Saturday, December 9, 2023

Ryan O'Neal Passes On

Ryan O'Neal, who starred in such movies as Love Story (1970), What's Up, Doc? (1972), and Paper Moon (1973), died yesterday, December 8 2023, at the age of 82.

Ryan O'Neal was born on April 20 1941 in Los Angeles. His father was novelist and screenwriter Charles "Blackie" O'Neal, who wrote screenplays for such films as The Seventh Victim (1943) and The Unknown (1946). as well as the novel The Three Wishes of Jamie McRuin. Ryan O'Neal was only a teenager when he took up boxing. He competed in Golden Gloves events in Los Angeles in 1956 and 1957. It was in the late Fifties that his family moved to Munich. There he became a stand-in and stuntman on the syndicated TV series Tales of the Viking.

After Ryan O'Neal returned to the United States, he made his television debut in the Dobie Gillis episode "The Hunger Strike." It also marked the television debut of Marlo Thomas. That same year he guest starred on the shows The Untouchables and General Electric Theatre. In the Sixties he was a regular on the short-lived show Empire and the night-time soap opera Peyton Place. He guest starred on the shows The DuPont Show with June Allyson, Bachelor Father, Laramie, Two Faces West, Westinghouse Playhouse, Leave It to Beaver, My Three Sons, The Virginian, Perry Mason, and Wagon Train. He made his film debut in The Big Bounce (1969). He appeared in the movie The Games (1970) before making his big break with the hit movie Love Story (1970).

In the Seventies Ryan O'Neal appeared in the hit films What's Up, Doc? (1972) and Paper Moon (1973), as well as the movies Wild Rovers (1971), The Thief Who Came to Dinner (1973), Barry Lyndon (1975), Nickelodeon (1976), A Bridge Too Far (1977), The Driver (1978), Oliver's Story (1978), and The Main Event (1979). In the Eighties he appeared in the films Green Ice (1981), So Fine (1981), Partners  (1982), Irreconcilable Differences (1984), Fever Pitch (1985), Tough Guys Don't Dance (1987), andChances Are (1989).

In the Nineties Ryan O'Neal starred in the short-lived sitcom Good Sports and the short-lived drama Bull (not to be confused with the 2016 series of the same name). He guest starred on The Larry Sanders Show and appeared in the TV movie The Man Upstairs. He appeared in the films Faithful (1996), Hacks (1997), An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (1997), Zero Effect (1998), Coming Soon (1999), Gentleman B. (2000), and The List (2000).

In the Naughts Ryan O'Neal was a regular on the short-lived comedy TV series Miss Match and had a recurring role on the TV series Bones. He guest starred on the shows Desperate Housewives and 90210. He appeared in the films People I Know (2001) and Malibu's Most Wanted (2003). In the Teens he continued to appear on Bones. He appeared in the movies Slumber Party Slaughter (2012) and Knight of Cups (2015).

Ryan O'Neal was a talented actor who played a wide variety of roles. He played the musicologist Dr. Howard Bannister, who becomes involved with an eccentric woman (Barbara Streisand) in What's Up Doc?. He was also the easy-going con man Moses Pray who agrees to deliver a little girl (Tatum O'Neal) to her aunt in St. Joseph in Paper Moon. He was the rogue of the title in Barry Lyndon, who marries a rich widow to better his social position. On the TV series Bones he played Max, the father of the main character Temperance "Bones" Brennan, a former, non-violent bank robber. Ryan O'Neal played a number of roles throughout his career and he gave many good performances.

Friday, December 8, 2023

"In My Life" by The Beatles

It was 43 years ago today that John Lennon was murdered. I learned the news the following morning, and I cried more over John than any other celebrity except for my dearest Vanessa Marquez. Today then seems a suitable time to post what is not only my favourite John Lennon song, but my favourite Beatles song of all time.

"In My Life" appeared on The Beatles' album Rubber Soul, released on December 3 1965 in the United Kingdom and December 6 1965 in the United States. The song was mostly written by John Lennon, with Paul McCartney contributing either the harmony and the middle-eight (according to John Lennon) or having set John Lennon's lyrics to music (according to Paul McCartney).

Regardless, the song's inspiration stems from a suggestion by English journalist Kenneth Allsop that John Lennon write a song about his childhood. The original lyrics to "In My Life" took the form of a bus journey that John Lennon took from his child hood home at 251 Menlove Avenue in Woolton to Liverpool, with such places as Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, the tram sheds, and so on named in the lyrics. John Lennon decided the whole thing was ridiculous, describing it as "...the most boring sort of 'What I Did on My Holiday's Bus Trip' song..." John Lennon then gave up writing lyrics about a bus trip and then instead focused on memories of the friends and lovers of his past. These new lyrics may have taken some inspiration from the 18th Century poem by Charles Lamb "The Old Familiar Faces," the final lines of which read, "How some they have died, and some they have left me,/And some are taken from me; all are departed--/All, are gone, the old familiar faces."

I have loved "In My Life" since childhood, and, if anything, my love for it has only grown since I have gotten older. Vanessa also loved the song, and I am not sure that it wasn't her favourite Beatles song. Regardless, I cannot think of the song without thinking of her. John Lennon, who could be critical of his own work, thought highly of the song. He counted it as his "first real major piece of work."

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Marisa Pavan Passes On

Marisa Pavan, best known for her Oscar-nominated role in The Rose Tattoo (1955), her role in The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit (1956), and numerous television guest appearances, died yesterday, December 6 2023, at the age of 91. She was the twin sister of actress Pier Angeli.

Marisa Pavan was born Maria Luisa Pierangeli on June 19 1932 in Cagliari, Sardinia, Kingdom of Italy. She was born a few minutes after her fraternal twin Anna Maria Pierangeli, later to become known as Pier Angeli. They had a younger sister, Patrizia Pierangeli, who also became an actress. Their mother had wanted to become an actress, and she was a huge fan of Shirley Temple. She took the Pierangeli twins to see all of Shirley Temple's movies.The family moved to Rome in the mid-Thirties.

Her sister Pier Angeli was discovered by directors Léonide Moguy and Vittorio De Sica while walking home from art school when she was 16. She was cast in Vittorio De Sica's film Tomorrow is Too Late (1950). The role brought her to the attention of MGM, who cast her in her first American film, Teresa (1951). Marisa Pavan and Pier Angeli then moved to Los Angeles. Marisa Pavan then followed her sister into acting, and was signed to 20th Century Fox even though she had no acting experience. She made her film debut in What Price Glory? in 1952.

In the Fifties Marisa Pavan appeared in several movies, including her role in The Rose Tattoo (1955) for which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She also appeared in the movies I Chose Love (1953), Down Three Streets (1954), Drum Beat (1954), Diane (1956), The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit (1956), The Midnight Story (1957), John Paul Jones (1959), and Solomon and Sheba (1959). She made her television debut in an episode of Fireside Theatre in 1954. She guest starred on the shows Studio One, Front Row Center, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Kaiser Aluminum Hour, ITV Television Playhouse, Climax!, The Frank Sinatra Show, and Playhouse 90.

With the Sixties Marisa Pavan's career largely shifted towards television. She guest starred on the shows Naked City, Breaking Point, 77 Sunset Strip, Combat!, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, The F.B.I., Court Martial, and Seaway. She appeared in the movie Three Faces of Sin (1961). In the Seventies she guest starred on the TV shows Wonder Woman, McMillan, Switch, Hawaii Five-O, The Rockford Files, and La vie des autres. She starred in the mini-series Arthur Hailey's the Moneychangers. She appeared in the movie A Slightly Pregnant Man (1973).

In the Eighties Marisa Pavan had a recurring role on the daytime soap opera Ryan's Hope. She guest starred on the show Cinéma 16. In the Nineties she guest starred on the TV Shows Renseignements généraux and Haute tension.

Marisa Pavan was an immensely talented actress. She gave an incredible performance was the headstrong  Rosa Delle Rose, the daughter of Serafina Delle Rose (Anna Magnani), in The Rose Tattoo. She also gave a good performance as Maria Montagne, the Italian girl who had an affair with corporate executive Tom Rath (Gregory Peck) years ago. She was also impressive as the blind wife of Vince Angelino (Gene Reynolds), an average guy who found himself with a car theft ring, in the classic noir Down Three Dark Streets (1954). Marisa Pavan also gave great performances on television. In the Naked City episode "No Naked Ladies in Front of Giovanni's House!," she was good as the title character's long-suffering girlfriend Francesca. She also gave a great performance as a young housewife terrorized by a prison escapee in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "You Got Yo Have Luck." Marisa Pavan was a versatile and talented actress who was equally adept at both comedy and drama.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

The Late Great Norman Lear

Norman Lear, the legendary television producer who developed the classic sitcom All in the Family and created the sitcoms Maude, The Jeffersons, and One Day at a Time, died yesterday at the age of 101.

Norman Lear was born on July 27 1922 in New Haven Connecticut. His family later lived in Chelsea, Massachusetts, Brooklyn, New York, and Hartford, Connecticut. He attended Samuel J. Tilden High School in Brooklyn, and then Weaver High School in Harford, from which he graduated. He won a scholarship to Emerson College through a speech he had written, "The Constitution and Me." He dropped out of college to enlist in the United States Army Air Forces. He flew 52 missions over Europe in a B-17 bomber.

After being discharged from the service in 1946, he got a job with a Broadway publicity firm. After being fired from that job, he worked for his father, after which he moved to Los Angeles to try to find another job in publicity. It was after stumbling upon a performance of George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara at the Circle Theatre on his first night in Los Angeles that he and his cousin Ed Simmons began writing comedy bits. They sold Danny Thomas a routine for $500, after which they became part of the writing staff for Jack Haley, who as launching a variety show on NBC.

Norman Lear and Ed Simmons found work on The Colgate Comedy Hour, and later worked on The Martha Raye Show. The partnership between Norman Lear and Ed Simmons ended when Bud Yorkin asked them to work on The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show. Norman Lear accepted the offer, but Ed Simmons refused it. Afterwards Norman Lear worked on The George Gobel Show.

It was in the early Sixties that Norman Lear created his first show with Roland Kibbee, the Western The Deputy. It debuted in 1961 and ran for two seasons. He worked on television specials, including The Danny Kaye Special, Henry Fonda and the Family, and The Andy Williams Special. He wrote or co-wrote the movies Come Blow Your Horn (1963), Divorce American Style (1967), and The Night They Raided Minsky's (1968).

It was in the late Sixties that Norman Lear began developing an American version of the British television show Till Death Do Us Part. The original pilot, titled Justice for All, was developed for ABC and taped in 1968. ABC decided to have a second pilot filmed. The second pilot, Those Were the Days, was completed in 1969. Unfortunately, the controversy over the sketch comedy show Turn-On, which was so great that it only aired once in February 1969, made ABC nervous about airing a show whose main character was a racist. It was afterwards that CBS picked the show up and retitled it All in the Family. All in the Family was revolutionary in tackling serious subjects that had been rarely addressed on American television, and never before on a situation comedy. Over the years All in the Family tacked such subjects as antisemitism, abortion, homosexuality, rape, racism, the Vietnam War, and yet other subjects. Receiving modest ratings in its first season, it became the no. 1 show on American television in its second season.

With the success of All in the Family, Norman Lear was able to develop or create several other socially relevant sitcoms, including such hits as Sanford and Son, Maude, and One Day at a Time. He also created the soap opera parody Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and its spinoff Fernwood 2 Night. Other shows which Norman Lear either created or developed in the Seventies included The Dumplings, Hot L Baltimore, All's Fair, All That Glitters, and Sanford Arms. While the classic sitcom Good Times was created by Eric Monte and Mike Evans, Norman Lear was involved in its development. The Jeffersons was created by Don Nicholl, Michael Ross, and Bernie West, but Norman Lear was also involved in its development. He also wrote the feature film Cold Turkey (1971).

In the Eighties Norman Lear created the short-lived sitcom a.k.a. Pablo with Rick Mitz. He also served as an executive producer on such shows as Palmerstown U.S.A. and Square Pegs. He was also an executive on the movie The Princess Bride (1987). In the Nineties he created the shows Sunday Dinner and 709 Hauser. He was an executive producer on the show The Powers That Be. He was also an executive producer on the movie Fried Green Tomatoes (1991). In the Naughts he was one of the writers on Chapelle's Show. In the Teens, he served as an executive producer on a reimagining of One Day at a Time with a Cuban American family.

There can be no doubt that Norman Lear revolutionized American television, Prior to All in the Family, such subjects as abortion, homosexuality, politics, racism and so on might be addressed in such dramas as The Defenders or East Side/West Side, but they were never, ever addressed on situation comedies. All in the Family ushered in an era of socially relevant comedies, many of which would be developed, created, or produced by Norman Lear himself. Norman Lear's willingness to push the envelope as to the subject matter of American television sitcoms also made him very successful as a producer. At one point during the Seventies three out of the four top rated shows on American television were produced by Norman Lear. It is a mark of the impact that Norman Lear had on American television that he was one of the first seven inductees into the TV Hall of Fame in 1984, alongside such heavyweights as David Sarnoff, William S. Paley, Edward R. Murrow, Paddy Chayefsky, Lucille Ball, and Milton Berle. Few people ever had the impact on television history that Norman Lear did.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Godspeed Denny Laine

Denny Laine, founder, original lead singer, and guitarist of The Moody Blues and co-founder and guitarist for Wings, died today, December 5 2023, at the age of 79. The cause was interstitial lung disease.

Denny Laine was born Brian Frederick Hines in Tyseley, Birmingham, England on October 29 1944. He took up guitar when he was still very young. He was only 12 years old when he made his first solo performance. He started his career as a professional musician as the leader of Denny Laine and The Diplomats. The name "Denny" was a nickname and he took the surname Laine from his sister's favourite singer, Frankie Laine. Denny Laine simply felt that his given name, Brian Frederick Hines, "...wouldn't work."

It was in 1964 that he left The Diplomats. It was not long afterwards that Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder formed a new band with Graeme Edge and Denny Laine. They were originally called the M & B Five after the Mitchells & Butlers Brewery in Smethwick, which is near Birmingham. It was by the end of August 1964 that they became The Moody Blues, taking inspiration from the Duke Ellington song "Mood Indigo." Their first single, a cover of "Steal Your Heart Away" by Bobby Parker, was released in September 1964. It would be their second single, a cover of the Bessie Banks song "Go Now," that would become their first major hit. It reached no. 1 on the UK singles chart and no. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. The Moody Blues released a self-titled EP and the album The Magnificent Moodies.

Unfortunately, The Moody Blues were unable to follow up on the success of "Go Now." After several singles failed to reach the UK singles chart, Denny Laine left The Moody Blues in October 1966. After leaving The Moody Blues, he formed The Electric String Band. He also released two singles as a solo artist on the Deram label, "Say You Don't Mind" and "Too Much in Love." Both failed to chart. The Electric String Band broke up, after which Denny Laine joined Trevor Burton's supergroup Balls. That band broke up towards the end of 1969.

In 1970 Denny Laine played for a time with Ginger Baker's Air Force. In 1971 he formed Wings with Paul and Linda McCartney, and was the only member to remain with the band for all ten years of its existence. Wings proved to be successful, releasing seven studio albums and 29 singles. Both their albums and their singles regularly reached the tops of the charts in both the United Kingdom and the United States. In the U.S. alone, six of their singles hit no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Even as he was part of Wings, Denny Laine released solo albums. Ahhh...Laine was released in 1973, Holly Days in 1977, and Japanese Tears in 1980. He released nine more solo albums from 1982 to 2008. He also played guitar and other instruments on many of Paul McCartney's solo albums in the Eighties.

Denny Laine was certainly a talented musician, singer, and songwriter. he co-wrote many of the B-sides of The Moody Blues' early singles, as well as various songs for Wings (including the hit "Mull of Kintyre."  As a singer he was capable of powerful, soulful vocals. If "Go Now" was a success, it may have well been because of Denny Laine's singing. He was also a bit of a pioneer. While The Electric String Band saw little success, it was one of the first rock bands to use electrified strings, pre-dating The Electric Light Orchestra by several years. Regardless, he was an integral part of The Moody Blues in their early days and an integral part of Wings throughout their career.