“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” 1970-1977: A Tribute

The original 1970 cast of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Front (left to right): Gavin MacLeod, Mary Tyler Moore, Ted Knight. Back (left to right): Valerie Harper, Ed Asner, Cloris Leachman

Ed Asner passed away this morning at the age of 91. He was the last surviving cast member of the original cast of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (My #2 favorite show). 2021 has been a particularly tough year for fans of ‘Mary Tyler Moore,’ as we lost Cloris Leachman in January and Gavin MacLeod in May. 2019 marked the loss of Valerie Harper. 2017 was particularly heartbreaking, in that we lost Mary Tyler Moore. Ted Knight sadly passed away from cancer in 1986. During the fourth season of the series, we were introduced to Georgia Engel and Betty White who played Georgette Franklin and Sue Ann Nivens, respectively. Ms. Engel passed away in 2019. Betty White and John Amos (who played Gordy the Weatherman in a few episodes throughout the series, but was never a regular) are the only surviving cast members of the series. Betty White is also the only surviving cast member of “The Golden Girls” (my #3 favorite show).

Lou Grant hates Mary Richards’ spunk in the first episode of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

The characters of Georgette and Sue Ann were intended to serve as replacements to Rhoda (Harper) and Phyllis (Leachman) whose characters were spun-off into their own series. With the departure of Mary Richards’ (Moore) two best friends, the focus of the show switched from Mary’s home life to her work. Georgette’s role as Ted Baxter’s (Knight) girlfriend and later wife, and Sue Ann’s job as “The Happy Homemaker” made sense to shift the show’s attention to life at WJM. With this increased focus on WJM, Mary’s relationship with her co-workers deepened. Much like a real job where co-workers have spent a lot of time (and years) together, you become like a family. Mary regularly went to Lou Grant (Asner) for advice or solace. She also had touching moments confiding in her work BFF Murray (MacLeod). Mary even had some wonderful moments consoling Ted and Sue Ann. WJM was a family. The real heart of the show though was the relationship between Mary and Lou Grant.

Mary and Lou Grant’s relationship was very much like a father/daughter relationship, even though I believe that Lou was really only like 15 years older than Mary. We’ll ignore the episode toward the end of the series where they tried going out on a date, that was just awkward. Thank goodness that Mary and Lou did not become an item at the end of the show. A romantic relationship was not what Mary and Lou were about. Mary was able to confide in Lou about her deepest insecurities, her toughest problems. Lou was there to give her advice and his opinion, whether she wanted it or not. At the same time, Mary was a source of comfort for Lou. When he separated from wife Edie and later when Edie remarries, Mary is there as a shoulder to cry on–though she’s the one who ends up crying. Even after WJM fires Mary and Lou, and the two of them presumably go their own ways, we know that they’ll remain friends to the end.

As a tribute to my second favorite show with one of the all-time greatest ensemble casts ever assembled, my top five favorite episodes:

#1 Put on a Happy Face. Season 3, Episode 23. Originally aired February 24, 1973.

Mary’s look for the Teddy Awards. This is “ready,” Ted.

Summary: Poor Mary is having the worst week ever. It starts off with her coffee cup having a crack and dribbling coffee all over her new sweater. She then learns that her date, Dan, has made plans to attend a basketball game instead of being her plus-one to the annual “Teddy Awards.” Needing a date, Ted promises to hook her up with a “good-looking version of Robert Redford.” At first, Mary turns down his request, but relents after she’s unable to secure a date on her own (it seems that every man in her address book is unavailable or married). The next day or so, Mary’s hair is being unruly and she has a big “hair bump.” While trying to walk to the bathroom to fix her hair bump, Mary slips and sprains her ankle on the newly waxed floors. Now at home, Mary ends up catching a cold from having to soak her ankle in water. Throughout the week, it’s one thing after another for Mary: she drops her phone in her foot water, the dry cleaner ruins her Teddy Awards gown, her hairdryer breaks, and she has a run in her stocking while getting ready for the Teddy Awards. Then of course, it’s raining when Mary has to leave for the award show. And, if things aren’t bad enough, her “good-looking version of Robert Redford” ends up being none other than Ted!

Why I Like This Episode: I love this episode because it finally shows Mary having some bad luck. I very much identify with Rhoda while watching this series and it seems that everything works out in Mary’s favor. To see Mary having a bad week, with one minute thing happening after another, it makes it so much fun to watch. And of course, Mary Tyler Moore delivers a tour de force performance, culminating with her having to go on stage in front of everyone to accept her Teddy Award. Mary Richards’ comedy very much stems from the fact that she hates embarrassment and hates making a scene. At the Teddy Awards, this is probably the one time that Mary hopes that she doesn’t win. But of course, nothing else that week is going right, so why should it now? Poor Mary has to go on stage with one wet slipper, her hair a mess, her fake eyelashes all askew, sniffling and sneezing because of her foot-water cold… all leading up to her starting off her acceptance speech with, “I usually look so much better than this.”

Favorite Quote:

RHODA (to MARY): You’re having a lousy streak. I happen to be having a terrific streak. Soon the world will be back to normal again. Tomorrow you will meet a crown head of Europe and marry. I will have a fat attack, eat 300 peanut butter cups and die.

#2 Angels in the Snow. Season 4, Episode 2. Originally aired September 22, 1973.

Mary and Rhoda feel horribly out of place at Stephen’s party with other 20-somethings. My favorite person is the girl on the end who says, “Why do you ask that now?” When Mary asks her how she is.

Summary: Mary meets and picks up (!) a young man, Stephen, from the market. They end up spending the day together, cavorting in the snow. When Rhoda meets Stephen, she’s instantly concerned about the age difference between Mary and Stephen. It turns out that Stephen is 25 to Mary’s 33. From the way that Mary and the rest of the gang talk about her age, you would have thought Mary was 70 dating an 18-year old. Anyway, Mary is unconcerned about the age difference. When Lou, Murray and Ted meet Stephen, they are also concerned about the age difference. Lou says to Mary, “Your young man, he’s a YOUNG man.” And of course, Ted babbles on about how he and Mary are both carrying on “Autumn/Spring” relationships. Anyway, Mary is determined to prove all the naysayers wrong. Stephen invites her to a party at his place. Wanting to fit in and look younger, Mary and Rhoda go shopping in this ridiculous store, “Shot Down in Ecuador Jr.” She puts on a hideous pair of pants with patches on them, that would look terrible on a 5-year old. Thankfully, Mary gives up on the clothes and wears her own wardrobe. When Mary and Rhoda go to Stephen’s party, they discover that they are completely out of place and it becomes apparent to Mary that she and Stephen are not compatible.

Why I Like This Episode: I like this episode purely for the “Shot down in Ecuador Jr” scene and the ridiculous party where Mary and Rhoda talk about “hitching to Europe” and “staying in one of the funkier rooms” in Amsterdam. There’s just something about this episode that I find it fun to watch–even the awkward voice-over in one scene where Mary obviously re-records her line, “Maybe I’ll see if Rhoda wants to come to the party.”

Favorite Quote:

BECK (Stephen’s friend at the party): Hey Rhoda, don’t go yet. We could go downtown and goof on people.”
RHODA: Goof on people? What’s that?
BECK: You know. Walk around, act weird, hope somebody notices.
RHODA: That’s my life, kid.

#3 The Lars Affair. Season 4. Episode 1. Originally aired September 15, 1973.

Sue Ann chews out Phyllis for ruining her chocolate souffle who “never did [her] any harm.” In response, Phyllis tells Sue Ann that she’s “bananas.”

Summary: Mary is throwing a party, which surprisingly isn’t terrible–except that Lou and Edie have an offscreen argument. But that doesn’t matter. The real story is Sue Ann and Phyllis’ never-seen husband, Lars. This episode introduces the hilarious Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White) who hosts “The Happy Homemaker Show” at WJM. Sue Ann regularly gives unsolicited household tips and can be very catty while continually keeping a smile plastered on her dimpled face. It seems that Lars has offered to give Sue Ann a ride home. Hours later, Lars still hasn’t returned home and calls Phyllis with the absurd story that their car broke down and he has taken it to an all-night body shop for repairs. In the days following, Phyllis reports that Lars and Sue Ann are continuing to see each other. Ted even sees them having lunch together. Upset, Phyllis goes down to the studio to confront Sue Ann. Mary gets pulled into the middle.

Why I Like This Episode: This episode is absolutely hilarious. From Phyllis’ monologue about the mating rituals of bees and trying to compete with Sue Ann and bake a pie, to Sue Ann’s collapsed chocolate soufflé, this episode has everything. Mary’s speech telling off Sue Ann is hilarious. Phyllis trying to talk Sue Ann out of an affair with her husband, by discussing his irrational fear of swallowing hair is hilarious. This entire episode is a riot from beginning to end. The funniest moment of the entire episode though might be when the supposedly prim and proper Sue Ann shuts the oven door with her knee after removing the collapsed chocolate soufflé from the oven.

Favorite Quotes:

PHYLLIS: “Do you know how hard it is to make an apple pie? My beautiful hands, hands that once touched the notes of Chopin. This is what that woman has driven me to to save my marriage! Cooking a damn pie!”

PHYLLIS: “I was reading this wonderful book called ‘The Life of the Bee.’ Maybe you’ve read it. Did you know that the male bee is nothing but the slave of the queen? And once the male bee… uh, how should I say… um, has serviced the queen, the male dies. All in all, not a bad system.”

#4 I Was a Single For WJM. Season 4, Episode 24. Originally aired, March 2, 1974.

The WJM gang scares everyone out of the singles bar

Summary: Lou wants to do a location feature as something different on WJM. Murray suggests covering the new singles’ bar, Valentino’s. However, Murray’s wife isn’t keen on Murray covering the goings on in a singles bar and he’s unable to cover the story. Being single and wanting to prove that she can handle the assignment, Mary offers to perform the reconnaissance work at the bar solo. Wanting to make sure that Mary is okay (not that she can’t handle the assignment), Lou also goes to the bar, but mostly to make sure Mary doesn’t get into trouble. Mary is irritated but continues to talk to the regulars and find out some information for their story. However, when it comes time to film, the bar-goers find out about Mary and WJM and their cameras, and flee for a neighboring bar. On camera, Lou, Murray and Mary have to report the story from an empty bar. The funniest part of the entire episode is when Ted asks Mary the reporter how she found about about Valentino’s. Mary points at Murray and says, “he told me.” And Murray has a deer in headlights look on camera.

Why I Like This Episode: I love the entire scene at the singles bar, with Big Dino, and Penny Marshall and Arlene Golonka (who just passed this year as well). But the funniest part is the part at the end with the WJM staff reporting from an empty bar, trying to salvage their story. From Mary’s discussion of “remnants of people,” and Murray’s hilarious “deer in headlights” face, to Lou’s very poignant, stoic speech that falls four minutes short, to Ted’s four minutes of silence for the closing of the Auto show, it’s very funny.

MY FAVORITE QUOTE:

LOU (on camera, trying to salvage the story by giving it a poignant closing): “There’s nobody here tonight. Our camera crew scared them off. Uh…we…uh…we wanted to tell you, something new about a singles bar. We didn’t find anything new. Uh, the people here, got what they came for. They met each other. Maybe that’s all we found out. I guess, it’s our blessing, and our affliction, that people, need people. My name is Lou Grant.

CAMERAMAN: Lou, we still have four minutes to fill.

LOU: And back to you, Ted.

#5 The Square-Shaped Room. Season 2. Episode 13. Originally aired, December 11, 1971.

Lou’s newly redesigned living room in “one burst.”

Summary: While Edie’s away, Lou wants to redecorate their living room as a surprise. He plans to get his buddy who designs bus stations to help with the design, because he doesn’t want to spend a lot of money doing so. Mary, not liking the idea of Lou’s living room being decorated by someone who decorates bus stations, helps to find him an inexpensive (but not cheap) decorator. Mary decides that the perfect candidate for this job would be Rhoda, who makes her living designing window displays at Hemple’s. Rhoda is excited about the opportunity, feeling that this might help her break out of the window decorating business and get into something more prestigious. To secure the job, Rhoda even offers to let Lou pay her after the job is done, so he can decide a fair price. Lou agrees and Rhoda has the job. However, Lou is a tough client, as he has no ideas about how he wants the room to look, only that it has to include his crappy chair, a doorknob, and he doesn’t want antiques. Rhoda goes to town collecting catalogues and re-doing his room. When it is finally revealed in one burst, we see an all white, blinding contemporary room that is very clean and minimalist but is not Lou’s style whatsoever.

Why I Like This Episode: Rhoda’s redesigned living room is everything. It is so bright and blinding and does not take into account Lou’s character at all. It’s so 1970s that it’s amazing. Parts of it are actually kind of cool, but all together, it’s completely unusable. It looks like a showroom rather than someone’s actual living space. But Lou’s tirade about the living room is hilarious as his is flip-flopping and saying “I love it” when he obviously hates it. And seeing the room in one burst, is really what makes the entire episode.

Favorite Quote:

LOU: “Mary, you may not have noticed, but I don’t live in a window.”

I DEMAND THAT NICK AT NITE CIRCA 1994-1998 COME BACK!

The Mary Tyler Moore Show was my second favorite show to watch back in the day on Nick at Nite (I Love Lucy was #1). Nick at Nite is where I discovered this show and it was one of my must-see programs. Even if I didn’t get all the jokes initially as a 10-11 year old, there was something endearing about the program and its characters. Mary Richards was and still is one of my role models and I was truly devastated when Mary Tyler Moore passed away. Now everyone is gone, and slowly as the years pass, so many of my Nick at Nite favorites are gone. Thank goodness for ME-TV and other channels devoted to classic television, streaming services, and physical media. In some form or another, all the classic shows from my childhood (albeit, I wasn’t old enough to have seen them during their first run) will live on.

Who’s up for petitioning Viacom to bring back the 1990s iteration of Nick at Nite? Surely the graphics and jingles must live on somewhere and obviously, they can be re-created with today’s computers.

Classic Movie Day Blogathon- 6 Films, 6 Decades

May 16th is upon us again. It’s National Classic Movie Day. Though honestly, I’m sure for many of us, EVERYDAY is National Classic Movie Day. For this year’s event, Classic Film and TV Cafe has asked us to list six favorite films, each from a different decade–starting with the 1920s through the 1970s. We were also given another option of the 1930s-1980s, but since my husband I have been trying to watch more silent films, I’m going to take the original challenge. To ease ourselves into silent films, we’ve started with the classic comedians–an obvious and easy jumping off point. Good comedy is universal and timeless. Since I’ve written about a lot of my favorite films over the years and have a tendency to be verbose and not wanting to bore everyone with yet another dissertation detailing my love for The Long Long Trailer, I’m going to try and change things up a bit by selecting some favorites that I don’t *think* I’ve talked about yet.

1920s- The Freshman (1925)

Starring: Harold Lloyd & Jobyna Ralston

Plot: Lloyd stars as “Harold Lamb,” an incoming freshman who is eager to begin his studies at Tate University. He has saved up quite a tidy sum, $485 ($7400 in 2021 dollars), to use as spending money while enrolled in college. While on the train, Harold meets Peggy (Ralston) and the two are smitten with one another. While at Tate, Harold decides that the best way to fit in is to emulate his favorite movie star, known as “The College Hero” in a series of films. Upon introducing himself to a potential friend, Harold performs The College Hero’s jig and adopting the nickname, “Speedy.” However, unbeknownst to Harold, his attempts to be cool and fit in make him the object of everyone’s jokes, especially the college bully. The students’ laughter makes Harold think that he’s fitting in and he’s unaware that he is the school laughing stock. His only true friend in the film is Peggy, his landlady’s daughter. Harold ends up trying out for the football team, but his obvious lack of athleticism does not impress the coach. The star football player, wanting to continue to make fun of Harold, convinces the coach to hire Harold as the waterboy, hereby making Harold think that he’s made the team. The star football player’s ruse may end up haunting him and the team later.

My Favorite Part: My favorite part of this film is when Harold is at the Fall Frolic in an unfinished suit. His tailor has all the pieces of the suit attached with some very loose stitches. Harold opts to wear the suit while the tailor hides behind a curtain, hoping to casually finishing sewing Harold’s suit. While Harold tries to partake in the Fall Frolic activities, his suit starts falling apart.


1930s- Alice Adams (1935)

Starring: Katharine Hepburn & Fred MacMurray

Plot: Hepburn stars as the titular Alice Adams, a young woman from the “wrong side of the tracks,” at least from Alice’s perception. In reality, there’s nothing wrong with the Adams’ home. It is a nice, clean home. It’s not fancy, but it’s functional and well-maintained. However, it is obvious that the Adamses are unhappy with their lot in life. Mr. Adams (Fred Stone) is an invalid and works as a clerk at Mr. Lamb’s (Charley Grapewin) glue factory. Mr. Lamb as been very nice and patient with Mr. Adams and his illness. However, Mrs. Adams (Ann Shoemaker) is frustrated with her husband’s lack of motivation or ambition to do anything to improve their financial situation. Alice’s brother, Walter (Frank Albertson), is a gambling addict and is unable to hold down a job. He also fraternizes with African-Americans, which at the time, was seen as unseemly (and embarrassing) behavior.

Alice is invited to a dance hosted by a wealthy peer of hers, Mildred Palmer (Evelyn Venable). Alice tries to put on airs, despite being escorted by her brother and carrying a bouquet of violets that she harvested outside. In an attempt to prove herself worthy of attending this party, she tries to impress her peers with haughty behavior and conversation, but they are not impressed and she is essentially shunned. While at the dance, she meets the wealthy Arthur Russell (MacMurray) who sees through her shtick but is nonetheless charmed. He makes it known that he wishes to see her more often and Alice, worried that he won’t be interested in her if he knew her true social standing (though he already does), tries to continue her charade.

My Favorite Part: The family dinner is hilarious and heartbreaking all at once. Alice invites Arthur to have dinner with her family. Alice hires a maid, Malena (Hattie McDaniel), to keep up the charade. Despite being blistering hot outside, the entire family dresses in formal attire. Alice plans this absurd (and very hot and heavy) meal made up of fancy delicacies, but Malena’s poor cooking skills are not up to par with the food Alice wants to serve. Malena provides the comic relief of the dinner with her unimpressed facial expressions and genuinely uncouth behavior. Poor Alice is collapsing emotionally with each and everything that goes wrong. Arthur, bless his heart, stoically carries on despite the disastrous evening.


1940s- Gilda (1946)

Starring: Rita Hayworth & Glenn Ford

Plot: Johnny Farrell (Ford) is an American gambler, newly arrived to Buenos Aires, Argentina. When the film opens, Johnny is hustling some gangsters outside during a game of craps. Johnny wins a large sum of money using loaded dice. When the gangsters discover Johnny’s ruse they are about to beat him up when Ballin Mundson (George Macready), a stranger, steps in and rescues Johnny. Ballin owns a fancy casino and brings Johnny there, but warns him not to cheat. However, once a cheater, always a cheater and Johnny is caught cheating at blackjack. After Ballin catches him cheating again, Johnny convinces him to give him a job and soon becomes the manager.

One day, Ballin comes back from a trip announcing that he’s taken a new wife, despite having only known her for a day. He takes Johnny to meet his new wife, Gilda (Hayworth), and Johnny is shocked. The smile on Gilda’s face quickly fades. It is obvious that these two know each other and have a past. What kind of past remains to be seen. Ballin assigns Johnny to be Gilda’s keeper of sorts. Gilda and Johnny have a very intense love/hate relationship. Gilda at one point says to Johnny: “I hate you so much, that I would destroy myself to take you down with me.” However, in spite of how much they say they hate each other, they’re also always about 5 minutes away from jumping into the sack with one another. To irritate Johnny and get his goat, Gilda begins cavorting with various men at all hours of the evening. Johnny has to keep intervening out of loyalty to Ballin. However, at some point, the tension between Gilda and Johnny begins to take over and they’re unable to contain themselves. Ballin observes his manager and wife’s lust for each other and takes matters into his own hands.

My Favorite Part: My absolute favorite part is Gilda’s floor-length sequin coat. But plot wise, the classic “Put the Blame on Mame” song is definitely a highlight. I also really love the scenes at Carnival. Gilda’s gaucho outfit is amazing.


1950s- His Kind of Woman (1951)

Starring: Robert Mitchum, Jane Russell, Vincent Price & Raymond Burr

Plot: Robert Mitchum plays Dan Millner, a professional gambler. At the beginning of the film, he is very much down on his luck. One night, after being ambushed by a group of thugs, he is brought to one of the more senior thugs and is offered a “too good to be true” job. For $50k, Dan has to spend a year in Mexico. Figuring that there’s got to be a catch, but also figuring that he has nothing to lose, Dan accepts a $5k advance and takes a chartered flight to the isolated Morro’s Lodge in Mexico. While on his flight, Dan meets Lenore Brent (Russell). Lenore very matter-of-factly tells Dan that she has a million dollars. Dan is attracted to her but disappointed to learn that she’s involved with another guest at the resort, famous actor Mark Cardigan (Price). While milling around the resort, Dan overhears two guests: Martin Kraft and a man by the name of Thompson (Jim “Thurston Howell III” Backus) discussing a plot that Dan suspects is related to the $50k he was offered. The two men give Dan $10k hush money and tell him that someone will be arriving soon to go over the plan with him.

Around the same time, an undercover agent from the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service shows up stating that underworld boss, Nick Ferraro (Raymond Burr) is scheming to try and get back into the US. Four years prior, he’d been deported to Italy. At this point, as far as I can tell, Ferraro is planning a “Face/Off” situation where he and Dan, supposedly of similar height and build, will literally switch faces. It seems that Martin Kraft is a plastic surgeon, who is armed with some sort of anesthesia that will allow him to perform the face switching procedure. At some point, Dan is kidnapped and under duress on Ferraro’s boat and it becomes up to Mark Cardigan to head an expedition to save Dan.

My Favorite Part: The entire scene involving Mark Cardigan heading up the rescue mission. Vincent Price’s hamminess makes the scene and it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as interesting or funny without Price. Price brings some much wanted levity to the film, especially while Robert Mitchum faces the idea of having to literally have his face ripped off and switched with Raymond Burr’s. I love the scene where Mark valiantly boards a small boat, only to have it sink immediately because it’s overloaded. I love the hilarious super long (and I imagine, heavy, especially water-logged) cape that he wears while he mans the (larger) rescue boat.


1960s- Girl Happy (1965)

Starring: Elvis Presley & Shelley Fabares

Plot: Elvis plays Rusty Wells, a nightclub singer (duh) who along with the other three members of his quartet have just ended their gig at a nightclub in Chicago. They plan to travel to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for Spring Break before moving onto their next job. However, the nightclub owner, “Big Frank,” messes up their plans when he extends their contract and they have to cancel their trip.

At the same time, Big Frank’s 18-year old college-aged daughter, Valerie (Fabares), is also planning on traveling to Fort Lauderdale for spring break. Despite his daughter’s legal adult status, Big Frank is terrified at the idea of letting his daughter travel so far away with just her friends in tow. Rusty sees his boss’ worry, and still wanting to go to Florida, comes up with the brilliant idea of offering to chaperone Valerie. Big Frank likes the idea and offers to bankroll Rusty and his friends’ trip. While in Fort Lauderdale, Rusty struggles with keeping an Italian playboy from lusting after Valerie and maintaining a semblance of a relationship with a “good time girl” (i.e. loose girl) Deena (Mary Ann Mobley). Rusty has to keep bailing on Deena when duty calls and she quickly grows tired of him. But because it’s an Elvis movie and he has to find himself in some sort of love triangle, Deena continues to maintain an interest in Rusty throughout the entire film.

And because this is an Elvis movie and because it’s a tried and true plot with one party being hired to chaperone or hang out with (or what have you) the other. You know that they’ll fall in love and you know that the person being chaperoned will find out. Despite the formulaic Elvis movies and plotlines, I still love it. His movies are fluffy, but they’re fun. And sometimes a fun movie is all that is needed.

My Favorite Part: I love the part when Elvis dresses up in Nina Talbot’s dress to escape from Officer Jackie Coogan’s jail. Elvis had dug a large hole and burrowed himself into the jail cell so that he could save Valerie and the other women.


1970s- The Muppet Movie (1979)

Starring: Kermit the Frog & Fozzie Bear

Plot: The film opens with all of the Muppets sitting together in an auditorium, waiting to watch their film. This film shows how all the Muppets met. We meet Kermit the Frog sitting in a boat in a pond, singing “Rainbow Connection” while strumming his banjo. A talent agent (Dom Deluise) who just happens to be at the same pond, hears Kermit’s song and says that he could be a Hollywood star. I mean obviously, it’s a singing frog playing the banjo! What more could anyone want? Kermit loves the idea of making millions of people happy and sets off for Hollywood. Along the way, he meets a terrible (but awesome) stand-up comedian, Fozzie Bear. Kermit invites Fozzie to Hollywood and the two set off in Fozzie’s Studebaker. This brings about my favorite quote from the film, “A frog and a bear, seeing America.”

Along the way, Kermit and Fozzie meet Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem (which includes Animal), the band’s manager, Scooter, Gonzo and his girlfriend (Camilla the Chicken), Sweetums, Miss Piggy, Rowlf, Bunsen Honeydew, and Beaker. There are a million of celebrity cameos: James Coburn, Madeline Kahn, Telly Savalas, Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Steve Martin, Mel Brooks, Cloris Leachman, and perhaps the greatest cameo of them all… ORSON WELLES.

My Favorite Part: This entire film is hilarious. But I really love the part where Kermit the Frog and Miss Peggy go out for a romantic dinner. They are greeted by a snarky and rude waiter (Steve Martin) who wears shorty shorts, offers them a straw for their bottle-capped Idaho champagne (after offering to let them smell the bottlecap, of course).

Home Sweet Home Blogathon- The Brady Bunch and Their Home at 4222 Clinton Way

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.

It’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 it was much more than a hunch. That this group must somehow form a family.

And that’s the way [they] became:

So goes the iconic opening theme song and credits sequence that not only introduces the characters, but also provides the audience with all the information they need to enjoy the show. I love The Brady Bunch. Yes, it can be corny at times and overly sappy, but for me, it treads the fine line between being charmingly sappy and obnoxiously saccharine (looking at you Full House) that purposely manipulates its audience. Yes, episodes of the Brady Bunch can have lessons, but more often than not, there are repeating motifs that “kids” of all ages (yes, adults too) can identify with. Some common motifs are: boys/men against girls/women, younger versus older, big-head syndrome, and puppy love. Despite what setbacks and challenges the characters may face, the audience knows that all will be resolved by the end of the episode.

The iconic Brady home–the second most photographed private residence in the country after the White House

Much of the action of the series unfolds inside the Brady residence at 4222 Clinton Way in an unnamed city. However, based on references made throughout the series, we can safely assume that the Bradys live somewhere in the sprawling Los Angeles area. It is also established that the oldest son, Greg Brady, is the “Casanova of Clinton Avenue.” The Brady Bunch’s house is a character in and of itself. Their house, both the exterior and interior is iconic. Even the layman Brady Bunch fan, even someone only remotely aware of the Brady Bunch’s existence, knows what the house looks like.

Mike Brady, the patriarch of the Brady clan, and an architect, designed the Brady’s home. Despite popular belief, they have more than one bathroom in the house. Aside from the kids’ famous Jack-and-Jill bathroom, Mike and Carol also have a bathroom in their master bedroom. Where else would Carol hang her purple shower curtain that Greg and “Raquel,” Coolidge High School’s goat mascot, rip down? Finally, I think it is safe to assume that Alice has her own bathroom attached to her bedroom. Based on the amount of Brady Bunch that I’ve watched (and it’s a lot), I believe that Alice’s room is behind the kitchen nearby the service porch.

The Brady house is well-designed and decorated. The multi-level home has a small foyer that brings guests into the Brady’s living room and dining room. The living room seems to be a more formal space as this is frequently where Mike entertains his clients, like Senor and Senorita Calderon, who later see Peter aka “Phil Packer” and Greg entertaining some girlfriends in a supposed X-rated manner at Marioni’s Pizza. This room is where Marcia entertains Davy Jones who stops by to bring Marcia a copy of his new album after he overhears her lamenting to his manager that she promised to get Davy to appear at her prom. The living room is also where Marcia meets her “dream of dreams,” Desi Arnaz Jr. The living room is not without its drama however, this is also the room where Peter accidentally breaks “mom’s favorite vase” with a basketball, despite mom having said: “don’t play ball in the house.” The living room is also where Marcia holds slumber parties until they’re disrupted by itching powder, and where kids hold their parties. It is at one of these parties when Peter learns that he does have a personality after all, and that personality is “lady killer.” This room is not without heartbreak however, aside from the sad demise of “mom’s favorite vase,” this is the room where Marcia starts bawling after the boys completely ignore her speech when she runs for Class President (against Greg).

The dining room: the scene of the infamous broken vase incident

Later, in the dining room, mom’s favorite vase endures yet another humiliation when it starts leaking all over the table after having been filled with water for some flowers. It seems that the kids’ glue job wasn’t up to snuff. The dining room also serves as the location for the kids’ house of cards contest that would determine whether the boys or the girls would receive Alice’s bounty of trading stamps. The boys wanted to use their stamps to buy a rowboat, and the girls wanted a sewing machine. In the end, Tiger runs into Greg, causing him to fall into the house of cards. The girls make good though and use the stamps to get a color television set. Presumably, this is the set that goes into the family room. Poor Alice, despite doting on the family day in and day out, never gets to eat dinner with the family. She finally gets to eat dinner with them when Mike announces that he will be making a gourmet dinner for the family. The dining room also features an entrance to the Brady’s backyard with the famous, low-maintenance (though we see Marcia cutting it with scissors in an episode) Astro-Turf lawn.

“The Man” aka Greg Brady eats breakfast in the kitchen while Carol and Mike chastise him for calling them by their first names.

The dining room is adjacent to the Brady’s kitchen. The Brady kitchen is iconic with its orange formica countertops and avocado green appliances. There is also an awesome double oven built into a brick column. There’s also a stovetop built into the counter. Over the years, much cooking goes on in the Brady kitchen, including, but not limited to: meatloaf, the girls’ horrible breakfast, pork chops and applesauce, strawberry preserves, Mike’s gourmet dinner, Marcia’s merit badge meal, spaghetti that tastes like metal when eaten with Marcia’s one-episode braces, Brady Kid lunch assembly line, Peter’s “Straw Split Fudge Short,” and countless other meals. This room is where Alice has the last apple, the last peach, and the last banana hidden. The tulip table and chairs (that I love, by the way) is where Marcia and Greg fight over Marcia’s date with Warren Mulaney and where Jan pretends to be an only child. This is where Mike, Carol and Alice sit over coffee at the table and discuss issues regarding the children. The kitchen also features an entrance to the backyard.

Greg, Marcia and Jan relax in the family room

Through the saloon doors and passthrough of the kitchen is the Brady den. The den is where the family watch the latest sports game, movie, or family member(s) on television. This is where the kids “Can make the World A Whole Lot Brighter” with their Brady Six act. This is the room where Alice irons and listens to her soap opera. This is also the room where the kids, seated on the plaid couches, sometimes receive lectures. One such lecture they received involved the high phone bills they were racking up. To remedy the situation (or so he thought), Mike installed a payphone in the family room. This somewhat worked until Mike found himself without a phone and without a dime needing to take a call from an important client. In the den, Marcia practices her yoga for one of the dozen clubs she joins when she starts at Westdale High. The den has the most-used entrance to the Brady’s backyard.

Greg and Marcia do “yard work” on the Astro Turf in the backyard.

The backyard is where Bobby and Cindy try to break the record for longest time teeter-tottering. This is where the kids, sans Jan, practice for the potato sack race. This is where Mike and the kids refurbish and paint the “S.S. Brady” a row-boat too small for the whole family to enjoy. The backyard provides room for all the kids’ school pursuits, such as a working full-size dunking booth (you can’t say Mike and Carol don’t go all-in for their kids and their kids’ educations. Money and time are no object, apparently) Greg’s re-creation of the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock, and where the family puts on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” as a benefit to pay for a gift for Mrs. Whitfield, a beloved teacher who is retiring. Later, in The Brady Bunch Movie, we will again see Mrs. Whitfield who has returned to teaching, but has apparently fallen on hard times in the 1990s and is busted for stealing school supplies. The backyard is where Bobby receives his first kiss, courtesy of the potentially mumps-infested Millicent. The backyard is not completely full of mirth and whimsy however, It is also the where Jan, not wearing her glasses (they make her look “positively goofy” she says), crashes into Mike’s anniversary gift for Carol, Peter risks potential murder (via Alice) for getting mud all over the patio, Greg brings home his lemon of a car, Peter is nearly killed by a falling ladder, but pushed out of the way by Bobby (who is covered in green paint in the process), Greg loses the pull-up contest to Bobby and has to become his slave, Greg announces to his parents that he will not attend college and will instead focus on becoming “Johnny Bravo,” and finally, poor Tiger’s vacant dog-house still stands as a reminder that Tiger hasn’t been seen since Season 2.

My favorite iteration of the girls’ room. I love the wallpaper!

Above the backyard are the bedrooms. The girls’ room is the room that had the shutter Greg was painting before he dangerously climbs through the window from the ladder (that comes crashing down towards Peter’s head, before Bobby pushes him out of the way and is doused with green paint) to answer the phone. The girls’ room is where a lot of tears were shed: Marcia when she was removed as Juliet from her school’s rendition of “Romeo and Juliet,” Marcia when she has to get braces, Jan when she thinks she’s ugly, and poor Cindy when she endures frequent bullying by Buddy Hinton who mocks her for having a lisp. Buddy Hinton was such a loser, aside from being a bully, he’s obviously at least a 5th-6th grader picking on a 1st grader. But looking at his parents, especially his doormat of a mother, it’s no wonder. However, the girls’ room is also one of much happiness, this is where Marcia displays all her awards, where Jan finds her lost locket after looking for “The Little Bear” and where Cindy keeps her life savings (inside her doll’s head of course) that she happily contributes when the kids decide to form a singing group.

The most contentious room in the Brady home.

Adjacent to the girls’ bedroom, is the famous blue Jack-and-Jill bathroom. This room causes a lot of tension between the children, definitely fueling the misconception that it is the only bathroom in the house. The girls scatter their hair ribbons all over the place, much to the boys’ chagrin. Jan locks herself in the bathroom to scrub her freckles off with a lemon. Marcia tries to impress Cindy with her beauty routine only to have Cindy inquire about brushing her teeth with braces. Jan locks herself in the bathroom to try out the wig she purchased when she decides to change her whole look–“The New Jan Brady.” The drama over the bathroom reaches a boiling point in one episode, when Mike and Carol actually consider moving to a larger house with additional bathrooms. Thankfully, they reconsider after the kids proclaim their love for the house (and haunt it for good measure) when a potential buyer comes to look at the home.

The boys’ room. Bobby and Peter in the bunk beds, Greg in the single. Personally, I could do without the clown picture.

On the other side of the bathroom is the boys’ room. Peter and Bobby share a bunk bed with Greg in a single bed on the other side of the room. Unlike the girls’ room which was re-decorated at least three times, the boys’ room stayed pretty much the same (can’t lose those scary clown paintings), except when Greg moves into the attic. The boys’ room is pretty basic however. This is where Peter locks Bobby in the closet after he tires of being his slave. Greg croons “Clowns never laughed before, beanstalks never grew,” lyrics from a song he’d written during happier times before he was busted for smoking. Greg has a reality-check when he realizes that he may never be as great a pitcher as baseball great, Don Dysdale, whom he’d met earlier in the backyard. This is also where Bobby meets Joe Namath, who comes to visit the “ailing” Bobby after Cindy writes him a letter talking about her brother’s illness. This is the room where Greg wants to talk to Mike “man-to-man, not kid-to-man man-to-man but man-to-man man-to man.” This is where both Greg and Peter start shaving their one whisker.

Raquel and Alice in the hallway. Why is that chair there? It serves no purpose except to be in Raquel’s way!

The hallway isn’t that exciting except that it features Carol’s favorite feature: a walk-in linen closet, that she shows off briefly when giving an impromptu tour of her home to her fellow Westdale High PTA members. This closet is also located directly below Greg’s attic bedroom and the kids can hear all his secrets: such as him stashing “Raquel” in his bedroom. The hallway also has two random chairs that I don’t understand. Who is going to just sit in the hallway randomly? Get these out of here, Carol! These are taking up precious walking room.

Mike and Carol’s love nest. I really like their screen.

At another end of the hall, we have Mike and Carol’s master bedroom. This room was supposedly redecorated, when a decision was being made between striped or floral wallpaper. In the end though, they painted the room teal and it seemingly looked the same as it did before? I loved the floral architectural piece behind Mike and Carol’s bed. I also loved that this show actually featured parents who seemingly had a life and some romance outside of their six children. The more “romantic” side of their relationship is hinted to when the kids make Mike and Carol a “Do Not Disturb” sign for their bedroom. Mike and Carol’s closet, supposedly divided 50/50, but probably more 70/30 in Carol’s favor, is full of Carol’s frilly nightgowns, bags to match her shoes, and the different outfits she buys (skiing outfit for the mountains, bikini for the beach, cowboy outfit for the dude ranch, red flapper dress for the Charleston contest, country dress for the square dance). Nobody can accuse this woman for not dressing appropriately for the occasion.

Greg’s swingin’ bachelor pad in the attic. Personally, I think he should have incorporated some of the things from his first pad.
I mean, surely some of these things would work perfectly in Greg’s attic room? I think he needs some of the mood lighting and tapestries.

Upstairs, in the attic (that Mike must have somehow retrofitted from its 2′ height clearance in season 2 to being at least 7′ if not 9′ at the end of season 4), is Greg’s bedroom. Greg’s moving into the room was a contentious affair, with Marcia wanting the room as well, but ultimately Greg won out. His “bachelor pad” so to speak, is pretty sweet. Greg has a patchwork carpet, a larger bed, an old-time radio, a coat rack, a dartboard, a beaded curtain that separated a sink from his bedroom, and a globe! Greg’s room looks like what a kid might decorate his own room with if he had unlimited access to random stuff in his parents’ attic. I only wish Greg had incorporated some of the things from his previous bachelor’s pad in Mike’s den, such as the plastic flowers, the lava lamps and the mattress on the floor. The most exciting thing to happen in Greg’s attic room is when he stole Raquel the goat mascot from his rival, Coolidge High. Greg then tried to keep Raquel a secret, but everyone quickly found out.

The famous stairs served as the optimal space for promotional photos. From left to right: Cindy (Susan Olsen), Bobby (Mike Lookinland), Jan (Eve Plumb), Peter (Christopher Knight), Marcia (Maureen McCormick), Greg (Barry Williams), Alice (Ann B. Davis), Carol (Florence Henderson), and Mike (Robert Reed)

The famous Brady stairs were the focal point for many scenes. There are many moments with kids rushing excitedly up or down the stairs. Kids hid at the top of the stairs to spy, such as the kids spying on Marcia when she meets both Davy Jones and Desi Arnaz Jr. The Kids used the stairs to scare Alice when they send a “ghost” down a zipline to scare her when she walks in the door. Bobby slides down the stair railing in an episode. The Brady cast members regularly posed on the stairs, the kids in order by age, then the adults at the end. Then, of course, lest we forget, the stairs served as the vehicle in which Peter’s basketball traveled to take out mom’s favorite vase.

Oops! Marcia is about to spill correction fluid all over Mike’s architecture plans

At the base of the stairwell is Mike’s den. For the most part, this room remained quiet and professional (except when Greg redecorated it) as this is where Mike often worked when a deadline was looming, or when he had to re-create plans, such as when delivery boy, Greg, lost Mike’s plans after setting them down to peruse a car magazine. This room was strictly forboden to the kids, as Marcia learned when she spilled correction fluid all over the plans, during some horseplay with Jan and Cindy. Marcia was in the office writing her article for “Father of the Year.” Carol was really the only other person Mike allowed to be in the den while he was working. Alice came into the den to clean and talk to Mike and Carol. The kids only seemed to come into the den to seek some advice, like Jan did when she was stressed out about Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. Mike’s den is very classic in its decoration and lacks some of the more dated decor of the 1970s.

Ooh look at Alice’s luxurious view of the mop and bucket!

Behind the stairwell, I believe is Alice’s room. Her room isn’t seen often in the series, but she is seen emerging from somewhere behind the kitchen. As a live-in maid, and someone whom the Brady’s value enough to take to the Grand Canyon, Hawaii, Cincinnati, and camping at Mount Claymore, it seems reasonable that she would have her own bedroom and bathroom. In the episode where Alice sprains her ankle tripping on Bobby’s Chinese Checkers (lying on the floor of the dining room), we see her in bed reading a book, All My Loves. Alice’s bedroom seems to be off-limits to the kids, except when they see her packing up her bedroom. After Mike and Carol’s marriage, Alice feels that her job is redundant, because Mike won’t need her after marrying Carol. The family puts on an elaborate ruse to show Alice how much she is needed.

Carol is about to find her mangled earring at the bottom of the washing machine in the service porch.

Just off of Alice’s bedroom is the laundry room, or service porch. No doubt Alice’s room suffered water damage when Bobby decided to wash his suit (dirty after rescuing “Pandora,” a cat owned by the world’s worst child actress) with an entire box of Safe detergent. Speaking of Safe, the service porch must be where Carol is storing the 2000 boxes of Safe they received as payment for the commercial they filmed. The service porch isn’t seen much, but it does serve as the opulent entrance to Alice’s bedroom!

The Brady home is iconic. For fans like me, every room of the house featured some memorable moment. We experience these moments as if we also lived in the home with the family. As an oldest child (though definitely not of six), I always identified with Marcia and Greg. They were my favorite of the kids. I also could identify with the third oldest, Peter, to an extent. I loved that the kids weren’t overly goody goody like Wally and Beaver in Leave it to Beaver, and I liked that the parents were portrayed as intelligent people with lives independent of their children. Carol, while she didn’t work outside the home (though she’s a relator in A Very Brady Christmas made-for-TV movie), was shown as being part of different clubs and charities. She also had hobbies like embroidery and sculpture. I felt like the kids were well-rounded and realistic. They didn’t have annoying catchphrases like kids on 90s sitcoms had. Even if their problems were solved in 30 minutes, so what? Who wants to watch Marcia’s over-inflated ego over playing Juliet play out over multiple episodes? I would welcome an extension of the Family Night Frolics. Or any of the episodes where the kids sing. “Good Time Music,” indeed.

The Brady Bunch has always been one of my absolute favorite shows. It’s right up there with I Love Lucy and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I have seen every episode, multiple times. I own the entire series on DVD and I have the two satire films: The Brady Bunch Movie and A Very Brady Sequel. It’s quotable, I can recognize the episodes within seconds, I love their clothes (well most of them), and I really love their house. I would live in that house today, orange formica and all. Long live The Brady Bunch!

And remember: “Mom always said, don’t play ball in the house!”

CMBA Politics on Film Blogathon- “The Candidate” (1972)

Unfortunately, politics have been around since the beginning of time. I absolutely cannot stand politics. I find today’s political climate very toxic and damaging to one’s mental health. But, I do like political-oriented stories if they’re presented in a historical context (e.g. All the President’s Men), or if the politics are presented in a fictional narrative, where there’s no blatant agenda or propaganda–just a basic story about someone running for an office or some other aspect of the political arena.

The Candidate, directed by Michael Ritchie (Downhill Racer, Bad News Bears, Smile) depicts the fictional election of the 1972 California Senate seat within the US Senate. Peter Boyle plays Marvin Lucas, an election specialist who is tasked with finding a viable Democratic candidate for the California Senate seat in the US Senate. The incumbent, Republican Senator Crocker Jarmon (Don Porter aka Sally Field’s dad in TV’s Gidget), is extremely popular and seemingly is a shoo-in for re-election. He’s so popular in fact, that solid Democratic candidates are convinced that running against him is futile because it’s a given that they’ll lose.

I would vote for Robert Redford.

After seeing an article about San Diego lawyer Bill McKay (Robert Redford) in the newspaper, Lucas decides that he is the perfect candidate to run against Jarmon. To sweeten the pot, McKay is also the son of former California Governor, John McKay (Melvyn Douglas). Hoping to cash-in on his connection to the former governor, Lucas visits McKay at his office and makes him a proposition: Because it’s a given that Jarmon will win, if McKay agrees to campaign for California Senate, he can mount whatever type of campaign he wants. Despite not particularly wanting to be Senator, McKay agrees because he feels that this will be a good opportunity to speak about about some of his pet causes like: ecology, civil rights, and legal aid.

McKay easily wins the nomination and mounts a grassroots campaign and his charisma and realism helps him quickly attract supporters. However, his campaigning isn’t doing enough and preliminary election projections show that McKay is not only going to lose the election, he’s going to be obliterated. Not wanting McKay to be embarrassed, Lucas informs him that they will need to mount a more serious, conventional campaign. McKay goes along Lucas’ plan.

Cameo appearance by Natalie Wood!

McKay’s campaign begins to transform into a more typical political campaign. He is given pre-written answers to questions or is asked to give more standard answers that pander to the American public. His answers are full of buzzwords and other shallow phrases, designed to sound good, but mean absolutely nothing. McKay begins receiving criticism for seemingly drifting away from his ideals and turning into a more typical politician.

As McKay gets deeper and deeper into the election, he begins to question his integrity and how much he’s willing to compromise his ideals to win a campaign for an office that he wasn’t interested in winning in the first place. His dilemma comes to head during a debate with Jarmon.

Jarmon represents the celebrity candidate. He knows how to pander to his supporters. He knows how to appeal to his supporters with big, splashy galas and rallies. Jarmon knows what buzzwords to say, what empty phrases to use. He knows how to make promises to his supporters without actually making any promises at all. Jarmon interjects himself into situations (e.g. the forest fire in Malibu) to make him seem like he cares, but he doesn’t really. He says words like “Change” and “America” a lot.

Bill McKay’s catchy campaign slogan

McKay, on the other hand, is the naive, wide-eyed candidate. He’s the one who has no idea what he’s “supposed” to say, what his supporters want to hear. McKay has his laundry list of issues that he wants to fix and actually has ideas on how to fix these issues. He holds rallies to try and attract supporters. McKay says the wrong thing. He says the right thing. And of course, because it’s Robert Redford*, he attracts the young women to his camp because he’s attractive. Being eye-candy never hurt anyone’s campaign. (Honestly, it’s not often that attractive people run for any sort of office).

*For the record, in the never-ending “Paul Newman or Robert Redford?” debate, I am Team Redford all the way.

Despite his inexperience, McKay’s grassroots campaign gains traction. He is charismatic. McKay appeals to all facets of society: the unemployed, the minorities, everyone–not just the wealthy. He wants to fix widespread issues that are actually hurting the voters of the country–like joblessness and poverty. Corporations and taxes aren’t the point of his campaign. He wants to help the actual voters and the environment in which they live. As his supporter base grows, so does the size of his campaign–and before he knows it, McKay is running a bonafide political campaign.

I was on a Robert Redford kick a while back and found this film on HBO Max. I have since watched it three times and really enjoy it. In 1972, The Candidate was released as a satire of the American political system. But is this film really a satire?

Crocker Jarmon (Don Porter) schmoozes his supporters

Many of the situations presented in this campaign are still true today. The hypocrisy present in both major political parties is the same. The way in which the public responds to the different candidates is the same. The pandering and fake promises are the same. The mudslinging between the candidates is the same. While social media changes the medium in which information is spread, the way in which it persuades (or dissuades) is the same.

Everything is the same. The same tactics that were used in 1972 are used today in 2020.

I highly recommend watching The Candidate. While I’ve never run for office (and don’t plan on doing so), I feel that the way in the film depicts how a campaign is run, how the candidates are asked to sell-out their personal convictions in the name of winning, and how the political parties try to manipulate the voters into supporting them is still very timely today. This film would make a good companion piece to All the President’s Men. Aside from the Redford connection, this film can show what happens when someone in an important political office (e.g. THE PRESIDENT) sacrifices their integrity (if they had any) in the name of winning.

That’s certainly another way to show your support

I wouldn’t touch politics with a “39 and a half-foot pole,” but I would watch The Candidate again and again.

In Memoriam: Dame Olivia de Havilland 1916-2020

Olivia, looking amazing

Just a few weeks ago, I participated in the Olivia de Havilland blogathon, celebrating her 104th birthday on July 1. In that post, I discussed her nine films with her most frequent co-star, the gorgeous Errol Flynn. It brings me great sadness to have to write a memorial post about Olivia. Last weekend, she passed away in her sleep of natural causes in her Paris townhouse at the age of 104.

While this news is not unexpected, I cannot help but feel sorrow over Olivia’s passing. She was the last surviving major Hollywood star from the golden age. When I was growing up in the mid-80s through early-00s, many of the classic Hollywood stars were still alive. Some were even still working! While I am too young to remember the passings of Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth in 1987 (I was in preschool then), and thank god I wasn’t aware of Lucille Ball at the age of 5 when she passed in 1989 (if that had happened just a few years later, or even now, I would have been devastated). I remember being in middle school when Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers, Robert Mitchum, and James Stewart passed.

Olivia and sister Joan Fontaine

People like Katharine Hepburn and Bob Hope were old when I was born, they were still old throughout all of my formative years. When they both died within a month of one another, I was sad as they were enduring symbols of old Hollywood, immortal as far as I was concerned. Kirk Douglas was always there. Doris Day was too. Joan Fontaine seemed like she would last forever. Shirley Temple was just a child! Surely she would be around forever. Then, there was my queen, Olivia de Havilland.

Now, they’re all gone.

It is moments like this when people start making lists of people from the Golden Age who are still alive. I cannot bring myself to make such a list. To me, that seems like bad luck. It seems like chronicling those who are blessed with longevity is just asking to have a hex placed on them. So I will refrain.

Olivia, looking fierce

Olivia de Havilland’s death represents the final door closing on the Golden Era. She was the last tangible link to this amazing period of filmmaking where everything was in its infancy, numerous techniques, camera angles, acting styles, etc. were pioneered every day during this period of great innovation. Olivia de Havilland was a woman who could recall working with people like: my boyfriend Errol Flynn, Montgomery Clift, Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, the amazing Hattie McDaniel, James Cagney, Rita Hayworth, Rosalind Russell, Dick Powell, Charles Boyer, Bette Davis… legendary Hollywood personalities who had long since passed.

Olivia had an infamous feud with her sister, Joan Fontaine. It’s a shame that the two ladies could not get along and share their respective good fortunes with one another, but that isn’t anyone’s business but Olivia and Joan’s. What was the feud about? Who knows? Both ladies must have had their reasons.

Can you imagine if What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? had been made with Olivia and Joan instead?

Olivia was also not afraid to put herself on the line to speak out about perceived injustices both she and her peers faced. In 1943, Olivia sued Warner Brothers for violating California Labor Codes. During the early days of the studio system, contract players were signed to seven-year contracts. The studios viewed actors as employees, they were no different than the cameraman, the set designer, the electricians, or the propmen. The actors would be assigned to specific projects and were expected to fulfill their end of the contract and make the film.

L to R: Hattie McDaniel, Olivia, Vivien Leigh in “Gone with the Wind.”

However, many of the performers believed that they should have a say over their projects–especially if their appearance in a film was proven to make money for the studio. Many actors, such as Bette Davis, were trying to hone their craft and also take on challenging parts. These performers didn’t want to hurt their box office clout and essentially, their marketability by taking on crappy parts. The studios believed that they were allowed to suspend actors for refusing parts. Then, after the film was completed with a different actor, the length of the production time would be added to the actor’s existing contract.

In 1943, Olivia reached the end of her 7-year contract at Warner Brothers. She was then informed that she owed them an additional 6 months time to make up for the parts she refused. Olivia sued Warner Brothers to be released from her contract and won the lawsuit! Warner Brothers tried to appeal, but lost. The California Superior Court upheld the “seven-year contract” labor ruling and named this law the “de Havilland Law,” a law that is still in place today. Even sister Joan Fontaine gave Olivia kudos stating “Hollywood owes Olivia a great deal.”

Of course, Warner Brothers, being petty, managed to get Olivia blacklisted in Hollywood for two years.

In 1945, Olivia signed a two-picture deal with Paramount. She immediately went to work on To Each Her Own.

She won the Best Actress Oscar.

Olivia as Catherine Sloper in “The Heiress.”

In 1949, Olivia made The Heiress with Montgomery Clift. I just watched this film the other day. I’d seen it once prior, but didn’t really remember much about it, except for the ending. Olivia’s performance in this film is nothing but fantastic. Her transformation from meek, proper, shy Catherine to a cynical, bitter, hardened woman is nothing short of remarkable. Not only does Olivia’s portrayal change, but her entire look, her voice, the way she carries herself, everything changes. I absolutely loved it.

Olivia won a second Best Actress Oscar for her performance in The Heiress.

In the 1950s, Olivia moved to Paris, married, had two children, and continued her film career and started appearing in the theater and on television. Her career continued until 1988 when she retired. From then on, Olivia stayed active appearing in various career and film retrospectives. As the last surviving major cast member (since 1967, with the death of Vivien Leigh) of Gone With the Wind, Olivia served as an ambassador for that film. She also received numerous accolades and honors, including being appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

Goodbye Olivia. We will miss you.

I will miss Olivia immensely. Knowing that she was still alive, healthy, and active was such a consolation–the Golden Age of Hollywood was alive and well. Now, another piece of it is gone. However, Olivia has achieved immortality. Her films, along with everyone else’s, will live on forever.

We’ll always have Paris.

Reel Infatuation Blogathon- Greg Brady, “The Brady Bunch”

Reel Infatuation 2019

I’ve been on a bit of a ‘Brady Bunch’ kick lately.  I don’t know why I’m saying “lately,” I’ve been on a ‘Brady Bunch’ kick for probably 20-25 years now.  I used to watch it back in the day when it aired on TBS.  I remember when it moved to Nick at Nite back in 1998, I was so excited.  Along with I Love Lucy and The Mary Tyler Moore ShowThe Brady Bunch became one of my “must-see” shows every evening.

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Greg in the beginning of the series.

I always thought that Greg Brady (and to some extent, Peter as well) was kind of cute which is why I selected him for this year’s “Reel Infatuation” Blogathon. The Greg and Marcia-centric episodes were always my favorite, mainly because as the oldest child, they’re the characters who I identified with the most.  The episodes centered around Greg are some of the funniest ones in the series, especially one of my favorites, “Getting Greg’s Goat.”

Greg has always been my favorite Brady.  He’s attractive (nice eyes!), a great singer, an athlete, a photographer and he “fits the suit.” He’s a bit of a ladies’ man (he isn’t called “The Casanova of Clinton Avenue” for nothing) even though he can be a bit blinded by the opposite sex.  When he was the head of the committee to select the head cheerleader, contender Jennifer Nichols attempted to use “Greggy” for his vote.  In this instance, Greg demonstrated that he had character by not being swayed by his hormones or by nepotism (sister Marcia was a contender as well).  He selected Pat Conway, the contestant whom he felt did the best.  In another demonstration of character, when he finds himself running against sister Marcia for Student Body President, Greg fires his campaign manager when he announces his intent to spread false rumors about Marcia.

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Greg in the final season.

I find Greg’s self-confidence attractive, such as when he thinks he’ll be the next Don Drysdale or when he thinks he’s written the next hit song (“We Can Make the World a Whole Lot Brighter”).  He’s musically inclined and has performed on local television multiple times.  His talent did not go unnoticed.  While singing “You’ve Got to be in Love (to Love a Love Song),” Greg was discovered by music agent Tammy Cutler.  She was planning to groom him into the next pop star, under the moniker “Johnny Bravo.”  After hearing his sweetened up vocals, Greg demonstrated that he had pride when he declined the offer of a contract, as he did not want to be a sell-out.  However, he showed a questionable understanding of the legalities of a contract, as merely ripping up a contract does NOT relieve you of legal obligation.

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Greg’s groovy threads

Greg also demonstrates a great sense of fashion.  I loved his “man” outfit which consisted of a fringe vest, a blue shirt with a floral print, glasses with green-tinted lenses, headband, and striped pants.  He also sports a great suede fringe jacket when they record “Time to Change” at Mr. Dimsdale’s record studio.  I even loved his plaid pants in “Adios, Johnny Bravo.”

Greg did have some questionable hairstyles at times.  As an 8th-9th grader, he wore his hair short on the sides and back, longer on top.  Frankly, this is the style I prefer, but Greg was a bit young.  As he matured, his hair took on a questionable look and texture.  There is a period where he is decidedly older, his hair longer, but it is this weird straight-ish mop on his head.  I read that Greg’s portrayer, Barry Williams, experimented with a chemical straightener and it did not go well.  I’ll assume that this is the period of Greg’s awful hair.  I don’t know what happened in Hawaii, but the Brady men’s hair did not fare well.  The men went over to the Island State with straight hair and returned with permed hair.  There was also a period where Greg seemed to be attempting to grow a ‘fro.  I was not into this era either.  By the end of the series, he’s got his hair under control and is rocking some great sideburns.  This is the Greg I like the best.

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One of Greg’s faults is his sometimes sexist attitudes.

Since nobody is infallible, Greg did have his faults.  He seemed to regress into “men are superior than women” attitude on occasion.  Such as when the Brady men took their new female family members on their first camping trip.  The gang fails to catch fish for dinner.  Greg and his brothers attribute the lack of fish to their sisters’ lack of fishing ability.  Thankfully, the women thought ahead and packed fried chicken and cold cuts.  Who can forget Greg’s immortal words, “That’s sissy food!” He also gets into a battle of the sexes when the boys and girls argue over the use of the trading stamps and the clubhouse.  Then there was the time when Marcia wanted to be in Greg’s Frontier Scout troop.  Despite his efforts to prove that men were superior in the wild than women, he failed.  Finally, in a last ditch attempt to assert men’s dominance, he resorted to challenging Marcia in a driving contest.  Perhaps he’ll reconsider his stance as he irons Marcia’s clothes for the next year.

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Despite having questionable hair at times, I still think Greg Brady is pretty hip! *Yes, I know that the orange hair was an accident in the last episode of the series.

Despite his bravado, I still find Greg to be pretty groovy.  He sings, he plays guitar, he surfs, he plays football, baseball and basketball.  I love that he sticks up for his siblings while also providing guidance and advice.  Finally, Greg was able to escape from Vincent Price’s clutches while imprisoned.  If that doesn’t make someone great, I don’t know what does!

If anyone doesn’t like Greg Brady or The Brady Bunch for that matter, all I can do is quote the great Greg Brady: “Kids.  What do they know about life?”

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!

In Memory of Mary Tyler Moore (1936-2017)

Beloved television icon Mary Tyler Moore passed away today at the age of 80.  While I knew that Mary had been in poor health for the last few years and I’m not entirely surprised by her passing, I am still very sad.  I absolutely love Mary Tyler Moore.  Along with I Love LucyThe Mary Tyler Moore Show was my “must see” show during my Nick at Nite years.  I also loved The Dick Van Dyke Show, the show that put Mary on the map, but The Mary Tyler Moore Show will always have a special place in my heart.

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While I Love Lucy is my #1 favorite television show of all time, The Mary Tyler Moore Show comes in a close second.  While Lucy Ricardo got the best of her husband Ricky often and for the most part, always got her way, she was still expected to live up to the expectations of women in the 1950s.  Lucy was expected to keep house, take care of children (or in her case, child) and attend to her husband’s needs.  Husband Ricky was the breadwinner.  She took care of all domestic chores.  To Lucy, this life was mundane and she wanted the excitement of show business, something that Ricky experienced on a daily basis.  Ricky didn’t want his wife having a career.  Even when Lucy got her way and made her way onto the stage, she was still expected to return to her domestic duties.  In the only two-three cringe-worthy moments in I Love Lucy, Ricky actually spanks Lucy when she does something he doesn’t like.  Ricky keeps Lucy in her place and she usually always returns to domestic life even though it is apparent that she wants more.

In 1961, 24-year old Mary Tyler Moore was cast in The Dick Van Dyke Show.  She landed the star-making role of Laura Petrie, wife of Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke).  This role allowed Moore to showcase her talent for dancing and also her comedic skills. In addition to her excellent chemistry with Van Dyke, the role of Laura Petrie allowed Mary to establish one of her great comic shticks.  Where Lucille Ball’s comedy came from situations she got herself into, much of Mary’s comedy came from being embarrassed.  In the episode “My Blonde-Haired Brunette,” Laura decides that Rob has become uninterested in her.  Knowing that blondes like Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield are currently in vogue, Laura decides to make herself blonde.  She looks horrible as a blonde and Rob tells her over the phone that he loves her brown hair and he’s taking her out to dinner.  Desperate to change her hair before he comes home, she enlists friend Millie to help her.  Unfortunately, Rob arrives home when Laura’s hair is only half dyed.  She comes out with her half and half hair and collapses into a blubbering mess.  Mary Tyler Moore became one of the all-time best criers on television.  Even though Rob encouraged his wife to explore her talents, Laura Petrie ultimately was still a housewife and was expected to take care of son Ritchie and their home.  Laura somewhat bridges the gap between Lucy Ricardo and Mary Richards.

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Which brings us to The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  The Dick Van Dyke Show ended in 1966 after a very successful five-year run on television.  Between 1966-1970, Mary was having trouble finding her next project.  She tried movies.  Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) was successful, but did not lead to any big projects.  In 1969, Mary and Dick reunited for a special called, Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman.  In this variety special, Mary and Dick portray themselves and through a variety of song and dance routines, it shows off the various sides of Mary and Dick’s musical comedy talents.  This special paved the way for Mary to get her own show.  In 1970, The Mary Tyler Moore Show premiered.

In The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mary portrayed Mary Richards, a newly single 30-year old woman who moves to Minneapolis to start a new life and career after her long-term relationship fizzles out.  Mary moves into a fantastic studio apartment managed by longtime friend, Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman).  Soon to be BFF, Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper), lives upstairs.  Applying for a secretarial position at WJM News, Mary lands the job of Associate Producer.  WJM’s news is the lowest rated news program in the city.  Mary’s new co-workers include the brash, but secretly a softie, Lou Grant (Ed Asner), sarcastic and disillusioned writer Murray Slaughter (Gavin McLeod) and the buffoonish, arrogant anchorman, Ted Baxter (Ted Knight).  Later, Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White) who hosts “The Happy Homemaker” program at WJM and Georgette Franklin (Georgia Engel) join the gang.  Georgette ends up becoming Mrs. Ted Baxter.

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Mary Richards in many ways is the ideal woman of the 1970s (and maybe even now).  She’s gainfully employed and makes enough money to live independently.  She has many friends and even a close-knit group of co-workers who in many ways serve as a surrogate family for Mary.  While she would like to be married and have children, she isn’t desperate to have them.  She goes on dates and it is even implied that she spends the night with some of them.  She’s on The Pill!  Prior to 1970, were there any female television characters that even had sex, let alone were on The Pill? Mother characters don’t count.  Mary lived her own life according to her own terms.  There were times when Mary was a bit of a pushover and naive, but this is where the Rhoda and Lou characters came in handy–they were able to express their concerns to Mary in hopes that she’d make the right decision.  Throughout the 1970s, Mary Richards approached uncharted territory.  In an early episode, she discovers that the man who had her job before her made $50 more a week than she does.  She confronts Lou and demands to know why; In the fifth season, Mary faces the possibility of jail time for not revealing her news source; In the seventh season, Mary becomes hooked on sleeping pills. These are just a few examples.

Without further ado, my top 10 favorite episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

(This definitely isn’t meant to imply that I am not a fan of the other 158 episodes of the show)

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1. Put On a Happy Face (Season 3, Ep. 23)

Mary Richards is having a really bad week.  She’s late to work after her alarm fails to go off; She drips coffee on her new sweater before a meeting; she gets a flat tire; her paper bags fail causing her to drop her groceries all over the floor; she slips on the freshly waxed floor and sprains her ankle after trying to walk to the ladies’ room to fix her “hair bump”; she catches a cold from soaking her sprained foot; her date to the Teddy Awards bails; she ends up going to the award show with a “Robert Redford-type” (aka Ted Baxter); the dry cleaner ruins her dress; her hair dryer breaks; she gets a run in her stocking; it starts raining… This all culminates with Mary showing up at the Teddy Awards in a tacky dress, one wet slipper and one shoe, wearing a yellow rain slicker and haphazard hair.  Her false eyelash falls off.  She of course wins the Teddy Award she was nominated for and ends up a blubbering mess on the podium, only managing to apologize for her appearance.  She gets her award, and Mary is spelled wrong.  Of course it is.

*This is my favorite episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

2. The Dinner Party (Season 4, Ep. 10)

It’s time for another of Mary’s disastrous parties.  For someone who is so pleasant and well-liked by her co-workers and friends, it becomes a running gag in the series that she can’t seem to give a good party to save her life.  Nothing that happens at her parties is ever her fault, it just seems like everyone likes to bring their troubles to her parties.  In this party, Mary has invited Congresswoman Geddes as her guest of honor.  Her table only seats six.  The guests will be: Congresswoman Geddes, Mary, Lou, Rhoda, Murray and Sue Ann (who is cooking the dinner).  Sue Ann cooks exactly six portions of “Veal Prince Orloff.”  Rhoda shows up with a date (Henry Winkler) who has just been fired from Hempels and she feels bad.  Lou ends up taking 3 portions of Veal Prince Orloff and has to return two portions to the platter.  Ted, who was not invited to the dinner party, shows up to dessert.

3. The Lars Affair (Season 4, Ep. 1)

This is the funniest Phyllis episode.  This episode also introduces the Sue Ann Nivens character.  In this episode, Phyllis learns that husband Lars and Sue Ann are having an affair after meeting at Mary’s party.  Phyllis agonizes over the fact that her husband is cheating on her and even bakes a pie in an attempt to compete with Sue Ann.  The episode culminates with a confrontation on the set of “The Happy Homemaker” where Sue Ann refuses to give Lars up even after Phyllis points out all of his faults.  Sue Ann finally relents when Mary gives her an ultimatum, stating that being a homewrecker wouldn’t be a great image for “The Happy Homemaker,” it’s either Lars or her show.

4. Rhoda the Beautiful (Season 3, Ep. 6)

Perpetual dieter Rhoda has finally reached her goal.  Mary, Phyllis and the WJM staff give her praise but Rhoda cannot accept any of the compliments and meets each kind statement with a self-deprecating remark.  She ends up entering her department store’s “Miss Hempel Beauty Pageant.”  After a hilarious scene where Mary and Phyllis help Rhoda find something to wear (and Phyllis sings “10 Cents a Dance” from Love Me or Leave Me), Rhoda leaves for the pageant.  She looks fantastic and wins the contest.  Rhoda is finally able to admit that she looks good.

5. You Try to Be a Nice Guy (Season 5, Ep. 21)

Mary ends up becoming reacquainted with Sherry, a prostitute she met in jail while she was incarcerated for not revealing her news source.  Sherry got out of jail but was arrested again.  She recruits Mary to be a character witness at her court appearance.  Sherry is relying on a good character witness like Mary to keep her out of jail.  Mary agrees but unwittingly becomes responsible for Sherry’s behavior after having to give an oath promising to help Sherry look for legitimate work.  Mary, taking her oath seriously, is determined to find a decent job for Sherry but struggles since Sherry doesn’t have any marketable skills.  Finally, Sherry tells Mary that she wants to be a fashion designer.  Mary encourages her to pursue her dream.  To thank her, Sherry makes Mary a custom gown.  It ends up being a ridiculous, green colored concoction with lots of cutouts across Mary’s stomach and legs.  Only Mary Tyler Moore could wear this dress and not look atrocious, but it is so tacky and so completely not Mary Richards, that she looks ridiculous.  Ted and Georgette happen to show up at the same time Mary is wearing this dress and Ted can’t keep it together.  His reaction is the funniest part of the episode.

6. The Last Show (Season 7, Ep. 24)

All good things must come to an end and The Mary Tyler Moore Show unfortunately reached that point in 1977. I personally think they could have continued a couple more years, but it’s good that the show ended before the episodes started diminishing in quality.  In what is perhaps one of the best (if not the best) series finales of all time, the WJM crew (with the exception of Ted) learn that they are going to be fired.  Though they’re trying to repress their emotions, they finally let it all out after the end of their last newscast.  It’s hard to watch this scene without getting at least a little teary-eyed. Lou and Mary emotionally give speeches to everyone.  This culminates with the group sobbing in a large group hug.  Ted (or maybe Lou?) says he needs Kleenex and they move in one big glob toward the Kleenex box.  To lighten the mood, they sing “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,” and leave the room.  Mary is left to turn off the lights. Thus ending The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

7. Sue Ann’s Sister (Season 7, Ep. 3)

Sue Ann’s sister Lila is in town.  Sue Ann is deeply jealous of Lila as it seems that every time Sue Ann gets something, Lila comes around and steals it from her.  Upon arrival, Lila and Lou immediately become chummy, which infuriates Sue Ann.  Lila then announces that she is interviewing for a “Happy Homemaker” type show on a rival network. This latest news is just too much for Sue Ann and she retreats to her bedroom.  The scene in Sue Ann’s bedroom is the funniest part of the entire episode.  Her bedroom is frilly gaudy.  She sleeps in a round bed, which we learn also vibrates.  She’s also got Tchaikovsky’s “Love Theme” from “Romeo and Juliet” queued up to play whenever I imagine she’s got something hot and heavy going on.  The best scene is when Ted walks in, looks up, and straightens his hat and tie–telling the audience about Sue Ann’s mirrored ceiling.

8. I Was a Single for WJM (Season 4, Ep. 24)

Inspired by the popularity of a local singles bar, WJM News decides to do a feature on the singles scene in Minneapolis.  The crew spends time at the bar each evening looking to find an “angle” for their story.  By Friday, Mary has become acquainted with many of the regulars and hopes to use them in WJM’s story.  When the singles become aware of the plan for cameras to enter their hangout and interview them, they become camera shy and leave in droves.  By the time the news starts, the bar is empty and Mary and co. are forced to improvise.

9. Edie Gets Married (Season 6, Ep. 1)

In this very emotional episode, Lou finds out that ex-wife Edie is planning on remarrying.  While he knows there isn’t a chance of them getting back together, Lou is still having trouble admitting that that aspect of his life (he & Edie) is over.  In a goodwill gesture, Edie invites Lou to her wedding.  Lou doesn’t know if he wants to attend, but ultimately does.  With Mary as his date, Lou very graciously and stoically watches his ex-wife tie the knot with someone else.  Originally Mary was supposed to provide moral support, but by the end of the ceremony, she’s a blubbery mess.  Lou then wishes Edie the best of luck in her marriage and Mary loses it completely.  Lou ends up taking her to the bar to console her.

10. The Square-Shaped Room (Season 2, Ep. 13)

Lou wants to surprise wife Edie with a makeover of their living room.  He plans to hire an old “designer” friend who currently decorates bus stations.  Mary suggests Rhoda, whose vocation is window decorator.  Lou hires Rhoda.  Rhoda agonizes over the right details for the room and finally settles for an all white motif with modern design.  The bookshelves appear to be made of white PVC piping.  There’s lots of white, shag, PVC and glass and a big number “5” on the wall.  This room is not Lou’s style at all and Rhoda has to return the room to its original state–however, there’s one change that Lou and Edie liked–the white walls.

The great thing about The Mary Tyler Moore Show, was that despite the show being named after its star, it was truly an ensemble show.  While Mary was in every episode, not every episode centered around Mary.  Every character had their own story lines and chances in the spotlight.  This is one of the few shows where the main characters were fleshed out.  We knew each character’s backstory, frustrations, successes, etc.  What I also loved about this show is how effortlessly they blended drama with comedy.  Lou had many very emotional moments (especially when dealing with Edie) and the show was able to easily add levity to a situation without undermining the scene.

In the famous “Chuckles Bites the Dust” episode, Chuckles the Clown dies.  Not funny stuff.  Chuckles was dressed as a peanut and a rogue elephant tried to shell him.  His death is absurd and tragic.  Lou, Murray and Sue Ann get all the jokes out of the way in the first half of the episode.  Mary is mortified at her co-workers’ lack of sensitivity.  At the funeral, the co-workers are able to provide the somberness required for the occasion.  Mary, on the other hand, finally realizes the absurdity of the situation and can’t stop laughing during the pastor’s eulogy.  However, laughing at a funeral would be a very un-Mary Richards like thing to do–her laughter quickly turns to loud sobs.  It is a testament to Mary Tyler Moore’s talent that she was able to switch from laughter to crying so quickly and realistically.

Goodbye Mary.  You had spunk!

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