Friday, November 3, 2023

Godspeed Richard Moll

Richard Moll, who played Bull Shannon on the classic sitcom Night Court and was the voice of Two-Face on Batman: The Animated Series, died on October 26 2023 at the age of 80.

Richard Moll was born on January 13 1943 in Pasadena, California. He majored in history and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. He graduated in 1964 and served as a deputy probation officer in Alameda County and later in a ladies hosiery store in San Francisco. He moved to Los Angeles in 1968 to pursue an acting career. He made his film debut in 1977 in Brigham. He made his television debut in a guest appearance on Welcome Back, Kotter in 1978. In the late Seventies he guest starred on the shows The Rockford Files, How the West Was Won, Happy Days, Bigfoot and Wildboy, B.J. and the Bear, The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Bad News Bears, and Nobody's Perfect. He appeared in the movie Cataclysm.

It was in 1984 that he began playing Bull on Night Court. He remained on the show for all of its nine seasons. He guest starred on the shows Best of the West, Here's Boomer, Laverne & Shirley, Code Red, Bret Maverick, Mork & Mindy, The Fall Guy, T.J. Hooker, Remington Steele, Fantasy Island, Alice, Just Our Luck, The Dukes of Hazzard, The A-Team, Santa Barbara, The Facts of Life, Sledge Hammer!, My Two Dads, Monsters, 227, The Munsters Today, and Out of This World. He provided a voice for the movie American Pop (1981). He appeared in the movies Caveman (1981), Liar's Moon (1981), Hard Country (1981), Evilspeak (1981), The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982), Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn (1983), Under Arrest (1983), Ragewar (1984), Night Train to Terror (1985), House (1985), Survivor (1987), Pulse Pounders (1988), Wicked Stepmother (1989), and Think Big (1989).

In the early Nineties he continued to appear as Bull on Night Court. He provided the voice of Two-Face on Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures, the voice of Norman on Mighty Max, and The Scorpion on Spider-Man. He provided additional voices for The Legend of Calamity Jane.  He was a regular on the shows Getting By and 100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd. He guest starred on the shows Highlander; Martin; CBS Schoolbreak Special; Due South; Hercules: The Legendary Journeys; Babylon 5; Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman; Baywatch; Weird Science; Married with Children; 7th Heaven; Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and The Parent Hood. He was a guest voice on the animated shows Freakazoid!, Aaahhh!!! Real Monsters, Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child; Superman: The Animated Series; The Incredible Hulk; and Cow and Chicken. He appeared in the movies Driving Miss Crazy (1991), Let's Kill All Lawyers (1992), Sidekicks (1992), Marilyn Alive and Behind Bars (1992), Loaded Weapon 1 (1993), Storybook (1994), The Flintstones (1994), No Dessert, Dad, Till You Mow the Lawn (1994), Beanstalk (1994), Galaxis (1995), The Secret Agent Club (1996), The Glass Cage (1996), Jingle All the Way (1996), The Elevator (1996), Little Cobras: Operation Dalmatian (1997), Living in Peril (1997), Snide and Prejudice (1997), Me and the Gods (1997), The Survivor (1998), Monkey Business (1998), Foreign Correspondents (1998), But I'm a Cheerleader (1999), Shadow Hours (2000), Big Monster on Campus (2000), That Summer in L.A. (2000), and Flamingo Dreams (2000).

In the Naughts Richard Moll guest starred on the shows Smallville and Cold Case. He was a guest voice on the animated series The Zeta Project, Justice League, and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. He appeared in the movies Dumb Luck (2001), Spiders II: Breeding Ground (2001), Evolution (2001), Scary Movie 2 (2001), Angel Blade (2002), No Place Like Home (2002), The Work and the Story (2003), Cats and Mice (2003), Uh Oh! (2004), The Biggest Fan (2005), Diamond Zero (2005), Angels with Angles (2005), Nightmare Man (2006), Headless Horsman (2007), Christmas Cottage (2008), and Love at First Hiccup (2009).

In the Teens he appeared in the movies Assassin's Code (2011), DisOrientation (2012), Sorority Party Massacre (2012), Hemingway (2012), Jurassic: Stone Age (2013), Bffs (2014), Kids vs. Monsters (2015), Razor (2016), DaZe: Vol. Too (sic) - NonSeNse (2016), Circus Kane (2017), and Slay Belles (2018). He guest starred on the shows Anger Management.

Richard Moll also provided voices for several video games, including The Adventures of Batman & Robin Activity Center, Fallout: A Post-Nuclear Role-Playing Game, Outlaws, and The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction.

It is safe to say Richard Moll will be best remembered as Bull on Night Court. He was perfect in the roll of the gentle giant who was very protective of Judge Harry Stone (Harry Anderson). As great as he was as Bull, it must be kept in mind that Mr. Moll played many other roles in his career. Aside from Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hammill as The Joker, he gave arguably the best performance on Batman: The Animated Series, portraying prosecutor Harvey Dent, who becomes the supervillain Two-Face. In the horror comedy movie House he played Big Ben, a soldier who died in Vietnam and returns from the dead. In The Sword and the Sorcerer he played the sorcerer Xusia. One of his best performances was in the comedy But I'm a Cheerleader, in which he played Larry Morgan-Gordon, a gay man who with his partner Lloyd (Wesley Mann) helps teenagers escape from a conversion therapy camp. Of course, he had a gift for voice acting, and he played a wide range of characters in animation, from Spider-Man's enemy The Scorpion to The Hulk's opponent The Abomination. Richard Boll was a wonderful actor who played wide array of roles throughout this role, and played all of them well.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

The Late Great Richard Roundtree

Richard Roundtree, who played detective John Shaft in five movies and a TV series, as well as Sam Bennett on the TV mini-series Roots, died on October 24 2023 at the age of 81. The cause was pancreatic cancer.

Richard Roundtree was born on July 9 1942 in New Rochelle, New York. He attended New Rochelle High School and played on their football team. After graduating from high school in 1961, he attended Southern Illinois University on a football scholarship. He left Southern Illinois University in 1963 to pursue a career as a male model. He appeared in ads for Salem cigarettes and Duke hair products. It was in 1967 that he moved to New York City to study acting. He joined the Negro Ensemble Company. In 1971 he played the role of boxer Jack Johnson in the company's production of The Great White Hope. It was while he was in that production that he learned of auditions for the movie Shaft.

Richard Roundtree made his film debut in Shaft (1971), playing the lead role of private eye John Shaft. The movie proved to be a success and led to two sequels in the Seventies, Shaft's Big Score! (1972) and Shaft in Africa (1973). It also spurred a cycle of movies known rightly or wrongly as Blaxpoloitation. He starred in the TV series Shaft, based on the movies, which ran on CBS during the 1973-1974 season. In the Seventies he appeared in the movies Embassy (1972), Charley-One-Eye (1973), Earthquake (1974), Man Friday (1975), Diamonds (1975), Portrait of a Hitman (1979), Escape to Athena (1979), Game for Vultures (1979), and Day of the Assassin (1979). In addition to the Shaft TV series, Mr. Roundtree appeared on television in the TV movies Parachute to Paradise and Firehouse. He appeared in the mini-series Roots and guest starred on the TV show Love Boat.

In the Eighties Richard Roundtree appeared in the movies Inchon (1981), An Eye for an Eye (1981), Q (1982), One Down, Two to Go (1982), Young Warriors (1983), The Big Score (1983), Killpoint (1984), City Heat (1984), Opposing Force (1986), Jocks (1986), Maniac Cop (1988), Party Line (1988), Angel III: The Final Chapter (1988), Miami Cops (1989), La vendetta (1989), Night Visitor (1989), Crack House (1989), The Banker (1989), Bad Jim (1989), and Gypsy Angels (1989). On television he starred on the TV shows Outlaws and Generations. He appeared in the mini-series A.D. He guest starred on the shows CHiPs; Magnum, P.I.; Masquerade; Hollywood Beat; ABC Afterschool Specials; Murder, She Wrote; A Different World; Amen; Beauty and the Beast; and MacGyver.

In 2000 Richard Roundtree reprised his role as John Shaft, the uncle of the protagonist (also named John Shaft) in the movie Shaft (2000). In the Nineties he also appeared in the movies A Time to Die (1991), Bloodfist III: Forced to Fight (1991), Sins of the Night (1993), Deadly Rivals (1993), Mind Twister (1993), Ballistic (1995), Se7en (1995), Once Upon a Time...When We Were Colored (1995), Theodore Rex (1995), Original Gangstas (1996), George of the Jungle (1997) and Steel (1997). On television he starred on the shows Buddies, 413 Hope St. and Rescue 77. He had recurring roles on the show Roc and and Soul Food. He guest starred on the shows The Young Riders; Beverly Hills, 90120; Hearts are Wild; L.A. Law; Hangin' with Mr. CooperRenegade; The Wayans Bros.; Dream On; Touched by an Angel; The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air; Profiler; Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman; and Linc's.

In the Naughts Mr. Roundtree was a regular on the series Diary of a Single Mom. He had recurring roles in the TV shows Desperate Housewives, Heroes, and Lincoln Heights. He guest starred on the shows Resurrection Blvd., Alias, The Closer; Blade: The Series; Grey's Anatomy; Close to Home; Knight Rider; and Meet the Browns. He appeared in the movies Antitrust (2001), Hawaiian Gardens (2001), Corky Romano (2001), Al's Lads (2002), Boat Trip (2002), Max Havoc: Curse of the Dragon (2004), Brick (2005), Wild Seven (2006), All the Days Before Tomorrow (2007), Vegas Vampires (2007), Speed Racer (2008), Set Apart (2009), and The Confidant (2010).

In 2019 Richard Roundtree reprised his role as John Shaft one last time, playing the father of John Shaft, Jr. and the grandfather of J. J. Shaft. He appeared in the movies This Bitter Earth (2012), Collar (2015), Retreat! (2016), What Men Want (2019), Duke (2020), and Haunting of the Mary Celeste (2020). He was a regular on the shows Being Mary Jane, Family Reunion, and Cherish the Day. He had recurring roles on the shows Chicago Fire, The Player, and Star. He guest starred on the shows Private Practice, Lethal Weapon, and Sacrifice.

It is safe to say that Richard Roundtree will always be best remembered as John Shaft. He was perfect in the role, widely considered the first Black action hero. That having been said, he played many other roles and he played them well. He played the charming carriage driver Sam Bennett in Roots. In Once Upon a Time...When We Were Colored, he played the iceman Cleve. In Man Friday he played the character of the title, who challenges Robinson Crusoe's notions of white supremacy. On the TV series he played the none too honest grocery store co-owner Hardy Lester. Throughout his career he played a wide variety of characters. While Richard Roundtree will always be best remembered as John Shaft, he did so much more.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Happy Halloween 2023

Here at A Shroud of Thoughts we realize many like a bit of cheesecake with their Halloween candy. I then have this year's Halloween pinups for you.

Ellen Drew is relaxing in the hay with her jack o' lanterns and Halloween masks.

Donna Reed dressed for Halloween, complete with her jack o' lantern.

Esther Williams carving her jack o' lantern for Halloween

Olga San Juan relaxing on a giant jack o' lantern

Clara Bow posing beside a giant jack o' lantern.

And it's always a treat to see Ann Miller on Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 30, 2023

Our Miss Brooks : "Mr. Conklin's Halloween Breakdown"

Many older people, as well as Gen Xers like me who got to see it in reruns, have fond memories of Our Miss Brooks. It was a popular sitcom in the Fifties, and one of the earliest television shows to be adapted as a motion picture (Our Miss Brooks in 1956). While Our Miss Brooks was a popular television show, it had originated on radio. And like many radios shows, it had a Halloween episode. Its title was "Mr. Conklin's Halloween Breakdown."

Our Miss Brooks starred Eve Arden as Constance "Connie" brooks, a much put-upon, very much single English teacher at Madison High School. The principal at Madison High School was the gruff and often demanding Osgood Conklin (Gale Gordon). Philip Boynton (Jeff Chandler) was the shy biology teacher at Madison High School, and the object of Miss Brooks's affection, although he had absolutely no clue how she felt. Walter Dention (Richard Crenna) was one of Miss Brooks's students who had a high-pitched voice. He usually had good intentions, although his sheer clumsiness sometimes got in the way. Fabian "Stretch" Davis (Leonard Smith) was the none-too-bright star athlete at Madison High School and Walter's best friend. Margaret Davis (Jane Morgan) was Miss Brooks's landlady, who tended to be a bit absentminded and loved to cook exotic breakfasts that were more often than not inedible.

In  "Mr. Conklin's Halloween Breakdown" Walter Dention and some of the other Madison High students are planning a Halloween Party. What is more, they plan to have it at Connie Brooks's apartment, Miss Davis having already agreed. Miss Brooks is opposed to having the party at her apartment, until she learns Mr. Boynton will be attending. While Miss Brooks and the students are getting ready for Halloween, Mr. Conklin is under a great deal of stress and is told by his doctor that he is on the verge of a nervous collapse. When Miss Brooks and the students learn of Mr. Conklin's condition, they decide to hold the party at his house as a way of cheering him up. As it turns out, Miss Brooks slips up and tells Mr. Conklin about the party, thinking that he had already learned of it. Mr. Conklin really doesn't want to be around a large group of people, and so Miss Brooks tells him that he can just relax at her apartment while the party is taking place. Unfortunately, Mr. Boynton and the students have decided to show up at Miss Brooks' apartment to surprise her in their costumes. After Miss Brooks and Mr. Conklin arrive at her apartment, he then sees Mr. Boynton in his skeleton costume, Walter as a ghost, and Stretch as Hopalong Cassidy, leading him to think he has had his nervous breakdown and is now seeing things. Of course, everything is straightened out in the end.

 "Mr. Conklin's Halloween Breakdown" aired on October 30 1949. It was sponsored by Colgate and featured ads for Colgate's Dental Cream and Lustre-Creme shampoo. It would be the only Halloween episode of Our Miss Brooks on either radio or television. While many shows that made the transition from radio to television would adapt old radio scripts to the new medium, "Mr. Conklin's Halloween Breakdown"was never re-made as an episode of the television show. This is sad, as it is one of the funniest episode of the radio show Our Miss Brooks, and it would have lent itself quite well to television. The premise is original, particularly for a Halloween episode, and the cast is in top form. While Gale Gordon is known as one of the masters of the "slow burn," he also had a talent for playing a man on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

The radio show Our Miss Brooks ran on CBS from 1948 to 1957. It made the transition to television in 1952 and it would run until 1956. The television show would be successful in syndication. In the Eighties it aired on various cable channels, and it still resurfaces on nostalgia channels such as MeTV from time to time. Episodes can now be found on the streaming service Tubi. As to the radio version, it is widely available on CD, and can be found streaming on sites from YouTube to the various Old Time Radio sites. Fans of Old Time Radio and sitcoms really should check out  "Mr. Conklin's Halloween Breakdown," which is one of the funniest Halloween radio episodes ever made.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Tales from the Darkside: "Trick or Treat" (The Pilot)

Tale from the Darkside remains one of the best remembered horror anthologies of all time. Most episodes were morality plays or cautionary tales in which some individual or individuals got what was coming to them. Tales from the Darkside aired in syndication and proved to be rather popular in its time. It ultimately ran for four seasons. It was forty years ago today, on October 29 1983, that the show's pilot episode first aired. Fittingly enough given when it debuted, it was a Halloween tale called "Trick or Treat."

In "Trick or Treat," Gideon Hackles (Barnard Hughes) is a local storekeeper and the richest man in town. Almost everyone in town and the surrounding rural area is in debt to him. He also happens to be an absolute miser and an absolutely spiteful one at that. Every Halloween he gives trick-or-treaters the chance to find their parents' IOUs. If an individual child finds their parents' IOU, their debts are entirely cancelled. Unfortunately, no child has ever found an IOU, as Mr. Hackles has his house rigged with animatronic ghosts and goblins of the sort one would find in a carnival fright house or a haunted house attraction with which he scares the kids away. As might be expected, in the end Mr. Hackles gets a rather Hellish comeuppance for his spitefulness and greed.

Tales from the Darkside grew out of the movie Creepshow (1982), directed by George Romero and Stephen King. Creepshow was a portmanteau movie featuring four tales of horror, not unlike the British classic Dead of Night (1945) or such Amicus portmanteau horror movies as Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965) and The House That Dripped Blood (1970). Creepshow drew inspiration from such EC Comics horror titles as Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror, which also offered up morality plays in a horror setting.

proved moderately successful at the box office. It occurred to George Romero and the producers of Creepshow that the movie could provide the basis for a horror anthology television series. Unfortunately, Warner Bros.who distributed Creepshow, owned certain intellectual properties in relation to the movie. George Romero then created Tales from the Darkside. The comic book trappings of Creepshow were jettisoned for Tales from the Darkside, but like the movie it drew inspiration from EC Comics. As mentioned above, like EC Comics and Creepshow before it, Tales from the Darkside featured morality plays in which some character got their comeuppance.

In this way the pilot episode, "Trick or Treat," was truly representative of the series that was to come. Barnard Jones brought the greedy, spiteful, and downright sadistic Gideon Hackles to life, and made for a memorable episode. The episode's effects are also impressive for the era, when the use of CGI was virtually unknown. The fact that the debut of "Trick or Treat" coincided with Halloween and the pilot had a Halloween theme probably helped it draw in more viewers than it would have had otherwise. The success of "Trick or Treat" in syndication led Tribune Entertainment to go forward with Tales from the Darkside. The regular series debuted on September 30 1984 and ran for four seasons. The show's continued success would result in the theatrical release Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990), a portmanteau horror film featuring three tales of terror. It was released two years after Tales from the Darkside had ended its run.

"Trick or Treat" would not be the only episode of Tales from the Darkside set at Halloween. The show's second Halloween episode, "Halloween Candy," aired in its second season. In "Halloween Candy," another grumpy old man gets his comeuppance when refusing to give a trick-or-treater candy. The third and final Halloween episode of Tales from the Darkside was "The Cutty Black Sow," which dealt with a demon from Celtic lore that steals the souls of all who die on Halloween.

Tales from the Darkside was released on VHS and later on DVD. Sadly, it is not available on streaming, but Tales from the Darkside is still remembered and maintains a cult following to this day. It was on the strength of that pilot, "Trick or Treat," which would turn out to be one of the show's best episodes, that Tales from the Darkside came into being as a series.