Mr. New Year’s Eve: Guy Lombardo

Publicity photo of Guy Lombardo in the 1940s.

Publicity photo of Guy Lombardo in the 1940s.

“Auld Lang Syne” was his theme song.

They called him Mr. New Year’s Eve, and he was part of America’s New Year’s tradition for nearly 50 years.

Before Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest counted down to 12 a.m., January 1, there was Guy Lombardo. Each year, his saxophones would poignantly play “Auld Land Syne” as couples danced, kissed and wished “Happy New Year.”

From the crash of the stock market in 1929 through the bicentennial in 1976, big bandleader Lombardo and his Royal Canadians were a long standing tradition for Americans.

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Christmas on Film: “We’re No Angels” (1955)

Guardian angels can come in many forms, and in the film “We’re No Angels” (1955), help arrives from three convicts.

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Early Christmas Eve, Joseph (Humphrey Bogart), Albert (Aldo Ray), Jules (Peter Ustinov) and Adolf the poisonous snake, escape from prison on French colonial Devil’s Island in 1895. Joseph embezzled money and Albert and Jules are murderers. They are able to blend in easily in the town in their prison clothes, as many paroled convicts work out in the open.

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A Gift from Comet Over Hollywood

Almost every Christmas for the past four years, I try to film a special Christmas video for the readers and supporters of Comet Over Hollywood.

This year — as my gift to you — my mother and I re-enacted one of my favorite Christmas scenes from a classic film. I hope you enjoy it as much as I loved making it.

For context, here is a snippet from the trailer.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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Cary Grant’s “Christmas Lullaby”

late 1940s --- Cary Grant --- Image by © CinemaPhoto/Corbis

Cary Grant in the 1940s

Cary Grant is often noted as one of the best and most attractive actors of all-time. His film resume includes some of Hollywood’s best films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s “Notorious” (1946) to the comedy “His Girl Friday” (1940).

But out of all of that, Cary Grant said his best production was his daughter Jennifer.

Grant became a father for the first time at age 62 with his fourth wife, Dyan Cannon. The two were married from 1965 to 1968. Grant retired from films in 1966 when Jennifer was born; a career that began in 1932 and ended with the film “Walk, Don’t Run.”

Grant doted on his daughter and this is exhibited in the only record he ever made, “A Christmas Lullaby,” which was recorded for her. The 45 was made through Columbia Records and the b-side included the song “Here’s to You.”  Continue reading

Christmas on Film: Junior Miss (1945)

junior missThe same year Peggy Ann Garner performed her award winning role in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” the 13-year-old actress found herself in a coming of age comedy, “Junior Miss” (1945).

Similar to “And So They Were Married” (1936), Christmas is merely a backdrop to adolescent antics in “Junior Miss” (1945), but the holidays play larger roles in this coming of age film.  Continue reading

Musical Monday: Shower of Stars presents A Christmas Carol (1954)

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It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
“Shower of Stars” presents “A Christmas Carol” –Musical #537

Fredric March as Ebenezer Scrooge and Christopher Cook as Tiny Tim in a 1954 TV adaptation of "A Christmas Carol"

Fredric March as Ebenezer Scrooge and Christopher Cook as Tiny Tim in a 1954 TV adaptation of “A Christmas Carol”

Studio:
CBS Television Network

Director:
Ralph Levy

Starring:
Fredric March, Basil Rathbone, Bob Sweeney, Christopher Cook, Craig Hill, Queenie Leonard
Themselves as hosts: William Lundigan, Mary Costa

Basil Rathbone as Jacob Marley

Basil Rathbone as Jacob Marley

Plot:
Set in 1840 London, this is a retelling of Charles Dickens’ novel, “A Christmas Carol.” Miserly Ebenezer Scrooge (March) is warned by the ghost of his friend Marley (Rathbone) that he need to change his ways or he will end up chained to his sins. On Christmas Eve night, Scrooge is visited by ghosts to show him his past, present and future life to convince him to change.  Continue reading

Baby, It’s Not a Christmas Song

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What started out as a song to get party guests to leave is now a Christmas favorite that has come under some scrutiny in recent years.

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” has evolved into a song never left off a Christmas album. The catch? When it was written in 1944, songwriter Frank Loesser wasn’t thinking of the holidays.

Frank Loesser and wife Lynn Garland in 1956 performing their song.

Frank Loesser and wife Lynn Garland in 1956 performing their song.

Loesser originally wrote in the song to only be performed at parties with his wife, Lynn Garland. The duet—labeling the parts wolf and mouse—involves a man trying to convince a woman that she should stay, because it’s snowing outside. She says no, until she relents at the end.  Continue reading

Christmas on Film: “And So They Were Married” (1936)

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and so they were marriedBefore twin Hayley Mills were trying to get their parents together in “The Parent Trap” (1961), Jackie Moran and Edith Fellows worked to keep their parents apart in “And So They Were Married” (1936).

In this fun, comedic romp, divorced Edith Farnham (Mary Astor) and her daughter Brenda (Fellows) are spending the Christmas holidays at a the gala opening of a ski lodge. Because of Edith’s divorce, both she and Brenda are anti-men.

Widower Stephen Blake (Melvyn Douglas) is also heading to the same lodge, and tail rides their car up the mountain. This leaves both Edith and Brenda with a sour taste and no interest in socializing with Stephen.

After they all arrive at the ski lodge, an avalanche occurs and the three are the only guests at the new hotel for a few days until the roads can be cleared. Brenda develops a cold, forcing Stephen and Edith to eventually socialize, and they begin to fall in love.

Edith (Astor) and Stephen (Douglas) eventually like each other.

Edith (Astor) and Stephen (Douglas) eventually like each other.

Once the roads open, Stephen’s son Tommy (Jackie Moran) joins him at the lodge. Brenda and Tommy instantly dislike each other and constantly fight.

When the two children realize their parents are thinking about marriage, they decide this is terrible and purposefully argue and act like they hate each other to keep them apart.

The two act like little wretches but make a truce on Christmas Eve and Day so they are still able to get their presents. However, this backfires when the two begin smashing tree ornaments over each other’s heads and eventually short out the Christmas tree lights; causing all electricity in the ski lodge to go out.

Their bad behavior ends up in a fight and the separation of Stephen and Edith. Back home, both children realize they make a mistake as they watch their miserable parents. The two run away to bring their parents back together in their “hour of need.”

Scenes from the Christmas tree fight: Jackie Moran mistakenly believes Edith Fellow hits him with an ornament, Edith fellows is in shock after their agreement, parents try to separate the fighting children

Scenes from the Christmas tree fight: Jackie Moran mistakenly believes Edith Fellow hits him with an ornament, Edith fellows is in shock after their agreement, parents try to separate the fighting children

“And So They Were Married” is a lot of fun. Alluding that Astor and Douglas’ characters end up together isn’t too much of a spoiler, since the title tips you off to what happens. Edith Fellows and Jackie Moran play perfect brats and Mary Astor and Melvyn Douglas were never bad in any of their films. Character actor Donald Meek is also delightful in the film, constantly lamenting that “These things never happened at my hotel in Palm Beach.”

In some films, children acting like brats can be annoying, but I find it funny in this film—maybe because I love both of the actors. I think my favorite gag is when Tommy’s dog—that he’s hiding in the hotel—runs downstairs in a group of people.Brenda washed the dog’s mouth out with soap for barking and guests run screaming, thinking he is rabid.

Christmas is really just a backdrop for “And So They Were Married” and isn’t often discussed. There isn’t any fuzzy, good-will-toward-men holiday sentiment. However, I consider it a Christmas film since the climax deals with a Christmas tree-even if it is two children violently destroying it.

The same year this film was released, Mary Astor was in a nasty custody battle for her daughter Marilyn, with her husband Dr. Franklyn Thorpe. Thorpe said she was an unfit mother based on torrid diary entries about her affair with George S. Kaufman. A passage was leaked to the press and it could have ruined her career, but her fans rallied around her and Astor still ended up on top—winning an Academy Award for “Great Lie” (1941), according to TCM host and film historian, Robert Osborne.

But while Astor and Douglas are the stars of this film, it’s the children that steal the show in this one.

“And So They Were Married” (1936) may not be a classic Christmas film or even a major budget comedy, but it’s an enjoyable little film that you shouldn’t miss.

Publicity photo of Mary Astor, Edith Fellows, Jackie Moran and Melvyn Douglas in "And So They Were Married."

Publicity photo of Mary Astor, Edith Fellows, Jackie Moran and Melvyn Douglas in “And So They Were Married.”

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A “Wild Christmas” with Mae West

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Mae West in a publicity photo for "Go West Young Man" (1936)

Mae West in a publicity photo for “Go West Young Man” (1936)

Mae West, known for her buxom figure, long Gibson-girl like gowns and sultry voice, slinked through 1930s films throwing around phrases like “Why don’t you come up and see me sometime?”

But after only 10 films from 1932 through 1940, Mae West’s film career wanned after being dubbed “Box Office Poison” in 1937–others on this list included Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer and Katharine Hepburn.

West worked to remain relevant by acting on the stage and radio. By in the 1960s and 1970s, she found herself with a cult following aided by the sexual revolution, according to No Applause–Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous by Trav S.D.

Cover of West's first rock and roll album, "Way Out West."

Cover of West’s first rock and roll album, “Way Out West.”

To stay in the public eye with the younger crowds, West began recording rock and roll albums. In 1966 at age 72, she released “Way Out West” through Tower Records, which was part of Capitol Records. This was a cover album of contemporary hits such as “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “Twist and Shout,” and “Daytripper.” Sales of “Way Out West” reached the Billboard Top 200 at #116.

Following the success of her first record, West released “Wild Christmas” in 1966, a rock and roll Christmas album for Dagonet Records. This album includes Christmas hits like “Santa Baby” and original Christmas songs like “Santa Come Up and See Me,” playing off West’s famous film quote. She also covers the Beatles’ “With Love From Me To You,” loosely connecting it to Christmas.

I guess the Beatles’ didn’t mind West’s covering their songs, since they wanted to feature her on the cover of their 1967 album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club.” West initially declined saying, “What would I be doing in a lonely hearts club?” But relented when they wrote her a personal letter.

Give It a Listen:

Cover of West's second rock and roll album, "Wild Christmas"

Cover of West’s second rock and roll album, “Wild Christmas”

While I thought “The Ventures” Christmas album was unique, there is nothing quite like “Wild Christmas.” It’s both horrifying and hilarious. At moments, I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry, while I’m sure I was making awkward, alarmed faces.

However, I’m also not sure if I should feel happy or sad while on listening to this album. West was maintaining her time in the spotlight, which she wanted, but was it at the cost of being laughed at? Was this something she legitimately wanted to do or was this similar to actors making low budget horror films late in their career (See: Die, Die My Darling and Hot Rods to Hell). Unfortunately, very few sources gave her feelings about these albums and glossed over them, merely listing that they were recorded.

After “Wild Christmas,” West recorded one last rock and roll album in 1972 at age 79 called “Great Balls of Fire.” This time, she covered The Doors’ “Light My Fire.”

For an added bonus, check out this humorous performance with Mae West and Rock Hudson, performing “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” This song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1950, originally appearing in “Neptune’s Daughter” (1949).

What are your thoughts on Miss West’s album? Will you be incorporating this into your Christmas music playlist?

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Review: Bride of Boogedy (1987)

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A year after “Mr. Boogedy” (1986) aired, the Wonderful World of Disney aired its 1987 sequel, “Bride of Boogedy.”

In the sequel, the Davis family is now comfortably settled at their newly renovated in Lucifer Home and happily rid of the ghost Mr. Boogedy for a year.

The children in Mr. Lynch's store, and Mr. Lynch being grumpy.

The children in Mr. Lynch’s store, and Mr. Lynch being grumpy.

The family is involved and well liked in the town now, much to the chagrin of shop owner Tom Lynch (Eugene Levy). Eloise and Carl Davis (Mimi Kennedy and Richard Masur) are preparing to open their Gag City store downtown, and Carl Davis was named mayor of the town’s festival. This is a position usually held by Mr. Lynch, causing Mr. Lynch wanting the Davis family to leave town.

One night while walking home from babysitting, their daughter Jennifer (Tammy Lauren) is spooked in the woods by someone in a hat and cloak telling her to get out of his house. Believing that Mr. Boogedy is back, Jennifer runs home screaming.

Jennifer’s brothers Aurie (Joshua Rudoy) and Corwin (David Faustino) make fun of her and her parents assure her that Mr. Boogedy is gone. However, Aurie and Corwin both have a nightmare the same night of visiting Mr. Boogedy at his grave and him breaking out of his statue.

Possessed Carleton floating down the hall.

Possessed Carleton floating down the hall.

The children visit Mr. Boogedy’s grave and meet gravedigger Lazarus (Vincent Schiavelli). The family also meets a swamie (Karen Kondazian) who tells them that they will see Mr. Boogedy again. During a séance to make the children believe Mr. Boogedy is never coming back, they unknowingly awaken the ghost and he returns. Mr. Boogedy possesses Carl so he can get his magic cloak and come back to life. His family is able to save him but then Mr. Lynch steals the cloak, believing it will make him as popular as Carleton.

Mr. Boogedy and possessed Eloise, dressed as Maid Marion.

Mr. Boogedy and possessed Eloise, dressed as Maid Marion.

Mr. Lynch, possessed by Mr. Boogedy, gives him the cloak and Mr. Boogedy appears at the town festival. Eloise is dressed as Widow Marion, the woman that Mr. Boogedy once loved, and Mr. Boogedy put her under his spell—which makes her hair change into Elsa Lanchester-like Frankenstein hair—and takes her with him.

The family has to get Eloise back and get rid of Mr.Boogedy.

The charm and fun that is the first “Mr. Boogedy” (1986) is not present in this made-for-TV sequel.

Much of the cast is the same, but the actors for children Aurie and Jennifer are different.

Leonard Frey as Mr. Witherspoon with spinach ice cream.

Leonard Frey as Mr. Witherspoon with spinach ice cream.

John Astin who was a highlight in the first film also isn’t in this movie. Instead of Neil Witherspoon we have Walter Witherspoon played by Leonard Frey. Frey’s Witherspoon is rather odd, rather than spookily hilarious. For example, the movie starts with him telling ghost stories about Mr. Boogedy and he makes special ice cream for the festival such as spinach with bacon bits ice cream and chocolate with onion ice cream.

Also, while “Mr. Boogedy” is a brisk 45 minutes, “Bride of Boogedy” is 95 minutes long. It drags with a plot that seems to struggle to find focus. The séance and Mr. Boogedy coming back is more than 30 minutes into this movie.

“Bride of Boogedy” still holds fond childhood memories and I remember thinking parts of it were funny as a child (like moments when Carleton is possessed by Mr. Boogedy), but the length and plot are just not as charming as its predecessor. This proves that sequels and longer lengths don’t make a better movie.

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