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Ryan is retired for the past several years from a 35 year career "on the Job", with the Chicago Police Department where he split time between the Patrol Division,the Traffic Division, Youth Divison and the Detective Division's Missing Persons Bureau. His duties varied from patroling some of the most crime ridden, poverty stricken neighborhoods to directing traffic in Downtown Chicago (the Loop);From dealing with the Juvenile Gangs plaguing our schools to handling Missing Persons.
Additionally,while he was still a Cop, John had a 7 year career as a preliminary bout Pro Wrestler. Billed as "Red Ryan", he had some of his best matches in some of the snaller towns in Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucvky. He also was seen in TV taped matches from Minneapolis.
For a period, he served as an Organizer for the International Union of Police Associations AFL-CIO. During this time, he was Editor/Cartoonist/Photographer for the Local Union's Newsletter, THE CHICAGO POLICE OFFICER.
In addition to this full plate, he's been a Die Hard Chicago White Sox & Notre Dame Fighting Irish fan, a Bodtybuilder and (by the way) a Husband and Father, having a beautiful wife (Deanna) and 2 lovely girls,(Jenn & Michelle) Notre Dame Grads both. both.
Fat City (1972)
The unglamours view from the bottom.
NO MATTER WHAT the field of endeavor, there are always the stories of those successful at the top of the ladder and those who struggle yet remain on the bottom wrung. We are generally exposed to the "glamour"of being Champ or at least being considered a Contender. For every one who is successful at getting to the pinnacle of any particular field, there is a multitude of those who do not make it. Director John Huston chose to show us this view.
THE STORY TELLS us of two sort of "Minor Leaguers"or "Ham & Eggers", whose relationship is not really all that close . It's only through the chance meeting of the young and aspiring pugilist (Jeff Bridges) and the journeyman (Stacey Keach) that the two are acquainted. It was the occasion of a chance meetin at a workout for both at thye local YMCA that they sparred. The "old guy" (30 year old) Keach tells the young (19 year old) Bridges that he had the right stuff to turn pro. He sends him to the veteran trainer Nicholas Colasanto.
OTHER THAN THE beginning of the film ans the end, the two do not hardly cross paths. There's is a relationship that is there for comparison and contrast.
IN MANY WAYS that may not be apparent at first, the settings and overall incidents in the story remind us of an earlier work of Mr. John Huston. That would be THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (Warner Brothers, 1948); which has come to be revered more and more as a true Classic as the years roll by.
ANOTHER MOST INTERESTING aspect of this film is its settings in the not so pretty worlds of suburbia and the city that we have become all too accustomed to viewing. The characters are flawed to be sure. But they do have hope to better their lot in life.
AS WE ALL know fro our real world experiences; some make it and some do not.
Don't Be a Sucker (1943)
"Ounce Of Prevention.........." (you know the rest)
WE HAVE ONLY recently became aware of this relic from the 1940's & bit of World War II American propaganda. As with so many other titles, we sort of accidentally bumped into it on Youtube.com. Being that the running time was listed at 17 minutes and change, we immediately watched it.
IN MUCH THE same manner as so many other films produced by the United States War effort, it is of surprisingly good, high quality production value, acting and effectiveness. This short manages to reach the subject and bring it in a highly effective manner to us, the viewing audience. And that message is one that is as pertinent to today's America and the whole, cockeyed World.
THE VERY FABRIC is the fact that we, as a people have a more than a casual and abrupt with the sort of discriminations. Although we may be aware and therefore, more or less immune from being taken over by such prejudices. But there is still danger of transferring at least some of these irrational dislike to the area of judging people not by race, creed, color or nationality; but by socio-economic status, income or occupation.
WHILE IT SURELY may be true that at least some of us have managed to recognize and avoid such discriminating when it comes to nationality, ethnicity and race-the same person may be inundated with petty peeves concerning anything that is found in the brotherhood of man.
THE VERY STRAIGHT forward story gets right to the point. There are indeed those who are less than honest with us. They may be sneak thieves, stick-up men or grifters. They are not by any means apt to be looking out for their fellow man, unless of course they can scam him.
THE LITTLE FILM manages to assemble the greatest little cast of players that one could imagine. Our cast includes: Paul Lukas, Chick Chandler, George Chandler, George E. Stone, Richard Lane (hey, it's Inspector Faraday!)and a number of actors that might be familiar to you by their names, but not by name.
ALTHOUGH IT APPEARS that many of our colleagues have panned this little movie, we must register our complaint to take the opposite position. The atrocities that plagued the World, and especially Europe, did not come about over night. It all started small and grew, unchecked.
AS A REMEDY for such happenings, may we suggest application of just a couple of old adages:
Do Unto Others As you Would Have Them Do Unto You.
Judge Not Lest You Will Be Judged.
Hollywood Remembers (2000)
Bargain Basement Biography .............
....................dominates this series production. From the very opening through a particular installment, it is obvious to the viewer that this is the case. This is the one caveat that we would insist on having disseminated before anyone undertakes watching.
THE FILM CLIPS that are utilized in weaving a coherent half hour are obviously culled from so much "public domain" footage as well as some rather old prints of feature film trailers that must have come down to the production team via some old, 1950's television releases. The "previews of coming attractions" are in b & w, even when the picture being plugged is in color; as are its trailers.
ADDED TO THAT is what is most likely inexpensive, stock music that plays at opening and during the extensive informative narration. To the series' credit, the music is easy on the ears and never rises to the level of being neither competition for the narrator (Greg O'Neil ), nor does it become an annoyance to the viewer.
MAYBE IT MAY sound as if we are being just a trifle harsh in our assessment of film oriented anthology. For this we apologize in advance.
IT IS OBVIOUS that those who brought us Hollywood REMEMBERS did so having strong feelings concerning love of film and "the movies." Just because they lacked those deep pockets needed to finance a big time production, doesn't reflect on their sincerity. And even though most of what is discussed during a particular installment may well be common knowledge to most film buffs, there is always some little tidbit of fact that we greet as enlightening.
PERHAPS THE BIG difference lies in the background of producer, one Dominic J. Pugliese. This series, Hollywood REMEMBERS, is the end result of a guy who, like you and me, is a Movie Fan-not a Producer.
WHAT THE SERIES lacks in amenities, it makes up in sincerity.
Summer of '42 (1971)
Oh,Where Were Girls Like This When We Was Comin' Up ?
WELL NOW, HERE'S one that we hadn't seen in some time; even ever since its original release in 1971. We really hadn't given it much thought at all and therefore, weren't planning on screening it. This is, after all, a "women's picture", a "chick flick" and certainly not the sort of fare that would show up on the male oriented cable channel, SPIKE. (Conversely we don't see COPS being screened on THE HALLMARK CHANNEL, right Schultz ?)
IF WE SEEM to be just a tad harsh and unfair on THE SUMMER OF '42, we beg your forgiveness. In actuality, it has a much broader base of varying types whose grading of it would be surprisingly high. When views are taken from all angles, we find it to be a much more complex a film with (believe it or not) a very masculine, if adolescent, bias. The story is, after all, centered on the sighting of a beautiful, young bride on this summer vacation community, by a threesome of healthy, red-blooded American teen-aged boys.
WHILE WE SEE that the point of view is that of some middle class Jewish kids, that is not a limiting factor. The socio-economic stratum as well as the ethnicity represented would not have mattered in the story's rendering. We just don't see that the kids of Blue Collar, proletariat families would be spending the whole Summer at the Oceanside. A week maybe or even ten days, but certainly it wouldn't be longer.
BUT AS WE said before, the reactions and basic nature of the beast (the Male Animal) is universal, hereditary, genetic and unmistakably masculine.
WHAT SEEMS TO be the sealing ingredient here is that it is the telling of a story from author Herman Raucher's own life. In recent years, the story came out that he was contacted by the real life "Dorothy", who then just as quickly returned to her desired anonymity.
IF YOU HAVEN'T seen it do it. Isn't that right, Schultz ?
Portrait of an Actor (1971)
For Those Who Cannot Get Enough.........
OKAY NOW, WE take our film interest as seriously as anyone. Finding even some seemingly insignificant tidbit of info concerning a film, actor/star or any behind the scenes personality is what we live for. But we always must attempt to keep things in perspective. All too often, success and the spotlight on center stage conspire to convince a showbiz celebrity of an alternate hallucinatory world; where he/she/it is a giant in all fields.
THIS LITTLE QUICKIE made short at once finds itself in a dichotomy of moods and goals. It is up to us (the viewers) to recognize this. Once that is accomplished, and we are operating with all of our cylinders of gray matter firing in well timed patterns of ultimate synchronization, we can both successfully analyze and understand this film.
FIRST OF ALL, as you may have already concluded, our feeling about PORTRAIT OF AN ACTOR lead us to recognize the sort of high-brow and pseudo-intellectual approach to the actor in question. And we certainly must say that Mr. George C. Scott does an Academy Award level of filling the bill as a "serious" actor. Fresh from his tour-de-force portrayal of General George S. Patton in PATTON (20th Century-Fox, 1970). Topping his performance, he so famously refused to accept the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor. (He even publicly stated his intent months before-but still the gave it to him as one in the win column.)
SO THIS MEANT that there'd be a great amount of very esoteric question & answer interview with so many people. They didn't let us down, even up to the point of including the great actor's father, one George D. Scott. Mostly the folks chosen were culled from the cast of Mr. Scott's then current vehicle, THE LAST RUN (MGM, 1971), a caper movie; directed by Richard Fleischer.
WELL, WITH ALL of that included in the way that it was, all of the pretentious, film-class art talk was then relegated to the back burner; as the true purpose of the short became crystal clear. It was done and distributed by MGM in order to promote their new crime drama.
AND WE REALLY find no fault in that. Right on, Leo (the Lion).
Our Miss Brooks (1956)
Revising the End & Wrapping It All Up...................
WHEN THIS THEATRICAL movie hit the local theatre screens in 1956, the CBS Network powerhouse sitcom was long over the hill and heading toward its eternal reword in Sitcom Heaven. Ignoring the old axiom of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!", those in charge at CBS decided to revamp the series with unnecessary changes of venue (different school), setting (City & state) and cast characters.
WELL, THERE HAD certainly been enough popularity and appeal left in this now "venerable" CBS Radio/Television and someone had the brainstorm to bring its story and original characters to the big screen of our local theaters. Disdaining the changes that had been foisted on us in the waning days of the series, the theatrical version of OUR MISS BROOKS brought the story back to Connie Brooks' arrival at Madison High School and her meeting with Mr. Boynton, Mrs. Davis, Walter Denton, Mr. Conklin, Harriet Conklin, "Stretch" Snodgrass, .....etc.
ADDED TO THE original gang and story-line was a sort of subplot involving Mr. Conklin's running for office of Educational rep and the introduction of Don Porter as widower and well to do newspaper publisher (and potential suitor) Lawrence Nolan. Then Warner Brothers contract player, Nick Adams, portrayed son of the rich guy, Gary Nolan.
ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, the picture was a successful 1950's style comedy that did a great job in closing the OUR MISS BROOKS story with a "....And They Lived Happily Ever After!" fairy tale ending.
THE FILM ALSO gave us a chance to see the members of the supporting cast at their very best. These players are: Gale Gordon (Mr. Conklin), Jane Morgan (Mrs. Davis), Richard Crenna (Walter Denton),Gloria McMillan (Harriet Conklin)and Leonard Smith (Stretch Snodgrass). Robert Rockwell (Mr. Boynton) was perhaps shown to the best as he was allowed to show much of his yet unseen abilities.* Also, before we forget, cameo by lovely, statuesque and non-speaking, uncredited actress is really June Blair; formerly Playboy Magazine's "Playmate of the Year for 1957, as well as the future Mrs. David Nelson ADVENTURES OF OZZIE & HARRIET).
TAKING THE TIME to screen this theatrical film version of OUR MISS BROOKS will prove to be time not wasted by anyone.
NOTE: * The part of Mr. Phillip Boynton on the radio version was portrayed by one Ira Grossel; who would change his name to Jeff Chandler and pursue a most successful, but all too abrupt film career. But whoever was to play the very naive Biology teacher would have to be taller than average; as Miss Eve Arden was, herself, a very tall woman.
Aqua Babes (1956)
Human Tadpoles, Pollywogs and Mermaids.
THIS IS AN interesting addition to the RKO-Sport-scope series. Rather than having snippets that feature such widely scattered subjects as: Pro Wrestlers, Tennis, Bacci and Polo, the production team spends this reel's worth of film short on large group of truly young kids doing some amazing things in the old swimmin' hole (Pool actually).
IN THE NARRATION we are told by the off screen voice of one Harry Wismer that the system being demonstrated so handily was brought across the 'Pond' by the instructing lady from Europe.
JUDGING BY THE performances done by these mainly pre-schoolers, it is truly a superior method. In no way at no time during the film do any of the little, aquatic performers appear to be anything but very enthusiastic.
IT'S BEEN LONG said that swimming is a skill that is best learn young; the younger being the better. Whoever said that was really on to something; as seen on the screen.
OBVIOUSLY THIS IS a truth that would appear to be irrefutable.
The Maltese Falcon (1931)
Very Interesting Retrro-Futuristic Look Back
DUE TO SOME other pressing tasks, of late we haven't been very attentive to doing our regular time at the reviewing desk. The just finished screening of this 1931 (original screen version) THE MALTESE FALCON has brought us just about directly to the old keyboard. While we saw many differences, the end result was that of great satisfaction.
BEING DONE A full decade before the John Huston directed/written screenplay had, by virtue of its belonging to a new era of film, a very different mood, feel and appearance. Although there are so many of the typically Warner Brothers' elements in both, the earlier one bore a rather intimate relationship to the Silents; which had of course just recently "rode off into the sunset." Its Humphrey Bogart vehicle remake had the advantage of all of the elements of the highly developed and polished Warner product of the 1940's war years. In essence, it was the Warner Brothers movie being at the very zenith of their power.
BEING THAT THIS production is one of the "pre-code" era, there is a lot of material that is, while not necessarily explicit, very highly implied. We are referring mainly to the sublet of S-E-X. We see ladies' man (now called a "womanizer" in today's vernacular) in several highly 'adult' situations, always in the company of females. The opening scene has Sam revealed to be in a 'private' conference with a briefly shown 'flapper'; who has to adjust her stockings before departing his office. Mr. Spade then tidies up his couch, having to pick up the multitude of throw pillows that are scattered about the floor.
HID LATER MEETING with Miss Wonderly include their sharing his apartment for the night. Although any even partial nudity and simulated sex is never shown, there's no doubt in our minds. (The nudity and intercourse were about 40 years ahead in the Hollywood of the '70's) IN DEFENSE OF this "original" version of the FALCON, in many respects the plot seems to be somewhat clearer to we, the audience. This applies mainly to understanding the relationships between those contesting for possession of "the Black Bird."
HAVING VIEWED THIS '31 version for the first time today, after years of familiarity with the latter, provided us with a sort of scrambling of our Time/Space continuum. The only previous similar experiences were in viewing some other previously made movies after the later, more familiar. They are: THE SPIRIT OF NOTER DAME (Universal, 1931), which in many ways laid the foundation for Warner Brothers KNUTE ROCKNE: ALL-American (1940); RIO BRAVO (Warners, 1959)remade as EL DORADO ()and especially ZERO HOUR (Paramount, 1957) which was fractured and remade into AIRPLANE (1980).
ANY REVIEW OF this film must refer to the casting that was done. Of course we had Bogart in for Ricardo Cortez (Spade) and Bebe Daniels giving away to Mary Astor's Miss Wunderly. Others who were very different than the later cast members are: Walter Long/Jerome Cowan (Miles Archer), J. Farrell McDonald/Ward Bond (Det. Sgt. Tom Pohlhaus0, Una Merkel/Lee Patrick (Essie),Thelma Todd/Gladys George (Iva Archer).
BUT FOR OUR money, the two roles that are so different in casting are that of Dudley Diggs to Sydney Greenstreet's Casper Gutman; as the mannerisms were similar, but where's the bulk, Diggs ? The other is Dwight Frye to Elisha Cook, Jr. as Wilmer. Dwight had a lot less to do and only a few lines. He was also the king of the creepy characters in the 1930's Universal horror epics. Elisha's characterization was able to fully develop that of a psychotic killer. (Oddly enough or maybe because of this fact, Wilmer's surname is given in the '31 version, but not in the latter. It is Cook!)
WE GIVE THIS on many thumbs up and recommend it to any and all !
Top Of The Line......................
......................as an example of a classic comedy episode/short subject, using outstanding cast of supporting players and adherence to the prime laws of comedy.
STARTING OUT WITH the well known public Gracie Allen scatterbrained characterization, basic elements of gag repetition and mistaken identity are blended in a gourmet recipe. The distinct advantage of doing a series with ongoing happenings to recurring characters is one of short-cutting the laugh process. Hence, we have the audience (us!) already prepared to laugh.
BUT IN GOING even beyond these elements, the production team added and nurtured the episode in its assigned mission of tickling our collective funny bone. Pacing, repetitive actions and the choice of an All-Star team of character actors (all of which were shown in their very best light and role-types).
IN ADDITION TO regulars, such as: Harry Von Zell, Bea Benadarret, Fred Clarke (Harry Morton # 2 *) and Rolf Sedan (Postman Mr. Beazley); veteran screen thugs Sheldon Leonard and Ben Welden provided the presence of comic gangsters. All of this we are given to enjoy, with the added treat of having a cameo by Dutch, himself. Yeah, we mean Ronald Wilson Reagan, then future 40th President of the United States of America !
WE'VE LONG BEEN viewers of the GEORGE BURNS & GRACIE ALLEN SHOW; dating back to our childhood in the 1950's original run. Thanx to the ascent of channels such as ME TV, ANTENNA TV, BUZZR TV, JLTV and others, we can now view the best of the "Good Old Days" television nostalgia on a daily basis.
AS FOR THIS episode, THE GEORGE BURNS & GRACIE ALLEN SHOW: GRACIE SEES A HOLD-UP/JOHNNY VELVET, it deserves to have a special place in comic cinematic history. Yes, we believe that it could well be used in any film making class as an example of how to make a comedy short !
H.M.S. Bounty Sails Again! (1962)
Factual, Historical, Dull and Obviously Shameless Plug
WELL NOW, HOW about this. MGM has a remake of MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY coming out. So, what does their short subjects department cook up ? Tat's right, you guessed it, Schultz ! They brought us a little film about the maiden voyage of their newly launched replica of the H.M.S. BOUNTY, itself !
NOW WE'RE NOT saying that it's not interesting, for it truly is; but to a certain extent. It has the appearance of one of those newsreels, albeit of a very small area of subject matter. This "special" reel sub-genre usually was restricted to something in the sports subject matter (World Series, Bowl Game or Championship Fight), or to an important Political story; such as National Conventions or Presidential Elections.
BUT THIS SHORT Subject was meant to serve one purpose, and one purpose only. And that would be to hype the pending release of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer remake production of MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY; although, to be fair the picture is not mentioned directly. Nor are any of its stars (being Marlon Brando, Trevor Howard and Dondi).
AS FOR ANY Historical significance, there is at least a smattering of that. It proves invaluable to any historian (amateur or professional) who desires archive footage of local Pols and Fair Managers while they are receiving their complimentary 3 cornered hats !
Public TV & Pop Music's Crossover/Partnering-Is It Coincidence ?
IN WHAT CERTAINLY could be called "a sign of the times"; we find this peculiar teaming of the Public Television System and nostalgic collections of Pop Music from Eras long since gone. It would appear that the ever more crowded of the record companies' vaults as combined with the ascent of the generation known as "the Boomers" has provided the impetuous for what was,only a few years earlier, an impossible and oxymoronic alliance.
THE INSTITUTION WHICH we now know as Public TV had begun its life in the 1950's as Educational Television. The name still persists in some quarters and we well recall those early days of yesteryear. An inborn and innate sort of snobbishness permeated this new area of televising and it was by no means subtle or tolerant of other aspects of the industry; particularly of those stations, companies and networks which were so crass as to show entertainment productions which were sponsored by paying commercial interests.
THE EARLY, EMBROYOTIC Educational Television touted its commitment to what was perceived as being "High Class" and "Socially Redeeming" in content. Thus you'd be most likely to view Shakespeare, the Arts, Science (MR. WIZARD) and Classical Music. The system which would soon be rename and rededicated as the Public Television Service, had no place for such commonplace, low and vulgar an item as Pop Music. They wouldn't even give popular music the time of day.
BUT THAT WAS then and this is now. Over the years, certain heretofore lowly subjects and programming incrementally crept into the PBS schedule. Thus, items such as those represented by the likes of MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS, ANTIQUE ROAD SHOW and these T.J. Lubinsky Popular Music productions found their way onto Public Television's regular scheduling.
WITH REGARD TO this particular production, there is little with which we can find fault. The number of veteran performers, who have too long been absent from performing in public, is staggering. With a roster which features the McGuire Sisters, Pat Boone (Emcee), the Four Lads, the Diamonds, the Four Aces, Don Cherry, Gogi Grant, Patti Page, Rosemary Clooney (archive footage), the Chordettes and many others.
IF THERE IS any criticism to be leveled at the production it is that it has built in breaks that are strictly designed to solicit contributions from PBS viewers in return for CD's and DVD's of the program and other old favourite music.
THE PITCHES THAT viewers are subjected to are high pressure, shameless and persistent in their goal of raising fund$ for the local PBS affiliate. If we didn't know better, we'd swear that these were a sort of genre of the "commercial." But this could not be the case;for the PUBLIC/EDUCATIONAL television stations have long bragged that they were "commercial free."
WE MUST BEG to remind them that:"A Rose by any other name smells just as sweet!"
The World's Affair (1933)
Paleolithic Animation (but still Fun!)
WE WELL RECALL those halcyon days of 1950's television, when any old thing could find its way on to the tiny screen in your living room. Among these, we were treated to the SCRAPPY Cartoon series from Columbia Pictures' SCREEN GEMS Animation.
INASMUCH AS WE were just grade-schoolers then, we probably weren't expected to understand all of those topical, "adult" gags; nor the be able to recognize and identify the then current political leaders as they were caricatured in THE WORLD'S AFFAIR. Save for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, we didn't. Thanks to our Mother (Bertha Fuerst Ryan) we were educated about the rest.
THE SHORT SUBJECT did manage to move along at a rather brisk clip. Although there was very little plot, the shot's rapid fire vignettes into subject matters such as Art, Architecture, Agriculture and Science rendered us unaware of it. We would have to classify it as a "Clothesline" cartoon; by which it is meant that as soon as they had 8 or 10 gags, an opening and closing-they were done.
THESE B & W 1930's cartoons were a staple on the old GARFIELD GOOSE & FRIENDS afternoon kids' show on Channel 9, WGN TV in Chicago. It was created and hosted by Frazier Thomas; who often did his own voice overs in edition to that on the film's soundtrack.
AS A SORT of personal anecdote, we vividly recall our older Sister, Joanne, coming in from high school and viewing the too tightly cropped opening title of one of these 7 minute shorts. "Who's 'Crappy', she asked?
WELL NOW, THERE'S a straight line if you never heard one!
The Hank McCune Show (1950)
Predating SEINFELD by nearly 4 decades, it may have been the original "show about nothing!"
WE DO REMEMBER viewing this show over our local station, Channel 5, WNBQ* way back circa 1952-53. It was a pioneering work in the field of the Sitcom and most likely had a great influence on what would be coming down the pike in years to come. THE HANK McCUNE SHOW was, in its own way, quite prolific and is in possession of a most impressive family tree.
A TYPICAL HALF-HOUR would revolve around a very simple, everyday and totally believable problem. Story lines were big on characterizations of neighbors and their interacting during the current "crisis." Invariably the guy at the heart of the situation and in the eye of the hurricane was main character, Hank (himself).
THE EPISODES STOCKED their playbills with faces and voices familiar from the rosters of movie supporting players and from the annals of what has come to be called "Old Time Radio." Present in the episodes were: Hanley Stafford (voice of BABY SNOOKS father**), Arthur Q. Bryan (immortalized as ELMER FUDD'S voice in Warner Brothers cartoons), Larry Keating, Ellen Corby, Franklin Pangborn, Thurston Hall, Florence Bates and the ever present "Y-e-s-s-s-s man", Frank Nelson.
FOLLOWING ITS CANCELLATION on the tube, producer/star Mr. Henry McCune brought the same characters, concept and situation-type humor to the movie screen in a poverty row "B" comedy titled THE GO GETTER. Unlike the series episodes, THE GO GETTER boasted of having no added laugh track; of which THE HANK McCUNE SHOW was the originator of this soon to be staple of television comedy shows.
NOTE:* Channel 5 in Chicago is a wholly owned subsidiary of the National Broadcasting Company. The original WNBQ Radio station was owned by The Chicago Daily News and the call letters were changed to WMAQ in the mid sixties. The radio station ceased to be when NBC divested itself of radio broadcasting some 20 years or so ago.
Slightly Ahead of the Curve
THIS INSTALLMENT OF the classic series is just a tad better than most, Sure, we admit it has most of the usual elements that are so familiar in the story-line. But here in addition to the towns peoples' problems with ruthless outlaws, we have something usually not emphasized.
IN ADDITION TO the investigative work and decisive action taken by the Lone Ranger & Tonto, it is the dedication of the local rustics that wins the day. When the brother of rancher James Houston (Christian Drake) is killed in the line of duty, he dutifully steps into the job. Of course, Lone Ranger & Tonto do their share of the work of meeting the gang's reign of terror; but it is the younger Houston brother who provides the determined, tenacious and ultimately successful efforts in defeating the gang.
MOST INTERESTING TO us was the presence of a young Paul Burke, who portrayed the gang head-honcho. We did not at first recognize him, and chalked this up to Mr. Burke's acting ability. During this period he shows up often in supporting guest roles in many a series and "B" Picture. Series included shots in DRAGNET, PERRY MASON, several Warner Bros. TV series and three episodes of the ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN.
WE WERE ALSO surprised to see him in an uncredited part in the Bowery Boys entry, SPY CHASERS (Allied Artists (Monogram), 1955. His characterization in this one shou3d a definite displayed a multi leveled talent; who could even "ham it up", when the situation called for same.
Manhattan Melodrama (1934)
Where Originates Clichés
OUTSTANDING FILM FARE from beginning to end, MANHATAN MELODRSMA represents the very zenith of the motion picture of its day. The mounting, the sets, the large cast and the story line all mesh very well into a collectively made work of art.
AS SWE HAVE alluded to in the summary, this is chock full of what we may consider as being clichéd situations and plot twists. In that sense, it also may well be highly predictable. This is only true because it was introducing story lines that would be fed through the Hollywood Xerox machines for the next 20 years or so. After all, nothing succeeds like success and those in Tinsel Town never minded copying, borrowing or stealing from one another. In this manner, many types or genres were established.
THE STORY SHOWCASES big city life among the working poor, the "blue collar" folks, the polyglot of ethnicities that were blended into what we know as Americans Growing up is demonstrated in two diverging paths, one straight the other the criminal. As is the case all too often n real life, the two paths may well move in very different directions; yet they begin perilously close together.
IN ADDITION TOM the outstanding cast of Mr. Gable, Mr. Powell and Miss Loy, the bolstering of their performances by a large and very capable supporting cast and the previously mentioned origination of the genre, the polish that is evident is largely due to its being directed by W.S. Van Dyke.
THE FILM HAS also had an everlasting mystique shrouding it because of the event of July 22, 1931. It seems that notorious bank robber, John Dillinger, wanted to see it very badly and went to see it with two others in Chicago that night at the Biograph Theatre. It was following the showing that Dillinger met his maker in a shoot out with the FBI and local Chicago cops. Because of this, the Biograph, with its "Cooled by Refrigeration" sign, remains open today as a tourist attraction on north Lincoln Avenue.
WE WONDER JUST what sort of review Mr. Dillinger would have given the movie ?
Seeing Red (1939)
Fortelling a Great Future
WE'VE LONG KNOWN of this title, but it wasn't until this past week that we got the privilege of seeing it. We do recall hat SEEING RE was available to the home movie market in the 1970's, albeit in 8 mm or Super 8 silent and B & W versions. It was also probably in an abridged version as it looked smaller than the standard 18-20 minute reel box that was on sale at Sears & Roebuck store near our house. The company was probably KEN FILMS' one of those companies that the rise if the video recorder successfully put out of business.
AS FOR THE content of this short subject, it was rather standard fare that utilized some of the variety acts that were still being seen live in those days. The one central tenet of this film is the young Red Skelton's being captured forever as he was then. His fledgling stage and screen persona uncanny in their embryonic way of showing the future performer that we all knew and loved so well.
ONCE AGAIN WE must credit TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES with bringing this one into our homes. This was as great an historic find as it was in the realm of comedy, film and entertainment in general.
Fighting Trouble (1956)
Character Transplant Saves Series
SEEING THAT FTHIS was one of those BOWERY BOYS movies mad in the Post-Leo & Bernard Gorcey period, our first inclination was to skip it and do something more exciting, like watching the paint dry. But circumstances conspired to deliver us a different fare. We wound up watching it today via the TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES cable channel and discovered that this pre-judgment about those last entries in the series was jut a trifle harsh.
AS WE ALL were well aware, the interplay between gang chief, 'Slip Mahoney' (Leo Gorcey) and his right hand stooge, Horace Debussy 'Sach' Jones (Huntz Hall)was long the main attraction of the series*. In fact, the dialog in just about all the previous entries was about 80+% reserved for the twosome; leaving little for the remaining players.
SO AT THIS point, with Leo gone, the nature of the beast found itself altered slightly with Mr. Huntz Hall's being promoted to top billing and to sort of a different sort of leader. Without any mention of 'Slip' Mahoney's tenor at the helm of around 10 years, the movie brought us one Stanislaus 'Duke' Kovaleskie (Stanley Clements), who did not replace Leo in rank; but did fill the niche and void of Sach's foil.
IN THIS AREA, 'Duke' did a fine job, providing a near perfect straight man to Huntz Hall's buffoonery. And there was no doubt about who was the straight man here, as Gorcey's fondness for double talk and malapropism often made for a difficulty in defining the roles of each.
ANOTHER BENEFIT CAME to the other two or sometimes three BB members in the sudden increase in their lines to speak. David Gorcey (here billed as Dsvid Condon**) for example had much more to say on screen with older brother , Leo, now retired.
THE ADDITION OF Stanley Clements' character did enough to the cast for the series to be propelled along for six pictures. That makes it the longest running series of "B" pictures ever.
The Art Director (1949)
Our impression of an Art Director: "Hey Art, move over there!"
ALTHOUGH MANY OF those in a typical audience would consider this to be somewhat b-o-r-I-n-g, there is much to recommend it. Rather than having the usual comedy short or musical variety being presented in order to "warm-up" the audience, this short film serves in giving us all (everyone) the opportunity to go behind the scenes (backstage, if you will) and see how an unknown name and face give us what we all take for granted in designing the look and therefore the success and mood of the scenes that make up our movies.
IN ITS CRDITS it lists the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences as the production company and Darryl F. Zanuck's 20th Century-Fox as being the distributor of the short. Being a production of an industry inside group, the movie would certainly run the risk of being sappy, maudlin and overly self-congratulatory (ever see the Oscars show?). But these pitfalls are avoided and the result turns out to be much better than one would expect.
IN THE FINAL analysis, what we have here is a cinematic lesson in one reel; which makes one appreciative of those who provide the nuts &m bo0lts of the picture business. They rarely get any recognition, a shortcoming that the film does its best in attempting to correct.
Nostradamus and the Queen (1942)
Knute Rockne, the Golden Dome, the Gipper, 'Touchdown' Jesus........
..........AH YES, THESE are all famous legendary bits of the college football lore that come out of South Bend, Indiana; continuing to grow in stature with each passing year and generation! Love 'em or hate 'em, it's the "Fighting Irish" who've carved out an eternal niche in American sporting lore.
OH, WAIT JUST a minute. We thought you said "Notre Dame", not "Nostradamus", sorry!
THIS FILM PROVIDES some very interesting and highly esoteric info about the famous and very unusual man of the 16th century, who made so many incredibly accurate predictions about future occurrences; even some cryptically written that would seem to be referencing the 20th Century. (remember that, anyone?)
AS WE'VE ALREADY stated, the predictions were not straightforward. The author, old Nostradamus, himself, used many an allegory and either metaphor or other egghead types of writing composition in order to make his final draft more crowd-pleasing and seemingly high brow.
BEING THAT THE main character of good buddy Nostra was in fact a real, historical figure, it makes the short and those like it a sort of cinematic primer for the masses. Who knows just how many young minds were opened up to history and stimulated to seek further knowledge following screening this kind of short film along with the Saturday Matinée or the weekly double feature. (How's about seeing an ANDY HARDY along with a TARZAN pic?)
THE MOVIE EVEN has a sub title. It's NOSTRADAMUS AND THE QUEEN (Prophecies of Nostradamus # 3). This proves that even then, sequels were a big deal!
THE STUDIO'S INTEREST in producing such short subjects may well have been a double edged sword. First of all, projects like this were good for providing training and experience for any up and coming, rookie directors. After all, guys like Capra, Ford and Curtiz didn't come out of nowhere.
SECONDLY THE SUBJECT matter was history and therefore educational educational in nature. Ergo, it was a fine example of MGM Studio's selfless concern about the bottom line of profit and of its desire to both uplift and edify the public. Why this might have even made such productions eligible for some tax exemptions. Who knows? It was worth a shot!
BUT NOW GETTING back to our original blunder in confusing this 16th Century, "modern" soothsayer and oracle with our modern day collegiate gridiron Autumn spectacle is unforgivable! But there is a reason for this blunder. although no excuse.
YOU SEE, UNTIL about the age of ten, we had thought that THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME was a football movie!
Hollywood Without Make-Up (1963)
All Right Already, Even Movie Stars Recreate !
IN KREEPING WITH the self-importance and self-congratulatory attitudes that are Hollywood, we have this cinematic smorgasbord of Ken Murray's "home" movies all strung together and interspersed with clips from (then) current productions, musical accompaniment and some rather maudlin narration.
IT'S NOT THAT we intend to ridicule either Mr. Murray or the general mood of this film, it just that it seems just a tad too l-o-n-g-e-r than it should be. Perhaps breaking this concept down to episodes would avoid any chance of overdose.
ON THE POSITIVE side of the ledger, Ken Murray manages to give the audience a different, if not truly candid, view of so many of our screen idols. The informal settings do give the films an unusual overall appearance, sometimes almost surreal.
BOTH UNUSUAL AS well as unexpected was the time devoted to both newspaper publisher and Yellow Journalist, William Randolph Hearst and his self-created modern palace, San Simeon. Long both revered and feared by the denizens of Hollywood, Hearst left this world August 14, 1951. Apparently those folks in the movie colony feared that he still could make 'em or break 'em, even from the Next World.
The Dick Cavett Show (1968)
Non Comic Relief
THE WELL KNOWN species of television show known as the Late Night talk & variety show has long been a regular feature of network television. It started with something called Broadway OPEN HOUSE (1950-51), which ran on the NBC Television Network. It was directly ancestral to THE TONIGHT SHOW, which made it the forefather and prototype for all that was to follow. (BROADWAY OPEN HOUSE was hosted by comic Jerry Lester.)
THE HOSTING OF such fare in the late night programming instinctively was given to the funnymen. The comedians made the near perfect host as they would do the opening monologue and some occasional comic sketches, while in between introducing talk-oriented guests, singers and new talent comics. Consequently we had the likes of Steve Allen, Jack Parr, Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien and (briefly) Pat Sajak.
BUT WHERE THERE is a rule, one also will find an exception. In the case of the late night talk show genre, we nominate Dick Cavett as our candidate.
ALTHOUGH POSSESSED OF an enormous supply of wit, Mr. Cavett cannot be called a comedian by any stretch of the imagination. His obvious high degree of intelligence and natural ability as an interviewer make a strong case for classifying him as an "intellectual." Small and slight of build, his personality and fine use of the Queen's English made him a giant of a personality.
ALTHOUGH HE DID a brief monologue at the opening of his show, he was no comedian (as we've already said), he sang no songs and played no musical instruments, he absolutely commanded his audience. His real strength did lie in his talent in the interview.
THE ONE INCIDENT that we witnessed (on the tube) was an interview that he did. The subject was a most obnoxious Norman Mailer. Conducting the interview, Cavett had some notes written on a small sheet of paper.
WHILE MOVING ON from one question to another, Mailer made a smug, snide and very patronizing remark, "Just read it off of your little piece of paper!" ROARING BACK AS if he were a cornered tiger, Letterman shot back, "Why don't you fold it five ways and put it where the moon don't shine!"
The Life of Riley (1949)
Thrice Told Tale
OUR ORIGINAL ENCOUNTER with THE LIFE OF RILEY was as an early to mid 1950's television series, and a very popular one at that. This was, in fact, our first experience with the on screen acting career of William Bendix. Naturally, the first is usually the most vivid and it wasn't until some time later that we realized that he had such an extensive resume in dramatic roles.
BEING BORN INTO that post World War II "Boomer" Generation, we knew nothing of RILEY having been a popular comedy on the radio. And to round out the spectrum, we've now seen this 1949 Universal feature film.
THE MOVIE WAS drawn from the radio show as the video, small screen version hadn't become a reality until that year and featured Jackie Gleason in the title role (that season only); due to contractual obligations of Mr.Bendix.
AS IS THE case with many adaptations from one medium to the screen, the very nature of single film creates a need for a major crisis or relatively earth-shaking event. This provides a beginning, middle and an end for the story. With a series, the operating word is episodic as the story of one week will be followed by another and another story which is unrelated to hat which went before; save for the continuity which is provided by the regular characters.
IN SUMMARY, WE much preferred Tom D'Andrea's interpretation of Gillis on television to that of James Gleason in the motion picture feature.
(THERE SCHULTZ, THAT should nail it for our reading public!)
Superman and the Mole-Men (1951)
The Super Start Of Something Super Big
DESIGNED AS SORT of a big screen kick-off for the ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN TV Series, the MOLE MEN feature is somewhat mixed bag of a film. On the one hand , it has an obvious look of a frugal budget. As a feature accompanying the bottom line, the picture was released by Hollywood's "Poverty Row" member, Lippert Pictures, Inc.
BEING THAT THIS is the first on screen teaming of George Reeves with Phyllis Coates as Kent/Superman and Lois Lane, it came across very well and convincingly. When the feature is viewed by a true aficionado of the TV Series, there is little evidence as to its being the initial paring; save for the intensity displayed by George. He obviously was still growing into the role and developing his own interpretation. (You know, "What's my motivation Lee?" to director Sholem.)
THERE ARE NO scenes depicting the Man of Steel flying over us in the sky; which would become so popular and expected in the series. They did have him shown taking off sand landing and one shot depicts his point of view of the land below; an interesting and effective process that was never used again. Also, animation is used to portray Superman's rescue of a wounded Mole Man from a fall off of the dam. (This was similar to the cartoon flying effect used in the two Columbia serials, SUPERMAN (1948) and ATOM MAN VS. SUPERMAN (1950).
THE TONE AND mood of the movie was the same as that which permeated the entire first season of television. Some thought them to be just a trifle too serious and violent for the small fry viewers, sort of Film Noir. This was changed in season number two. The shift in content's emotional tone was accomplished by replacing producer Robert Maxwell with DC Comics editor, Whitney Ellsworth.
WITH THE RUNNING time of 58 minutes, it was the perfect length to cut into two episodes of the television series (the only two part story they had). The titles were "The Unknown People" parts one and two; which were wisely made into the last two episodes of season one. The regular characters of Jimmy Olsen and Perry White did not appear and weren't mentioned in the credits.
ALTHOUGH THERE WERE certainly some short comings, the over all effect was a good one. Lois Lane, Clark Kent and Superman all hit the ground running and are still doing so on television outlets like METV and Heroes & Icons.
Pop Always Pays (1940)
Padding Shows On Overblown Short Subject
WE JUST SCREENED this RKO potboiler today. Prior to that time, we never heard of it; although star Leon Errol has been familiar to us for some time now. Back in the early 1970's, Chicago TV station, Channel 32, WFLD TV (Now a Fox subsidiary) would alternate the showing of RKO sound comedies that featured LEON ERROL with those in EDGAR KENNEDY's series on different afternoons.
THIS FEATURE WAS essentially an extension of the 2 reelers that Mr. Errol had done during that period; which both exploited the existing screen character & familiarity, but also provided a short "B" picture to fill out the then popular Double Feature packaging to movie house operators.
THE ADDITION OF an expanded cast did help to transform in l-e-n-g-t-h-e-n-I-n-g the story from 2 reeler to short feature. Those included were: Dennis O'Keefe, Pamela Blake, Marjore Gleason and (curiously) Erskine Sanford (late of CITIZEN KANE). Unbilled Frank Faylen as loan company clerk along with Tom Kennedy and Walter Catlett provide great foils for Leon.
THE PRINT THAT was run on Turner Classic Television (though distributed by Warner Brothers TV)was that bearing the umbrella title of "MOVIETIME USA". That was the name used by RKO circa 1958 when +C & C Television Corp." released hundreds of old RKO RADIO Pictures features to the local TV stations. Until recently, WLS TV Channel 7 ran many of these movies on their late night weekend schedules. These included mostly unknown and forgettable titles, but also the likes of KING KONG, THE INFORMER and even CITIZEN KANE!
THIS PRODUCTION IS one of many contradictions. It tries hard to show us the view of history from the perspective of the American Indian. The tribe of choice here is obvious from the very title. They were also among the most ferocious fighters on the face of the earth.
IN HERE LIES the problem for at appears that this production from Burt's own Hecht-Lancaster Productions/United Artists attempts to show it all, but sophomoric-ally tends to romanticize the situation.
THERE IS NO denying that the various tribes that populated what is now the USA had suffered some great deal of high-handed, unfair and double dealing when it came to their status as citizens and even as being human. There were multiple cases of our Federal Government's habit of unilaterally violating treaties and other agreements made with the various Indian nations.
WE HADN'T SEEN this film since its initial release in 1954. We caught it on cable and the handy-dandy DVR. Somehow it seemed less spectacular and more formula.
THERE APPEARS TO be a tendency to romanticize the civilizations of those less technologically advanced as being some how more naturally virtuous. Hence we have the myth of "the Noble Savage." The operational, though false, premise being that the primitives are somehow closer to Nature and to God.
THIS PRODUCTION STRIKES a sort of middle of the road approach between the tribal ways of life and the harsh treatment delivered by the Feds. It is our contention that the former is soft-soaped while the latter is at least somewhat exaggerated.
AS FOR THE portrayal and characterization of the main character, Massai, it has its ups and downs.
TO BEGIN WITH, his super stoic, anti-social and savagely brutal mindset appears to be contradicted by his intuitive rationale and sense of fair play. A definite duplicity and contradiction exists in the portrayal.
ANOTHER AREA OF dramatizing that has some great variety to its part in the story is the wardrobe modeled by Mr. Lancaster as solo warrior, Massai. One ensemble is definitely on the right track and features some leather vest and long pants, topped off with the required wrap around kerchief tied around the head. Another puts us in mind of something that he would have purchased from Eddie Bauer's or Lands End.