Category Archives: Blogathon

The Golden Boy Blogathon–“Miss Grant Takes Richmond” (1949)

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William Holden was born 100 years ago today.  He made his film debut in Golden Boy (1939) co-starring Barbara Stanwyck.  Holden was only 21 when he was cast in his first film and it was apparent to everyone that he was inexperienced.  Holden was almost fired from his first part; but veteran film star Stanwyck took him under her wing and coached and encouraged him, often on her own time.  Under Stanwyck’s tutelage, Holden was able to keep his job and turned in a serviceable performance.  After the filming on Golden Boy ended, Holden and Stanwyck remained lifelong friends.

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William Holden and Barbara Stanwyck at the 1978 Academy Award ceremony

In 1978, the two friends appeared together as presenters at the annual Academy Awards ceremony.  Holden deviated from reading the list of nominees to publicly thank Stanwyck for her helping and supporting his career when he was first starting out.  Four years later, Stanwyck appeared at the Academy Awards to accept an Honorary Oscar.  Holden had passed away a few months prior.  After her very genuine and humble speech, Stanwyck paid tribute to her friend stating: “I loved him very much and I miss him.  He always wished I would get an Oscar.  And so tonight, my golden boy, you got your wish.”  It was a very sweet and emotional tribute.  I highly recommend looking up both Holden’s tribute to Stanwyck and Stanwyck’s tribute to Holden on You Tube.

Whether or not Holden would have still become a star without Stanwyck’s help, it is unknown, but being fired from his first big part could have definitely curtailed his career.  Stanwyck should definitely be given credit for being kind and generous and helping out a young man who wanted a film career.  She could have been a diva and demanded a more experienced co-star (and could have probably gotten one), but she saw something in her young 21 year old co-star and opted to provide her knowledge and advice instead.  For the next eleven or so years after Golden Boy, Holden continued in small parts and small films and continued to grow his skills and gain experience.  During this period, Holden appeared in many B-list films including one with RKO’s former “Queen of the Bs,” Lucille Ball.

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William Holden and Lucille Ball in “Miss Grant Takes Richmond”

In 1949, Holden and Ball appeared in the comedy, Miss Grant Takes Richmond.  Ball had just been signed to Columbia Pictures after a recommendation from Buster Keaton to Columbia studio-head, the irascible Harry Cohn.  Keaton suggested to Cohn that Ball would be perfect for comedic parts.  Miss Grant Takes Richmond was the first film Ball made under her new contract.  This film is mainly a vehicle for Ball and her physical comedy talents, but Holden provides excellent support as her straight-man.  His worldly, but weary, everyday man persona had emerged by this time and also provides Ball with a handsome and worthy love interest.  Reliable character actors, James Gleason and Frank McHugh, provide excellent support.

In Miss Grant Takes Richmond, Ball plays Ellen Grant, an aspiring secretary.  She attends secretary school and is the worst student in the class.  She can’t type, has to make constant corrections, pulls the ribbon out of the typewriter and manages to get ink everywhere.  She seems hopeless as a secretary–a sentiment echoed by her aunt and uncle and fiance who cannot understand why she’d want a career when she could just get married and be a housewife.  One day at the secretary school, Dick Richmond (Holden), comes in looking for a secretary for his real estate office.  Much to everyone’s surprise, including Ellen’s, Dick selects her.

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Left to Right: Frank McHugh, William Holden, Lucille Ball and James Gleason in “Miss Grant Takes Richmond.”

At the office, it seems that there is more going on between Dick and his associates, Gleason (James Gleason) and Kilcoyne (Frank McHugh).  Ellen constantly takes calls from people seemingly wanting to put down-payments down on various properties in various neighborhoods.  In reality, Dick and his cronies are actually running a bookmaking operation.  The calls and payments that Ellen is accepting are actually bets being placed on horses at various racetracks.  The real estate office and Ellen are just a front to fool authorities.  To keep up the charade, Dick mentions that there is some land available for a housing development, but the owner wants $60,000.  He mentions that this is too expensive, but he’d be willing to pay $55,000.  Without his knowledge, Ellen goes down to the owners of the property and manages to negotiate the price down to $50,000.

Ellen, her fiance (who is also a District Attorney), and the owner of the property all go down to Dick’s real estate office to let him know of the deal to purchase the land.  Ellen explains that Dick’s office will now be able to build a housing development of affordable housing.  Dick knows that this deal will cause financial trouble for his operation, but has to play along.  He then decides to try and scare Ellen away from the organization by being aggressively romantic with her, but that backfires when he finds out that he’s fallen for her.

Dick’s ex-girlfriend, Peggy Donato comes to visit her old flame and to also place a large bet ($50,000) on a race.  Ellen accepts the bet, not knowing that a) Donato is placing a bet on a horse race and b) That the race that Donato is betting on is fixed, in her favor.  Dick cannot afford to pay $50,000 to Donato.  Dick tries to explain his predicament to Donato who is not sympathetic in the slightest.  Donato, who still has feelings for Dick, tells him that he can either run away with her or she’ll have her goons take care of him.

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Lucille Ball tries to fix the cement after the foundation fiasco at the housing development

Back at the housing development, Dick has put Ellen in charge.  He has also embezzled funds from the down-payments he received for the houses in the development.  There is a funny scene at the construction site where Ellen and the female customers decide to adjust the foundation outlines (by moving the ropes) of their respective homes.  When they’re done, the size of the rooms are wildly out of proportion.  The construction crews start pouring the cement foundations, per the rope guidelines and soon realize something is horribly wrong.  There is a funny scene where the foreman rants about the crazy foundations.  People’s homes are overlapping, some rooms are enormous while others are tiny, there are random triangular shaped rooms that are too small to use, you name it, it’s a problem.  However, the project now has a larger problem, it’s out of money.

Dick, feeling guilty about scamming innocent people and Ellen, decides to run off with Donato and pay all his customers back.  Ellen finally figures out that the whole operation was a scam and that Dick took the money from the housing development.  She is upset, but decides that she still cares about her former employer and opts to scheme to get rid of Donato.  In a scene reminiscent of the 1957 I Love Lucy episode, “Lucy Wants to Move to the Country,” Ellen decides to dress up like a gangster and pass herself off as the real brains of the bookmaking operation.  She cobbles together her own “gang” and tries to intimidate Donato’s gang.  That plan backfires when Donato’s gang proves to be too strong.  At that time, Gleason and Kilcoyne show up with $50,000 that they won in a bet placed with Donato’s operation–which can be repaid to the people who purchased the homes at the development (or can be used to actually complete the homes).

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William Holden’s facial expression when he sees Lucy’s nose after she “fixes” it is the funniest part of the entire episode. “This California sun certainly makes your skin soft,” Lucy says. If I could find a picture that also captures the look on Desi Arnaz’ face, that would be the ultimate. (“L.A. at Last!” “I Love Lucy” episode #114)

This is a fun film that shows off both Ball and Holden’s strengths.  Two years later, Ball would be starring in her groundbreaking sitcom I Love Lucy.  In 1954, five years after their film together, Holden would be reunited with Ball when he made an appearance as himself on her show.  “L.A. at Last!” was the first episode of the Hollywood story arc of I Love Lucy.  Holden has his first encounter with the star-struck Lucy at the fabled Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood.  Later, he meets Lucy again in the Ricardos’ hotel room where she attempts to disguise her appearance with a putty nose.  My favorite thing about Holden’s entire appearance is the fact that this sets up the idea that Holden is a gossip.  There are multiple episodes featuring other celebrities where the celebrity alludes to Holden giving them the low down on Lucy.

By the time Holden makes his appearance on I Love Lucy, his star had risen exponentially since Miss Grant Takes Richmond, much like Ball’s had.  In 1950, a year after ‘Richmond,’ Holden got the plum role of Joe Gillis in Sunset Blvd.  This film catapulted Holden into stardom.  He received an Oscar nomination for his part as the weary and cynical screenwriter who allows himself to be a “kept man” by the delusional and absurd former silent screen star, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson).  After Sunset Blvd., Holden appeared in a string of hits: Born Yesterday (1950), Stalag 17 (1953), The Moon is Blue (1953), Executive Suite (1954), Sabrina (1954), The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), The Country Girl (1954), Picnic (1955), Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955), and The Bridge on the River Kwai (1955).  Holden took home the 1953 Best Actor Oscar for Stalag 17.  Holden’s string of hit films during just this five year period is remarkable and a feat which is rarely repeated.

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Hubba Hubba!
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The Bette Davis Blogathon–“Beyond the Forest”

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In the late 1920s, as a young twenty-something, Bette Davis attended the John Murray Anderson Dramatic School in New York and excelled in her courses.  In fact, she was the star pupil of the school.  One of Bette’s classmates was a young Lucille Ball, who was definitely NOT the school’s star pupil–in fact, the school wrote to Lucy’s mother stating that she was wasting her money and that her daughter had no future in acting (don’t worry about Lucy, she did okay for herself).  Bette on the other hand, had a future in acting and soon moved from the school to Broadway.

In 1930, Bette and her mother, Harlow Morrell Davis, left New York and moved to Hollywood to screen test at Universal Studios.  When Bette and her mother arrived at the train station, Bette was surprised that no one from the studio was there to meet her.  It turned out that someone had been at the train station and had seen Bette, but left, because he didn’t see anyone who looked like an actress.  Bette’s lack of conventional beauty would inhibit her career at first as studios didn’t view her as a glamorous leading lady.  She was often cast as the leading lady’s sister, friend… any type of role that implied “not beautiful.”  Bette failed her first few screen tests at Universal, but eventually made her screen debut in Bad Sister in 1931.

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Bette Davis in “Bad Sister”

After appearing in a few unremarkable films at Universal and a film at Columbia (which she was loaned out for), Universal opted not to renew her contract in 1932.  It looked like curtains for Bette, but fortunately, fate intervened.  Actor George Arliss had seen Bette and had suggested her as his co-star for The Man Who Played God at Warner Brothers.  Bette received good reviews for not only her performance but for her beauty (!) and Warner Brothers signed her to a five-year contract.

Bette was never known as a raving beauty.  While actresses like Ingrid Bergman, Greta Garbo, Hedy Lamarr, Vivien Leigh, Carole Lombard, Myrna Loy, and Ginger Rogers (to name a few examples) were touted by their studios for their beauty and glamour, Bette represented the tough woman.  While some Hollywood actresses were vain and did not want to sacrifice glamour, Bette was not.  She would do whatever it took to portray the part to its fullest.  Her breakthrough role was as a trashy waitress in Of Human Bondage in 1934.  Via write-in ballot, Bette was nominated for an Oscar for her role.  She lost, however, to Claudette Colbert for her performance in It Happened One Night.  Bette won an Oscar in 1935 for playing a drunk has-been actress in Dangerous.  It is thought by many that Bette’s 1935 Oscar was a consolation prize to losing the year before.

In 1938, Bette won another Oscar for her turn as a scandalous, rebellious Southern Belle.  This film was the beginning of the most successful and highly acclaimed part of Bette’s career.  A string of hits followed: Dark Victory, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, The Letter, Mr. Skeffington, Now Voyager, The Little Foxes, and A Stolen Life.  By the late 1940s, Bette’s star was starting to wane.  Bette’s films during the late 1940s were not as profitable or as acclaimed as her previous efforts.  Personally, one of my favorite films of hers during this period is June Bride (1948).  Bette should have made more comedies.  Despite her diminishing popularity and box-office return, Bette managed to re-negotiate a new four-film contract with Warner Brothers in 1949.

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I love the tagline on this poster!

After Bette’s new contract was signed, her first assignment was the amazing Beyond the Forest.  Bette didn’t find the film “amazing” and did everything she could to try and get out of the film.  She had requested script approval during contract negotiations but her request was declined.  Bette loathed the Beyond the Forest script and tried to drop out of the film.  Warner Brothers refused to release Bette and she was forced to complete the film. It might be Bette’s reluctance, or perhaps anger or irritation, about making Beyond the Forest which makes it so great.  Whether it is intentional or it’s written in the script, Bette’s performance is so over-the-top, so absurd, that it elevates this film straight into the world of camp. From Bette’s immortal “what a dump!” line to her epic death scene, Beyond the Forest is captivating from beginning to end.

Beyond the Forest tells the story of Rosa Moline, the wife of the town doctor in a small Wisconsin town.  Joseph Cotten portrays Rosa’s husband, Lewis.  Lewis is well-liked by everyone in town.  Since he is seemingly the town’s only doctor (think Dr. Baker in Little House on the Prairie), he is often out of the house on house calls or down at his office.  Rosa feels neglected, bored, repressed and any other negative adjective she can use to describe her life in a small town.  Rosa aspires to live in a big city, like nearby Chicago.  Somewhere with some nightlife and perhaps less predictability and routine.

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Bette as “Rosa”

To escape boredom, Rosa ends up meeting a vacationing man from Chicago, Neil Latimer (David Brian).  Latimer is renting a hunting cabin that is owned by a friend of Rosa and Lewis’. She and Neil end up engaging in a hot, adulterous affair.  To continue the affair, Rosa decides that she needs to cook up excuses to travel to Chicago to see Neil.  Rosa decides to talk to her husband and demands that he needs to confront his patients to pay their medical bills.  Rosa justifies her demands by stating that she needs the money to fund a new wardrobe.  Rosa travels back and forth to Chicago to see Neil, but eventually discovers that he’s engaged to another woman, a wealthy woman.  Neil breaks off the relationship.  Discouraged, Rosa returns home to her humdrum life.

Rosa discovers that she’s pregnant with her husband’s child.  While at a party for Moose, the caretaker of the hunting cabin, Rosa is re-acquainted with Neil and discovers that he’s broken off his engagement.  Rosa tries to concoct a scheme to dump Lewis and run off with Neil.  Unfortunately, Moose overhears Rosa’s plans and threatens to tell Neil about her pregnancy if she leaves her husband.

Moose’s threat to Rosa sets up the main conflict of the story.  At the beginning of the film, Rosa is on trial for murder.  The storyline is constructed in an interesting format.  It starts with the murder trial, moves into a flashback that shows how Rosa ended up in this predicament, then shows the verdict of the murder trial and then segues into what happens to Rosa after the murder trial.  A la Leave Her to Heaven, Bette purposely gets herself in an accident to induce an abortion.  It’s amazing how many studio era films contain scenes where the leading actress purposely falls down the stairs, falls down a hill, etc. in order to lose a pregnancy.  It’s interesting that that type of scene would pass censors.  I suppose in an era of back alley abortions, falling down the stairs may be a woman’s only option.  At the risk of further spoiling the story, Bette has the most fabulous death scene in the film.  It may be one of the longest, most drawn out death scenes ever.  Whether that was in the script for dramatic effect, or whether Bette decided to drag it out, who knows? All that is important is that this scene exists on celluloid, somewhere.

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Rosa’s epic death scene

Unfortunately for us, Beyond the Forest is unavailable on DVD/Blu Ray and cannot even be aired on TV.  There is some type of copyright issue that is preventing this film from being available.  I managed to see it during a one-night only showing a couple summers ago at the Northwest Film Center, a film program hosted by the Portland Art Museum.  Bette’s performance in this film is truly something to behold.  From her ridiculous black wig, to her sexpot wardrobe, Bette looks absurd and she plays the part of the town floozy to the hilt.  She is obviously too old for the part and lookswise, while I’ve always thought Bette was beautiful in a unconventional way, she is not believable as the town sex-pot.  However, this dissonance between Bette’s character and Bette herself only adds to the campiness of the film.

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Bette Davis as “Margo Channing” in “All About Eve.”

After Beyond the Forest, Bette successfully negotiated a release from her contract.  After eighteen years at Warner Brothers, Bette was a freelance actor.  She had her last major success (save 1962’s “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”) in 1950 at Fox studios with All About Eve, where she received an Oscar nomination playing the part of Margo Channing, a highly acclaimed theater actress who is feeling the pressure of age.  Adding to her woes is the fact that a young ingenue, Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), is slowly insinuating herself into Margo’s life and slowly turning her friends against her and taking over her career.  All About Eve has many parallels with Bette’s life.  Despite the many successes she experienced in Hollywood, Bette was not irreplaceable.  As All About Eve illustrated, not once, but twice in the film, no matter how talented and acclaimed you are, there is always someone younger and more talented ready to take your place.

Doris Day Birthday Blogathon–“With Six You Get Eggroll”

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Doris Day made her film debut in 1948 in the musical, Romance on the High Seas.  Many of Day’s films throughout the 1940s and 1950s cemented her role as one of Warner Brothers’ top musical stars.  Some of Day’s best known films during this period are: Tea for Two, I’ll See You in My Dreams, By the Light of the Silvery Moon, The Pajama Game and Calamity Jane.  During the 1950s, Day also demonstrated that she was a capable dramatic actress and appeared in non-musical films like The Man Who Knew Too Much, Julie, and Love Me or Leave Me.  Day ended the 1950s starring in Pillow Talk with Rock Hudson.  This film proved that in addition to musicals and dramatic roles, Day was also comfortable in sophisticated romantic comedies.  In 1960, Day starred in one more thriller, Midnight Lace.

The filming of ‘Lace’ proved to be so traumatic for Day that she refused to make another film of this type ever again.  ‘Lace’ depicts a woman terrified that someone is trying to murder her.  The intensity of Day’s fear conjured up old memories of her abusive first husband.  She was so traumatized by the filming of ‘Lace’ that she vowed to not make another thriller again.  Day kept her promise.  During the 1960s, Day made two more romantic comedies with Hudson and then appeared in other romantic comedies with the likes of Rod Taylor, Cary Grant and James Garner.  Day also appeared in family comedies like Please Don’t Eat the Daisies with David Niven and her final film, With Six You Get Eggroll co-starring Brian Keith.

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I love the caption for this poster: “Does this look like a movie that could give you bad dreams?”

With Six You Get Eggroll was one of Day’s top money-making films.  This film, much in the same vein as Yours, Mine and Ours (1968) and The Brady Bunch (1969-1974), dealt with the blending of two families and the issues that can arise.  Day portrays Abby McClure a widowed, single mom who supports her three sons as the boss of a lumberyard.  Abby’s sister, Maxine, played by Pat Carroll (aka Ursula from The Little Mermaid), is constantly trying to fix Abby up with men.  In this particular case, Maxine wants to hook her sister up with Brian Keith, who portrays widower Jake Iverson.  Iverson is the father to a teenage daughter, Stacey, portrayed by Barbara Hershey.  Abby’s oldest son Flip (John Findlater) and Jake’s daughter are classmates.  In true classic film fashion, Abby’s youngest kids are at least ten-plus years younger than their brother, Flip.  Abby’s one son, Jason, looks like a mini Mo Rocca from The Daily Show.

When we first meet Abby,  we see her committing a major OSHA violation by standing on the forks of a moving forklift in her lumberyard.  I really enjoy the fact that Abby is the boss of a male-dominated field and appears to be running it efficiently and effectively and has the respect of her subordinates.  Next, Abby’s sister Maxine shows up and convinces Abby that she needs to invite a date to the dinner party that she’s having that evening.  Abby ends up taking her sister’s advice and invites Jake to the party.

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Doris Day’s amazing shower cap!

While getting ready for the party, everything that could go wrong for Abby, does.  Her dog, Calico, gets a hold of her wig and ruins the hairstyle.  Abby is forced to re-curl her wig.  Her “hair” is soaking wet by the time she is finished, and she resorts to cooking her wig in the oven at 200F in an attempt to dry it out and set the style before the party.  Meanwhile, while Abby is “putting her face on,” the kids are taking a bath.  Abby hears a bunch of noise coming from the bathroom that is most definitely not kids bathing.  When she walks in, she sees that the kids have somehow spilled yellow paint into the tub.  With children that now resemble The Simpsons and a golden-hued arm, Abby comes across her dinner party guests who’ve let themselves in.  With her yellow-dyed skin, yellow and white splotchy robe, amazing flowered shower cap and a face covered in cold cream, Abby looks a fright, but soon manages to get it together and have her party.

Sister Maxine and her husband are all over Jake from the second he walks in.  When Abby finally enters the room, they go to work trying to convince Jake and Abby that they’re perfect for one another and should get together.  Both Jake and Abby are uncomfortable and try their best to keep their cool.  Jake finally has had enough and makes up a bogus excuse about having to meet clients at the airport in a couple hours.  Later, Abby and Jake run into one another at the supermarket and end up having coffee at the drive-in, which is run by Herbie Fleck, portrayed by George Carlin (!).

Throughout multiple dates and outings to the drive-in to escape their children, Abby and Jake end up falling in love.  While I suppose it’s understandable, I don’t enjoy the behavior of the oldest two children, Flip and Stacey.  Flip is worse than Stacey.  When Abby comes home late one night after stating that she was running to the market for pumpernickel, Flip rips his mother a new one as if she were a teenager breaking curfew.   He is particularly patronizing to Abby and I wish she would have chewed him out right then and there, but perhaps that isn’t Abby’s style.  Flip repeatedly treats his mother like a misbehaving child and treats Jake as if he were some deviant.  Stacey isn’t as bad, but does treat her father and Abby pretty poorly until she finally comes around.  I understand that Flip and Stacey are having trouble adjusting to their parents having new romantic relationships, but seriously.  They graduate from high school during the film and presumably will be going to college.  Does it really matter?

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 A young George Carlin takes Doris Day & Brian Keith’s coffee order at their drive-in rendezvous spot.  

After a few months of sneaking around and drinking copious amounts of coffee and champagne at the drive-in, Abby and Jake decide that they should just get it over with and marry, much to the chagrin of the oldest children.  After marrying, Abby and Jake try to figure out how their family will live together in one house.  Day’s house is larger, but needs at least one more bedroom for Stacey.  Jake’s house is much smaller.  The newly blended family tries to bounce back and forth between houses, but logistically, it becomes a nightmare.  They eventually decide that they’ll buy a larger house.  Until their respective homes sell, Abby and Jake purchase a camper trailer that will serve as an extra bedroom.  After fighting over who gets to sleep in the camper, Abby and Jake move in–much to Abby’s chagrin.

Up until the camper fiasco, much of this film resembles one of day’s more sophisticated comedies.  There are multiple discussions about sex and there are quite a few “did they or didn’t they?” scenes between Abby and Jake.  In a scene where Abby and Jake have just endured watching television with the younger children, they look forward to having time to themselves to (presumably) make out on the couch.  Flip, however, senses this and makes a point of staying in the room, effectively ending any makeout sessions.  The tension, both sexual and not, in this scene is palpable, with Flip very smug, knowing exactly what he’s doing.  If With Six You Get Eggroll had been made when the production code was in full swing, I do not believe that Abby and Jake could have been portrayed as being home alone, canoodling with champagne in front of the fire, especially since they fall asleep in front of the fire.  Finally, Abby’s maid, Molly, played by Alice Ghostley (aka Aunt Esmeralda from Bewitched) expresses her annoyance when Abby and Jake show up at Jake’s house unannounced, looking for a place to rendezvous away from everyone.  It seems that Molly was promised the use of Jake’s house for the same reason.

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  Doris Day in the family camper trailer.  

Another feature of this film that sets it apart from other family comedies of the same time is the look and portrayal of the leading man.  Jake uses fairly strong language (for a family film) with multiple instances of “hell” and “damn.”  He seems quick-tempered (though not violent) and stubborn.  It’s also interesting that he has a pretty rough looking tattoo on his arm, which is prominently displayed when the kids walk in on Abby and Jake the morning after they eloped.  Good on Abby and Jake for getting dressed again! We have to assume SOMETHING went on on their wedding night.

One of the best scenes in the film is when Stacey exerts her “lady of the house” attitude one too many times for Abby’s liking and Abby decides to show Stacey what it means to be in charge of the home.  She writes up a very long and difficult list of household chores (ironing, vacuuming, waxing floors, silver polishing, etc.) for her to complete.  After working all morning and day, Stacey completes the list.  Abby gives her a new list for the next day, a list consisting of going to the movies and visiting with friends.  Stacey has a new appreciation for her new step-mother and they have a very sweet bonding moment.  Of course father Jake comes in and sees the list and completely misunderstands the point Abby was trying to make.  This misunderstanding evolves into a very heated argument, which serves as the catalyst for the camper mayhem at the end of the film.  The ending of the film features Jamie Farr (Klinger from M*A*S*H) and Allen Melvin (Sam the Butcher from The Brady Bunch).

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 The crazy cast of characters that join Brian Keith and Doris Day at the jail. 

One of my favorite things about 1960s comedies, is that there is almost always a scene taking place in a club with some crazy music playing.  The music is never identifiable and I imagine that it’s just being performed for the film.  With Six You Get Eggroll features a wild dance club with some music that sounds like they sampled the marimba track from The Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb.” What’s also amazing about these scenes is the dancing.  As someone who is rhythmically challenged, the dancing that appears in these 1960s movies or the Beach Party movies looks like something I could do.  Cactus Flower, Yours Mine and Ours, and Bob, Carol, Ted and Alice all feature amazing club scenes.  I also think it’s funny that the music is pretty much the same throughout the entire duration of the club scene–it never changes.

With Six You Get Eggroll was released in 1968. At this time, the sexual attitudes in the United States were greatly evolving and Day’s brand of clean comedy was falling out of style.  Day was offered the role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, but her manager/husband, Marty Melcher, turned the role down on her behalf.  Both Day and Melcher felt that the script was vulgar.  While Day’s films still attracted an audience, they were not turning the type of profit that they had prior.  During filming of ‘Eggroll,’ Melcher unexpectedly died.  Doris was devastated in more ways than one.  Of course, she was devastated that her husband had died; but she also discovered that her husband and his business partner had squandered all her earnings, leaving her deeply in debt.  She also discovered that her husband had signed her up for a weekly sitcom on CBS.  Day did not want to do a television show, but she had no other option.  She was obligated and also needed to repay her debts.  The Doris Day Show which aired from 1968 to 1973 essentially ended Day’s film career.

After the end of Day’s sitcom, she appeared on a few more variety shows and talk show interviews, but she was all but retired by the 1980s.  In 1989, she came out of seclusion to attend the Golden Globe Awards and accept the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award.  Since her retirement, Day has dedicated herself to animal rights and welfare.  She continues to keep busy at her home in Carmel, CA and tomorrow, on April 3, she will celebrate her 96th birthday–you go Doris!

 

 

Favorite TV Show Blogathon-“Adios, Johnny Bravo” The Brady Bunch

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By 1970, television shows were starting to move away from the family comedies like Leave it to Beaver, My Three Sons and The Donna Reed Show to name a few.  The “rural comedies” like Petticoat Junction, Green Acres (my personal favorite) and The Beverly Hillbillies had been canceled.  The fantasy shows like Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie had been canceled or would be ending soon.  Even the “Queen of Television,” Lucille Ball’s brand of slapstick comedy was beginning to wane in popularity.  Her last sitcom, Here’s Lucy, debuted a year before The Brady Bunch.  It also ended, along with The Brady Bunch, in 1974.  Lucille Ball was old fashioned by the time the 1970s rolled around.  The new “hot” shows were issue driven and were challenging societal norms.  The most popular shows during this era were The Mary Tyler Moore Show, All in the Family, Maude, The Jeffersons and Sanford and Son to name a few.  Compared to these shows, The Brady Bunch was in its own little fantasy world.

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The iconic opening credits of “The Brady Bunch”

The Brady Bunch debuted on September 26, 1969 and aired Friday nights on ABC until its cancellation on March 8, 1974.  During its five-year run, the beloved family sitcom never ranked high in the ratings (never even reaching near the Top 30).  It faced much critical snark, ranging from criticizing the simple (and sometimes saccharine) storylines, the unrealistic situations and resolutions, corny dialogue, just to name a few examples.  After the show ended, it was sold into syndication.  It was in syndication where The Brady Bunch achieved its iconic status and became firmly entrenched in pop culture. While critics disliked the show, children loved it because creator Sherwood Schwartz specifically geared the show to portray situations from the children’s point of view. Just like during its original run, opinions on The Brady Bunch fall into two camps: love it or loathe it.  I happen to fall into the former.  I love The Brady Bunch.  Some people like to refer to this show as a “guilty pleasure.”  I don’t.  I don’t believe in guilty pleasures as I don’t experience any guilt while indulging in things I love.  I unapologetically love The Brady Bunch.  I can watch this show non-stop all day and never tire of it.

The plot of The Brady Bunch is very simple:

Here’s the story, of a lovely lady
Who was bringing up three very lovely girls
All of them had hair of gold, like their mother
The youngest one in curls.
Here’s the story of a man named Brady
Who was busy with three boys of his own.
They were four men living all together.
Yet, they were all alone. 
Till the one day when the lady met this fellow
And they knew that it was much more than a hunch
That this group, must somehow form a family
That’s the way we all became ‘The Brady Bunch’ …

Yes, the show is saccharine at times.  Yes, many of the plots are simplistic.  Yes, it can be unrealistic in how polite the children are to each other and their parents.  But, I say, what’s wrong with that?  There are some other saccharine shows that are too sticky sweet for me, Full House for example (which believe me, I watched EVERY episode back in the day.  But the show doesn’t hold up as well as Brady Bunch.  I place the blame solely on the irritating Olsen Twins).  7th Heaven was unwatchable because it seemed fake and preachy.  With The Brady Bunch however, the show is just so charming, that I cannot get enough.  It’s corniness is part of its charm.  And what’s wrong with characters being nice to one another? There is so much hate in this world these days, watching The Brady Bunch is a nice way to go back to a time where people respected one another.  The Brady Bunch is also a nice way to escape all the awful things that happen these days and visit a world where the biggest thing that happens that day is that Cindy needs help deciding which parent to invite to watch her perform as “The Fairy Princess” in the school play. I don’t need to be confronted with issues like racism and domestic violence all the time.

Now, to get to the point of this blogathon entry: to discuss a favorite episode of a TV Show.  For this entry, I selected an episode of The Brady Bunch, “Adios, Johnny Bravo.”  This episode opens the fifth and final season and is a pop culture icon in its own right.  Many avid viewers of The Brady Bunch, will remember this episode as the time when Greg is told “you fit the suit” when he challenges the image a hotshot record company agent creates for him.

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The Brady Six (from left to right: Cindy, Marcia, Peter, Greg, Jan, and Bobby) audition for “Hal Barton TV Talent Review” television station.  I actually genuinely love Marcia and Greg’s outfits.

Many of my favorite ‘Brady Bunch’ episodes involve the episodes with “The Brady Six,” the singing group that the kids form.  I believe they only sing in maybe three episodes, but I love their songs.  They’re so cheerful and upbeat, it’s hard to feel miserable watching the kids belt out “It’s a Sunshine Day.”  “Adios, Johnny Bravo” opens with The Brady Six auditioning for “Hal Barton’s TV Talent Review,” a local television show.  Oldest kid Greg is crooning “You’ve Got to Be in Love (To Love a Love Song).”  The other kids, ranked from next oldest to youngest: Marcia, Peter, Jan, Bobby, and Cindy serve as the back-up singers and dancers.  They of course win the television audition, but Greg also catches the eye of Tami Cutler, portrayed by 1970 Playboy Playmate, Claudia Jennings.

Tami, along with her hilarious partner Buddy Berkman, work as talent scouts for a local record label.  Tami is in the audience at the auditions and approaches Greg about a possible record deal.  She gives Greg her card and asks him to call her at 10AM the next morning.  The kids, thinking that they’ve been “discovered,” are overwhelmed with excitement.  Back at the Brady house, the kids are overjoyed about the possible record deal and eagerly wait for 10AM the next morning to roll around. The next morning, Greg calls Tami as the kids anxiously wait to hear about the deal.  Tami asks Greg to come down to her office, alone.  Greg assumes that Tami thinks that he is “the leader” of the group.

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Tami and Buddy present Greg with his amazing new Johnny Bravo costume

Greg, now in Tami and Buddy’s office, plays some guitar as Tami and Buddy marvel at their new “find.”  Buddy presents Greg with his new suit, an amazing glittery matador outfit complete with epaulettes.  Greg will also be known as “Johnny Bravo.”  This is also the point when Greg discovers that Tami and Buddy only want to sign him and not the other five kids.  When Greg informs the kids of this new development, they are understandably upset and disappointed.  The girls stew in their room for about five minutes until maid Alice walks in and very astutely tells the girls that they just have sour grapes.  If they were in Greg’s shoes, they probably would have accepted the deal as well.  Of course, in true ‘Brady Bunch’ fashion, when a few of the kids have made amends, all the kids make amends.  There are never any holdouts.

Throughout the episode, mom and dad Carol and Mike playfully banter back and forth about which college Greg will attend when he graduates from high school at the end of the year.  Carol wants Greg to attend her alma mater, State University, and Mike wants Greg to go to his alma mater, Norton College.  It seems a given that Greg will go to college.  However, with the new record deal, Greg’s collegiate future appears to be in jeopardy.  Carol, Mike and Alice sit around the kitchen table, sipping hot cocoa, worried that Greg will decide against college.  The next day, while Carol and Mike plant flowers, Greg informs them that he will not be attending college.  They are understandably upset and disappointed.  Carol reminds Greg that fame is fleeting, but college will last a lifetime.

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“Adios, Johnny Bravo!” Greg rips up his contract after discovering Tami and Buddy’s intention to use him as a prop for their manufactured pop music.

At the studio, Greg informs Tami and Buddy of his decision.  Tami and Buddy go to work transforming Greg into “Johnny Bravo.”  Greg is informed of his new team of PR representatives, record label contacts and everyone else associated.  He even meets the group of girls hired to be Johnny Bravo’s groupies who mob him and tear off his shirt.  Greg then records his first Johnny Bravo song, “High Up on the Mountains.” After hearing the finished product, Greg is upset.  It sounds nothing like him.  It is so over manufactured, so sweetened up in the studio, that it doesn’t sound like anyone.  Greg’s voice is barely audible under the distorted guitar track.  When Buddy doesn’t seem to care and mentions the amount of “work” that went into creating “Johnny Bravo,” Greg realizes that he’s been taken in by Tami and Buddy.  To Greg, Tami utters those immortal words: “You fit the suit.”  Greg figures out that all Tami and Buddy really wanted was a naive guy whom they could use to pose as a singer while they created potential hit pop songs in the studio.  Greg is upset about being used as a stooge and rips up his contract and walks out.  (Side note: Greg already signed the contract.  Does ripping it up really nullify it?  I doubt it, unless Tami and Buddy didn’t make carbon paper copies or something).

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The amazing costumes from “Good Time Music”

The episode concludes with the kids performing “Good Time Music” on Hal Barton’s television program.   The Brady Six wear these amazing outfits.  The outfits aren’t as good as the ones they wear when they perform as “The Silver Platters,” but they’re pretty awesome.  The outfit comes in three colors: orange, goldenrod and pale yellow.  The boys and girls are paired off with their respective counterpart and are decked out in matching outfits.  Greg and Marcia are in orange.  Jan and Peter don the goldenrod.  Bobby and Cindy rock the pale yellow.  The boys’ outfits are pretty simple: white pants with a stripe of “their color” down the leg with a matching button down shirt and white patent leather shoes.  The girls wear these ugly, but fantastic, long dresses with ruffled collars and sleeves.  Cindy’s outfit is obviously a jumpsuit.  I cannot figure out if Marcia and Jan’s outfit are dresses or jumpsuits.  The best part of this whole performance is when Peter screws up the intricate Brady choreography (it happens toward the end of the performance.)

I love “Adios, Johnny Bravo.”  It has two awesome songs, hilarious and legitimately great clothes and “you fit the suit.”  This episode is only the tip of the iceberg as to what The Brady Bunch has to offer in terms of entertainment.

More Brady Bunch posts to come!

The “Free For All” Blogathon–“Birds in Film”

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When you think of birds in the movies, this image probably comes to mind:

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Tippi Hedren in Alfred Hitchock’s “The Birds” (1963). Don’t even get me started on why they chose to run out of the school when the birds started congregating on the jungle gym.  Stay inside! I like to think that the birds attacked the children because they were singing that annoying song.

Alfred Hitchock’s 1963 masterpiece, The Birds, tells the story of Bodega Bay, a small town near San Francisco, California that is dealing with violent and random bird attacks.  Crows are inexplicably attacking people in their homes, in phone booths, outside, anywhere.  The film never explains why the birds are attacking.  Hitchock purposely eschewed the use of music in the film.  The only sounds we hear aside from dialogue and natural sounds from the actions in the film are the sounds of the birds crowing.  Each time the birds appear onscreen, we know that another attack is about to happen.  The film ends with no resolution.  In Bodega Bay, the birds are still out there and are to be feared.

In The Birds, there are two birds featured in the film who are not to be feared–the lovebirds that Rob Taylor wants to purchase from Tippi Hedren (who doesn’t actually work at the bird shop, but is shopping for a cage for her myna bird).  People who own lovebirds typically purchase them in pairs, as a pair of lovebirds will bond for life.  A solitary lovebird who doesn’t have a constant companion will be very sad.  Owners can own just one lovebird, but they should be prepared to spend a lot of time with their bird.  In The Birds, I believe that these lovebirds represent Taylor and Hedren’s characters.

Hedren’s character is a bit of a wild woman who somewhat lives in a gilded cage.  She’s basically a rich socialite with little regard for others.  Due to her behavior and attitude, she’s somewhat trapped by her lifestyle.  The only reason she goes to Bodega Bay initially, is to use the lovebirds as a means to pursue Taylor.  She’s rich and isn’t used to not getting what she wants.  Taylor makes it clear to Hedren in the pet shop that she’s not interested in people of her type.

Lovebirds may represent the antithesis to the other birds in the film.  Birds don’t have to be evil or be killers–they can be sweet, wonderful companions for humans and other birds.  The lovebirds in The Birds demonstrate that maybe humanity and nature can restore harmony soon.

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The lovebirds in “The Birds.” I believe these are “rosy-faced lovebirds.”

Aside from the birds in The Birds, there are other ways birds are represented in film:

COMPANIONS

  1. Iago the Scarlet Macaw parrot in Aladdin, while an evil bird, he is a wiseacre and says what’s on his mind regardless of whether he’s talking to his master, Jafar, or mocking the Sultan.
  2. Kevin in Up is a goofy bird and the comic relief of the film.  Kevin is a made-up tropical bird who helps Carl and Russell make it to Victoria Falls.  Kevin also provides the conflict of the film.  Famed aviator Charles Muntz has been looking for Kevin’s species for years.  Kevin is like many real birds in that when she (yes “she”) feels that someone is a friend, she will be kind and loyal.  However, if she senses someone is a threat, or that person was mean to her, she’ll be hostile and combative.  Also, like real birds, Kevin is very curious and gets into everything.
  3. Hedwig in the Harry Potter series is Harry Potter’s loyal owl.  She is a constant companion for Harry through all of his adventures. She would deliver Harry’s mail, but was also a faithful friend. Hedwig also demonstrated how smart and clever birds can be.
  4. Zazu in The Lion King.  Zazu is a hornbill who is not only Mufasa’s personal assistant and adviser, but he also takes care of Simba after Mufasa’s tragic death.  Zazu’s allegiance is partially out of duty to the kingdom, but I also feel that he feels a sense of loyalty to the deceased Mufasa.  Zazu also doesn’t want to see Scar in charge.
  5. Maleficent’s black crow, who I don’t believe has a name, is as evil as evil gets.  He keeps Maleficent informed on the goings on in the fairies’ cottage and is the first one to inform Maleficent of Princess Aurora’s location when he spies magic coming up through the fairies’ chimney.
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Iago from “Aladdin” (1992)

WISDOM

  1. Owl in Winnie the Pooh dispenses advise to Winnie the Pooh and the other residents of the Hundred Acre Woods.
  2. Scuttle in The Little Mermaid, while definitely not smart like Owl, he lives above the sea and regularly watches and interacts with the humans.  Mermaid Ariel, who desperately wants to live out of the sea meets up with Scuttle, often bringing objects from the ocean floor that she has found.  She asks Scuttle as to what the objects are.  While Scuttle is usually wrong (e.g. telling Ariel that a dinner fork is a “dinglehopper” and is used to comb her hair), he is very kind and tries to keep Ariel informed about what’s going on above the sea.
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“Owl” from “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh”  (1977)

SYMBOLISM

  1. In The Maltese Falcon (1941) John Huston’s directorial debut and the first film noir, stars Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade.  While investigating the murder of his partner, Miles Archer, Bogart gets involved with a cast of characters who not only have something to do with Archer’s death, but who are searching for the elusive Maltese Falcon statue.  This bejeweled statue has traveled the world and is apparently worth tens of thousands of dollars.  When the statue is finally found, it is determined to be a fake.  The criminals are angry and frustrated, but seek to continue looking for it.  While holding the fake statue, a detective asks Bogart, “Heavy? What is it?” Bogart says, “The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.”  This faux bird represents the lack of loyalty the criminals displayed to one another during their journey.  A bird, when treated with love and kindness, can be a loyal and generous friend.  They’ll be by your side constantly and will give affection. They’ll also give you their dinner if you don’t pay attention, they want to make sure you eat.  The criminals are so shady in this film, that they don’t deserve to succeed at the end.
  2. There is much bird imagery in Psycho.  It is mostly used in the scene between Norman (Anthony Perkins) and Marion (Janet Leigh) in the motel office. The birds in these scenes foreshadow Norman’s psyche and Marion’s eventual fate. Norman has a variety of stuffed birds: everything from the predator hawk to a small songbird.  Norman mentions to Marion Crane (his eventual victim) that one of his hobbies is “stuffing things” i.e. taxidermy.  This foreshadows the fact that he’s been perhaps practicing his taxidermy skills elsewhere, like on his mother’s corpse, for example (granted she is a skeleton, but he’s been preserving her).  The birds are creepy as there are a lot of them. One could argue that the different types of birds are representative of the  characters in the film.  There is an owl and hawk, two predator birds, that are featured prominently on the wall.  Norman’s mother is a predator, her personality has completely consumed Norman’s.  There are also some small songbirds who represent Marion.  These birds would be consumed in no second flat by a predator, just like it doesn’t take long for Marion’s demise at the Bates Motel.  Birds are very fragile, just like Norman Bates’ psyche.  Women are often presented as fragile and delicate, in which a bird could represent Marion.  Norman even tells Marion that she “eats like a bird” as she picks at the bread on her sandwich.  Birds actually eat a lot, a fact which Norman even mentions to Marion.  There is so much going on in this scene that it would probably warrant its own blog entry.
  3. Birds can also represent a variety of other themes: freedom, the feeling of being trapped, evil, arrogance, and mischievousness.
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Norman Bates’ office in the Bates Motel in “Psycho” (1960)

Other favorite birds of mine:

  1. Donald Duck.  Look for him in Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land (1959).  Perhaps the only good math-related movie ever made.
  2. Daffy Duck.  His “Duck Amuck” (1953) cartoon is hilarious.
  3. Woodstock from Peanuts.  He doesn’t do much except be Snoopy’s companion, but he has his moments.
  4. Roadrunner.  He says so much by saying so little “beep beep” which roughly translates to “ha ha” when said to Wile E. Coyote after successfully evading yet another trap. Why does Wile E. Coyote want to eat him so much anyway? I doubt he’s got that much meat on him.
  5. Piper from the Pixar short.  This bird is just so cute!
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Piper from Piper (2016) Pixar’s short film. Look at his face!

This post was inspired by my bird, Buddy, a yellow-sided green cheek conure:

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Buddy the bird, enjoying some mango!

The Small Screen Blogathon–“I Love Lucy”

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Picture it: Salem, Oregon, 1995.  A beautiful peasant girl turns on her parents’ 15″ black and white tube TV.  She comes across a show on something called Nick at Nite.  She is instantly transfixed by the action on the screen.  A redhead (we’ll have to take the characters’ word for it, it’s black and white after all), her Cuban bandleader husband, and their two friends were involved in some wacky scheme.  The next day, the girl tuned into Nick-at-Nite again and watched another episode of this hilarious show about a woman whose only dream in life, it seems, is to be in show business, much to her husband’s chagrin. The show was I Love Lucy, and the beautiful peasant girl, was me, minus the peasant part–just tapping into my inner Sophia Petrillo.

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I Love Lucy is rightfully considered one of the best, if not the best (which “best” is obviously subjective) television show in history.  The show was groundbreaking, almost literally, and created the blueprint for all situational comedies to come.  Every show, from The Dick Van Dyke Show, to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, to Cheers to Friends are indebted to I Love Lucy for inventing the situation comedy and engineering the way in which to perform in front of a live audience.

In 1950, CBS approached Lucille Ball with an offer to move her popular radio show, My Favorite Husband, to the new burgeoning medium of television.  CBS wanted Ball, her co-star Richard Denning and the other cast members to make the move with her.  However, Ball had other ideas.  At this time, Ball had been married to her husband, bandleader Desi Arnaz for ten years.  The couple’s marriage was faltering.  Much of the strain on their marriage was caused by their differing schedules.  Ball was in Hollywood filming her radio show and Arnaz was on the road, touring with his band.  Ball, seeing an opportunity to work with her husband and keep him home, told CBS that she was interested in the offer, but only if Arnaz could star as her husband.  CBS balked, thinking that the American public would not accept that their star, Lucille Ball, was married to a Cuban.  Of course, CBS was completely wrong, but to prove it, Ball and Arnaz concocted a vaudeville routine and took their act on the road.  People across the country loved them and soon CBS had to relent and give Ball and Arnaz the go-ahead.

In March of 1951, Ball and Arnaz filmed their pilot.  It was filmed in kineoscope.  Kineoscope was a method of filming a live performance.  A camera lens would be focused on a video screen, which would record the performance as it was being recorded.  This footage would later be re-broadcast to other markets.  Typically shows were filmed in New York, as this is where a majority of the population lived in the late 1940s-early 1950s.  If you have ever seen a YouTube video where someone has made a video of a movie, show, concert, etc. playing on their TV,  you know that the sound is muffled and tinny and the picture is blurry.  This is exactly what it was like to watch a kineoscope show if you didn’t live near New York.

To see a couple examples of Kineoscope, go to You Tube and search for: “I Love Lucy Pilot,” and “Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz on The Ed Wynn Show.”

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Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz on the “I Love Lucy” Pilot

Above is a screenshot from the I Love Lucy pilot episode.  Ball wears a housecoat and big baggy pants for much of the episode because she was pregnant with Lucie Arnaz.  The Ricardos live in a completely different apartment and the Mertzes haven’t been created yet.  I Love Lucy episode #6, “The Audition” is essentially a re-do of the pilot.  In the pilot episode, Ricky schemes with his agent, Jerry.  In the I Love Lucy episode, Jerry’s lines are given to Fred Mertz.  The pilot episode was a success and Ball and Arnaz were given the green light to start their series.

To produce their series, Ball and Arnaz formed Desilu Productions.  Arnaz was president and Ball was vice-president.  They hired the writers from Ball’s radio show, My Favorite Husband. Many of the crew members they hired were acquaintances from Ball’s radio program and from Ball and Arnaz’ movie and music careers, respectively.  For the Mertzes, they originally wanted Bea Benederet (Betty Rubble in The Flintstones and Kate Bradley in Petticoat Junction) and Gale Gordon (Mr. Mooney in The Lucy Show and Harry Carter in Here’s Lucy).  However, Benederet was under contract to The Burns and Allen Show and Gordon was on Our Miss Brooks.

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William Frawley and Vivian Vance as Fred and Ethel Mertz

One day, William Frawley, an old acquaintance of Ball’s from her movie days, called Ball and asked if there was room for him on her show.  Leery of his reputation as a hard-drinker, Arnaz and Ball met with him and decided he was perfect.  Ball later said: “William Frawley was ‘Fred Mertz,’ period.” Frawley was cast on the condition that he always show up to work sober.  He would be fired on the spot if he ever showed up to work intoxicated.  During all six seasons of I Love Lucy and the three seasons of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, Frawley kept his promise.

Casting Ethel Mertz turned out to be more of a chore.  Ball originally wanted to throw the job to her old friend, Barbara Pepper (Mrs. Ziffel on Green Acres), but CBS said no.  Much like Frawley, Pepper had a drinking problem too, but hers was much more severe.  Then I Love Lucy director Marc Daniels (who directed the first season) suggested an actress he worked with in New York, Vivian Vance.  Vance had a successful Broadway career and had spent twenty years on stage acting in various plays until re-locating to Hollywood in the late-1940s.  She appeared in a couple films, but by 1951, she was still relatively unknown outside of the Broadway circle.  She just happened to be appearing in a revival of Voice of a Turtle in La Jolla, California.  Arnaz and head writer, Jess Oppenheimer, drove down to see Vance and hired her on the spot. Vance was reluctant to give up her stage career for the unknown medium of television, but friend Daniels convinced her it’d be her big break–and it was.

With all the pieces put in place, it was time to start producing I Love Lucy.  Desilu purchased two soundstages and tore down the dividing wall to create one large room that could hold four separate stages.  The Ricardos’ living room was the larger, permanent stage.  The Ricardos’ bedroom was typically in the smaller stage to the left and the kitchen was the small stage to the right.  The other stage would often be the Tropicana.  The walls of the small stages had wheels that allowed them to move around.  Oftentimes, when a scene with a large amount of action was filmed, the walls of the set would be rolled in front of the Ricardos’ living room set.  Case in point, there is a blooper in the famous Vitameatavegamin episode (#30 “Lucy Does a TV Commercial”).  When Lucy comes staggering out of her dressing room (plastered on Vitameatavegamin, alcohol 23%) and the stage hands are searching for Ricky, you can see the Ricardos’ living room between the Vitameatavegamin set and Ricky’s set where he performs.

CBS wanted Arnaz and Ball to use the cheaper kineoscope and to film their show in New York.  Arnaz and Ball informed CBS that not only did they plan on remaining in Los Angeles, but they also wanted to film their program on 35mm film, the same film used by the motion picture studios.  They wanted the whole country to see their program clearly, not just the East Coast and they wanted to have copies of their program–figuring that if it bombed, at least they’d come away with some “home movies” for their children. CBS complained initially about the increased cost of the film, but Arnaz, the shrewd negotiator he was, offered to deduct $1000/week from his and Lucy’s salaries in exchange for the right to use film and the rights to their show. CBS, figuring that this whole thing will never work, agreed.

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The “I Love Lucy” set.  This is an early season 1-2 episode based on the floral love seat in the living room.

Arnaz knew that Ball performed best in front of a live audience.  To accommodate a live audience, Arnaz had to equip his soundstage with bleachers.  He was also required by the fire marshall to bring the building up to code by adding bathrooms and other modifications required of a facility that is going to hold large groups of people.  In order to ensure that the cameras didn’t block the audience’s view of the action, Arnaz, along with Academy Award winning cinematographer, Karl Freund, devised the three camera technique.  This camera, nicknamed “the three-headed monster,” would film the action from three angles.  Then after production, the editors would splice together the footage to create the final show. This technique is still in use today.

The very first episode of I Love Lucy, that aired, was actually the second episode filmed.  Episode #2, “The Girls Want to Go to a Nightclub” is the first of many “versus” episodes.  In this case, it’s the men versus the women.  Lucy and Ethel want to go to a nightclub for the Mertzes’ anniversary and Fred and Ricky want to go to the fights.  Lucy and Ethel declare that they will find their own dates who will take them to the club.  Ricky informs Lucy that he and Fred will do the same.  Enlisting the help of an old friend, Lucy gets herself and Ethel set up as Ricky and Fred’s blind dates.  Except, the girls aren’t just coming as themselves, they show up dressed as hillbillies.  This is the first of many episodes where Lucy tries to pull a fast one on Ricky.  Arnaz made it clear to the writers from day one that while Lucy can play tricks on Ricky, he didn’t want Ricky to look like an idiot.  Ricky either needed to be in on the joke from the beginning or figure it out before Lucy succeeded.  In the case of this episode, Lucy blows her cover by offering to go grab cigarettes for everyone, stating that she knew where they were.  Ricky tells Lucy he knows it’s her and Ethel, they make up and all is well–except that the men end up at the fights with the ladies dressed to the nines.  Let’s just hope that a compromise was reached and maybe they went to the fights and the nightclub that evening.

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“Lucy Goes to the Hospital”

I Love Lucy was a success and was at the top of the ratings 4/6 years it was on television.  In 1953, Ball found out she was pregnant (with Desi Arnaz Jr.) and she, along with Arnaz, thought it was the end of the program.  However, it was decided that Lucy Ricardo would be pregnant too.  Desilu hired a priest, rabbi and minister to read the scripts and highlight any objectionable content.  All three religious leaders could not find any issues.  CBS allowed Ball and Arnaz to go ahead with their plan and Lucy Ricardo was set to have a baby.  The only stipulation being that the word “pregnant” could not be used on the show.  They had to opt for the funnier ‘spectin coming from Ricky.  Words and phrases like “infanticipating” and “having a baby” were used instead.  The episode where Lucy gives birth to Little Ricky was the highest rated episode of any television show (at that point) and even got a higher rating than Dwight Eisenhower’s inauguration that took place the following day after Little Ricky was born. During this time, Arnaz invented the re-run by re-airing old episodes of I Love Lucy.  He wanted to give Lucy time to recover.  To make the episodes “fresh,” he and Frawley and Vance filmed new flashback scenes to introduce the episodes.  When these repeats garnered the same or higher ratings than the original airing, it was decided to forgo the new flashback footage and just re-air the episodes as-is.

I Love Lucy enjoyed huge success during its original six year run, winning multiple Emmy Awards and achieving high ratings.  It ended its run #1 in the ratings.  However, I Love Lucy has achieved even greater success in the decades since.  It is estimated that I Love Lucy has never been off the air since its debut in 1951.  Ball’s face is one of the most widely recognized faces in the world.  There are new generations of fans discovering I Love Lucy each and every day.  It is truly an indelible part of pop culture and television history.

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My Top 5 Favorite Episodes of I Love Lucy:

1) Episode #114, “L.A. at Last!”

The Ricardos and Mertzes finally make it to Hollywood.  After checking into their hotel at the Beverly Palms Hotel, Lucy and the Mertzes are on the prowl for movie stars.  They decide to go to “the watering hole,” aka The Brown Derby for lunch and celebrity spotting.  Ethel manages to embarrass herself in front of Eve Arden and Lucy ends up embarrassing herself in front of William Holden.  The true gem of this episode is later, when Ricky, newly employed at MGM, meets Holden.  Holden offers to give him a ride to his hotel.  Ricky, unknowing about what transpired at the Brown Derby earlier that day, asks Holden if he’d mind coming in to meet Lucy.  Lucy, understandably freaked out, but forced into meeting Holden, tries to disguise herself with a scarf, glasses and fake putty nose.  The funniest part of the entire episode is the look on William Holden and Desi Arnaz’ faces when Lucy turns around after having re-shaped her nose.

2) Episode #147, “Lucy Gets a Paris Gown”

In Paris, Lucy makes it known to Ricky that she wants a Jacques Marcell dress.  Ricky, not wanting to pay the huge price tag, says no.  Lucy, not willing to give up, stages a convincing hunger strike in protest of Ricky’s decision.  Ricky, feeling bad for Lucy, buys her the dress, but then discovers that Ethel has been sneaking food to her.  The dress is returned and Lucy is fuming. To appease Lucy and “cure” her of her desire for high-end French fashion (which Ricky and Fred think is ridiculous), they find some potato sacks, a horse’s feedbag and a champagne bucket and have two Parisian original gowns designed and created: one for Lucy and one for Ethel.  The funniest part of this episode is when Lucy and Ethel realize that they’ve been duped and attempt to hide under a tablecloth, that they apparently steal from the restaurant as they run away.

3) Episode #81, “The Charm School”

After an upsetting party where Lucy and Ethel feel ignored by their husbands, especially when the date of another guest attracts all their attention, Lucy and Ethel decide that their husbands are bored with them.  Lucy finds out that the woman who came to her party the night prior had just finished a course at “Phoebe Emerson’s Charm School.” Lucy and Ethel sign up and are put through a charm regiment that involves learning to walk, speak and dress like a charming lady.  The time comes for the big reveal and Ricky and Fred are speechless.  The funniest part of this episode is when Lucy opens the door to let glammed-up Ethel in.  As she opens the door, there’s Ethel leaning against the door frame, dressed in a one-strapped, skintight, leopard print dress with a cool snake-like thing around her arm.

4) Episode #23, “Fred and Ethel Fight”

The Mertzes are fighting (because Ethel said that Fred’s mother “looked like a weasel,” to which I say: “Fred’s mother is still alive?”) and Lucy decides to invite each one over for dinner without the other one knowing.  She lets Ricky in on the plan.  Ricky works with Lucy trying to get Fred and Ethel back together, but during course of conversation, he and Lucy end up getting in a fight.  Now it’s Ethel and Fred’s turn to try and get Ricky and Lucy back together! The climax of the episode is when Ricky stages a fake fire in the apartment, so that he can “save” Lucy and be a hero.  The funniest part of this episode is when Lucy wants to pretend like she was hit by a bus and has Ethel help her put on casts and a metal arm brace thing and then Ricky stages the fake fire which Lucy doesn’t know is fake.  Lucy freaks out trying to grab things, casually tossing them out her 4th story window.  She grabs some dresses and her huge jug of henna rinse. Then she makes a rope with a bedsheet and ties it around herself, but neglects to tie the other end to anything.

5) Episode #122 “The Star Upstairs”

Lucy discovers that she has met 99 movie stars and wants to meet one more so she can have an even hundred.  She reads a blind item in the paper that a big star is staying in the penthouse of a local hotel for some rest and relaxation.  Lucy instantly jumps to the conclusion that the star is in her hotel, and after pressing the bellboy for details, her assumption is confirmed–Cornel Wilde is staying in the penthouse right above the Ricardos’ hotel room! Lucy blackmails the bellboy into letting her borrow his outfit so she can deliver the paper.  That scheme fails wholeheartedly.  In the next attempt, Lucy hides under the bellboy’s cart.  Through the course of events, Wilde ends up thinking that Bobby is a really talented ventriloquist who can throw his voice across the room.  The scheme comes off well, but Lucy ends up being left behind in Wilde’s room.  Desperate to get out, she attempts to climb down the balcony using a makeshift rope that she crafts out of a beach towel.  The funniest part of the entire episode is Ethel trying to distract Ricky from seeing Lucy’s legs dangling from the balcony.

Blogathon (Belated) Clark Gable & Joan Crawford’s affair

I kind of missed the boat on this blogathon, as my entry was due two weeks ago.  Well better late than never, right? I thought I would write my entry even if ultimately it doesn’t end up as part of the official blogathon event.  I will be better with my future events.  I think I also over-commit because everything sounds so great!

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Without further ado…

Joan Crawford and Clark Gable starred in eight, count ’em, eight films together: Dance, Fools, Dance, Laughing Sinners, Possessed (all in 1931), Dancing Lady (1933), Forsaking All Others and Chained (both in 1934), Love on the Run (1936) and Strange Cargo (1940).  Prior to that, both appeared as extras (uncredited) in 1925’s The Merry Widow.

By the time the early 1931 rolled around, Crawford had become MGM’s top star and Gable had just been signed a short term one year contract by Irving Thalberg, MGM’s top producer who was famed for his youth and ability to select good scripts and find new stars. Gable’s first role at MGM was a small part as a villain in Crawford’s Dance, Fools, Dance.  Thalberg, sensing that he had something special with Gable, ordered that the script be re-written and Gable be given some steamy scenes with Crawford.  During their first clinch, sparks flew.

After Dance, Fools, Dance, Crawford and Gable made two more films together and many films apart.  By the end of 1931, during the filming of Possessed,  Crawford and Gable were involved in a full-fledged steamy affair.  However, Crawford was married to Douglas Fairbanks Jr. at the time and Gable was married to Maria Langham.  Both couples’ marriages were stormy, but due to morality standards of the time, it was imperative that Crawford and Gable kept their relationship on the down low.

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Crawford and Gable mostly kept their relationship contained to working hours.  They’d arrive to work early and stay late.  They rendezvoused in Crawford’s fancy trailer, which incidentally was a gift from her husband, Fairbanks Jr. He was still even making payments on it! They also occasionally lunched together in the commissary,  but only a couple times a week as to not arouse suspicion among their co-workers. Any breaks Crawford and Gable received were spent in the bed of a local hotel room. As we all know, the more a couple attempts to hide their relationship, the more people that know about it.  Despite Crawford and Gable’s attempts at discretion, their steamy affair was a well known secret around the studio.

Louis B. Mayer got wind of Crawford and Gable’s torrid romance and threatened their careers if they carried on.  Gable was to have made Letty Lynton with Crawford, but was removed when news of their affair broke.  He was replaced with Robert Montgomery. Crawford and Gable kept apart for awhile but still managed to appear in five more films together.  They continued their romance despite being married to other people.  Crawford divorced Fairbanks Jr. in 1933.  She remarried to Franchot Tone in 1935.  Gable remained married to Langham until 1939, when Gable fell in love with Carole Lombard and was forced to pay Langham a pretty penny in order for her to agree to divorce him so that he could marry Lombard.  Apparently, Crawford was jealous of Lombard’s relationship with Gable (whom everyone said was the love of her life and vice versa).  During the filming of Strange Cargo in 1940, Crawford would continually whisper things to Gable, presumably about Lombard, that irritated him.  However, in 1942 when Lombard was tragically killed in a plane crash, Crawford and Gable seemed to bury the hatchet.  Crawford was one of Gable’s closest confidants during his mourning.

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After Gable’s marriage to Lombard, and even after her passing, his relationship with Crawford carried on, but was never as steamy as it had once been.  They were good friends, perhaps “friends with benefits.”  Both Crawford and Gable remarried to other people.  They carried on until Gable’s death in 1960.  Even in interviews later life, Crawford referred to Gable lovingly, referring to him as her favorite leading man.  When asked why she found Gable so attractive, Crawford put it succinctly, stating: “…Balls! Clark Gable had balls.”  Crawford herself also had “balls,” figuratively speaking, which is perhaps why she and Gable got along so well.  In many ways Crawford and Gable were cut from the same cloth: similar meager childhood backgrounds, similar struggle to make it to the top of the heap in Hollywood, similar insatiable sexual appetites and so much more.