a single for long, largely thanks to Dick Clark. The Platters were set to appear on The Dick Clark Saturday Night Beechnut Show. The Platters were set to sing "Only You," "The Great Pretender," and "Out of My Mind." Fortunately, Buck Ram's assistant, Jean Bennett was able to convince the show's producer to let The Platters perform both "Out of My Mind" and "Twilight Time" after playing "Twilight Time" for Dick Clark over the phone. The following Monday morning Mercury was receiving orders for "Twilight Time," not "Out of My Mind."

As it turned out, "Twilight Time" proved to be a huge hit for The Platters. It went to number one on both the Billboard pop singles and rhythm and blues chart. It peaked at no. 3 on the UK singles chart.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

DVD Netflix is Shutting Down

It was only a little over a month ago that I wrote a post on the 25th anniversary of DVD Netflix. Sadly, it was yesterday that it was announced that Netflix will be shutting down its DVD-by-mail business. The last DVD will be sent out on September 29 2023.

Sadly, DVD Netflix is not as big as it once was. In 2012 DVD Netflix clocked  $1,136.87 million. In 2020 it was down to $239 million. Its revenue fell to $183 million in 2021 and then fell to $146 million in 2022. As to what caused DVD Netflix, it seems like that the blame can be placed firmly on streaming. Netflix launched it streaming service in 2007 and it would grow to the point that it is now what Netflix is best known for. Of course, other streaming services would follow in its wake, including Hulu, Disney+, and HBO Max. Given a choice between choosing a movie from DVD Netflix and waiting for it to arrive in the mail and choosing  a movie on a streaming service and then watching it minutes later, many apparently chose the latter option.

While there can be no doubt that many people deserted DVD Netflix in favour of streaming services, DVD Netflix still has a loyal following. DVD Netflix has one big advantage over the various streaming services. Quite simply, it has an enormous DVD library, allowing customers to watch movies that aren't currently available on streaming services. Want to watch Mask (1985)? Well, you can't do it on streaming, but it is available on DVD. The  Cannonball Run (1981)? It's not on streaming either, but it is on DVD. Even the classic Rebecca (1940) is not be found on streaming at the moment, but there have been several DVD releases. The death of DVD Netflix will then leave a hole for many movie and television buffs that won't easily be filled.

Indeed, I have fond memories of watching DVDs I received in the familiar Netflix red envelopes. I rewatched the entire runs of the TV shows Nowhere Man and Crime Story by way of Netflix. I also watched such diverse movies as Quadrophenia (1979), Phantom of the Paradise (1974), Seven Samurai (1954), and Pandora's Box (1929) through DVD Netflix. The extensive library of DVD Netflix gave me access to far more movies and TV shows than all of the major streaming services combined currently do.

Now I will admit that I don't know how much it cost to operate DVD Netflix. It could be that a good chuck of $146 million it made last year was devoured by operating costs. Regardless, it is a sad day for fans of physical media. DVD Netflix filled a niche that I suspect the streaming services never will.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

The 85th Anniversary of Superman

It was 85 years ago today, on April 18 1938, that Action Comics no. 1 (June 1938) hit newsstands. It was historic for featuring the first appearance of Superman. Superman was not the first superhero, but he would be the one to have the most impact. In the wake of Superman there would be several other superheroes introduced in comic books, including Batman, The Flash, Captain Marvel, Green Lantern, Captain America, Wonder Woman, and more. As to Superman himself, the character was a veritable phenomenon in the late Thirties and Forties. There was a ton of merchandising, as well as adaptations to such media as radio, theatrical animated shorts, newspaper comic strips, and movie serials. In the Forties, there weren't many characters as big as Superman.

Here I should point out that Superman was not the only character important in the history of DC Comics to make his first appearance in Action Comics no. 1. The magician Zatara also debuted in the magazine. Zatara would prove successful, appearing in Action Comics throughout the Golden Age of Comics Books. It would be Zatara who would inspire what might have been the first legacy hero in the history of comics. His better known daughter, Zatanna, first appeared in Hawkman no. 4 (November 1964), in a storyline in which she was searching for her father. It was one of the few times in the Silver Age that a storyline ran through several different titles.

I have already written several posts on Superman over the years, including a history of the character for his 75th anniversary. Below are links to some of the posts I have made on the Man of Steel over the years.

"The Fleischer Superman Cartoons"

"Superman, the 1948 Serial"

"The 75th Anniversary of Superman"

"The Superman Phenomenon in the Late Thirties and Early Forties"