Personal photo from Come Back, Little Sheba shoot. Photo courtesy Leslie Sodaro.

MY LATEST BOOK!

MY LATEST BOOK!
NOW AVAILABLE DIRECTLY FROM MY PUBLISHER, BearManor Media!

NOW AVAILABLE DECEMBER 1, 2014!

My latest book is Behind Sach: The Huntz Hall Story, directly from my publisher BearManor Media. Visit their website for details!

I am also the author of two books on Shirley Booth. My second one,
For Bill, His Pinup Girl: The Shirley Booth & Bill Baker Story, tells the story of Shirley's second marriage from 1943 to 1951, with several never-before-published family photos. That's when she lived on a farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. As of August 26, 2014, For Bill, His Pinup Girl: The Shirley Booth & Bill Baker Story by Jim Manago is no longer in print. A limited number of copies remain, signed by the author, for $50.00 postpaid (U.S.) if you send your name, address, and email address by clicking on the pencil pictured at the end of each post.

My first book, Love is the Reason for it All: The Shirley Booth Story, covers her life from 1898 to 1992. It is available online.


COPYRIGHT NOTICE

All content on this site, unless otherwise noted, is the property of Jim and Donna Manago. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Nothing may be reproduced without prior written permission.

Friday, December 19, 2014

On Hazel's Christmas

There are two episodes of Hazel that are Christmas-themed, and both are available on  DVD. 

The first one Shirley Booth did ("Hazel's Christmas Shopping") is from the first season (1961). The second one is from the fourth season, entitled "Just 86 Shopping Minutes To Christmas" (1964).

These two episodes were released on videotape in the mid-1990's.  What's particularly special about the second one is that after the Baxters go to bed on Christmas Eve, Hazel walks over to the tree and beautifully sings several verses of "O, Evergreen" (aka "O Christmas Tree"). I must tell you that I treasure this videotape and have watched it a couple of dozen times since it first came out. Shirley Booth singing "O Evergreen, O Evergreen" will always warm my every CHRISTMAS! Yes, it just doesn't get any better than that!

What's remarkable about all of the Hazel episodes I've seen is the fact that they were well-written and hold up as comedies more than 40 years later. So much of the early television shows are disappointing when watched again now through contemporary adult sensibilities. But Hazel is unusual in that it's still quite fresh and funny.  Shirley Booth's timing and demeanor are perfect throughout these episodes.  Also, do not overlook Don DeFore's natural and convincing acting, Whitney Blake's charm which makes it all so real...it is all so amazing to watch!

*****

THANKS FOR VISITING!
 
JOIN ME AGAIN SOON!

*****

My Latest Book is Now Available Directly from BearManor Media!

Behind Sach: The Huntz Hall Story
by Jim Manago
Foreword by Gary Hall
BearManor Media
Published December 1, 2014


*****

For Bill, His Pinup Girl: The Shirley Booth & Bill Baker Story
by Jim Manago

Foreword by Leslie Sodaro

Jim & Donna Manago Books

Published December 1, 2010

*****

Love is the Reason for it All: The Shirley Booth Story
by Jim Manago
Foreword by Ted Key
BearManor Media
Published May 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

On HAPPY DAYS and LARCENY, INC.

Happy Days:

40 Years Ago Today (December 17, 1974): First broadcast of the Happy Days episode, "Guess Who's Coming to Christmas?" This is one of my favorite episodes.

In that episode, Howard Cunningham (Tom Bosley) wants a quiet family Christmas. His son Richie learns that mechanic Fonzie (Henry Winkler) will be spending the holiday all alone, even though Fonzie insists that will have a great Christmas in Waukesha (Wisconsin).

Yes, like most situation comedies, it's quite predictable that Fonzie will
join them by the finale...but the episode rings true on an emotional level. In fact it's on that level that we derive so much of the pleasures and enjoyment of the holiday season. So many of the festivities, rituals, and myths that people celebrate at this time are unconnected to the actual reality that it's simply a special birthday.

Among some of the best moments in this episode of Happy Days include when lonesome Fonzie is seen eating his dinner out of a can, and at the finale when Fonzie offers a simple and refreshing grace: "Hey God, thanks." It's a lesson to those who like pompous prayers...

Four years ago we lost  actor Tom Bosley (October 1, 1927 – October 19, 2010).  His gave us one of television's best portrayals of an understanding, agreeable father (Howard Cunningham). Much like my own father, who shared the same exact birthday (October 1, 1927), Bosley superbly played Howard with a kindness and an easygoing nature that's unforgettable (although at times he could lose his cool).

 *****

Larceny Inc.

I particularly like Edward G. Robinson's films....one of my favorites Larceny, Inc. is a fine spoof of the Warner Brothers' gangster films. The stellar cast includes Broderick Crawford, Anthony Quinn, Edward Brophy, Jane Wyman, and Jack Carson. Anyone remember this film? I have always enjoyed this quite funny and well-written 1940 comedy. 

Larceny, Inc. tells the story of a recently released convict J. Chalmers 'Pressure' Maxwell (Robinson), who along with Crawford and Brophy, buy a luggage store in order to tunnel into the next-door bank.  They hit water and oil pipes while business upstairs booms quite annoyingly.  Eventually they abandon their heist plans at mid-point when they realize their future is best served by staying honest.  Just when Robinson has a change of heart, Leo Dexter (Quinn in one of his earliest roles) breaks out of jail and wants to settle an old score by forcing them to finish the bank job because he needs some loot. Robinson and Quinn are particularly superb - and they have some great lines. Interestingly, it all comes to a climax on Christmas Eve.  Don't miss this one, particularly the scene with Robinson as a cigar chomping Santa Claus! 

Quinn delivers a memorable line: "You guys couldn't steal a towel out of a hotel without my help!"

There’s a very young Jackie Gleason mugging it up as a soda jerk. The film has a wonderful Christmas scene of Robinson outrageously dressed as Santa Claus, smoking a cigar, and being a lookout on Christmas Eve while tunneling continues underneath the bank.

What makes Larceny, Inc. so funny is that the actors played it really straight and serious!

Speaking of Anthony Quinn, Shirley Booth starred in one film with him. That film, Hot Spell, opened on September 17, 1958 - according to Shirley's scrapbook.  The film offered Shirley the opportunity to be nominated for The New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress.  Hot Spell is a tragic tearjerker with a screenplay adapted by James Poe, based on the play and novel by Lonnie Coleman named Beulah Land.

I didn't like Hot Spell - it's just too melodramatic.   It seems the problem lies in the writing.  The film doesn't satisfy me - even though Booth has some shining moments.

*****

THANKS FOR VISITING!
 
JOIN ME AGAIN SOON!

*****

My Latest Book is Now Available Directly from BearManor Media!

Behind Sach: The Huntz Hall Story
by Jim Manago
Foreword by Gary Hall
BearManor Media
Published December 1, 2014


*****

For Bill, His Pinup Girl: The Shirley Booth & Bill Baker Story
by Jim Manago

Foreword by Leslie Sodaro

Jim & Donna Manago Books

Published December 1, 2010

*****

Love is the Reason for it All: The Shirley Booth Story
by Jim Manago
Foreword by Ted Key
BearManor Media
Published May 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Mrs. Claus SIngs: "I Could Be Santa Claus!"


I recall the wonder of hearing Shirley Booth's voice as Mrs. Santa Claus in the memorable holiday classic The Year Without a Santa Claus. This was her final project. Shirley sang and told the story in this Rankin-Bass stop-motion puppet special that appeared on ABC. 

The Year Without a Santa Claus is one of the best programs Shirley Booth did.  The classic also had Mickey Rooney reprising the voice of Santa Claus, which he did originally in Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (1970).

The animated classic tells the story of the year when Santa Claus is sick with a cold. Thanks to the dire advice from Santa’s physician that nobody cares anymore about Christmas, Santa Claus decides he will not deliver presents. However, his elves, Jingle Bells and Jangle Bells, think that if they could convince Santa otherwise, he might change his mind.

In order to accomplish this, the elves have to get to Southtown, U.S.A. to find children who care. However, there is Heat Miser and Snow Miser to contend with who have a problem deciding on whether it should snow or not in Southtown. Mrs. Claus intervenes by going to Heat Miser and Snow Miser’s mother. By the conclusion, Santa realizes the error of his thinking and decides to deliver presents after all.

The music includes Rooney singing "I Believe in Santa Claus." The mayor and townspeople offer "It’s Gonna Snow in Dixie." The Snow Miser and Heat Miser both sing a song. In addition, the best number is when the little girl sings "I’ll Have a Blue Christmas Without You." The children all joined in the finale with "Here Comes Santa Claus." 

This television program could have been more aptly titled, "Almost the Year Without a Santa Claus." Shirley sings the title track and "I Could Be Santa Claus."

Interestingly, "I Could Be Santa Claus" is Mrs. Claus' wishful transgender desire that anyone could be Santa Claus. Mrs. Claus notes how she has "fantasized it a lot," and that no one would know the difference. She questions, "why can't a lady like me?" be Santa Claus.

Unfortunately our culture gets too stuck up in this gender binary world, with males dominating everything. So Santa Claus is defined and always seen as male-gendered. Apparently society ridiculously and staunchly insists on such rigid male and female gendered roles that if we trangress those "norms" somehow we are toppling our civilization. It's unusual to see something, if ever so slightly, challenge those "norms" back in the 1970's.
*****

Please note that a pencil at the end of the posts allows readers to send comments. Thanks to Tosh for making me aware that the comment link was missing from my posts. 

*****

THANKS FOR VISITING!
 
JOIN ME AGAIN SOON!

*****

My Latest Book is Now Available Directly from BearManor Media!

Behind Sach: The Huntz Hall Story
by Jim Manago
Foreword by Gary Hall
BearManor Media
Published December 1, 2014


*****

For Bill, His Pinup Girl: The Shirley Booth & Bill Baker Story
by Jim Manago

Foreword by Leslie Sodaro

Jim & Donna Manago Books

Published December 1, 2010

*****

Love is the Reason for it All: The Shirley Booth Story
by Jim Manago
Foreword by Ted Key
BearManor Media
Published May 2008

Saturday, December 6, 2014

By My Crackling Fireplace In My Cozy Connecticut Farmhouse...

Last night by my crackling fireplace, I enjoyed watching that truly charming 1945 gem, Christmas in Connecticut.  My cozy Connecticut farmhouse living room looks like the set from of Holiday Inn.   All that's missing is Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds.  My chestnuts are cooking slowly in the cast-iron skillet.  Anyone that knows me, knows that I just love the nutty sweet aroma and  taste of chestnuts.  

Christmas in Connecticut is one of the few films that gets better each passing year. I have written before about the basics, such as the plot. Here’s some more thoughts on my favorite Christmas film of all time…


Christmas in Connecticut, produced by William Jacobs and directed by Peter Godfrey, comes from an original story by Aileen Hamilton (the screenplay by Lionel Houser and Adele Commandini).  The humorous film has many superb moments. For instance, there is the scene where Liz (Barbara Stanwyck) decorates the tree with the large glass balls.  She drops one after Dennis Morgan solemnly sings the traditional “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”  Morgan also delivers in fine tenor the lovely “The Wish That I Wish Tonight,” a song written especially for the film by Jack Scholl and M. K. Jerome.

There are a number of romantic and visually exquisite scenes, albeit brief but memorable, such as when the smitten Liz sits down and rocks in her rocking chair.  The music adds to the mood by contributing to the film’s funny and romantic moments.  So much more can be said about those wonderfully composed scenes…there's some great black & white cinematography!






Pictured above is Elizabeth Lane’s menu that Mr. Yardley sees in his publication. I tried to locate a recipe for Roast Goose Bernoise – it is apparently a fictitious food. Everyone online keeps offering Roast Goose Garbure Bearnaise as the film’s menu – however, that is not what is depicted in the magazine nor spoken of in the film.

Christmas in Connecticut best gives us the flavor of 1940’s Christmas - at least the way filmmakers saw America.  In short, I just love the whole production from start to finish!  

Sydney Greenstreet said it best in the film’s last lines: “What A CHRISTMAS! What A CHRISTMAS!”
 
I must admit I was so absorbed by this film that I started writing this piece as if I was Elizabeth Lane.  If you've seen the film, you will know what I am talking about.  No, I do not have a crackling fireplace, nor a Connecticut farmhouse, nor an open fire where I can roast chestnuts.  But like Liz, I wish I had more of those niceties of life - but cannot afford them. Writing is an under-appreciated profession that pays zilch. I have so little materially, but still can find joy in the true and non-commercial spirit of the season!   

*****


THANKS FOR VISITING!
 
JOIN ME AGAIN SOON!

*****

My Latest Book is Now Available Directly from BearManor Media:

Behind Sach: The Huntz Hall Story
by Jim Manago
Foreword by Gary Hall
BearManor Media
Published December 1, 2014


*****

For Bill, His Pinup Girl: The Shirley Booth & Bill Baker Story
by Jim Manago

Foreword by Leslie Sodaro

Jim & Donna Manago Books

Published December 1, 2010

*****

Love is the Reason for it All: The Shirley Booth Story
by Jim Manago
Foreword by Ted Key
BearManor Media
Published May 2008 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

80 Years Years Later: MARCH OF THE WOODEN SOLDIERS Still Among The Most Enduring Comedy Musical Ever Made!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!


Did You Know? One early account said that Shirley Booth’s first appearance on stage occurred while attending P.S. 152 in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. There she read in class her Thanksgiving composition entitled, "The Autobiography of a Thanksgiving Turkey."


*****

YES, WPIX Channel 11 in New York again will be showing that true film gem - March of the Wooden Soldiers - now twice on Thanksgiving Day (9 a.m. and 3 p.m.)

A special Thank You to the intelligent management for keeping this film alive!


*****

THANKSGIVING!  

Thanksgiving reminds me of my dearly departed Aunt Mary from Brooklyn.  Money was so tight that my Aunt could not afford a turkey and so she served-up a large roasted chicken to her four children every Thanksgiving.  The best part of this is that she told them it was a turkey - and they did not really know the truth till years later because they never ate turkey before!


Thanks to Aunt Mary and all the other people that have given me special memories at this time and throughout the years!


My favorite films to view on Thanksgiving Day include the original 1933 King Kong, the original 1949 Mighty Joe Young and the 1934 version of Victor Herbert's (1859 - 1924) operetta Babes in Toyland from 1903.   The latter is best known by the 1948 re-released title of March of the Wooden Soldiers.


These films always played on television in the background on Thanksgiving afternoon in my New York family home.  Thanksgiving wouldn't be the same without them!  Since those glory days when broadcast television ruled, today it has become such a wasteland of banal situation comedies and Jerry Springer-style garbage ever-eager to disrespect someone.

Thankfully the only thing that has not changed in all these years is that WPIX Channel 11 in New York is still running March of the Wooden Soldiers on Thanksgiving  Day.  Yes, WPIX has kept alive the magic of that memorable chestnut!  

Regarding the various versions of Babes in Toyland...


Please be sure to avoid the two later film versions of the classic operetta.  The 1986 Drew Barrymore version is the poorest, but I found the Disney version from 1961 to be surprisingly disappointing.

That horrendous Disney version features Annette Funicello & Tommy Sands....This production changed too many things, and it did nothing better. Most importantly, the film removed the bogeyman as villains, provided embarrassingly poor set designs, and it managed to stick us with some bad casting in the leads.  In addition, Ray Bolger over-acted too much as the villainous Barnaby.  Besides that, the humorless impressions of Laurel & Hardy (Gene Sheldon & Henry Calvin) added nothing at all to this film.


I disliked the Disney version of Babes in Toyland throughout, starting from the uninspired opening minutes.   It was almost as bad as the 1967 Dr. Dolittle - and that is really sinking low.  The Disney take on Herbert's best numbers ("Castle in Spain," and "Go To Sleep") totally ruined them by changing the tempo.  The experience of watching this lackluster version was painful indeed!  Ed Wynn as the toymaker offered the only pleasure in this entire production - but not enough to recommend the film to you.


Just save your electricity and time and watch the beautiful black & white 80-year old March of the Wooden Soldiers.  Laurel & Hardy shine in this production, along with a number of other superb character actors.  However, the real star of this film is definitely Felix Knight.  The latter singer (well-known in his time, but forgotten today) steals the show with his wonderful voice. Knight's singing of the superb "Castle in Spain" and, "Go to Sleep, Slumber Deep" is truly unforgettable. It doesn't get any better than that!

March of the Wooden Soldiers was regularly referred to as an ingenious classic back in the 1960's when I was growing up - and now fifty years later it stands alone as one of the few really worthwhile films to see every year.  It has definitely stood the test of time.

There are so many great moments.  If I had to pick just one I would say I just love the appearances of that mouse that looks like Mickey.  Of course, it was really a capuchin monkey - indeed a quite intelligent animal. Just hope the trainers were kind back in those days - though I doubt animal rights were a consideration then.
Simply stated, I would select March of the Wooden Soldiers as one of the most enjoyable films among the many thousands I've seen in my lifetime, as well as being one of the best films that was ever made in 1930's Hollywood!


***** 

Toyland:

Brooklyn-born Glen MacDonough (1870 - 1924) wrote the lyrics to the popular holiday song "Toyland," which first appeared in the 1903 Babes in Toyland.   The song opens March of the Wooden Soldiers.  The sound quality of that film's operatic singer makes it difficult to understand the lyrics at times.  So I offer them to you:


1. When you've grown up my dears,
And are as old as I,
You'll often ponder on the years
That roll so swiftly by, my dears,
That roll so swiftly by.
And of the many lands,
You will have journeyed through,
You'll oft recall
The best of all,
The land your childhood knew!
Your childhood knew.

*Chorus
2. When you've grown up, my dears,
There comes a dreary day.
When 'mid the locks of black appears
The first pale gleam of gray, my dears,
The first pale gleam of gray.
Then of the past you'll dream
As gray-haired grown-ups do,
And seek once more
Its phantom shore,
The land your childhood knew!
Your childhood knew. *Chorus

*Chorus:
Toyland. Toyland.
Little girl and boy land.
While you dwell within it,
You are ever happy then.
Childhood’s joy-land.
Mystic merry Toyland,
Once you pass it’s borders,
You can never return again.


Yes, MacDonough knew what he was writing about!


*****


The 1949 film Mighty Joe Young would always be a late afternoon movie in New York on Thanksgiving Day. It's been years since I saw it again - and last year I had the great pleasure of finding a VHS copy.  Recently I purchased the DVD.

The 1933 film King Kong, with that monstrous-sized beast, always seemed to get all the attention because it was an early 1930's film classic.  I still love that film's sound effects and superb Max Steiner score.  However, you will have to ignore the film's racist depiction of all natives as stereotypical crazed savages as that era's bias.  See it for what it is; namely, the limitations of that period of American/European culture. 

The later Mighty Joe Young uses the same creators - director Ernest B. Schoedsack and producer Merian C. Cooper, with the addition of John Ford as executive producer.  Robert Armstrong appears in a prominent role again.

I chose this film as my after-dinner film today because I love the more detailed movements and expressions of the lovable Joe Young.  Especially notable is the wonderful orphanage rescue scene. This film lends a credibility and sympathy to the character - which King Kong lacks. Of course, special thanks to many - but mostly to the late Ray Harryhausen for his superb stop-motion animation. In some ways this makes Mighty Joe Young substantially better than King Kong

I especially enjoyed seeing young actress Terry Moore in another film (besides playing the boarder in Shirley Booth's famed Come Back, Little Sheba). Interestingly, 85-year old actress Moore is still making appearances and signing autographs. I would also enjoy interviewing her as well.

MIGHTY JOE YOUNG is not scheduled for broadcast or cable-TV as far as I can determine, but it is available on DVD.  That disc features a commentary with Harryhausen and Moore, besides two featurettes with Harryhausen on the making of the film.

*****

Yes, Thanksgiving is celebrated throughout our land as a day to give thanks. But there is an annual event that goes on for American Indians or Native Americans at Plymouth each year since 1970. It is known as the National Day of Mourning in recognition of the past injustices done to the indigenous people of the Americas. It involves a public march with a view towards changing racist attitudes and stopping the destructive myths. 

For too long Native Americans ("savage Indians" as we were taught) have been deprived of their fundamental rights and respect as human beings. Hollywood perpetuated the distortions we were taught in schools. Not only were they dehumanized and their history distorted, but sadly so much of their culture has been decimated in the name of Manifest Destiny and American progress.

We have chosen to enjoy the myths associated with this day - such as Pilgrims and Indians eating together in unity. The reality is starkly disturbing.

I cannot celebrate this day without acknowledging the suffering of Native Americans, and hope that someday we can fully learn to respect other cultures and peoples throughout this world.

We need to stop getting too involved in the affairs of other countries. If only our leaders would study and learn from our first President. Although he was a product of an era that offered no rights to many people, Washington did offer much wisdom regarding the dangers of political party power struggles, as well as the destructiveness of involving ourselves in the unrest of foreign countries. (See George Washington's Farewell Address from 1796).

So please respectfully appreciate that it is a day that all people give thanks, as well as A National Day of Mourning for some.

*****

Producer/screenwriter Robert Youngson: 
(November 27, 1917 - April 8, 1974)

I have always loved black & white films, especially silent films - though I know that few people share my appreciation.  So I was happy  to learn that The Artist received top honors at the Academy Awards.  The Artist won five Oscars, including Best Picture (to Producer Thomas Langmann), Best Director to Michel Hazanavicius, Best Actor to Jean Dujardin, Best Score, and Best Costume Design.   It's great to know that silent films have not been forgotten!

Speaking of silents, I remember enjoying silent comedies back in the 1970’s thanks to watching PBS' "The Silent Years," hosted by Orson Welles and Lilian Gish. In addition, I always enjoyed those clips assembled in the films of producer/screenwriter Robert Youngson made from 1957 to 1970.

It’s these films that I have come to re-watch again recently after so many years since first seeing them.  I have found that they still hold up as a great assemblage of silent film comedy. Youngson spent countless hours watching literally many hours of silent films to put together these amazing compilation films.

If you have never seen and appreciated silent film comedies, then Youngson’s films would be a perfect starting point.  And for those quite familiar with these classics, I would still recommend seeing them as they are quite entertaining and well-made.

The list of talents seems endless - for example, there's Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, Billy Bevan, Charlie Chaplin, Charlie Chase, Vernon Dent, Jean Harlow, Buster Keaton, Edgar Kennedy, Harry Langdon, Carole Lombard, Snub Pollard, Will Rogers, Ben Turpin, Andy Clyde, Charles Murray, the Keystone Kops, and the list can go on and on...

Youngson's compilation films:

The Golden Age of Comedy (1957)
When Comedy Was King (1960)
Days of Thrills and Laughter (1961)
30 Years of Fun (1963)
MGM's The Big Parade of Comedy (1964)
Laurel & Hardy's Laughing 20's (1965)
The Further Perils of Laurel & Hardy (1967)
Four Clowns (1970)



Anyone remember these films?  I am aware that the first three (and The Further Perils) are available on DVD.  Several others were on VHS.

Youngson uses for theme music my favorite composition of all time, the amazingly beautiful melodic Etude, Opus 10, No.3.  That superb and nostalgic composition by Frederic Chopin opens and closes the films.  To see Valentina Lisitsa playing it, GO TO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpiJbQvBP8A

*****

Shirley Booth's Recipe:

With the holidays beginning, I offer you a recipe from Shirley Booth which first appeared in Good Housekeeping, December 1964. 
Shirley gave Sally Edwards credit for these tarts.


CHESS TARTS
l package piecrust mix or favorite pastry for 2 crust pie
2 eggs
1/4 c. butter or margarine
dash salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup seedless raisins
1/2 cup snipped, pitted dates
1/2 cup chopped California walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy or whipping cream
candied cherries
slivers of preserved orange peel
slivers of preserved citron
green seedless grapes

Make day before serving as follows:

1. Make up piecrust; then, on lightly floured board, roll it out 1/8-inch thick.  For each petal tart shell, cut out 5) 2 1/4-inch fluted pastry rounds.  Place 1 round in bottom of each of 6) 2 3/4′inch muffin-pan cups.  Wet edges of rest of rounds, then press 4 of them to sides and to round in bottom of each cup, overlapping edges slightly.

2. Prick well with 4-tined fork.  Refrigerate 30 minutes; bake at 450 degrees F. 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool; lift each carefully from cup; store at room temperature.

3. In saucepan beat eggs well; then add butter or margarine, salt sugar, raisins, dates.  Cook, stirring constantly, until thick.  Refrigerate this filling, covered with waxed paper.

~About an hour before serving:

1. Stir walnuts and vanilla into filling; then pile some filling in each tart shell. Whip cream; use to top tarts.  In center of each mound of cream place a cherry; surround with orange peel and citron.  Refrigerate.

2. Arrange tarts on pretty serving plate; pass, with tiny bunches of grapes. Makes 6.”


*****

Christmas and The Hopes:

With the Christmas holiday train arriving in less than a month, I am reminded of the loss of a very special lady three years ago...

Dolores DeFina Hope
May 27, 1909 - September 19, 2011
Rest in Peace

Yes, she's gone. After 102 years of living, laughing, singing, and giving the world some wonderful memories, singer and philanthropist Dolores Hope has died yesterday of natural causes.

In memory of Dolores Hope, I dedicate this post.  I offer my condolences to her family and friends throughout the world.

Dolores reached her 102nd birthday, and husband Bob Hope died two months after his 100th birthday eight years ago.

What comes to mind is one of my favorite television moments.  It is from 1993, when Dolores and Bob sang "Silver Bells" on one of their last Christmas specials.  The brief two-minute duet with chorus and orchestration (including plenty of bells) makes this version quite endearing.  The huskier sound of Dolores along with Bob's distinctive sound make it quite different than other versions of the song.

In addition, the song displayed Bob with the 17 various female guest stars who sung this song with him over his years on television.  The segment ends with idyllic footage of their horse-drawn sleigh being pulled across a snowy landscape.  This "music video" captures a beautiful energy in those three minutes. It's somehow transcends the mundane reality that it depicts - and provides a timeless piece of Christmas nostalgia!

So much can be said about Dolores and Bob, in particular, they shared a love for each other, as well as for entertaining people all over the world.  They will always be with us thanks to what remains of them -- Bob's films, and their radio & television programs.

Here's Dolores Hope as heard on radio's Duffy's Tavern from April 25, 1944.  Archie the manager is played by Shirley Booth's ex-husband Ed Gardner. Shirley and Ed were divorced the year earlier. GO TO:


Dolores & Bob, WE THANK YOU! You both will be always missed and remembered!

*****

THANKS FOR VISITING!
 
JOIN ME AGAIN SOON!

*****
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
My Latest Book is Now Available Directly from BearManor Media:

Behind Sach: The Huntz Hall Story
by Jim Manago
Foreword by Gary Hall
BearManor Media
Published December 1, 2014


*****

For Bill, His Pinup Girl: The Shirley Booth & Bill Baker Story
by Jim Manago

Foreword by Leslie Sodaro

Jim & Donna Manago Books

Published December 1, 2010

*****

Love is the Reason for it All: The Shirley Booth Story
by Jim Manago
Foreword by Ted Key
BearManor Media
Published May 2008 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Just Love These Chillers!



Some of my favorite film selections especially suited for Halloween include The Black Cat (1934), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), How To Make a Monster (1958), The Wolf Man (1941), and The City of the Dead (1961). The latter is also known by its American released title of Horror Hotel.  

*****

Initially you may wince when I bring out a Bela Lugosi movie for Halloween. However this one is not like so many of those low-budget quickies that Lugosi appeared in so as to put bread on the table. The Black Cat from 1934 is in a class by itself as a truly superb film with excellent story, editing, camerawork, and top-notch performances by all the cast.

You may not be that familiar with the name of Edgar G. Ulmer - but he is responsible for the most stylishly dark version of a tale ever filmed. The story has no resemblance to the Edgar Allen Poe tale of the same name. But the world Ulmer created here is truly stark, weird, and visually stunning so that the film seemingly offers the mood that can only be inspired by the tormented genius of Poe.

Ulmer got his initial experience and inspiration as a stage actor and set designer working in Vienna, Austria. The Black Cat is his second film as a director in America.  But it offers a remarkable face-off between the two horror greats, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.  The story credit goes to Peter Ruric and Edgar G. Ulmer.  It's an unusual story especially intriguing for that time in Hollywood.

David Manners plays writer Peter Allison and Jacqueline Wells is his bride Joan on a honeymoon trip that unluckily lands them during a storm in a futuristic castle built over a battlefield where tens of thousands of soldiers died during WWI.  It is there that the showdown occurs between fellow traveler Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Lugosi) and his adversary Fort Marmorus Commander Hjalmar Poelzig (Karloff). Poelzig built his abode over the ruins of this great graveyard, and he seems more like the incarnation of the Devil.

When Werdegast learns that Poelzig has done some unholy things, including secretly keeping Werdegast's daughter Karen as his wife (and telling Werdegast that she died), there is some intense emotions that seek release. Revenge is the keyword here as the two horror greats display their unique talents, each trying to steal the show from the other.

I assure you that a great climax ensues. Besides the set designs that are quite stunning, there are some visually arresting moving camera shots that add to the mood of unrelenting menace - one sequence where the camera moves up & down the stairs with Karloff.  The use of Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet" has never been more perfectly used in the movies than here in the romantic scenes with Peter & Joan Allison.

Indeed The Black Cat (1934) is highly recommended as one of Universal Studios best horror productions ever.

*****


The original 1958 chiller How to Make a Monster from American-International Pictures is another good film for Halloween! Robert H. Harris is absolutely superb as the disgruntled horror film makeup artist who plots revenge after he is axed from his film studio. His performance is right-on-target down to the glances. Herbert L Strock directs with Paul Brinegar, Gary Conway and Gary Clarke as co-stars.

*****

The City of the Dead (AKA Horror Hotel):

SPOILER ALERT!
The talents of many people are responsible for some of the best films. Proof of this is apparent with the British film, The City of the Dead.

It was September 12, 1961 when this film made it to these shores retitled as Horror Hotel. I will refer to the film by its original title.

The City of the Dead is a truly chilling film that I remember first seeing back in the late 1960's on New York local television. I could never get enough of seeing it - and watched it every time it was on. I do not remember if I ever saw the original British release at that time which is several minutes longer and includes some early dialogue not in the American released version, Horror Hotel. But I do remember it leaving an strong impression on my sister that I'm sure stays with her to this day!

Much credit has to be given to John Llewellyn Moxey (1925) who directed this story and to Milton Subotsky (1921-1991) who wrote this story (adapted by George Baxt). The City of the Dead (aka Horror Hotel) tells of some truly sinister witchcraft in the modern New England town of Whitewood and depends on creating a paranoia about who one could really trust.

But to credit those gentlemen alone would not be totally fair for there's also the foreboding and sinister atmosphere created by the combination of really brilliant contrasty black & white cinematography, fog-enshrouded sets, eerie music, good editing, and truly great character acting. The beautiful black & white cinematography is by Desmond Dickinson, art direction by John Blezard, music by Douglas Gamley, and film editing by John Pomeroy. 

Thanks must also go to the executive producers Milton Subotsky & Seymour S. Dorner, and the producers Donald Taylor and Max Rosenberg - all who contributed to make the whole film production possible. Subotsky and Rosenberg later founded the film production company Amicus Productions, responsible for a number of horror films from the 1960's.

As to actors there's the amazing talents of the lanky Christopher Lee (1922 - ) in top form as Prof. Alan Driscoll who suggests to his college student Nan Barlow played by Venetia Stevenson (1938 - ) that she should visit Whitewood, Massachusetts to see the place where some of his lecture material actually took place. Nan wants to get a really good grade on her thesis paper - and she enthusiastically takes his suggestion.

The other talents - including Patricia Jessel (1920-1968) as hotel manager Mrs. Newless (who actually is the still-living witch Elizabeth Selwyn though she was burned at the stake in 1692), and the delightful gloomy-voiced Valentine Dyall (1908-1985) as chief warlock Jethrow Keane - both indeed give absolutely superb portrayals worthy of awards.

Ann Beach (1938 - ) plays the deaf mute that knows the real sinister activities at the  Ravenswood Inn in the spooky New England town. Norman Macowan (1877-1961) plays the blind Reverend Russell of the town church who also knows what's going on and warns Nan: "...Leave Whitewood tonight. I beg of you...Leave before it is too late!" Betta St. John (1929 - ) plays the Reverend's granddaughter Patricia - who owns a little book store in town and lends Nan a book on witchcraft for her studies - only to have it never returned. Nan's brother Richard Barlow (Dennis Lotis) and Nan's boyfriend Bill Maitland (Tom Naylor) both search for Nan when she doesn't return home.

If any film could convince one that those "auteurists" do not wish to see filmmaking as an "ensemble endeavour" of the error of their thinking, for they wish to give directors all the credit, then it would be to see the collaborative efforts evident here that make this film work so well.

Some have criticized some of the actors for being British and not convincing us they are Americans - but this is not serious enough to take away from your enjoyment of this remarkable and totally intriguing gem. 

There are some shocking scenes - but I won't spoil that for you. Finally, the chanting that pervades the credits and crucial moments sounds truly like devil-worshipping chants and thus wraps the whole film into a complete package of sensory satisfaction! 

Although I usually love short films, this one seems too short at a brisk 76 minutes. It goes too quickly and I wish that it was somewhat longer! Nevertheless, it is unforgettable and great for Halloween night or whenever you wish to spook yourself a little!


It is interesting that The City of the Dead (Horror Hotel) is similar to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho in many ways, including the early demise of the main character... 

*****The City of the Dead (Horror Hotel) is highly recommended! If you can see only one title from this post, choose this one!

***** 

Vincent Price:

Vincent Price (born May 27, 1911 - October 25, 1993) remains one of my all-time favorite actors and horror greats. See below for more.


So much can be said about the life of the amazing Vincent Price. Obviously, he had an uncanny knack for making anything he appeared in so much more interesting - whether through his distinct voice or mannerisms.   He made numerous film, television or radio appearances. Some of my favorites include Laura, The House of Wax, The Tingler, The House on Haunted Hill, etc.

I know that you will discover that so much of what Vincent Price accomplished so long ago continues to bring great pleasure so many years later.

On Halloween I will screen for the fiftieth or sixtieth time the William Castle classics - The Tingler and The House on Haunted Hill. Although I know them perfectly well, I still enjoy the way Price seems to be savor every second that he plays these quirky characters...

*****

As regards Shirley Booth, her only TV guest appearance is in the television show The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. The show broadcast November 6, 1969 is called "Medium Well-Done." Shirley plays a spiritualist named Madame Tibaldi. The ghost (Captain) is quite unhappy that Madame Tibaldi visits his home to offer a seance.  (The cast includes Hope Lange as Mrs. Muir, Edward Mulhare as the Ghost, Charles Nelson Reilly as Claymore Gregg, Reta Shaw as Martha the housekeeper, and Harlen Carraher & Kellie Flanagan as the children.)

 *****

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!


*****
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
My Latest Book is Now Available Directly from BearManor Media:

Behind Sach: The Huntz Hall Story
by Jim Manago
Foreword by Gary Hall
BearManor Media
Published December 1, 2014


*****

For Bill, His Pinup Girl: The Shirley Booth & Bill Baker Story
by Jim Manago

Foreword by Leslie Sodaro

Jim & Donna Manago Books

Published December 1, 2010

*****

Love is the Reason for it All: The Shirley Booth Story
by Jim Manago
Foreword by Ted Key
BearManor Media
Published May 2008 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

On Remembering Clayton Moore

ANNIVERSARY TODAY:

Clayton Moore was born on this day in 1914 (died December 28, 1999). He was best known for portraying The Lone Ranger on film and television.

*****

I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting Clayton Moore in person back in 1979 at The Biltmore Hotel in New York City. The late Paul Saryian ran a yearly convention - and that year he brought us The Lone Ranger. 

Clayton had been making news since he was barred from wearing his mask because of the new feature film that was in the works. That film starred Klinton Spilsbury portraying the masked man. The film was a disaster and it deservedly flopped. 

Clayton talked about the fact that he would fight in court to get his right to wear the mask again. Yes, he fought and won as he said he would!

He was a gracious man so happy to be surrounded by his loving fans - both young and old. He shook hands, did some rope tricks, talked about the days lunching with George Trendle (and later with Jack Wrather) and so on. The last day of his 3 days at that nostalgia convention provided a special surprise. We all got to sing "Happy Birthday" to him at a surprise party. Before leaving the convention, he gave out a single trademark - a silver bullet.

Fortunately, I had brought along my new Super 8 Sound camera. I managed to change film cartridges four or five times to film a total of 10 minutes of his conversation to his fans, singing happy birthday, and so on. I treasure that moment captured on film. Someday I hope to share that video with his many fans.

Clayton brought such a wonderful energy to those 1950's Lone Ranger shows. I enjoyed watching the reruns in the 1970's. What stayed with me more than anything is how this character always treated the Native Americans and women fairly and respectfully. He did not need to flaunt his toughness, or swagger a macho bravado as John Wayne and so many other actors. Clayton satisfied audiences by being the real thing - and living the way he believed the character lived. 

Clayton Moore is indeed gone - but he never will be forgotten as long as we can watch his films and television programs. Besides his Lone Ranger films and TV shows, we have his appearances in a number of serials (such as The Crimson Ghost, Perils of Nyoka, and so on). 

Indeed I am happy to have met one of my childhood heroes in the flesh during those two precious days of my life. I have the memory of thanking Clayton Moore for the countless pleasures and inspiration that his portrayal brought to my life. Indeed Clayton Moore was an extraordinary person, and I just wish he was still living today!


*****

 On THE LONE RANGER Flop:

When I first heard about Disney's $225 million dollar production of The Lone Ranger, I thought what a stupid waste of money!  Anyone that knows that character will agree with me that there was only one Lone Ranger - that's the very competent actor Clayton Moore.   His rendition will never be topped.  I AM NOT SURPRISED ONE BIT that the film is not expected to ever recover such a ridiculous sum of money!

Those original television shows are superb in every way.  They speak for fair and equal treatment of women and  Native Americans.  Despite some recent efforts to denigrate the Jay Silverheels rendition of Tonto, the latter was not a mere sidekick.  He was a true partner to his friend, The Lone Ranger. 

Though Clayton Moore is now gone, I am proud to have had the distinct pleasure of meeting him back when they tried to stop him from wearing his mask.  That was when they were preparing another movie flop,  The Legend of the Lone Ranger
  
Now will Disney and all the other media giants learn anything? I wish I was wrong here, but I doubt it!   At the very least, please if they would stop trying to cash in on a previous generation's creative achievements.  Stop trying to rework past achievements, and spend a little money on developing some new stories! 
*****

I treasure several minutes from Clayton Moore's appearance at Paul Saryian's New York Nostalgia Convention (1979).

I have Super 8mm sound footage I transferred to VHS from this event in 1979.  Moore spoke those immortal words of the Lone Ranger creed, discussed the fact that Jack Wrather disappointed and hurt him when he met him to tell him we don't want you making appearances anymore since the part was going to a younger actor for the new movie that was being made.  He discussed the court case which forced him to wear the sunglasses instead of his mask.  He did some rope tricks, and talked about leaving a silver bullet with someone wherever he made a personal appearance.  it concludes when everyone gathered sang "Happy Birthday, Lone Ranger".  It runs about 10 minutes. 

Without a doubt Clayton Moore was a powerful and inspiring individual.  I wish the young people of today could have that type of role model to look to.  I know he enriched my life immensely and I could never forget that Convention when I met and shook hands with my childhood hero...

*****

THANKS FOR VISITING!

JOIN ME AGAIN SOON!

*****

My Latest Book is Now Available Directly from BearManor Media:

Behind Sach: The Huntz Hall Story
by Jim Manago
Foreword by Gary Hall
BearManor Media
Published December 1, 2014


*****

For Bill, His Pinup Girl: The Shirley Booth & Bill Baker Story
by Jim Manago

Foreword by Leslie Sodaro

Jim & Donna Manago Books

Published December 1, 2010

*****

Love is the Reason for it All: The Shirley Booth Story
by Jim Manago
Foreword by Ted Key
BearManor Media
Published May 2008