Saturday, February 24, 2024

Godspeed Lanny Flaherty

Lanny Flaherty, best known for playing Big Al in the cult classic Blood In Blood Out (1993), died on February 18 2024 at the age of 81.

Lanny Flaherty was born on July 27 1942 in Potomoc, Mississippi. In the Sixties he served in the United States Army as a Military Policeman in Germany. He attended Mississippi State University and then Southern Methodist University. It was in the mid-Seventies that he moved to New York City. He was an understudy for the play Of Mice and Men on Broadway. He appeared on Broadway in the play Sweet Bird of Youth.

He made his television debut in 1984 in an episode of the daytime serial The Edge of Night. In the Eighties he guest starred on the televisions shows The Equalizer, The Dirty Dozen, The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, and The Cosby Show. He played the role of Soupy Jones in the mini-series Lonesome Dove. He made his film debut in 1989 in Winter People. He appeared in the classic Miller's Crossing (1990).  On Broadway he was an understudy for the play Requiem for a Heavyweight and he was a standby for the play Joe Turner's Come and Gone.

In the Nineties Lanny Flaherty appeared in the movies The Ballad of the Sad Cafe (1991), Sommersby (1993), Blood In Blood Out (1993), Natural Born Killers (1994), Someone Else's America (1995), Waterworld (1995), Tom and Huck (1995), A Simple Wish (1997), Home Fries (1998), Double Parked (2000), Maze (2000), and Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000). He guest starred on the TV shows Mathnet, New York News, and Third Watch.

In the Naughts he guest starred on the TV shows The Education of Max Bickford and White Collar. He appeared in the movies Signs (2002), Forged (2010), and All Good Things (2010). He appeared on Broadway in Inherit the Wind. In the Teens he appeared in the movies Men in Black 3 (2012) and Cold in July (2014). He guest starred on the show Alpha House and Little America.

Mr.Flaherty also appeared in productions at the Actors Theatre of Louisville. He appeared in a production of Playboy of the Western World at the Steppenwolf Theatre. He also wrote several plays. His play Showdown at the Adobe Motel was produced at the Hartford Stage in Connecticut and starred Henry Fonda.

Chances are very good that Larry Flaherty will always be best remembered as Big Al in Blood In Blood Out. He was impressive in the role, making Big Al one of the best villains in a movie filled with villains. Many will also remember him as Obadiah Price, the creator of the illegal time-jump technology in Men in Black 3. He will also be remembered as Soupy on Lonesome Dove. While it was not a large part, he did well with it, making the character memorable. Many of the roles Larry Flaherty played throughout his career were small, but he always made an impression.Whether as the ill-fated Earl in Natural Born Killers or Terry in Miller's Crossing, one can not forget Lanny Flaherty.

Friday, February 23, 2024

"Whistle Up a Party": The Historic Jax Beer Commercial

The Jax Brewing Company was a regional brewing company based in Jacksonville, Florida. It was historic as the very last brewery to open before Prohibition. They are also believed to be the first brewery to sell beer in six packs around 1945 or 1946. This would not be the last time the Jax Brewing Company would make history. It was in 1948 that the company produced the television commercial "Whistle Up a Party," one of the first, if not the first, television commercial to feature African Americans in non-stereotypical roles.

What might surprise many is that "Whistle Up a Party" aired fairly early in the history of American broadcast television. It first aired in 1948. The commercial itself is fairly simple, with a group of African Americans gathered around a piano and singing a song about Jax Beer. Regardless, it was a rarity for the time, when Black people did not appear in television commercials and, when they did, were portrayed as stereotypes.

This would not be the only time the Jax Brewing Company tried to appeal to African Americans. In the Fifties they employed movie star Dorothy Dandridge in print ads and on signs. Like "Whistle Up a Party," these ads for Jax Beer also broke with stereotypes. Dorothy Dandridge is as glamorous as ever, dressed in an evening gown and posing with a radio microphone.

While Jax Brewing Company was revolutionary, it ultimately would not save the company. The 1950s saw the larger brewing companies move to aluminium cans, and the cost of modernizing their equipment simply proved too expensive for Jax Brewing Company. In 1956 Jax Brewing Company sold out to the Jackson Brewing Company of New Orleans. The Jackson Brewing Company would continue to make Jax Beer until 1974. Since that time it has largely been forgotten, but in its time Jax Brewing Company made history.

Below is the historic Jax Beer commercial, "Whistle Up a Party."

Thursday, February 22, 2024

The 90th Anniversary of It Happened One Night (1934)

It Happened One Night (1934) remains one of the most famous screwball comedies of all time. It could well be the most famous Pre-Code screwball comedy. It has been referenced in numerous movies and even television shows ever since. It was ninety years ago today, on February 22 1934, that It Happened One Night was released.

It Happened One Night (1934) centred on a spoiled heiress, Ellen "Ellie" Andrews (Claudette Colbert), who runs away from the father (Walter Connolly) after eloping with pilot King Westley (Jameson Thomas). While on the run, she encounters recently fired newspaper reporter Peter Wayne (Clark Gable), who tells her that he will return her to her beloved Westley if she gives him an exclusive on her story. If she doesn't agree to this, then he will alert her father as to her whereabouts. The two then make a cross-country trip to get Ellie back to Westley. Of course, as might be expected, everything doesn't go according to plan.

The path of  It Happened One Night began in the page of a 1933 issue of Cosmopolitan with the short story "Night Bus" by Samuel Hopkins Adams. Both screenwriter Robert Riskin and director Frank Capra, who had already made several movies together, read "Night Bus" and decided that it would make for a good motion picture. Despite this, Robert Riskin would make several changes in both characters and even plot that would ultimately make It Happened One Night very different from the short story upon which it was based.

Although today it is difficult to see anyone else in the roles of Ellie and Peter, Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable were not the first actors considered for the roles. The initial choice for the role of Peter Wayne was Robert Montgomery, whom Columbia Pictures would have had to borrow from MGM. As it turned out, Robert Montgomery committed to another movie featuring a bus at MGM, Fugitive Lovers (1934). The role of Peter then went to Clark Gable, on loan from MGM. According to legend, Louis B. Mayer made the loan has punishment for being uncooperative and even demanding a raise. According to more recent sources, this might not have been the case. At the time Clark Gable was cast in It Happened One Night, MGM had no projects for him and was still having to pay him the $2000 a week his contract required. Columbia paid MGM $2500 a week to borrow Clark Gable. As a result, MGM then made a profit of $500 a week. Regardless, Clark Gable did not appreciate being loaned to a lesser studio (Columbia was borderline Poverty Row at the time).

The casting of Ellie would prove even more difficult. Myrna Loy was the first choice for the role, but she turned it down because she did not like the script. She would later say that the script she saw when she was offered the part was very different from the finished product. Miriam Hopkins also turned down the role of Ellie, and she even told Robert Riskin at the time that It Happened One Night "was just a silly comedy." Margaret Sullavan and Constance Bennett also turned the role down. Ultimately, it was Harry Cohn who suggested the casting of Claudette Colbert. Director Frank Capra and Claudette Colbert had previously worked together on For the Love of Mike (1927), which was not a particularly pleasant experience for either of them. Miss Colbert agreed to take the role primarily for the money. The $50,000 she would make for the four weeks she would make while working on It Happened One Night was more than the $25,000 per movie she was being paid at Paramount. 

While Claudette Colbert agreed to make the film, at times Frank Capra still did not find her particularly easy to work with. According to Mr. Capra, Miss Colbert "..had many little tantrums, motivated by her antipathy toward me." It is well-known that Claudette Colbert initially refused to hike up her skirt and show her legs in the famous hitch-hiking scene. Frank Capra then hired a showgirl whose legs would double for those of Miss Colbert in the scene. This only angered Claudette Colbert, who told Frank Capra, "Get her out of here. I'll do it. That's not my leg!" While Claudette Colbert could be a handful for the director (at least according to Mr. Capra), he admitted that "..she was wonderful in the part."

It Happened One Night premiered in Miami, Florida on February 18 1934 before being released on February 22 1934. For the most part, It Happened One Night received positive reviews. Initially It Happened One Night only did modestly well at the box office, but began doing extraordinarily well several weeks into its release. It ultimately became the third highest grossing film of 1934. It also did well at the Academy Awards. It Happened One Night was nominated for all five major awards (Outstanding Production, Best Director for Frank Capra, Best Actor for Clark Gable, Best Actress for Claudette Colbert, and Best Adaptation for Robert Riskin). It became the first ever motion picture to win all five of the major Oscars. Only One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Silence of the Lambs would repeat this feat.

It Happened One Night would be adapted for radio. On March 30 1939, Lux Radio Theatre aired an adaptation in which Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert reprised their roles in the film. It was on January 28 1940 that Campbell Playhouse did an adaptation of It Happened One Night starring William Powell as Peter Wayne and Miriam Hopkins as Ellie Andrews. It Happened One Night would be remade as the musical Eve Knew Her Apples (1945) and the musical comedy You Can't Run Away from It (1956).

It Happened One Night is significant as one of the earliest screwball comedies, as well as one of the most successful. It was also one of the last comedies to be released in the Pre-Code era. It was released only about four and a half months before the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America began more strictly enforcing the Production Code in July 1934. It Happened One Night would certainly have a lasting impact on popular culture. There can be no doubt that its success led to further screwball comedies. The famous hitch-hiking scene from It Happened One Night would be parodied in the Laurel & Hardy movie Way Out West (1937). The hitch-hiking scene would also be referenced in Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988), A Fistful of Fingers (1997), and other movies and TV shows. The wedding in It Happened One Night would be parodied in Mel Brooks's sci-fi comedy Spaceballs (1987).

It would also have an impact on American animation. According to legendary animator Friz Freleng, the character Bugs Bunny drew heavily upon It Happened One Night for inspiration. The character Oscar Shapeley (Roscoe Karns) repeatedly uses "Doc" as a nickname for Peter Wayne. When Peter pretends to be a gangster in order to threaten Shapeley, he makes reference to a fictional gangster named "Bugs Dooley." A scene in which Clark Gable chomps on carrots would also have an impact on Bugs Bunny, who often talks while eating a carrot.

It Happened One Night still regularly ranks in lists of the greatest films ever made. What is more, it remains popular ninety years after its release. Its influence is certainly still being felt to this day.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Google Search Has the Wrong Photo of Vanessa Marquez in the Cast Section of Her Movies

(Update: Google got the photo corrected. In fact, they used the same photo I used for this post, which is one of the promotional photos of Vanessa for the first season of ER.)

This IS Vanessa Marquez
Today I learned that a new 4K Blu-ray of Stand and Deliver (1988) is being released on March 26 2024. Quite naturally, I did a search on Google to find more information. It was during this search that I clicked on the cast section of Stand and Deliver (1988) on Google Search. It was there that I noticed that the photo they have for Vanessa Marquez is not my Vanessa--it is not the actress Vanessa Rosalia Marquez who played Ana Delgado in the movie. I then did a search on some of her other movies and TV movies (Twenty Bucks, Locked Up: A Mother's Rage, and so on). In each case, they had the same wrong photo.

After some research I learned that the photo is of a pop singer named Vanessa Marquez, who apparently had some hits in the Naughts. Beyond the fact that they share the same name, I have no idea how Google confused the actress Vanessa Marquez with the pop singer Vanessa Marquez, as they look completely different. Anyway, I sent feedback to Google alerting them of the error. I am hoping that they will get it corrected, although I am not holding my breath where that is concerned.

Anyway, I think having the incorrect photo for the actress Vanessa Marquez is a disservice to both the actress and the singer. Everyone deserves to be correctly identified. I also have to point out that this is not an isolated incident. I have seen other cases of other celebrities who have photos incorrectly identified as them on Google Search. At any rate, if you run into this error as well, please let Google know.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Right Now I Feel Like C.C. Baxter

Right now I feel like C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) in The Apartment (1960). No, I am not having to lend my house out to executives from an insurance company for their trysts. And, no, I am not in love with an elevator operator. I have had a head cold since last week and right now I feel pretty much the way that Baxter did in the movie when he had a cold. It's particularly bad for me because, like Miss Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) in the movie, I rarely get colds. Anyway, it goes without saying that I also feel like John L. Sullivan in Sullivan's Travels (1941), Zuzu in It's a Wonderful Life (1946), and Paul Bratter in Barefoot in the Park (1967). Characters don't seem to catch colds very often in movies, but when they do, they are doozies.

Anyway, I hope to be feeling better soon and to get back to posting regularly. In the mean time, I do hope all of you are well and stay that way!