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Cancer awareness promoted by medical experts and creative artists
Tactic was an NBC public service effort to alert the public about cancer. It consisted of six separate half-hour films, each devoted to an important aspect of cancer awareness as explained by medical experts. The format then presented people from the creative arts who provided a theatrical piece about that particular dimension of the health problem. The topics included: the reluctance of people to get a checkup (with Alfred Hitchcock; William Shatner and Diana Van der Vlis in a short play; Sandra Lee and Don Greslic in a dance number choreographed by Hanya Holm)--the warning signs of cancer (Steven Besosto of UPA and Jim Backus with a Mr. Magoo storyboard explaining the signs; Hy Zaret and Lou Singer performing songs they each composed)--cervical cancer (Celeste Holm, Ford Raines, and Andrew Duggan in a short play; Ilka Chase; dance team of Mata and Hari)--breast cancer (Ben Grauer hosted a panel of prominent editors of women's magazines)--men's attitudes toward cancer (Wally Cox in a spoof of manliness; cartoonist Mort Kelly and Esquire publisher Arnold Gingrich)--and the philosophy of modern cancer research (Steve Allen discussed the topic with a panel of doctors followed then by a humorous skit from members of the Steve Allen Show cast: Tom Poston, Louis Nye, Pat Harrington Jr., Don Knotts, and Gabe Dell).
Always Kickin' (1932)
Jim Thorpe's Greatest Film Role
A struggling college football team gets a new star player and unexpectedly wins the Big Game. This doesn't sound like much, but don't be deceived. This two-reel theatrical short from 1932 is significant because it offers famed American Indian athlete Jim Thorpe (Sac and Fox) in his most flattering film role.
Thorpe plays himself as the team's kicking coach. He teaches and demonstrates the proper form for booting drop kicks straight through the goal posts. Thorpe, whom the King of Sweden in 1912 dubbed "the greatest athlete in the world," is free of stereotyping. In fact one of the film's characters lavishes great praise on Thorpe's own football accomplishments while playing for the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in the early teens.
Eugene Palette and James Gleason appear in the principle comedy parts playing characters similar to those that would mark their careers throughout the 1930s and 1940s.
The short is one in a trilogy of two-reel sports-oriented entertainment films from writer Charles Paddock and Educational Films Corporation. The others are "Off His Base"--which featured former major-league baseball player Mike Dolin, plus Jim Thorpe in a smaller role--as well as "A Hockey Hick."
To see "Always Kickin'" online, follow this link: http://jfredmacdonald.com/aifg/playaifg29_alwayskickin.htm
The Blue Riders (1916)
Serial of the American Revolutionary War with contemporary political implications
Based on a weekly literary magazine series that intrigued young readers from 1900 until 1920 (at the price of 5 cents per issue, rising to 6 cents per issue by the end of its run), The Liberty Boys of '76 was also a motion picture serial in 1916 aimed at youthful viewers. It told the story of a group of young Colonial patriots battling in the Revolutionary War against the hated British and their murderous American Indian allies. A rare film, the Library of Congress has at least three different episodes: "Fighting the Red-Skins," "In the Hands of the Enemy." and "Buddy to the Rescue." There was, however, a political angle to the movie serial. It was financed with German money by which, it was hoped by the Berlin government, Americans would be influenced to distrust the Redcoat British again--and not join their historic enemy in waging war against Germany in World War I. To that end, too, a pro-German political group calling itself The Liberty Boys of '76 was organized in the United States by 1916.
To view the episode entitled "In the Hands of the Enemy," visit this web address: http://jfredmacdonald.com/hhcc/playstcc5_2.htm
Star Time (1950)
One of the most important programs of early TV
Star Time lasted only a few months on the DuMont network, but it was an important variety program for many reasons. Each week in the second half of this hour-long live show, there was a segment called Club Goodman which featured the wonderful Benny Goodman Sextet in long-forgotten jazz performances.
At MacDonald & Associates, a film archive in Chicago, where there exist 16mm kinescopes of one first-half-hour and three second-half-hour segments, the Goodman ensemble performs signature tunes such as "Rose Room," "These Foolish Things," and "I Want to Be Happy."
Second, the co-host of the program was singer-actress Frances Langford. She not only sang pop standards and appeared in production numbers, but she also recreated her shrewish radio character Blanche Bickerson in new weekly skits of "The Bickersons." Her equally-obnoxious husband, John, was played by Lew Parker, an adequate replacement for Don Ameche who portrayed that character only in the radio version several years earlier.
Third, in terms of breaking the traditions of racial exclusion in American broadcasting, Benny Goodman's combo included the masterful jazz pianist, Teddy Wilson, making him one of the first African-American talents to appear regularly on network television.
Old Man Blues (1931)
A Metaphoric Struggle Against "The Blues"
A beguiling, even bizarre. musical short reminiscent of a Victor Herbert operetta or early musical dramas. Consumed by lost love, Ethel Merman wanders in a foggy forest near the tree when she and her lover carved their names years before. Here she encounters a strange old man cloaked in an dark cape. He is Old Man Blues, and he's there to lead Merman deeper and deeper into self-pity.
Totally in musical verse, she and Mr. Blues spar for her soul. Blues wins and almost convinces Merman to commit suicide because "there is nothing left to live for." Only the sudden return of her lover stops Merman from drowning herself.
Embracing and singing their renewed love for each other, the reunited couple turns away from Old Man Blues, leaving him alone in the dark forest. Filled with lonely atmosphere and engaging lyricism, this little film is a human metaphor for the ages.
Boffo comedy-variety entertainment
Donald O'Connor hosts this first show of the new year with headliner guests that include singer Gale Robbins ("Will You Still Be Mine?" and "I'm in a Jam with My Baby"), and Sid Miller (opening song-and-dance skit with O'Connor centered on the theme "This we won't do in 1952", plus second skit with O'Connor lampooning songwriters and radio newscasters). Highlight is the appearance of Harpo Marx who plays a harp solo ("Old Folks at Home") and appears in a pantomime skit set in a retirement home, and another with O'Connor in which he whistles answers to questions O'Connor asks him. And Harpo chases beautiful girls across the stage. O'Connor appears in another skit with Gale Robbins, and in tap-dance skit, and in a fuller production number set in an industrial plant. Cameo appearances from Joe E. Ross and Jack Pearl.
Simple concept, but a fascinating cartoon
This is a 2-minute Dutch cartoon reminiscent of the Fleischer Studio and its "Out of the Inkwell" animated shorts which between the teens and 1930s featured Ko-Ko the Clown, Betty Boop and other memorable characters drawn before viewers' eyes. Tekenfilm offers the hand of an artist with a pencil sketching a minimalist figure of a man. Before it ends, the cartooned man cavorts for a while, then is chased by an eraser until the artist finally outlines him in indestructible ink and colorizes him. Just when all seems well, the artist gives up on the project, wads up the sketch and discards it. Finis! Like many European cartoons of the last half of the twentieth century, this one has no dialog, just intriguing animation, a simple storyline, and engaging music--in this case the music is from Ton Plantaz.
Roar of the Rails (1948)
Railroading Adventure Stories to Sell American Flyer Electric Trains for Christmas
Early television at its simplest, this seasonal quarter-hour program told adventure stories of railroading, alternating between live human actors and toy electric trains. Perhaps the first infomercial-as-entertainment, the show appeared in the eight weeks leading to Chrstmas 1948 and Christmas 1949, showing American Flyer electric trains in action. Other A.C. Gilbert toys were advertised: Erector set, Chemistry set, and Microscope. But the emphasis was on American Flyer trains chugging around in circles, taking on water, racing across collapsing bridges, and invariably saving the day. The format was simple: grandfather, a retired engineer, told stories to his grandson, but father (who might buy his son a train for Christmas) was there, too. Fairly clever integration of actors' scenes with electric trains, all performed live in a CBS studio.
Rubeville Night Club (1930)
A good digest of vaudeville humor and music and dance--if you like vaudeville
This two-reel comedy offers twenty-two minutes of vintage vaudeville humor and performance. The setting is a small town nightclub in a small hick town. Between the banter of the nightclub impresario and his clientele there is an array of period acts that includes an acrobatic dance team, a buffonish solo singer, a respectable string quartet performing a jazz medley that integrates "Turkey in the Straw" and "Under the Double Eagle," plenty of cornball jokes throughout--plus the closing act, Madame LaLa with her bad French accent cracking jokes, then singing dancing in her faux can-can style. They don't make 'em like this anymore. But if you like your humor 1920s style, this is a laugh riot. And you don't have to be a rube to enjoy it.
Battle for Survival (1946)
Stunning Historical Document
This is a stunning two-reel short appealing for financial support from Americans to assist in the feeding and resettlement in Palestine of 1.5 million European Jews who in 1946 were "incredibly, alive." Orson Welles' magnificent narration stirs one's soul. The juxtaposition of montages of displacement in Europe and peaceful, progressive construction projects in Palestine adds to the emotion underlying this film. Its intent is to encourage monetary sacrifice among supporters of the Jewish survivors. Its importance today is as illustrative documentation of early postwar efforts that would culminate two years later in the creation of the Jewish nation state, Israel.