Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Godfrey Cambridge

Growing up, I used to see the talented and wonderfully monickered Godfrey Cambridge on TV a lot, either doing standup routines on ED SULLIVAN or sketch comedy with RED SKELTON or acting on everything from THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW to NIGHT GALLERY. At a time when TV was still pretty whitebread, Godfrey offered a constant presence of color on TV. It was only later when I realized that he was also an impressive character actor in motion pictures, particularly THE PRESIDENT'S ANALYST, COTTON COMES TO HARLEM and COME BACK, CHARLESTON BLUE.  Hard to believe he's been gone 40 years this year. R.I.P. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Ringo the Movie Actor

Excepting cameos, documentaries, TV appearances, children's videos, concert footage and voiceovers, what you see here represents the entire big screen acting career of today's birthday boy Ringo Starr, hailed in 1964 as "The New Chaplin." While it would be tough to say he lived up to that promise as an actor, this is certainly not a film legacy to sneeze at. Peace and Love, Rich! Always!


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Kiss Me Stupid

I'm not normally a big fan of Kim Novak but she brings far more characterization to this role than was likely in the script. She's funny, sad, vulnerable, sexy, and not afraid to be silly. 

Dean plays himself or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Cliff Osmond and Ray Walston play two small town songwriters who conspire to get Dino to do one of their songs no matter WHAT it takes.

Walston is more than a tad over the top and when you know he's replaced heart attack-stricken Peter Sellers, you can't help but wonder how the latter would have handled the role.

Felica Farr is quietly sexy as the jealous, paranoid Walston's wife and Howard McNear, Mel Blanc, Alice Pearce, John Fiedler and other familiar faces dot the cast.

At the time of release, this became writer/director Billy Wilder's biggest flop. It was savaged by the critics and the Catholic Legion of Decency. Perhaps surprisingly, it's aged well. The beautiful black and white photography takes full advantage of the widescreen process, the soundtrack contains songs by George and Ira Gershwin, and some of the jokes are particularly funny. "That Sinatra kid go missing again?" says Dino when stopped by a police blockade. Surprisingly Frank let him live.

Walston's singing voice was weirdly dubbed by a wholly inappropriate voice that sounds somewhat like Tom Lehrer, in spite of the fact that the actor had been known for musicals before this!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Bob Hope's Books

I think these are all the books credited to Bob Hope during his lifetime. They're all good reads although it's now known that most were largely ghosted by various of his comedy writers. Bob gave us 100 years. Today he would have turned 113 years old!

Below is the day I met Bob in 1976. He seemed quite deaf and, in fact, when I got close enough in line I could see he was wearing a hearing aid.

And below is the autograph I watched him sign for me that day, surprisingly legible when you see just how many books he was signing! Those authors who just put a line and call it a signature have NO excuse!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Susan Slept Here

Originally, SUSAN SLEPT HERE was meant to be a vehicle for young MGM starlet Debbie Reynolds, on loan to RKO.Debbie's co-stars were set to be hoofer Dan Dailey and rising star David Wayne. Although based on a play and produced and written by the co-playwright himself, there were multiple delays, causing Wayne to have to drop out due to a Broadway commitment. A search for his replacement led to Mickey Rooney but in that time, Dailey had to drop out to accommodate a Fox picture he was obligated to do. RKO owner Howard Hughes reportedly courted Cary Grant for the lead but settled on Robert Mitchum...who promptly walked out in a contract dispute. Somewhere along the way, Rooney fell by the wayside, too. Ultimately, Dick Powell was lured out of a self-imposed big screen acting retirement for this, his final picture. One of the great second acts in movie history, light comedian/singer/dancer Powell completely and successfully reinvented himself as a tough guy noir anti-hero and even then went on to morph yet again into a successful producer/director for television.  Alvy Moore, who had replaced David Wayne in Broadway's MISTER ROBERTS, did so again here in the sidekick role and showed great promise himself.

Colorfully directed by former cartoonist Frank Tashlin, it's the unlikely story of a 17 year old juvenile delinquent left to spend the holidays with a middle aged writer. As the screwball happenings of the weekend continue, although the writer really isn't a perv, he does begin to have feelings for his charge and she reciprocates, all leading up to a wonderfully bizarre musical fantasy sequence and some surprisingly naughty bits as we head toward the happy ending.