Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The "Peter Gunn Theme" by Henry Mancini

It was 100 years ago today that composer Henry Mancini was born in Maple Heights, Ohio. After serving in the United States Army Air Forces, he became a pianist and arranger for the re-organized Glenn Miller Orchestra (Glenn Miller had gone missing in a plane over the English Channel on December 15 1944). In 1952 he became part of the music department at Universal-International. At Universal-International he contributed to such movies as The Glenn Miller Story (1954), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Destry (1954), Tarantula (1955), Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955), and others.

Henry Mancini left Universal-International became a freelance composer and arranger in 1958, at which point he did some of his most famous work. He was responsible for the music on the hit television show Peter Gunn, including writing the show's iconic theme. The "Peter Gunn Theme" proved to be a hit, reaching no. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and no. 12 on the R&B chart. Henry Mancini would later record different versions of the theme (including one for the 1967 feature film Gunn).

Of course, Henry Mancini would go onto yet more success following Peter Gunn. He was responsible for the music on the TV show Mr. Lucky. While that show was not as successful as Peter Gunn, its theme proved to be a hit, going to no. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100. He would go onto compose the song "Moon River for Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), the iconic Pink Panther theme, and music for movies from The Great Race (1965) to Victor/Victoria (1982).

In tribute to the 100th anniversary of Henry Mancini's birth, there is the "Peter Gunn Theme."

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Thirty Years with Turner Classic Movies

It was thirty years ago today, on April 14 1994, that Turner Classic Movies was launched in a ceremony at Times Square in New York City that included founder Ted Turner, original host Robert Osborne, and such classic film stars as Arlene Dahl, Jane Powell, Celeste Holm, and Van Johnson. The first film TCM ever showed was Gone with the Wind (1939). It would be an understatement to say that since then Turner Classic Movies has become an institution. It would be more accurate to say that it has become a national treasure, not only beloved by its fans, but by critics, film historians and movie makers alike. Indeed, Turner Classic Movies has had an enormous impact on my own life.

I am not sure when or how I first heard about Turner Classic Movies, but it was before it was launched. Unfortunately, I would not have access to TCM in its earliest days. I would have to visit my best friend Brian in another town to watch Turner Classic Movies. Fortunately, I got access to TCM within a year or two of its launch and it has remained a constant in my home ever since. I wish I could remember what the first movie I watched on Turner Classic Movies was, but I cannot. If I had known how important TCM would become in my life, I would have made a point to remember what film it was. Regardless, Turner Classic Movies quickly became my favourite channel. There had been American Movie Classics (AMC) and a few other classic movie channels before it, but TCM had access to the pre-1986 MGM library and the Associated Artists Productions library, the Warner Bros. films made before 1950, and the U.S. and Canadian distribution rights to the RKO Pictures library. This meant they could show a wider variety of films than AMC or the other channels. Of course, they also had those wonderful intros and outros by Robert Osborne. TCM would get even better after the Turner Broadcasting System merged with Time Warner in 1996. Now they had access to the Warner Bros. library, and libraries that Time Warner had acquired, such as the Saul Zaentz and National General Pictures libraries.

As much as I love Turner Classic Movies and as huge an impact it has had on my life, I cannot say that it introduced me to classic movies. As a member of Generation X, I grew up at a time when local television stations, particularly the independents, still showed classic movies on a regular basis. By the time TCM had launched, I had already seen such classics as Casablanca (1942), Citizen Kane (1941), Singing' in the Rain (1952),  and many others, and even such foreign classics as Seven Samurai (1954) and Blood and Black Lace (1964). While I was already a classic movie fan when Turner Classic Movies launched, I would see many classics on the channel for the first time in my life. TCM introduced me to Pandora's Box (1929), Out of the Past (1947), The Loved One (1965), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), The Robe (1953), and many others. I had seen Pre-Code films before TCM had launched, but the channel would introduce me to many, many more.

Not only did TCM introduce me to movies I had never seen before, but it would be through the community of fans that Turner Classic Movies developed that would I meet many of my closest friends. It was initially through this very blog that I met many of my closest friends, bloggers who blogged about classic movies or, like me, nostalgia in general. I would find even more fellow TCM fans who would become friends after I joined Twitter in 2009. This was particularly true after TCMParty, the informal group of TCM fans who live tweet movies on the channel using that hashtag, started in 2011. It would be through TCMParty that I would meet my dearest friend and a woman I adore, Vanessa Marquez. I then owe Turner Classic Movies more than I could ever repay. Here I also have to point out that TCM is so close to their fans that I even have friends and acquaintances who work for the channel.

TCM has also afforded me opportunities I might not have had otherwise. In 2014 TCM began a series of segments called Fan Favourites, in which fans would get to introduce a favourite movie with Ben Mankiewicz through the miracle of video chat. It was on April 11 2015 that I got to introduce A Hard Day's Night on TCM with Mr. Mankiewicz. For a time Turner Classic Movies had an official fan club called TCM Backlot. Each year TCM Backlot members would submit pitches as to why Turner Classic Movies should hold an event in their home town. In 2019 St. Louis was selected, and Turner Classic Movies held a free screening of Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) at the Tivoli Theatre in St. Louis. The screening included a special introduction by Ben Mankiewicz before the movie, followed by a Q&A with Margaret O'Brien (who played Tootie in Meet Me in St. Louis). I was lucky enough to be one of the fans who was selected to attend the VIP Meet and Greet, in which one would get to meet Margaret O'Brien and Ben Mankiewicz in person. I then got to meet Margaret O'Brien (who was delighted when I brought up her guest appearance on Perry Mason), as well as Ben Mankiewicz (with whom I had talked on video chat, but this was my first time meeting him in person).

One thing I regret is that I have never gotten to attend the TCM Classic Film Festival. Sadly, the cost of air fare and lodging is simply more than I can afford. Many of my friends have attended the TCM Classic Film Festival, so that I can experience the festival vicariously through them. For that reason I always look forward to the TCM Classic Film Festival. I enjoy watching the many videos and photos from the festival, posted by both TCM and its fans. And I enjoy watching content from the festival on Turner Classic Movies itself.

It was last year that TCM fans were alarmed by layoffs at Turner Classic Movies, and for the first time ever many of us were concerned about the future of our favourite channel. The reaction of TCM fans was swift and immediate, with fans writing letters, writing emails, and posting to social media. Some who had been laid off, including senior vice president in charge of content and programming Charlie Tabesh and TCM Film Festival Director Genevieve McGillicuddy, would see their positions restored. The media credited much of this to such luminaries as directors Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and Paul Thomas Anderson and actors Ryan Reynolds, Ellen Barkin, and Brian Cox, but I personally think it was the outcry on the part of the huge number of TCM fans. Quite simply, Turner Classic Movies has made a difference in our lives and we don't want to see it disappear.

For myself, there is perhaps no greater example of how important Turner Classic Movies is to me than my life following the death of my beloved Vanessa Marquez. It was my fellow TCM fans and TCM who helped me get through those dark months following her death. If not for the difference they made I am not sure that I would even still be here. I'm certainly not alone in feeling Turner Classic Movies saved my life. The channel has been a comfort to many others going through grief, illness, divorce, the loss of a job, or other hardships.

In the end, I can say that Turner Classic Movies changed my life. If not for TCM, I might never have met many of my closest friends, including the most important person in my life. I would never have gotten to introduce A Hard Day's Night on television and it is unlikely I would have ever met Margaret O'Brien. Turner Classic Movies went well beyond being a cable channel that shows classic movies long ago. It has even gone beyond being a brand. Turner Classic Movies has become a means of bringing people together, of providing a community for fans of classic movies. And, for many suffering hardships, it has even become a beacon of hope. The world would be much poorer without Turner Classic Movies.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

"The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship: 30 Years of TCM"

Tomorrow will be the 30th anniversary of Turner Classic Movies. It was earlier this month that Turner Classic Movies, as one of their TCM Originals, released a video recounting the beginnings of TCM from those who were with the channel at the very beginning. The video was produced and directed by Scott McGee, the Senior Director, Original Programming at TCM. It was edited by Rob Hampton of Splat Pictures. The Director of Photography was Pete Wages.

Titled "The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship" is must-see for TCM fans. Even as much as I know about the history of the channel, there were even some things I learned. The video is a bit bittersweet, as many of those in the video are no longer with the channel. It is also sad seeing the old logos and interstitials, which in my humble opinion are far better than what Turner Classic Movies has now. Regardless, "The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship" is a wonder to behold for TCM fans, and all involved with it are to be congratulated for a job well done.

Friday, April 12, 2024

My Picks for the 2024 TCM Classic Film Festival

Although I have always wanted to, I have never gotten to attend the TCM Classic Film Festival. I especially wanted to attend last year, when they screened Stand and Deliver (1988). Despite this, every year I enjoy going through the schedule to see what I would want to watch if I were at the festival. Of course, inevitably there going to be conflicts. A perfect example is the first night of the festival this year. Pulp Fiction is at the Chinese Multiplex at 6:30 PM. At 7:00 PM Send Me No Flowers (1964) is also at the Chinese Multiplex. If that wasn't enough of a conflict, White Heat (1949) is at the Egyptian Theatre at 7:00 PM. If I were attending the TCM Classic Film Festival (which unfolds in Hollywood from Thursday, April 18 to Sunday, April 21 this year), I would have trouble deciding what to watch on opening night.

Regardless, I have decided to give it a try, as I usually do. Here then is what I would pick to watch each day. Keep in mind while I have been to Hollywood, I have never walked that part of Hollywood Boulevard, so I have no idea how long it would take to get from venue to venue! For purposes of this blog post, let assume I have the speed of The Flash or the ability to teleport.

Thursday, April 18:
7:00 PM White Heat (1949): This was a difficult choice for me, as I love both Pulp Fiction and Send Me No Flowers. In the end, I decided on White Heat as I saw Pulp Fiction on the big screen when it first came out and, as much as I love Send Me No Flowers, I don't love it quite as much as White Heat.
9:15 PM Grand Hotel (1932): It wasn't nearly as hard for me to pick what film to watch later Thursday night. I have always wanted to see Grand Hotel (1932) on the big screen, but I have never had the chance.

Friday, April 19:
9:00 AM The Caine Mutiny (1954): The Caine Mutiny is one of my all-time favourite movies. Mighty Joe Young (1949) is also at the Chinese Multiplex, but I don't love it nearly as much as The Caine Mutiny.
12:00 PM Them! (1954): I have never seen a giant insect movie on the big screen, and Them! is the greatest of them all.
6:15 PM Rear Window (1954): I have seen Rear Window on the big screen, but it is one of my favourite Hitchcock movies. I wouldn't be able to pass up a chance to see it on the big screen again, especially at the Egyptian Theatre.
9:00 PM Jailhouse Rock (1957): It Happened One Night (1934) is showing at the Egyptian at 9:30 PM, but I have seen it in the theatre. I have never seen Jailhouse Rock in a theatre, or any other Elvis movie for that matter.

Saturday, April 20:
10:00 AM El Cid (1961): El Cid is one of my all-time favourite movies, but I have never seen it on the big screen. There's nothing else showing at the same time that really can compete with it where I am concerned.
2:45 PM: North by Northwest (1959): I have seen North by Northwest in the theatre, but it is my all-time favourite Alfred Hitchcock movie. And it would be cool to see it at the Chinese Multiplex.
6:15 PM The Shawshank Redemption (1994): I have always loved this movie, but I've never seen it in a theatre.

Sunday, April 21:
9:00 AM Double Indemnity (1944): I have never seen Double Indemnity on the big screen and I have always wanted to. It is one of the essential film noirs, and one of Billy Wilder's best films.
12:15 PM Sabrina (1954): More Billy Wilder. Aside from Akira Kurosawa, he is my favourite director.
2:45 PM The Lavender Hill Mob (1951): Okay, I would hate missing Chinatown (1974) at 3:20 PM, but I love Ealing comedies and this is one of the best. It's always one of the greatest caper movies of all time.
7:45 PM The Asphalt Jungle (1950): The Asphalt Jungle set the blueprint for nearly every heist film to come, and it still remains one of the greatest, if not he greatest heist film. I would have to see it on the big sceen.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

The Late Great Trina Robbins

Legendary cartoonist and comics historian Trina Robbins died at the age of 85 yesterday, April 10 2024, following a stroke. She was at the forefront of underground comics in the late Sixties and Seventies, and the first woman to ever draw Wonder Woman in a DC comic book. She was also the foremost historian chronicling the history of women in comic strips and comic books.

Trina Robbins was born Trina Perlson on August 17 1938 in Brooklyn, New York. She became a comic book fan while still very young, and took to drawing from a young age as well. She became active in science fiction fandom in the Fifties and Sixties, and artwork appeared in various fanzines, including the Hugo award-winning Habakkuk. In the late Sixties she operated a clothing boutique called Broccoli, where she outfitted such music legends as Mama Cass, David Crosby, Donovan, and yet others. Joni Mitchell memorialized her in the song "Ladies of the Canyon," after Miss Robbins had moved to California.

Trina Robbins's first comics were published in the underground newspaper The East Village Other. She contributed to The East Village Other spinoff Gothic Blimp Works during its brief run. In 1969 Miss Robbins designed the original costume for Vampirella (rendered by Frank Frazetta on the cover Vampirella no. 1). In 1970 she moved from New York City to San Francisco. There she worked on the underground feminist newspaper It Ain't Me Babe. It was in 1970 that she produced It Ain't Me Babe Comix with Barbara "Willy" Mendes, the first comic book produced entirely by women. In 1972 she became one of the original artists to work on Wimmin's Comix, the legendary, all-female, underground comics anthology that lasted until 1992. Trina Robbins was involved in Wimmin's Comix for its entire twenty years. She also worked on the underground newspaper Good Times. In the late Seventies she worked on Mama! Dramas for the underground comics publishing company EduComics.

In the Eighties Trina Robbins adapted the Sax Rohmer novel Dope for Eclipse Comics and the Tanith Lee novel The Silver Metal Lover for Crown Books. For Marvel Comics' younger readers imprint Star Comics she wrote and illustrated Misty, a spinoff of long running Marvel character Millie the Model (Misty was Millie's niece). In 1986, Trina Robbins illustrated the four issue limited series The Legend of Wonder Woman, written by Kurt Busiek. Miss Robbins then became the first woman to ever illustrate Wonder Woman in an official DC comic book. For Eclipse Comics she wrote and illustrated the series California Girls, with contributions from Barb Rausch. During the decade she also contributed to such anthologies as Gates of EdenGood Girls, and Gay Comix. She edited and co-edited Strip AIDS U.S.A.: A Collection of Cartoon Art to Benefit People With AIDS. She edited and contributed to Choices: A Pro-Choice Benefit Comic Anthology for the National Organization for Women.

It was in 1994 that Trina Robbins, with fellow comic book professionals Heidi MacDonald, Deni Loubert, Anina Bennett, Liz Schiller, and Jackie Estrada, founded Friends of Lulu, a non-profit organization that encouraged comic book readership in women as well as supporting women in the comic book industry. She contributed to War News, an underground newspaper founded to protest the Gulf War. She also contributed to the anthologies Alien Apocalypse 2006 and Gay Comix. At DC she wrote Wonder Woman: The Once and Future Story, with illustrations by Colleen Doran.

In the Naughts Trina Robbins worked on GoGirl! for Image Comics and Dark Horse Comics. She also wrote an adaptation of Honey West for Moonstone Books. She also contributed to The Phantom Chronicles at Moonstone and Girl Comics at Marvel. In the Teens Trina Robbins wrote Honey West and The Cat  for Moonstone Books.

Of course, Trina Robbins was also known as a comic book historian, and she was the foremost historian when it came to women in comic books. Her first non-fiction book, Women and the Comics, was written with fellow comic book professional Catherine Yronwode. Over the years she would write several more non-fiction books, including A Century of Women Cartoonists (1993), The Great Women Superheroes.(1996), The Great Women Cartoonists (2001), Wild Irish Roses: Tales of Brigits, Kathleens, and Warrior Queens (2004),  Forbidden City: The Golden Age of Chinese Nightclubs (2009), Lily Renée, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer (2011), Babes in Arms: Women in Comics During the Second World War (2017), Flapper Queens: Women Cartoonists of the Jazz Age (2020), and Gladys Parker: A Life in Comics, a Passion for Fashion (2022), as well as many others.

In 2015 CBR readers named Trina Robbins one of the greatest female comic book artists of all time. It was certainly an honour that was well-deserved. Ms. Robbins had an utterly unique style that blended the style of underground comics with mainstream Golden Age comics. What is more, as an artist she was very adaptable. Her work on The Legend of Wonder Woman evoked H. G. Peter's original version of the character from the Golden Age. Her work on Misty brought to mind the work of Dan DeCarlo, while still remaining readily recognizable as the work of Trina Robbins. She was also a great writer of comic books, with a gift for creating fully-realized characters. The women in any of Trina Robbins's work were always strong and true to life.

In addition to being a talented artist and writer, Trina Robbins was also a tireless activist. In the Seventies she spoke out against the misogyny present in the work of some underground comic book artists, particularly Robert Crumb. She did a lot of work towards getting more women reading comic books, as well as getting more women in the comic book industry. Much of her work in comic books was meant to appeal to young girls and encourage them to read comic books. For example, GoGirl! centred on a teenaged female superhero.

Trina Robbins's work as a historian was an outgrowth of her activism. Despite the many contributions of women to both newspaper comic strips and comic books, They were often neglected or outright ignored in histories of the medium. Trina Robbins corrected this with her many books on female comic strip and comic book creators. In fact, Trina Robbins and Catherine Yronwode's Women and the Comics was the first ever history of female comics creators. Of course, Trina Robbins's work as a historian went beyond comic books. Over the years she wrote about everything from female killers to Irish women to Chinese nightclubs.As a historian Trina Robbins had an enjoyable, entertaining style and an eye for detail. One not only learns from her history books, but they are thoroughly entertained as well.

Trina Robbins was a talented writer and artist, and she certainly increased the visibility of women in comics. From those who had the privilege to have met her, I also know that she was charming, funny, and extremely knowledgeable. She was well-known for her kindness and generosity. She was supportive of new talent and fans alike, Trina Robbins was more than a great talent, more than a great activist, even more than a great historian. Trina Robbins was simply a great human being.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

The Popularity of Parks and Rec

It as fifteen years ago today that Parks and Recreation, perhaps better known as Parks and Rec, debuted on NBC. Its first season of six episodes received mixed reviews, with many comparing it negatively to the American version of The Office. For its second season it was retooled, and it received much better reviews. By its third season it could even be described as critically acclaimed.While reviews for Parks and Rec improved during its initial network run, sadly, its ratings did not. The show came in at no. 96 for the year for its first season, the highest it would ever rank in the Nielsens. For the remainder of its run, Parks and Recreation never ranked higher than 111 for the season. Despite this, Parks and Rec developed a cult following of intensely loyal viewers. What is more, its following grew even after it ended its run on NBC.For 2018 Parks and Recreation was one of the ten most watched shows on Netflix.

While it did poorly in the Nielsen ratings during its initial network run, Parks and Recreation has continued to be popular throughout the years. It is currently available on the streaming services Peacock, YouTube TV, and Philo, and available for rent on yet others. It currently airs on Comedy Central and IFC. For a show that did poorly in the Nielsen ratings during its initial network run, Parks and Rec has proven to be more popular than other shows that were higher rated in the ratings during their initial network runs.

As to why Parks and Recreation has continued to be popular, much of it may well be due to the fact that when it debuted it was a rather unique show and it has remained so ever since. Following the Rural Purge during the 1970-1971 season, very few broadcast network shows have been set outside of large metropolitan areas. In fact, in some seasons it has been difficult to find any show not set in Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York City. In contrast, Parks and Rec is set in the fictional city of Pawnee, Indiana. Pawnee is hardly a small town (it is much larger than Mayberry, North Carolina on The Andy Griffith Show), but it isn't exactly St. Louis either, much less Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York City. From the show itself and official material associated with the show, it appears to have a population of anywhere from 60,000 to 80,000 (I suspect it is probably closer to 60,000 than 80,000). This would make it about the size of Muncie, Indiana or Cheyenne, Wyoming. In fact, an upside down map of Muncie served as the map of Pawnee on the show. This would make Pawnee a mid-sized city.

While Pawnee is hardly a small town, the fact that it is a mid-sized city located in the Midwest makes it easier for viewers in what those on the coasts derisively call "fly over states" to identify with the characters on Parks and Rec. Indeed, Pawnee, Indiana would appear to have more in common with Mayberry, North Carolina than it does Los Angeles or New York City. Indeed, among Pawnee's problems is a nearly constant raccoon infestation. Farming would appear to be one of the major industries in Wamapoke County, the fictional county in which Pawnee is located. Among Pawnee's other industries are soft drinks (Pizzies national headquarters is located there) and candy (the candy company Sweetums). These are the sort of businesses one would expect in smaller cities and even towns as opposed to major metropolitan areas.

Of course, another way in which viewers in the "fly over states" can more readily identify with the characters on Parks and Recreation than, say, the characters on Friends is that it features the sort of characters one would expect to find in small towns and even mid-sized cities like Pawnee. Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) is a bureaucrat who loves her hometown and remains eternally optimistic despite working in politics. Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) is the director of Pawnee's parks and recreation department who believes the best government is a small government. Jerry Gergich (Jim O'Heir) is an employee of parks and recreation who is clumsy, overweight, and unable to speak publicly, but who nonetheless remains good-natured. Pawnee is filled with somewhat eccentric characters of the sort often seen on such rural comedies as The Andy Griffith Show and Newhart.

Despite being a mid-sized city, Pawnee has other things in common with smaller towns as well. It has a rival city in the form of Eagleton, which was smaller and a bit more upscale. Sadly for Eagleton residents, their city would eventually incorporated into Pawnee. Many Midwestern cities have rivals and, in some cases, they have more than one (my hometown has two). Pawnee also has a few negative things in common with mid-sized cities and small towns in the Midwest, but aren't often acknowledged on television and more often than not reality as well. Quite simply, Pawnee has a history of both racism and misogyny. Indeed, Pawnee celebrated driving the fictional Wamapoke  tribe from their land on which the city currently sets. While racism and misogyny are hardly things any Midwesterners should be proud of, it would be foolish not to acknowledge that historically they existed.

Ultimately, I think the fact that Parks and Recreation was set in the Midwest, as well as its portrayal of Pawnee and its residents, makes it easier for viewers to identify with the show. While Midwestern viewers might enjoy Seinfeld or Friends, they might not necessarily identify with the characters or their experiences, whereas they can identify with the characters of Parks and Rec and much of what happens on the show. Quite simply, I think Parks and Recreation remains popular because it is one of the few sitcoms that has been set in the Midwest made in the past forty years.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

"California Girls" by The Beach Boys

It has been a long week, so I will leave you with a song tonight. Here is one of my favourites, "California Girls" by The Beach Boys.

Friday, April 5, 2024

The Late Great Louis Gossett Jr.

Louis Gossett Jr. who appeared in the movies A Raisin in the Sun (1961) and An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) and the mini-series Roots, died on March 29 2024 at the age of 87.

Louis Gossett Jr. was born on May 27 1936 in Brooklyn, New York. He was class president at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn and participated in such sports as baseball, track, and basketball there. It was when he had a sports injury that he took up acting and he made his stage debut in a high school production of You Can't Take It With You. One of his English teachers suggested he try out for the Broadway production Take a Giant Step. He made his Broadway debut in that play, and received good notices for playing the part of Spencer Scott. He received a dramatics scholarship at New York University and later studied at the Actors Studio, where he befriended James Dean.

Louis Gossett Jr. made his television debut in an episode of The Big Story in 1957. In the Fifties he appeared in the short subject "The New Girl" in 1960. On Broadway he appeared in The Desk Set and A Raisin in the Sun. In the Sixties he reprised his role as George Murchison in the film adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun (1962). He also appeared in the films The Bushbaby (1969) and The Landlord (1970). He guest starred on the TV shows The Nurses, East Side/West Side, The Happeners, Cowboy in Africa, The Invaders, Daktari, The Mod Squad, and The Bill Cosby Show. In the 1970-1971 season he played the regular role of Isak Poole on the TV series The Young Rebels. He appeared on Broadway in Tambourines to Glory, Golden Boy, The Zulu and the Zayda, My Sweet Charlie, and Carry Me Back to Morningside Heights.

In the Seventies he played Fiddler in the mini-series Roots and appeared in the mini-series Backstairs at the White House. He starred on the short-lived show The Lazarus Syndrome. He also guest starred on the shows The Partridge Family; Bonanza; Longstreet; The Bold Ones: The New Doctors; Alias Smith and Jones; The Rookies; The Mod Squad; Love, American Style; Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law; McCloud; Lucas Tanner; Petrocelli; Insight; Caribe; Harry O; Good Times; The Jeffersons; The Six Million Dollar Man; Police Story; Little House on the Prairie; The Rockford Files; and Visions. He appeared in the movies Skin Game (1971), Travels with My Aunt (1972), The Laughing Policeman (1972), The White Dawn (1974), The River Niger (1976), J.D.'s Revenge (1976), The Deep (1977), The Choirboys (1977), and It Rained All Night the Day I Left (1980).  He appeared on Broadway in Murderous Angels.

In the Eighties Louis Gossett Jr. was a regular on the TV series The Powers of Matthew Star and starred on the show Gideon Oliver. He guest starred on the shows Palmerstown, U.S.A.; Straight Up; and American Playhouse. He played Sgt. Emil Foley in the movie An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), for which the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He was the first Black actor to do so. He also appeared in the movies Jaws 3-D (1983), Finders Keepers (1984), Enemy Mine (1985), Iron Eagle (1986), Firewalker (1986), The Principal (1987), Iron Eagle II (1988), and The Punisher (1989).

In the Nineties Louis Gossett Jr. appeared in the movies Cover Up (1991), Toy Soldiers (1991), Aces: Iron Eagle III (1992), Diggstown (1992), Monolith (1993), Blue Chips (1994), A Good Man in Africa (1994), Curse of the Starving Class (1994), Flashfire (1994), Iron Eagle IV (1995), Managua (1997), Legend of the Mummy (1998), Y2K (1999), and The Highwayman (2000). On television he appeared in the mini-series Return to Lonesome Dove. He was a voice on the animated series Captain Planet and the Planeteers. He guest starred on the shows Picket Fences, Touched by an Angel, Promised Land, Early Edition, and Ellen. He was a guest voice on the animated series Hercules.

In the Naughts he appeared in the movies Deceived (2002), Left Behind III: World at War (2005), All In (2006), Daddy's Little Girls (2007), Cover (2007), Stories USA (2007), The Least Among You (2009), The Perfect Game (2009), Shannon's Rainbow (2009), Why Did I Get Married Too? (2009), The Grace Card (2010), and The Lamp (2010). On television he had a recurring role on Stargate SG-1 and was a recurring voice actor on the animated series The Batman. He guest starred on the shows Resurrection Blvd., The Dead Zone, Half & Half, and ER. He was a guest voice on the animated series Family Guy. He appeared on Broadway in Chicago.

In the Teens Louis Gossett Jr. had roles on the TV shows Extant and Hap & Leonard. He had a recurring role on the mini-series The Book of Negroes, The Spoils Before Dying, and Watchmen. He guest starred on the shows Psych, Boardwalk Empire, Madam Secretary, The Good Fight, and Hawaii Five-0. He appeared in the movies Smitty (2012), The Undershepherd (2012), Breaking at the Edge (2013), Pride of Lions (2014), Boiling Pot (2015), King of the Dancehall (2016), Double Play (2017), Undercover Grandpa (2017), Breaking Brooklyn (2018), Supervized (2019), Miracle in East Texas (2019), Foster Boy (2019), The Cuban (2019), Canaan Land (2020), and The Reason (2020).

In the 2020s, he appeared in the movies Not to Forget (2021), Three Months (2022), and The Color Purple (2023). He guest starred on the show Kingdom Business.

Louis Gossett Jr. was an extremely talented actor who played a wide variety of roles. In A Raisin in the Son he played George, who has assimilated into white culture and tends to think he is smarter than those around him. In Skin Game he played one half of a pair of con men with James Garner.  On Roots he played Fiddler, the somewhat obliging slave who is assigned to teach Kunta Kinte (LeVar Burton) English and how to behave as a slave. He was the hard-as-nails s Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in An Officer and a Gentleman. In the mini-series he played Will Reeves, the grandfather of police officer/superhero Sister Night. Over the years Louis Gossett Jr. played everything from medical doctors to military officers to clergymen, and he did all of them well.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Lynn Loring Passed On

Lynn Loring, an actress who appeared on the TV shows Search for Tomorrow, Dobie Gillis, and The F.B.I., and a one-time MGM/UA executive, died on December 23 2023 at the age of 80. Her family recently disclosed her death.

Lynn Loring was born Lynn Zimring on July 14 1943 in New York City. She began modelling when she was 3 years old. As a child she appeared in commercials for RCA Victor. She was only eight years old when she became one of the original cast on the soap opera Search for Tomorrow. She appeared on Search for Tomorrow for the next ten years. In the Fifties, she also had a regular role on The Jean Carroll Show. She guest starred on the TV shows The Web, Starlight Theatre, Hands of Murder, Robert Montgomery Presents, Studio One, The Man Behind the Badge, The Stranger, Omnibus, Frontiers of Faith, Kraft Television Theatre, Armstrong Circle Theatre, CBS Repertoire Workshop, and Play of the Week.

In the Sixties she continued to appear on Search for Tomorrow. She was a lead on the short-lived show Fair Exchange. She also had a semi-regular role on The F.B.I. in its first season. She appeared on two episodes of Dobie Gillis, playing Edwina "Eddie" Kegel, a love interest for Maynard G. Krebs (Bob Denver). She guest starred on the TV shows Bus Stop, Wagon Train, Target: The Corruptors, The Eleventh Hour, Gunsmoke, The Defenders, The Greatest Show on Earth, Perry Mason, Daniel Boone, Mr. Novak, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Big Valley, Amos Burke Secret Agent, The Wild Wild West, A Man Called Shenandoah, Bonanza, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, The Invaders, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., My Three Sons, Lancer, The Immortal, and The Mod Squad. She appeared in the movies Splendor in the Grass (1961), Pressure Point (1962), and Doppelgänger (1969).

In the Seventies Miss Loring guest starred on The Young Lawyers, The Mod Squad, Ghost Story, Return to Peyton Place, and Police Woman. Her last appearance on screen was in the TV movie The Kansas City Massacre in 1975. She retired from acting to go into production. She produced the TV movies The Return of the Mod Squad (1979), The Best Little Girl in the World (1981), Sizzle (1981), and Making of a Male Model (1983). She produced the TV series Glitter. She produced the feature films Mr. Mom (1983) and Me and the Kid (1993).

In 1985 she became a development executive at MGM/UA Television. Among other things, she suggested to Fred Silverman that it would be a good idea to adapt the hit movie In the Heat of the Night as a TV series and that Carroll O'Connor should star in the series. The TV series In the Heat of the Night proved to be a hit that is still seen in reruns. Lynn Loring eventually became president of MGM/UA Television and one of the highest paid female studio executives in Hollywood.

Lynn Loring was an extremely talented actress capable of playing a number of diverse roles. I will probably remember her best as Maynard's one true love Eddie on Dobie Gillis. Eddie was in many respects a female version of Maynard, if a little smarter than he was, and Miss Loring played the role perfectly. In the Gunsmoke episode "Pa Hack's Role" she played a part far removed from Eddie, the daughter of the ne'er-do-well title character, whom he wants to marry off to a wealthy rancher. On the Perry Mason episode "The Case of the Paper Bullets" she played the younger sister of a politician who is dating the son of his opponent. In the Bonanza episode "Something Hurt, Something Wild," she played a mentally unstable young woman who accuses Little Joe (Michael Landon) of assault. Lynn Loring was nothing if not versatile, and she could play roles that were dramatically different from each other.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Ron Harper Passes On

Ron Harper, who starred on the TV shows 87th Precinct, Wendy and Me, Garrison's Gorillas, and Planet of the Apes, died on March 21 2024 at the age of 91.

Ron Harper was born on January 12 1933 in Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania. He earned a scholarship to Princeton University. It was while he was at Princeton that he did two seasons of summer stock. He was offered a fellowship to Harvard Law School. Instead he studied acting with Lee Strasberg and then served in the United States Navy.

Ron Harper made his television debut in 1955 in an episode of Kraft Television Theatre. In the late Fifties he also guest starred on Tales of Wells Fargo, Thriller, and Wagon Train. He was an understudy for Paul Newman on Broadway in Sweet Bird of Youth, in which he also appeared as a man at a bar.

In the Sixties Ron Harper starred on multiple television shows, including 87th Precinct, Wendy and Me, The Jean Arthur Show, and Garrison's Gorillas. He guest starred on The Deputy; The Tall Man; Shotgun Slade; Laramie; Love, American Style; and The Big Valley.

In the Seventies he starred on the TV show Planet of the Apes and the third season of Land of the Lost. He had a recurring roles on the daytime soap operas Where the Heart Is and Another World. He guest starred on the shows Cannon; Love, American Style;  and The Blue Knight. He appeared on Broadway in 6 Rms Riv Vu. He also appeared in the movie Temporada salvaje (1971).

In the Eighties Ron Harper had roles on the soap operas Loving, Capitol, and Generations.He guest starred on the shows Mike Hammer, Remington Steele. and Dragnet. In the Nineties he guest starred on the shows Beverly Hills, 90120; Melrose Place; Night Man; Night Stand; Boy Meets World; Walker, Texas Ranger; and Malibu, CA. He appeared in the movies Below Utopia (1997), Freedom Strike (1998), and The Odd Couple II (1998).

In the Naughts he guest starred on the shows Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place; The West Wing; and Cold Case. He appeared in the movies Pearl Harbor (2001) and Touched (2005). In the Teens he appeared in the movie Whoa! (2013).

Ron Harper was a fine actor and seemingly perfect as a leading man for TV series. After all, among other things, he played First Lt. Craig Garrison, leader of the group of the title, on Garrison's Gorillas and astronaut Coloenl Alan Virdon on the TV series Planet of the Apes. The fact that the various series on which he was a lead did not last long was certainly  due to no fault of his own, as he gave solid performances in each of them. He was also excellent in his various guest appearances. He was a husband who wanted to keep gold that he found, against the objections of his wife, in the Laramie episode "Edge of Evil." In the Cannon episode "Fool's Gold," he played the hotel manager in a small town insistent on protecting an armoured car robber. Ron Haper was certainly a talented actor whose performances made any show better.

Monday, April 1, 2024

The Late Great Barbara Rush

Legendary actress Barbara Rush, who appeared in such films as When Worlds Collide (1951), It Came from Outer Space (1954), The Young Philadelphians (1959), and Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964), and on such TV shows as Peyton Place and Seventh Heaven, died yesterday, March 31 2024, at the age of 97.

Barbara Rush was born on January 4 1927 in Denver, Colorado. Her family moved to Santa Barbara, California, where she and her father worked as ushers at the Lobero Theatre there. She graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and afterwards studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse. It was in 1950 that she signed a contract with Paramount Pictures.

Barbara Rush made her film debut in The Goldbergs in 1950. Her first starring role was in the science fiction classic When Worlds Collide (1951). In the Fifties she appeared in such films as Quebec (1951), The First Legion (1951), Flaming Feather (1952), Prince of Pirates (1953), It Came from Outer Space (1953), Taza, Son of Cochise (1954), Magnificent Obsession (1954), The Black Shield of Farnsworth (1954), Captain Lightfoot (1955), Kiss of Fire (1955), World in My Corner (1956), Bigger Than Life (1956), Fight to Hong Kong (1956), Oh Men! Oh Women! (1957), No Down Payment (1957), The Young Lions (1958), Harry Black (1958), The Young Philadelphians (1959), The Bramble Bush (1960), and Strangers When We Meet (1960). She made her television debut in an episode of Lux Video Theatre in 1954. She guest starred on the shows Matinee Theatre, Suspicion, Lux Playhouse, Sunday Showcase, Playhouse 90, Checkmate, and Our American Heritage.

In the Sixties, Miss Rush had a recurring role on the TV show Saints and Sinners and a regular role on the nighttime soap opera Peyton Place.  She made an unsold pilot titled The Barbara Rush Show that aired as an episode of the show Vacation Playhose. She guest starred on the shows Frontier Circus; Theatre '62; General Electric Theatre; The Eleventh Hour; The Dick Powell Show; Ben Casey; The Outer Limits; Kraft Suspense Theatre; Convoy; Dr. Kildare; The Fugitive; Laredo; Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre; Custer; Batman; Mannix; and Love, American Style. She appeared in the movies Come Blow Your Horn (1963), Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964), and Hombre (1967).

In the Seventies she guest starred on the shows The Mod Squad; Night Gallery; Marcus Welby, M.D.; McCloud; Cade's County; Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law; Maude; Ironside; The Streets of San Francisco; The New Dick Van Dyke Show; Medical Center; Police Story; Cannon; Mannix; Ellery Queen; The Bionic Woman; ABC Weekend Specials; The Eddie Capra Mysteries; Fantasy Island, and The Love Boat. She appeared in the mini-series The Seekers. She appeared in the movies The Man (1972), Superdad (1973), and Can't Stop the Music (1980).

In the Eighties Barbara Rush was a regular on the nighttime soap opera Flamingo Road. She guest starred on the TV shows Cop Shop; Matt Houston; Knight Rider; Fantasy Island; Masquerade; Finder of Lost Loves; Glitter, Hotel; Magnum, P.I.; Murder, She Wrote; and Hooperman. She appeared in the movie Summer Loves (1982).

In the Nineties Miss Rush had recurring roles on the daytime soap opera All My Children and the TV series 7th Heaven. She guest starred on Paradise, Hearts Are Wild, Burke's Law, Relativity, and The Outer Limits. In the Naughts she continued to appear on 7th Heaven. She appeared in the short "My Mother's Hairdo." Her last appearance on was in the short "Bleeding Hearts: The Arteries of Glenda Bryant" in 2017.

Barbara Rush also had an extensive career on stage. She appeared on Broadway in A Woman of Independent Means in 1984. She also appeared in such productions as The Little Foxes, Antony and Cleopatra, Unsinkable Molly Brown, Butterflies are Free, Night of the Iguana, Blithe Spirit, Steel Magnolias, and Love Letters. She attended multiple TCM Classic Film Festivals over the years.

Following Barbara Rush's death, I heard someone describe her as a "classically beautiful character actress," and I think that is a very accurate description. She had the looks of a leading lady, but she could play a wide variety of roles with ease. For sci-fi fans she might be most familiar as the astronomer's daughter Joyce Hendron in When Worlds Collide and school teacher Ellen Fields in It Came from Outer Space. While she is remembered for those two sci-fi classics, she was also at home in more straight-forward dramas. She played the wife of drug-addicted teacher Ed Avery (James Mason) in Bigger Than Life. In The Young Philadelphians Barbara Rush played socialite Joan Dickson, who falls in love with middle class Princeton student Tony Lawrence (Paul Newman). Barbara Rush could and did play villainous roles. In Robin and the 7 Hoods she played the somewhat duplicitous Marian. In Hombre she played the aristocratic wife of an Indian agent who has her own agenda.

Of course, Barbara Rush was not only beautiful and talented. She was an altogether wonderful person. I never got to meet her, but I have many friends who did get to meet her at the TCM Classic Film Festival and other events. She was warm, friendly, and known for her kindness to her fans. And she was so very intelligent, as anyone who has seen an interview with her will know. She was generous with her stories of Old Hollywood. In the end Barbara Rush was the very definition of a lady, intelligent, elegant, kind, and so much more.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Happy Easter 2024

Here at A Shroud of Thoughts  we realize that some people appreciate some cheesecake to go along with their Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies. Here then is this years collection of pinups.

Mary Carlisle is dressed as the Easter Bunny and ready to deliver eggs!

Marla English is also dressed as the Easter Bunny.

Gloria Holliday is being stalked by a rather sinister looking Easter bunny.

Claudia Barrett really loves her carrots.

Felicia Farr has completed painting her eggs.

And, finally, Ann Miller is eschewing the Easter Bunny to water her lilies!

Happy Easter!

Thursday, March 28, 2024

The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery

(This post is part of the Mismatched Couples Blogathon hosted by Cinematic Catharsis and Reelweedgiemidget Review)

Detectives Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin first appeared in the novel Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout in 1934. Ultimately Rex Stout would write 32 more novels and 41 novellas and short stories featuring the pair. The popularity of the Nero Wolfe novels would lead to adaptations to other media, including two movies produced by Columbia in the Thirties, four different radio shows, a 1959 television pilot featuring no less than William Shatner as Archie Goodwin, a 1977 TV movie with Thayer David as Nero Wolfe and Tom Mason as Archie Goodwin, and a short-lived 1981 TV series with William Conrad as Wolfe and Lee Horsley as Archie. What may have been the best received adaptation of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin to another medium may have been the 2001-2002 A&E series Nero Wolfe, which began with the TV movie The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery starring Maury Chaykin and Timothy Hutton as Archie Goodwin.

For those unfamiliar with the Nero Wolfe novels, Nero Wolfe is a brilliant, but eccentric and overweight private detective. He refuses to leave his lavish brownstone on West 35th Street in New York City to do business and not for very many other reasons either. He keeps a very rigid routine, whereby breakfast is served at 8:15 AM, lunch at 1:15 PM, and dinner at 7:15 PM or 7:30 PM. In between Wolfe tends to his orchids and does business. Nero Wolfe loves both food and beer (in Fer-de-Lance he tells Archie he is going to cut down to five quarts a day). He is also a voracious reader and he owns an extensive library. Wolfe has a profound dislike of women, to the point that it is nearly pathological. There are some hints, especially in the early novels, that Wolfe may have had an unfortunate encounter with a woman years ago. Wolfe also dislikes being touched by anyone, to the point that he won't even shake hands. He also is very precise in his words, and fastidious when it comes to proper grammar. Wolfe dislikes exercise, but he can be surprisingly athletic when he has to be.

Nero Wolfe could easily have become an eccentric recluse if not for his employee Archie Goodwin, who is a sharp contrast to the brilliant detective. Archie could accurately be described as Nero Wolfe's secretary, although his duties go well beyond that. Like Wolfe, Archie is a licensed private detective. Since Wolfe refuses to leave his brownstone to do business, Archie Goodwin is the one who actually gathers clues and information, and interviews individuals who either can't or won't visit Wolfe's brownstone. Archie is perfectly suited to this task, as he possesses a great memory (he can recall entire conversations) and he is a keen observer when it comes to small details. He also has a very respectable typing speed, so that he can churn out reports in no time. It should come as no surprise that it is Archie who conducts most of Nero Wolfe's day to day business, including keeping Nero Wolfe's books, handling Wolfe's banking, paying the bills, and typing any correspondence Wolfe might have. It is also Archie who insures that Wolfe continues working, often badgering his employer into taking cases. In contrast to Wolfe's lavish tastes in food and drink, Archie's tastes are more middle class. He likes corned beef sandwiches and will leave the brownstone to get it (Wolfe won't allow it on the premises), fried chicken, and milk. While Wolfe seems to dislike women, Archie definitely has an eye for the ladies.

What set Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe novels apart from other mystery novels of his day is that they are essentially a fusion of the refined detectives of classic mysteries (such as Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot) and detectives of the hard-boiled school (such as Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe). Quite simply, Nero Wolfe is a classic mystery detective, while Archie Goodwin is a hard-boiled detective. While the two are quite different and seemingly mismatched, they compliment each other perfectly. While Nero Wolfe is a genius at deductive reasoning, but at a loss in dealing with the world beyond the brownstone, Archie Goodwin has a talent for gathering information and dealing with a wide range of people. Of course, here it must be pointed out that Archie could have easily run his own detective agency. In the novel In the Best of Families, when Wolfe disappears for a time, he did exactly that.

As mentioned above, Nero Wolfe has been adapted to media beyond literature several times. For much of the Twentieth Century, the rights to the novels and stories were a hot commodity. Among those who sought the rights to the Nero Wolfe novels and stories was Michael Jafffe, son of actress Jean Muir and lawyer turned producer Henry Jaffe. It was in the mid-Seventies when the rights to the Nero Wolfe novels and short stories became available that Warner Bros. asked Henry Jaffe to enter into negotiations with the Rex Stout estate so that they could adapt the three novels featuring archvillain Arnold Zeck (And Be a Villain, The Second Confession, and In the Best Families) as a feature film. As it turned out, Warner Bros. lost out to Paramount Pictures, who produced the 1977 TV movie  and the 1981 TV series.

At long last Michael Jaffe was able to obtain the rights to the Nero Wolfe novels and stories. Michael Jaffe had known Allen Sabinson, the head of programming at A&E for years, and he was able to interest the cable channel in Nero Wolfe. Initially it was planned that The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery would be the first in a series of two-hour movies. As it turned out, The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery proved so successful that A&E decided to go ahead with a regularly-scheduled, one-hour series.

The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery
was based on the 1953 novel The Golden Spiders by Rex Stout. The Golden Spiders is not necessarily considered among the very best Nero Wolfe mysteries, but it was decided to adapt it first for a number of reasons. In an interview from 2002 with the magazine Scarlet Street, Michael Jaffe said, "We wanted to pick a story that had activity in it so that we could slowly bring people into the static milieu of Nero Wolfe's house. The Golden Spiders took you outside. There's a gunfight and a tough interrogation scene." As a long-time reader of the Nero Wolfe books, I also have to suspect The Golden Spiders was chosen because it features most of the major characters in the Nero Wolfe mythos:  Wolfe's personal chef Fritz Brenner; Manhattan Homicide detective Inspector Cramer; Sergeant Purley Stebbins of Manhattan Homicide; crime reporter Lon Cohen of The New York Gazette; Saul Panzer, Fred Durkin, and Orrie Cather, freelance detectives who often work for Nero Wolfe; and Deputy Commissioner Neary.

The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery followed the novel fairly closely, with dialogue even lifted from the book. In both the novel and the TV movie, after Nero Wolfe (Maury Chaykin) throws a tantrum over how Fritz (Collin Fox) prepared his food, as a prank Archie Goodwin (Timothy Hutton) allows a neighbourhood boy into the brownstone to talk to Wolfe. The boy tells Wolfe that he was washing the windshield of a car when the woman driving the car, wearing golden spider earrings, told him to alert the police. Wolfe simply has Archie pass the boy's information onto the police, but then the following day the boy is the victim of vehicular homicide. Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin then find themselves on a case.

The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery was directed by acclaimed actor and director Bill Duke, who had earlier directed The Killing Floor (1984) and A Rage in Harlem (1991). The teleplay was written by Paul Monash, who had written for such classic shows as Studio One and Playhouse 90, and wrote the 1979 mini-series Salem's Lot. The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery is to be noted for its production design, which perfectly captures post-war New York City. Lindsey Hermer-Bell would do the production design for the regular Nero Wolfe series and would later do production design for such shows as Murdoch Mysteries and Suits.

The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery was watched by 3.2 million households, an exceptionally large number of viewers for a TV movie aired on a cable channel at the time. It also received a good deal of critical acclaim, with particular praise for Maury Chaykin as Nero Wolfe and Timothy Hutton as Archie Goodwin.  As mentioned earlier, the success of The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery led A&E to order the regular TV series Nero Wolfe.

There is much to commend The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery. There is the aforementioned production design. Bill Duke's direction makes The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery look more like a feature film than a TV movie. The teleplay is faithful to the novel, and much of the dialogue is taken directly from the book. What really sets The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery apart from other TV movies (or feature films, for that matter) are the performances of Maury Chaykin and Timothy Hutton as Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin respectively. The two men captured their characters perfectly, from Wolfe's petulance to Archie's wit. Through their performances they also show the stark contrasts between the characters,  Nero Wolfe's aristocratic demeanour and Archie Goodwin's more down-to-earth personality, while at the same time making it clear how their talents compliment each other.

Sadly, A&E cancelled the TV series that emerged from The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery, after only two seasons. A&E decided to abandon quality television shows such as Nero Wolfe for the cesspool that is reality television (yes, I am still sore about that). Regardless, the TV series Nero Wolfe maintains a cult following to this day, and it all started with The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

The Late Great M. Emmet Walsh

Legendary character actor M. Emmet Walsh, he appeared in movies from Blade Runner (1982) to Blood Simple (1984) to Knives Out (2019), died on March 19 2024 at the age of 88. The cause was cardiac arrest.

M. Emmet Walsh was born on Mach 22 1935 in Ogdensburg, New York. He grew up in Swanton, Vermont. He earned a degree in business administration from Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York. At the college he appeared in various stage productions there. He decided to pursue acting as a career after being encouraged by a faculty advisor. Mr. Walsh then moved to New York City to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Art. He began his professional acting career in regional theatre.

M. Emmet Walsh made his television debut in 1968 in a guest appearance on the daytime soap opera The Doctors. He made his film debut the following year in an uncredited role in Midnight Cowboy (1969). He made his debut on Broadway in Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?. In the late Sixties he guest starred on television on N.Y.P.D. and Arnie. He appeared in the films Stiletto (1969), Alice's Restaurant (1969), End of the Road (1970), The Traveling Executioner (1970), and Little Big Man (1970).

In the Seventies M. Emmet Walsh had a recurring role on the Western TV series Nichols and a regular role on The Sandy Duncan Role. He appeared in the mini-series The French Atlantic Affair. He guest starred on the shows Julia; All in the Family; The Jimmy Stewart Show; Ironside, Bonanza; The Don Rickles Show; The Bob Newhart Show; McMillan & Wife; Amy Prentiss; The Rockford Files; The Waltons; Kate McShane, Baretta; Gibbsville; Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman; Starsky and Hutch; James at 15; Dear Detective; and Skag. He appeared in the movies Cold Turkey (1971), Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), They Might Be Giants (1971), What's Up, Doc? (1972), Get to Know Your Rabbit (1972), Kid Blue (1973), Serpico (1973), The Gambler (1974), At Long Last Love (1975), The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1975), Bound for Glory (1976), Nickelodeon (1976), Mikey and Nicky (1976), Slap Shot (1977), Airport '77 (1977), Straight Time (1978), The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh (1979); The Jerk (1979); Brubaker (1980); Raise the Titanic (1980), and Ordinary People (1980). He appeared on Broadway in The Championship Season.

In the Eighties M. Emmet Walsh appeared in the movies Back Roads (1981), Reds (1981), Cannery Row (1982), The Escape Artist (1982), Fast-Walking (1982), Blade Runner (1982), Silkwood (1983), Scandalous (1984), Blood Simple (1984), The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984), Grandview, U.S.A. (1984), Missing in Action (1984), Courage (1984), Fletch (1985), The Best of Times (1986), Wildcats (1986), Critters (1986), Back to School (1986), Raising Arizona (1987), Harry and the Hendersons (1987), No Man's Land (1987), The Milagro Beanfield War (1988), Sunset (1988), Clean and Sober (1988), War Party (1988), Red Scorpion (1988), The Mighty Quinn (1989), Thunderground (1989), Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (1989), Catch Me if You Can (1989), Chattahoochee (1989), and Narrow Margin (1990). On television he appeared in the mini-series East of Eden, The Deliberate Stranger, and Brotherhood of the Rose. He guest starred on the shows Little House on the Prairie, ABC Afterschool Specials, After MASH, You Are the Jury, ABC Weekend Specials, The Twilight Zone, The Hitchhiker, The Wonderful World of Disney, Amazing Stories, Tales from the Crypt, and The Flash. He was a regular on the short-lived show Unsub.

In the Nineties Mr. Walsh appeared in the movies Killer Image (1992), White Sands (1992), Equinox (1992), The Naked Truth (1992), The Music of Chance (1993), Wilder Napalm (1993), Bitter Harvest (1993), Cops and Robbersons (1994), Camp Nowhere (1994), The Glass Shield (1994), Relative Fear (1994), Dead Badge (1995), Panther (1995), Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home (1995), A Time to Kill (1996), Albino Alligator (1996), Romeo + Juliet (1996),  Retroactive (1997), The Killing Jar (1997), My Best Friend's Wedding (1997), Chairman of the Board (1997), Twilight (1998), Erasable You (1998), Wild Wild West (1999), Random Hearts (1999), Me and Will (1999), Jack of Hearts (1999), and Poor White Trash (1999). He was the voice of Earl Stutz in the animated classic The Iron Giant (1999). He guest starred on the TV shows The Jackie Thomas Show, Home Improvement, The Outer Limits, Early Edition, Tracey Takes On..., The X-Files, NYPD Blue, Gideon's Crossing, and Ed. He was a guest voice on the animated series The Wild Thornberrys. He was a regular voice on the animated show Big Guy and Rusty the Robot.

In the Naughts M. Emmet Walsh had a regular role on the short-lived television series The Mind of a Married Man. He guest starred on the shows Night Visions, Frasier, Charlie Lawrence, The Guardian, and 'Til Death. He was a guest voice on What's New, Scooby doo?. He appeared in the movies Snow Dogs (2002), Baggage (2003), Christmas with the Kranks (2004), Racing Stripes (2005), Greener Mountains (2005), Man in the Chair (2007), Big Stan (2007), Sherman's Way (2008), Your Name Here (2008), Don McKay (2009), Youth in Revolt (2009), Sam Steele and the Junior Detective Agency (2009), Chasing 3000 (2009), and The Assignment (2010).

In the Teens Mr. Walsh had recurring roles on the TV shows Damages and Sneaky Pete.. He was a regular voice on the animated shows Pound Puppies and Adventure Time. He guest starred on the shows Army Wives, 5-Second Films, Empire, Tim and Eric's Bedtime Stories, and The Righteous Gemstones. He appeared in the movies The Odd Life of Timothy Green (2012), Arthur Green (2012), Love Sick Love (2012), Calvary (2014), Boiling Pot (2015), Shifting Gears (2018), Change in the Air (2018), Faith, Hope & Love (2019), Raising Buchanan (2019), Knives Out (2019), and The Mimic (2020).

In the 2020s he appeared in the movies The Immaculate Room (2022), Dotty & Soul (2022), A Little White Lie (2023), and Outlaw Posse (2024). He is set to appear in God Loves the Green Bay Packers. He guest starred on the television shows The Righteous Gemstones and American Gigolo.

M. Emmet Walsh was extremely prolific. What is more, he never retired. The reason that he was able to work so much and work so long is quite simply that he was enormously talented, so talented that he was never typecast. Throughout the years he played a wide variety of roles, from authority figures to lovable eccentrics to outright criminals. In Slap Shot he was the modest sportswriter Dickie Dunn, who in writing about sports always "tried to capture the spirit of the thing." One of his most famous roles, if not his most famous, was that of corrupt and absolutely amoral private detective Loren Visser. In The Iron Giant he voiced a character about as far from Loren Viser as one could get, local fisherman and town eccentric Earl Stutz. He was an Army sergeant in Alice's Restaurant (1969), Deckard's boss Bryant in Blade Runner, and the local sheriff in the movie Critters. He played a wide variety of characters on television as well, everything from Sandy's neighbour, motorcycle cop Alex Lembeck, on The Sandy Duncan Show to an insurance agent who hires Jim Rockford in the Rockford Files episode "Counter Gambit" to a former police officer who had an encounter with aliens in 1947 in the X-Files episode "The Unnatural." Even with his somewhat imposing size, M. Everet Walsh could play a wide variety of roles, many unlike any other he had played. He was not simply a great character actor. He was a great actor, period.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Thank You for a Successful 10th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon

I want to thank everyone who took part in this year's 10th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon and for making it a success. We had several entries this year. The posts covered shows from the Fifties to Nineties. They also covered a wide array of genres, from anthology shows to sci-fi shows to sitcoms. God willing, the Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon will return next year for its 11th iteration.

Friday, March 22, 2024

The 10th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon is Here!

The 10th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon is here. It is honestly hard to believe that the blogathon has been going on this long. As in past years, this year's blogathon features several entries on episodes from classic television shows.

For those of you who are participating in the blogathon, I ask that you link to this page. I will be updating this page with links to the various blog posts that are part of this blogathon throughout the weekend. If you want a graphic for your post, I have several on the announcement page here.

Without further ado, here are this year's posts.

Realweedgiemidget Reviews: "TV....Star Trek: The Next Generation, 'Second Chances' (1993) S6 E24"

A Shroud of Thoughts: "Nurses, 'The One After the Earthquake"

Films From Beyond the Time Barrier: "Lights, Camera, Chaos!: Nigel Kneale’s 'The Dummy'"

Various Ramblings of a Nostalgic Italian: "A Knock Out Favorite Episode"

John V's Eclectic Avenue: "TV Episode Blogathon 2024: The Bionic Woman"

The Midnite Drive-In: "Tribble-ing Dilemmas"

Taking Up Room: "Elyse and Eggy"

Smoke in the Library: "The Twilight Zone, 'Steel'"

Starlight & Saucepans: "A Favorite Jeeves and Wooster Episode: 'Introduction on Broadway'”

Dubsism: "Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies – Volume 152: The Rockford Files – 'The Queen of Peru'"

Crítica Retrô: "Retro Series: The Addams Family"

Liberal England: "The Exorcism: The scariest thing I have ever seen on television"

Hamlette's Soliloquy: "'White Warrior' (Cheyenne, Season 3, Ep 13) (1958)"

Another Old Movie Blog: "Beulah Bondi in "The Pony Cart" episode of The Waltons"

Whimsically Classic: "Favorite TV Show Blogathon–'The Pickle Story,' The Andy Griffith Show"

Moon in Gemini: "Welcome Back, Kotter: 'Whodunit?'"

A Scunner Darkly: "Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon – Robin of Sherwood 'The King’s Fool' (1984, Ian Sharp)"

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Nurses, "The One After the Earthquake"

(This post is part of the 10th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon hosted by A Shroud of Thoughts)

I don't think most people would consider the Nurses episode "The One After the Earthquake" that remarkable. It is certainly not on the same level as, say, the Dick Van Dyke Show episode "It May Look Like a Walnut" or the Mary Tyler Moore Show episode "Chuckles Bites the Dust." For that matter, I am guessing many people have never even heard of Nurses, a sitcom that ran on NBC from 1991 to 1994. Nonetheless, it remains one of my favourite television episodes, largely due to sentimental reasons. "The One After the Earthquake" was one of the earliest instances in which I took notice of actress Vanessa Marquez, who would later become my dearest friend. Of course, there are also other reasons the episode stands out for me.

Nurses was created by Susan Harris, who also created Soap, The Golden Girls, and Empty Nest. It debuted on NBC on September 14 1991. The show was centred on a group of nurses who worked at the fictional Community Memorial Hospital in Miami. Originally the main character was Nurse Sandy Miller (Stephanie Hodge), a somewhat sarcastic Texan.  Nurse Annie Roland (Arnetia Walker) was the head nurse in 3 West wing of Community Memorial Hospital, and tended to be level-headed. Nurse Julie Milbury (Mary Jo Keenan) was a young and naive, but eternally optimistic nurse. Nurse Gina Cuevas (Ada Maris) was a romantic and somewhat stereotypical Latina nurse. Nurse Greg Vincent (Jeff Altman) was the somewhat impertinent male nurse.  Dr. Hank Kaplan (Kip Gilman) was the resident physician on 3 West. Paco Ortiz (Carolos Lacamara) was a somewhat scheming orderly.

was a spinoff of Empty Nest, Community Memorial Hospital being the same hospital where the paediatrician office of Dr. Harry Weston (Richard Mulligan), the main character on Empty Nest, was located. Of course, Empty Nest was itself a spin-off of The Golden Girls. All three shows were set in Miami and in the same shared universe. It was then not unusual for characters from Empty Nest and The Golden Girls to show up on Nurses from time to time. In addition to members of the casts of Empty Nest and The Golden Girls, Nurses did feature guest appearances from various famous and soon to be famous performers, including Larry Linville, Adam Arkin, Fred Willard, June Lockhart, John O'Hurley,  Salma Hayek, John Ratzenberger, Jeri Ryan, and, of course, my dearest Vanessa Marquez, among others.

Nurses did not receive overly positive reviews upon its debut in 1991. Variety gave the show a negative review, commenting, "Call the medics for Nurses, new sitcom from Susan Harris that has all the zest and appeal of cold hospital food." Entertainment Weekly gave the show a somewhat more positive review, "As a sitcom, however, this new show is only moderately amusing." Other reviews characterized Nurses as mildly amusing as well, a show that was not necessarily good, but not necessarily bad either.

Nurses underwent several cast changes in its three seasons. Jeff Altman left the show after its first season. Stephanie Hodge left the show after its second season. The character of Jack Trenton (David Rasche) was added in its second season. Jack was a businessman who was convicted of insider trading and sentenced to do community service at the hospital, performing menial tasks there. He quickly became friends with Paco. Loni Anderson (then as now best known as Jennifer Marlowe on WKRP in Cincinnati) joined the cast in its third season as Casey McAfee. the hospital's new administrator. By the third season, when "The One After the Earthquake" aired, the cast consisted of the aforementioned, Annie, Julie, Gina, Hank, Paco, Jack, and Casey.

As to "The One After the Earthquake," the episode's title is somewhat nonsensical. An earthquake does not take place in the episode, nor did an earthquake take place in the previous episode ("Silent Partner") or any other episode of Nurses. It seems possible that the title is a reference to the real-life Northridge earthquake that took place on January 17 1994 and affected the Greater Los Angeles Area. Here I must point out that I have never read that this was where the episode's title came from. Some might think that the title of "The One After the Earthquake" took inspiration from the titles of Friends episodes. Friends had a naming convention for episodes in which they were titled "The One...." This is certainly not the case, as Friends would not premiere until September 22 1994, a few months after Nurses had ended its run.

Like most Nurses episodes, "The One After the Earthquake" features multiple subplots. In the primary subplot, a high school student, Angelica (Vanessa Marquez), is tagging along with the nurses as she is looking to enter the profession. Angelica proves to be somewhat irritating to Gina, as Annie has told Angelica details of Gina's private life. In another subplot, Jeff is angry with Paco because Paco is spending an inordinate amount of time with a new orderly, Marty. In another subplot, a patient named Mr. Torrance (Steve Bridges) is having adenoid surgery in hope that he will no longer sound like Jack Nicholson, and grows increasing irritated as various medical staff want him to quote lines from Jack Nicholson's movies. Another patient, Mr. Parry, is a hypochondriac who believes his medical problems stem from living near a power plant. As a result, Hank, who also lives near a power plant, becomes convinced he is also having various medical problems. Julie has lost a patient, who keeps showing up in odd places. Despite this, the nurses are still unable to find him. To top all of this off, they must deal with Leo (Sid Melton), the local flasher.

Among the things that make "The One After the Earthquake" notable is that it features Sid Melton, who had a long career in film and television. He played Little Louie in The Lemon Drop Kid (1951). He had many roles on television. He had a recurring role as Harry the grocery delivery man on Bachelor Father. He was a regular on Make Room for Daddy, playing Charley Halper, the owner of the Copa Club. On Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. he had a recurring role as con artist Friendly Freddy. He was a semi-regular on Green Acres, playing incompetent carpenter  Alf Monroe. On The Golden Girls he appeared in flashbacks as Sophia's late husband and Dorothy's father Sal. He also appeared on Empty Nest in various roles. On Nurses he had previously appeared in different roles. He had earlier appeared as Leo in the Nurses episode "The Eagle Has Landed," the first episode of the third season.

"The One After the Earthquake" was also notable as the television debut of Steve Bridges, who played Mr. Torrance on the episode. Steve Bridges was a comedian and impressionist who was well known for his impressions of Jack Nicholson, Tom Brokaw, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Barney Fife, Paul Harvey, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and yet others. He made something of a career playing George W. Bush, appearing as President Bush in episodes of JAG, NCIS, and Whoopi. He even appeared alongside George W. Bush at the White House Correspondents Association dinner in 2006. Sadly, he died in 2012 from a severe allergic reaction.

Vanessa Marquez as Angelica in the Nurses episode "The One After the Earthquake"

Of course, for me "The One After the Earthquake" will always be memorable because among the guest stars is my dearest Vanessa Marquez. Angelica in "The One After the Earthquake" is the last juvenile role she would ever play. By that time Vanessa was 24 years old and, to be honest, in the episode she looks more like a college senior than she does a senior in high school. "The One After the Earthquake" would also mark her last guest appearance before beginning her stint in the semi-regular role of Nurse Wendy Goldman on ER. Curiously, her last work before "The One After the Earthquake" was also set in a hospital, the HBO TV movie State of Emergency (1994). I may be biased, but I think Vanessa did a great job in "The One After the Earthquake." Her timing and delivery are perfect, and she is convincing as a somewhat naive high student. Vanessa always did have a gift for comedy, which I suspect is why Wendy appeared in so many humorous subplots on ER.

As I said earlier, "The One After the Earthquake" hardly ranks among the greatest situation comedy episodes of all time. Even so, it is one of the better episodes of Nurses and it does have several funny moments. Steve Bridges is very funny as Mr. Torrance, who grows increasingly exasperated as people keep asking him to quote lines from Jack Nicholson movies. Loni Anderson is great as Casey, who always manages to turn the conversation back to herself. The subplot in which Hank becomes convinced he has various ailments due to living near a power plant is also funny, particularly given he is a doctor and should know better.  I would guess by today's standards the subplot involving Leo would be considered politically incorrect, but then it is only a very small part of the episode. Regardless, "The One After the Earthquake" may not rank up there with the I Love Lucy episode "Lucy Does a Commercial" or the Andy Griffith Show episode "Citizen's Arrest," but it is certainly amusing and not at all a bad way to pass a half hour.

Indeed, "The One After the Earthquake' is the only episode of Nurses I remember in detail, as well as the circumstances under which I saw it. It aired on April 16 1994, which was a pleasant spring day in mid-Missouri. I took advantage of the weather and rode my bicycle to a nearby town, where I spent much of the day shopping. I then returned home, ate dinner, and settled in for an evening of watching television.  I have no idea what I watched besides Empty Nest and Nurses. I do remember that I thought Vanessa was remarkably pretty and even then I thought she had a beautiful voice. If someone had told me back then that she would become my closest friend and a woman I adore, I probably wouldn't have believed them.

By the time "The One After the Earthquake" aired, Nurses was on its last legs. In its first season, Nurses received moderate ratings. Much of this was perhaps due to The Golden Girls, which anchored Saturday night on NBC in the 1991-1992 season. Unfortunately, The Golden Girls ended its run and ratings for both Empty Nest and Nurses toppled during the 1992-1993 season. In the 1993-1994 ratings declined further for Nurses, and the show was cancelled at the end of the season. Empty Nest would continue for another season after Nurses left the air. Unfortunately, Nurses would not perform well in syndication. It aired for a time on Lifetime in the Nineties, but it really hasn't been seen since. It has never been released on DVD and it is unavailable on streaming unless one counts some rather bad copies on YouTube and Daily Motion.

"The One After the Earthquake" is not a great sitcom episode. Television historians will not be writing treatises on it in years to come. But for me it remains one of my favourite episodes of a television show, in part because it guest stars my beloved Vanessa Marquez and in part because it has some very funny moments.