Comet Over Hollywood celebrates fans

ATTENTION!

comet
This holiday season, I want to give back to all of you who help celebrate classic Hollywood every day.

What I’m doing: Each week of December, I will have a prize drawing for one of Comet Over Hollywood’s fans.

What I need you to do: Spread the word about Comet with your friends and help us get 2015 Facebook fans by January 1. Tweet about us, share us on Facebook, talk about Comet to complete strangers.

Let’s have some fun spreading the good word of classic film.

Happy holidays!

Jessica Pickens, the Hollywood Comet

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

Holy DVD Batman

I may not have been alive when the 1966 “Batman” television show starring Adam West and Burt Ward was originally aired, but it is my favorite adaptation of the caped crusader. Ward was even one of my first celebrity crushes.

Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin int he 1966 "Batman" TV show.

Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin int he 1966 “Batman” TV show.

 

This declaration frequently gets me in trouble. “It’s goofy. Batman isn’t supposed to be funny,” friends will retort. This is probably true. However, when life is too serious, hokey lines mixed with colorful word bubbles of “Bam!” and “Pow” popping up during fights can be balm for the soul.

I was first introduced to the television series when TVLand re-aired the show in 2001. I was 13 and starting to dig deeper into my classic film, television and music obsession that is still running strong today.

My mom remembered watching the show as a child and dressing up as Batman and Robin with her friends. She introduced me to the show, and like most nostalgic things my parents introduced me to, I was hooked.

The parody show ran originally from 1966 through 1968. Airing twice weekly for the first two seasons, each half hour show ended with a cliff hanger of Batman and Robin in peril with the announcer alluding that the “Worst was yet to come” and to be sure to tune in the “Same Bat time, Same Bat channel.”

The lines Batman said were delivered in the most serious manner but meant to be ridiculous and humorous. Robin’s character on the show is characterized by his exclamations of “Holy,” connected to what he and Batman were discussing.

Every night “Batman” aired, I would sit watching with what I called my “Holy List.” . And I tried to write down every single “holy” uttered during the show.

A sampling from my "Holy List'-- where I wrote down every "Holy" Robin said.

A sampling from my “Holy List’– where I wrote down every “Holy” Robin said.

I still have my “Holy List,” and it’s sitting beside me as I write this. Creased with fold marks and with faded pencil writing, my list ended up being nine pages, some front and back. Included on the list are some of the Riddler’s puzzles scrawled in the margins.

A few of my favorite Robin “Holy” quotations:

-Holy purple cannibal

-Holy here-we-go-again

-Holy reverse priority

-Holy missing relatives

-Holy Fourth Amendment

-Holy Rip Van Winkle

-Holy diversionary tactics

-Holy uncanny photographic mental process

-Holy squirrel cage

-Holy one-track-bat-computer-mind

The show was a favorite of some of Hollywood’s top celebrities including Natalie Wood, Frank Sinatra and Cary Grant. All three wanted to guest star but were never able to be fit in.

The primary villains on the show were the Riddler, played by Frank Gorshwin; the Joker, played by Cesar Romero; the Penguin, played by Burgess Meredith; and Catwoman, played by Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt and Lee Meriwether (in the film).

Lee Meriwether as Catwoman, Frank Gorshwin as the Riddler, Burgess Meredith as the Penguin and Cesar Romero as The Joker in the 1966 "Batman" film. Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt played Catwoman on the TV show.

Lee Meriwether as Catwoman, Frank Gorshwin as the Riddler, Burgess Meredith as the Penguin and Cesar Romero as The Joker in the 1966 “Batman” film. Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt played Catwoman on the TV show.

The show included celebrity guest stars who would play villains on the show including Tallulah Bankhead as the Blackwidow, Van Johnson as the Minstrel, Roddy McDowell as Bookworm, or Vincent Price as Egghead. Other times, stars like Jerry Lewis would appear when they were looking out the window as Batman and Robin scaled a wall.

Two other classic Hollywood stars appear on the show as regular. Neil Hamilton plays Commissioner Gordon. Hamilton was in several 1930s films, usually playing a cad who jilted a woman. Alan Napier plays Alfred the butler. Napier was a character actor in the 1930s through the 1970s, appearing in films such as “Lassie” (1943) or “The Uninvited” (1944).

Roddy McDowall guest starred as "The Bookworm."

Roddy McDowall guest starred as “The Bookworm.”

On the show, Batman also had the most impressive gadgets including shark repellent (in the 1966 Batman film) or Bat sleeping gas used to knock out bad guys and take them back to the Bat Cave. However, while fighting crime, Batman always reminded Robin that safety and responsibility had to come first- often telling him to put on his seatbelt in the BatMobile or to do his algebra homework.

For years, I waited for the series to be released on DVD. I happily watched as seasons of my other favorite classic television shows such as “My Three Sons,” “Emergency” and “Adam-12” were released, and constantly wondered, “But what about Batman?”

When the announcement came earlier in 2014 that the television series would be released by Warner Brothers this November, I was overjoyed. I guess sometimes it’s the simple, material things that keep us going. Complications with rights prevented the release of the television show.

Now owning the first season of “Batman” on DVD, I found it just as delightful as I did when I was 13. The color and picture on the DVD is vibrant and looks great. My only qualm is that it looks like rather than releasing the full second season on DVD, the seasons are being split up in two parts- similar to how Warner released “My Three Sons.”

Whether you find Adam West cheesy as Batman or not, there is no denying that the television show is a pleasant and fun way to spend a spare hour.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

The First Lady of Baseball: Laraine Day

She was a perfect mix of sophistication and fresh-faced beauty.

Laraine Day was an All-American girl next door, who played Nurse Mary Lamont in the “Doctor Kildare” film series while under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Day co-starred with top Hollywood stars such as John Wayne, Cary Grant, Lana Turner and was directed once by Alfred Hitchcock.

Day and Durocher smitten on the set of "Tycoon" in 1947.

Day and Durocher smitten on the set of “Tycoon” in 1947.

The sweet-as-pie actress married the baseball infielder and manager, Leo Durocher. Nicknamed “Leo the Lip,” Durocher was a controversial figure in the sport, known for being outspoken.

During their marriage, Day became known as “The First Lady of Baseball.”

Durocher’s professional baseball career began in 1925 playing with the New York Yankees and continued on with the Cincinnati Reds from 1930 to 1933, St. Louis Cardinals from 1933 to 1937 and the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1938 to 1941, 1943 and 1945.

Durocher managed the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros and Taiheiyo Club Lions.

Durocher was the manager of the New York Giants from 1948 to 1955 while he was married to Day.

Day served almost as a mascot and public relations manager for the team. She was friends with the ballplayers, their wives and the sportswriters and their wives. She was said to have polished the rough Durocher.

Day even hosted a “Day with the Giants,” which was a 15 minute television broadcast before each Giants home game. She also wrote the books about the teams called “Day with the Giants” (1952) and “The America We Love,” though the books are also said to be ghostwritten.

While they were married, she would watch nearly 77 games each year.

Day cheers for the Giants in 1948.

Day cheers for the Giants in 1948.

“It’s making a nervous wreck out of me. I don’t feel like an average fan,” she said in a 1954 Associated Press interview. “Winning and losing affects our lives. It’s our future.”

She even adjusted her film career around his career, only making one movie per year and doing the occasional television show.

During the season, Day would go to spring training and attend every home game but stayed home with the children when the team went on the road, according to the article.

“Before I married Leo, I wanted to win an Academy Award,” she said. “Now all I want is for us to win a pennant. My work is secondary.”

But before meeting Durocher, Day wasn’t a baseball fan. She didn’t even know who he was.

Day, then married to musician Ray Hendricks, met Durocher at the Stork Club in 1944.

Everyone applauded when he entered and Day asked a friend who he was. The friend told her Durocher played for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Day apparently asked, “What’s a Dodger?,” according to the book “The Victory Season: The End of World War II and the Birth of Baseball’s Golden Age” by  Robert Weintraub.

“I didn’t know who he was, but I certainly did dislike him,” she said in a 1954 Associated Press interview, “Laraine Day Now No. One Fan of Giants.”

But the ice melted two years later when Day met Durocher on a flight. She was on her way to Minneapolis and was delayed in Chicago. So was Durocher. By the time their flight left, Day was smitten, according to the book by Weintraub.

Durocher was a well-known ladies man, being seen on occasion with actresses Betty Hutton, Linda Darnell and Copacabana show girl Edna Ryan.

Hollywood’s nice girl started an affair with the rough baseball player, and eventually filed for divorce with Hendricks in 1946. She was granted an interlocutory divorce from Hendricks on Jan.  20, 1947, meaning she had to wait one year before remarrying, according to Weintraub.

However, on January 21, 1947, Day traveled to Mexico where she received a second divorce decree and joined Durocher in Texas to be married.

Leo Durocher and Laraine Day

Leo Durocher and Laraine Day

Day and Durocher were then surrounded by gossip and scandal, with Day being called an adulterer and bigamist.

It was deemed the Mexican divorce was not legal and her Texas marriage was illegal.

A year later, in February 1948, the two remarried and the Associated Press reported “Laraine Day, Leo Durocher to Wed Again.” Durocher was 42 and Day was 27, the Associated Press reported in the Feb. 14, 1948 article.

In 1955, Day found herself in another “scandal,” while she found herself in an unintentionally groundbreaking photo.

Center fielder Willie Mays played for Giants while Durocher was manager, and Day adored the ballplayer.

April 1955 Sports Illustrated cover with Willie Mays, Laraine Day and Leo Durocher. The cover sparked controversy in 1955.

April 1955 Sports Illustrated cover with Willie Mays, Laraine Day and Leo Durocher. The cover sparked controversy in 1955.

“While I interviewed many ballplayers, the favorite of all is Willie Mays, who suffers tortures in the air and yet wins the heart of everybody,” Day is quoted in “Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend” by James S. Hirsch.

Mays, Day and Durocher were featured on the April 11, 1955, cover of “Sports Illustrated.” Day stands between the two men with her hands on both of their shoulders.

But in 1955, it was an outrage that a white woman would have her hand on a black man’s shoulder.

Letters were sent to the magazine, now only a year old, from outraged readers and others asking to cancel their subscriptions, according to Hirsch’s book.

After 13 years of marriage, Durocher and Day divorced in 1960.

After their divorce, Day said she was done with baseball, according her New York Times obituary.

“When our relationship was over, so was my relationship with baseball,” the obituary quoted Day.

However, Day did return to baseball once more in 1994.

Durocher, who passed away in 1991, was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.

Day attended the ceremony in 1994 on her former husband’s behalf.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

Who are your neighbors?: 60 years of peeping through the “Rear Window”

Do you know your neighbors?
The family with the dog that barks all night, the child who rides through your yard on his bike or the woman who sends flowers when a relative dies?
Stuck in his wheelchair with a broken leg, James Stewart’s character in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” (1954) got acquainted with his neighbors through a telephoto lens.
In a New York flat, the injured photographer passes the hours watching other apartment dwellers who live around a courtyard.

courtyard
While spying through his zoom lens, L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies ( James Stewart) may have stumbled across a murder.  Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr), who lives across the courtyard, had an invalid wife who suddenly no longer exists and Jeff wants to know why.
While James Stewart in his wheelchair and Grace Kelly in her Edith Head gowns take center stage-flanked by Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter and Raymond Burr- those being peeped upon are equally important in this “Is this woman dead?” story.
But who were these people? As “Rear Window” celebrates its 60th birthday, premiering on the big screen Aug. 1, 1954, let’s take a look at who “Miss Torso,” “Miss Lonelyheart” and the amorous newlyweds are.

The Neighbors:

Judith Evelyn plays Miss Lonelyheart. She prepares to go on a date.

Judith Evelyn plays Miss Lonelyheart. She prepares to go on a date.

-Miss Lonelyheart: Miss Lonelyheart is the middle aged woman in the courtyard who longs for love but has yet to find it. Jeff watches her pantomime that she is on a date and then cry that she doesn’t have a lover. When she finally has a date, the man aggressively tries to make love to her and she pushes him from the house and sobs.
Miss Lonelyheart is played by Judith Evelyn who also performed in the films “The Egyptian” (1954), “Giant” (1956) and “The Tingler” (1958). Evelyn had a career on Broadway in the plays “Craig’s Wife” as Mrs. Craig in the 1947 revival and “The Shrike” as Ann Downs in 1952. Evelyn won the Drama League’s Distinguished Performance Award in 1942.
Evelyn was married to Canadian radio performer Andrew Allan. Allan, Evelyn and her father were aboard the Athenia in 1939 and were traveling through the Irish Sea, the body of water that separates Ireland and Great Britain. The ship was torpedoed by a German submarine on Sept. 3, 1939, three days after the Germans invaded Poland. This was the first British passenger liner sunk by Germans. Six out of 85 passengers survived, including Allan and Evelyn, but her father died.

Ross Bagdasarian plays the "Songwriter," pictured here with Alfred Hitchcock in his signature cameo.

Ross Bagdasarian plays the “Songwriter,” pictured here with Alfred Hitchcock in his signature cameo.

-The Songwriter: The Songwriter has the lavish apartment with large windows. His piano music serenades the apartment courtyard for much of the film as he composes. It’s in the Songwriter’s apartment where director Alfred Hitchcock makes his cameo. The Songwriter’s composing stops Miss Lonelyheart from committing suicide…and distracts Lisa (Grace Kelly) from doing some investigative work.
The songwriter is played by Ross Bagdasarian, who actually was a composer. Bagdasarian is also known as “David Seville,” father and creator of Alvin and the Chipmunks. He wrote the “Chipmunk Song” (Christmas Don’t Be Late) in 1958, which he won a Grammy Award. Bagdasarian was also the voice of David Seville in the 1960s “Alvin and the Chipmunk” cartoon.
Along with the Chipmunks, Bagdasarian wrote songs including “Come On-A to My House” made famous by Rosemary Clooney and “Alfi and Harry,” which was the theme of the Hitchcock film “The Trouble With Harry” (1955).

Georgine Darcy plays the dancer "Miss Torso"

Georgine Darcy plays the dancer “Miss Torso”

-Miss Torso: Miss Torso is the sexy ballet dancer who lives directly across the way from Jeff. She dances her way through her morning routine, entertains men and is happy to see her military boyfriend at the end of the film.
The pretty blond dancer is played by Georgine Darcy, who studied with the New York City Ballet. Her mother, however, encouraged her to be a stripper to make a “fast buck,” according to her 2004 obituary.
When cast as Miss Torso, she didn’t know who director Alfred Hitchcock was. She was paid $350 for the role, and Hitchcock encouraged her to get an agent and study acting, but she didn’t. She was only in a handful of films and television appearances from 1954 to 1971. She was married to actor and singer Byron Palmer from 1974 until her death in 2004.

Sara Berner lowers their dog down into the courtyard. Frank Handy sits inside the apartment.

Sara Berner lowers their dog down into the courtyard. Frank Handy sits inside the apartment.

-The Couple on the Fire Escape: On hot summer evenings, this couple sleeps on a mattress on their fire escape. Each night, the wife lowers their small dog down into the courtyard in a basket and then lifts the dog back up in the basket. The dog serves as a turning point in the film.
The husband is played by Frank Cady, best known for his role as Sam Drucker on the TV shows “Petticoat Junction,” “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Green Acres.”
Though best known for his television roles, Cady was also in several films including “Ace in the Hole” (1951) and “The Bad Seed” (1956).
The wife is played by Sara Berner, who was a voice actor in several Warner Brothers animated shorts from 1933 to 1946. Berner was the voice of Jerry the Mouse in “The Worry Song” when Tom danced with Gene Kelly in “Anchors Away” (1945).

Rand Harper and Havis Davenport play the newlyweds.

Rand Harper and Havis Davenport play the newlyweds.

-The Newlyweds: One of the first neighbors in the courtyard we are introduced to are the newlyweds. They are moving into their new apartment as the film starts. The landlord shows the couple the apartment, and the two keep trying to steal kisses as the landlord shows them from room to room. When he finally leaves, the husband carries his new bride through their threshold. The shade is drawn to their apartment for a great deal of the film, implying that they are….getting acquainted.
The husband is played by Rand Harper who played several bit parts in “Sabrina” (1954), “The FBI Story” (1959) and the TV show “Sea Hunt.”
The wife is played by Havis Davenport who played bit roles in film and TV such as “A Star is Born” (1954). She retired from acting in 1957.

Jesslyn Fax plays the sculpting neighbor.

Jesslyn Fax plays the sculpting neighbor.

-Sculpting Woman: The sculpting neighbor uses a hearing aid, appears to maybe be a bit of a busy body and is sculpting odd shapes in the courtyard. At the beginning she tries to say good morning to mysterious Thorwald (Burr) and he practically sneers at her.
The sculpting woman is played by Jesslyn Fax. This was not her only Alfred Hitchock project. Fax appeared in a bit role in “North by Northwest,” three “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” episodes and two “Alfred Hitchcock Hour” episodes.
Fax appeared in several films and television shows including “Music Man” (1962), “Kiss Me Deadly” (1955), “An Affair to Remember” (1957), “The Best of Everything” (1959) and an episode of “I Love Lucy.”

 Added bonus: When James Stewart talks to his editor on the telephone, the voice is actor Gig Young.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

From song to screen: “Ode to Billy Joe” (1976)

On the third of June, Billie Joe McAllister committed suicide by jumping off the Tallahatchie Bridge.

Bobbie Gentry, Ode to Billie JoeBobbie Gentry’s 1967 hit song “Ode to Billie Joe” chronicles a family sitting around the dinner table and casually discussing the death of a local boy-not considering the feelings of the narrator who was dating Billie Joe.

One line in Gentry’s song discusses the narrator and Billie Joe throwing something off the bridge generated the most questions from fans: “What did she and Billie Joe throw off the bridge?”

Fans speculated LSD, a baby, a ring, flowers or a draft card were tossed into the muddy Mississippi waters.

“People are trying to read social comment into the song. I wrote it as a comment on human nature, not on society,” Gentry said in a 1967 Associated Press interview. “I don’t know what was thrown off the Tallahatchie Bridge. The act itself was more symbolic than anything.”

But in 1976, a movie based on the song gave an answer to what was thrown off the bridge and why Billy Joe McAllister committed suicide: a homosexual experience.

“What the song didn’t tell you, the movie will” it advertised.

Set in 1953, the film version of “Ode to Billy Joe” (the spelling of Billy differs in the song and film) stars Glynnis O’Connor as Bobbie Lee Hartley, the 15-year old narrator, and Robby Benson as Billy Joe McAllister.

Fifteen-year-old Bobbie Lee is an adolescent young woman eager for gentlemen affections. In her frustrated state, she reads torrid romance magazines and says ridiculous lines such as, “I’m a body too with desires,” “Nothing has passed my lips except Pepsi Cola” and “I’m 15, and going on 34 – B cup.”

ode to billy joeBilly Joe confesses his love for Bobbie Lee, but her father says she is too young to date.

The budding romance is mainly a game of cat and mouse of Bobbie Lee pretending she doesn’t like Billy Joe.

One night, the town holds a jamboree with a make shift whorehouse in the back. Billy Joe is drunk and confused about it all and is missing for two days after the jamboree.

The reason for Billy Joe’s disappearance is the same reason as his suicide: at the jamboree he has sexual relations with a man. The man turns out to be his boss at the sawmill Dewey Barksdale, played by James Best.

Billy Joe shows up in tears, ashamed of what he did saying it is sin against nature and a sin against God.

“I don’t know how I want to be with you and do that,” he tells Bobbie Lee.

During their discussion, Billy Joe throws something off the bridge- Bobbie Lee’s childhood doll, Benjamin.

After Billy Joe’s death, the town is filled with rumors that Bobbie Lee is pregnant with his baby, though the two never had sex.

Bobbie Lee melodramatically decides to leave town and pretend that she has the baby and will return when the rumors die down. She meets Barksdale on the bridge, who is on his way to confess what he has done. Bobbie Lee gives a speech, saying telling the truth won’t do Barksdale or Billy Joe, any good.

“Billy Joe’s already on his way to becoming a legend. He made a desirable girl pregnant and then jumped off the bridge. We ought to leave him with that,” Bobbie Lee said.

The film ends with Barksdale carrying Bobbie Lee’s bag to the bus stop.

Gentry received movie offers after the song came out in 1967, but she held out for 10 years, she said in a 1976 article in the Nashua Telegraph written by Vernon Scott.

“I waited because I was afraid it would become an exploitation picture to capitalize off the record,” Gentry was quoted. “I didn’t want it done cheaply.”

“Ode to Billie Joe” was originally a short story written by Gentry, and then condensed into a song, she said in the 1976 interview.

Gentry wrote a song for Max Baer, Jr.’s film “Macon County Line.” Baer produced “Macon County Line” and directed “Ode to Billy Joe.” He is known for his role as Jethro on the TV show “The Beverly Hillbillies.”  She liked Baer’s work and she brought “Ode to Billie Joe” to him as a film idea, the Nashua Telegraph article said.

In the contract, Gentry had approval of characters and plot development. She also re-recorded the hit song for the film.

Robby Benson and Glynnis O'Connor in "Ode to Billy Joe" (1976)

Robby Benson and Glynnis O’Connor in “Ode to Billy Joe” (1976)

“Now that I know why Billy Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge, I almost wish I didn’t,” film critic Roger Ebert wrote in his July 7, 1976 film review. “Bobbie Gentry’s famous song, on which “Ode to Billy Joe” is based, found much of its haunting effect in its refusal to reveal why Billy Joe killed himself. His death was seen as sad, and long ago, and unnecessary, and the singer recalled it as a key event in an unhappy time. Gentry didn’t need to explain because she evoked.”

Ebert gave the movie 2.5 out of 3 stars in 1976, saying the dialogue is attractive, but that the movie goes astray after Billy Joe kills himself.

Personally, I found the dialogue hokey with several pointless scenes. “Did they really just say that?” was a reoccurring thought as I watched the hour and forty-five minute film.

The film doesn’t play scenes that are lyric-by-lyric of the song. This is probably a good thing. There isn’t a dinner table scene when Billy Joe’s death is discussed and Billy Joe doesn’t put a frog down Bobbie Lee’s back at the Carroll County picture show.

However, there is a preacher watching as the doll is thrown off the bridge, and Bobbie Lee’s father says, “Seems like nothin’ ever comes to no good up on Choctaw Ridge.” This is said after an incident where some drunk Alabamians try to push his truck off the Tallahatchie Bridge.

While I may not have enjoyed this film, I do understand the message that was trying to be portrayed- Billy Joe’s senseless suicide because of societal beliefs. Billy Joe’s confusion, guilt and shame that leads him to kill himself is a relevant issue for 1953, 1976 and most likely today. Though as Gentry originally said, her song was not a social commentary.

Along with the ridiculous script and disliking Robby Benson, my main issue with the film is giving a reason to Billy Joe’s death.

The original purpose of the song is “unconscious cruelty”- the nonchalant way the narrator’s family discusses Billy Joe’s suicide, Gentry said in an interview when the song was released.

Even though Gentry agreed to the film, I feel giving a reason to the suicide takes away from the mournful tune of “Ode to Billie Joe.”

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

I love to sing-a, about the moon-a and the June-a

ilovetosinga3.0

Owl Jolson loves to sing-a.

You may see me dancing around the office, shaking my finger and singing the tune from this Warner Brothers cartoon.

The 1936 cartoon “I Love to Singa” is one of those cartoons I saw as a child that has always stuck with me.

Every night before bed, I watched Warner Brother and MGM cartoons on Cartoon Network and TBS while I was growing up.

One of my favorite was the Merrie Melodies cartoon directed by Tex Avery that features Owl Jolson. This was Avery’s ninth animated short.

In the cartoon, Mama Owl is sitting on her eggs as Papa Owl paces. They are waiting on their new children to be born in their home inside a tree.

ilovetosinga2.02

Owl Jolson’s brothers are already classically trained!

When they hatch: one owl pops out singing “Chi mi frena in tal momento” from the opera Lucia di Lammermoor,  another is playing “Traumerei” on the violin and a third is playing Mendelssohn’s “Spring Song” on the flute.

Yet when the fourth owl hatches, he’s dancing and singing “I love to singa, ‘bout the moon-a and the June-a and the spring-a.”

Papa Owl covers his ears and calls him a crooner and a jazz singer.

To correct his son’s love for contemporary music, Papa tries to teach him the classics and we see Owl Jolson unhappily singing “Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes.”

Owl Jolson runs away from home and is on a radio talent show hosted by Jack Bunny-a spoof of Jack Benny.

When his family hears little Owl on the radio, they rush down to the station, encourage his jazz music and he wins the talent show.

Picture 4

Jack Bunny holds an amateur hour contest.

“I Love to Singa” is a small tribute to Al Jolson’s film “The Jazz Singer” (1927). The song comes from the Jolson film “The Singing Kid” (1936).

The voice of Owl Jolson is child actor Tommy Bond who played Butch in the “Our Gang” series.

The cartoon demonstrates Tex Avery’s talents while paying homage to an early sound film.

One of my favorite parts of the eight minute cartoon is when all the different animals are trying out for the talent show, and all are so bad they fall through a trap door.

Owl Jolson's family accepts his love for jazz.

Owl Jolson’s family accepts his love for jazz.

My other favorite is when all the little owls hatch, already equipped with instruments and excellent musical prowess! Mama owl must be quite talented!

There isn’t one thing I don’t love about “I Love to Singa.” The title song is catchy, the jokes are witty and the name “Owl Jolson”-spoofing Al Jolson’s name- doesn’t fail to make me chuckle.

bloggiversary

This is part of True Classics Fourth Anniversary Celebration contest

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He never met a man he didn’t like: A visit to the Will Rogers Museum

He never met a man he didn’t like.

Will Rogers was born in Oologah, OK, and his final resting place is at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore, OK.

Rogers made a name for himself in vaudeville as doing roping tricks, eventually making it to the Ziegfeld Follies. He then made silent films, talking pictures, wrote syndicated newspaper columns and broadcasted on the radio. Rogers was always on top of his communication game.
Rogers died in 1935 in a plane crash in Alaska.

Will Rogers statue near his tomb. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)

Will Rogers statue near his tomb. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)

“When commercial radio evolved, Rogers quickly migrated to the new format,” said an exhibit at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum. “If alive today, he probably would be blogging and tweeting.”

This past September, my co-worker Brittany Randolph and I went on a road trip to Oklahoma. She loves the plains and I was along for an adventure. I didn’t care where we went as long as we visited the Will Rogers Rogers Memorial Museum.

The museum includes:
-Rogers’s saddle collection such as Mongolian, French and Navajo saddles
-A gallery of portraits painted of Will Rogers
-A theater that shows “The Will Rogers Story” narrated that Bob Hope
-Rogers’s tiny saddle collection
-A smaller theater that shows Will Rogers films
-A diorama on Will Rogers life
-Artifacts such as hats, scripts or costumes that belonged to Rogers
-History on Rogers’ family, dating back to his Native American heritage
-Rooms of the museum recreate rooms of Rogers’s home such as his study-modeled to make him think of ranch life
-Will Rogers’ grave site is in a garden outside the museum with a large statue of him on a horse.
-Samples of some of his radio broadcasts

Part of Rogers's tiny saddle collection

Part of Rogers’s tiny saddle collection

Portrait of Will Rogers

Portrait of Will Rogers

A hat of Will Rogers

A hat of Will Rogers

Me posing with Will Rogers lobby cards

Me posing with Will Rogers lobby cards

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Watching a Will Rogers film

Watching a Will Rogers film

Young Will Rogers

Young Will Rogers

Will Rogers's family had a pet cow that stayed in the house like a dog

Will Rogers’s family had a pet cow that stayed in the house like a dog

Gorgeous ceilings of the museum

Gorgeous ceilings of the museum

Portrait of Will Rogers

Portrait of Will Rogers

Small sculpture of Rogers roping a calf

Small sculpture of Rogers roping a calf

Part of Will Rogers saddle collection

Part of Will Rogers saddle collection

The back of the Will Rogers Museum

The back of the Will Rogers Museum

Will Rogers tomb

Will Rogers tomb

Posing with Will Rogers's statue

Posing with Will Rogers’s statue

The museum opened in 1938 and was dedicated on what would have been his 59th birthday. The land where the museum stands was purchased by Will and his wife Betty in 1911. Betty donated the land to the state in 1937, according to the Will Rogers Memorial Museum.

Along with Rogers, his wife Betty (d. 1944) and their four children: Fred Stone Rogers, 1918-1920; Mary Amelia Rogers Brooks, 1913-1989; and James Blake (­Jim) Rogers, 1915-2000; as well as Jim’s wife, Marguerite Astrea Kemmler Rogers, 1917-1987 lay to rest behind the museum.

If you are ever in the Claremore, OK area, I highly suggest visiting the Will Rogers Memorial Museum.

For someone who lives in the southeast with few historical film museums to offer, it was a treat to get to visit the Will Rogers Museum and his resting place.
It was peaceful and a beautiful tribute to a highly respected man.

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“Being a hero is about the shortest-lived profession on Earth.”

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Musical Monday: “Centennial Summer” (1946)

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.

Centennial_Summer_FilmPosterThis week’s musical:
“Centennial Summer” (1946)–Musical #505

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Otto Preminger

Starring:
Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Cornel Wilde, Walter Brennan, Constance Bennett, Dorothy Gish

Plot:
Set in Philadelphia during the United State’s centennial celebration in 1876, the plot focuses on the Rogers family. Their Aunt Zenia (Bennett) comes to visit from Paris, France for the celebration and brings her French nephew Philippe (Wilde). The oldest Rogers sisters Edith (Darnell)-the flirty older sister who gets all the boys- and Julia (Craine)-the more quiet sister who has never had a romance- immediately both are enchanted by the Frenchman. The two both work for his affections.

Trivia
-Composer Jerome Kern’s last musical score for either stage or film, according to “Hollywood Musicals Year by Year” by Stanley Green
-The film was Fox’s response to MGM’s hit “Meet Me In St. Louis” (1944). Both films focus on turn of the century nostalgia.
-Based on a book by Albert E. Idell
-Very few of the actors do their own singing. Crain was dubbed by Louanne Hogan (who also dubbed Crain in “State Fair“) and Darnell was dubbed by Kay St. Germain Wells (who also dubbed Darnell in “Hangover Square“).

Edith (Darnell) and Julia (Craine) compete for the attentions of Phillippe (Wilde). Comet Over Hollywood/ Screencap by Jessica P.

Edith (Darnell) and Julia (Craine) compete for the attentions of Phillippe (Wilde). Comet Over Hollywood/ Screencap by Jessica P.

Highlights:
-The vibrant, Technicolor sets and costumes make this film.
-The movie includes items that were introduced during this time period such as a magic lantern show.
-Cornel Wilde carrying two dachshunds as he gets off the train….only because I’m a dachshund owner.
-I love the large cast ranging from silent film star Dorothy Gish, pre-code queen Constance Bennett to fresh faced Jeanne Craine.

Notable Songs:
For Jerome Kern’s last work before his 1945 death, none of the songs in this film were memorable.
Many of them seemed misplaced. For example: Philppe (Wilde) and Jesse (Brennan) were about to have a serious conversation in a saloon about Julia (Craine) when African-American singer Avon Long enters the saloon and starts singing “Cinderella Sue.” Though the song was probably one of the more entertaining tunes in the film, it cut right into the middle of a scene. Why would they do that?

Philippe and Jesse look ridiculous dressed in French costumes (after a masquerade) in a saloon. Comet Over Hollywood/Screen Cap by Jessica P.

Philippe and Jesse look ridiculous dressed in French costumes (after a masquerade) in a saloon. Comet Over Hollywood/Screen Cap by Jessica P.

My Review:
This is actually one movie I wish was not a musical. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the cast and the story line and thoroughly enjoyed watching it. But right as the plot was moving right along, it would come to a grinding halt with a misplaced, forgettable song.
All of the actors did a wonderful job, particularly Jeanne Crain who has always been a favorite of mine. However, Cornel Wilde’s French accent sounded more like a Charles Boyer impression.
“Centennial Summer” is a film I have searched for and wanted to see for years. Thank you to our friends over at Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings for letting me know it is currently up on Youtube and contributing to an enjoyable afternoon.

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An education from “The Philadelphia Story”

The Philadelphia Story” taught me what a hangover was when I was nine.

And who knew what yare meant before Katharine Hepburn used the word?

My fourth grade education was enhanced when I learned the meaning of those words the first time I saw “The Philadelphia Story” (1940) in 1998.

Katharine Hepburn as Tracy Lord with too many men after her

Katharine Hepburn as Tracy Lord with too many men after her

My dad was out of town one summer evening and my mother, sister and I picked a movie to watch. We loved it.

“Why did she shield her eyes from the sun like that?” I asked my mom. She explained the consequences people face the next morning after drinking too much.

For years after, I even tried to imitate Hepburn’s silly little laugh she does in the film.

I had forgotten not only about my new vocabulary words the first time I saw the film but many of the charming scenes in “The Philadelphia Story” until I saw it last night for the first time on the big screen.

Moonlight Movies at Falls Park in Greenville, SC

Moonlight Movies at Falls Park in Greenville, SC

I drove an hour to my hometown of Greenville, SC where outdoor classic films are shown every week in May at the Reedy River Falls Park.

Classic film screenings are a treat for me. Where I live, viewing movies on the big screen is rare.

It had been several years since I had seen this movie. Though I knew it was good- boasting a cast of Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, Virginia Weidler and Roland Young-I forgot how wonderful it really was.

The leads are perfect in nearly every film but Virginia Weidler steals the show.

On paper, the film sound dizzy: A divorced woman is remarrying, the ex-husband pops back in the picture and then a reporter-who already has a girlfriend-becomes a potential romantic partner. It’s a love pentagon.

But somehow the story works when it’s acted out.

The only time it doesn’t work is in the horrible Grace Kelly remake, “High Society.”

The script of The Philadelphia Story was written specifically for Katharine Hepburn who originated the role on Broadway and reprised her role as Tracy Lord on screen. The film helped rid Hepburn of her box office poison status. 

Katharine Hepburn with Van Heflin in the stage version of The Philadelphia story

Katharine Hepburn with Van Heflin in the stage version of The Philadelphia story

In the play, Joseph Cotten played C. K. Dexter Haven (played by Cary Grant in the film version) and Macaulay Connor was played by Van Heflin (played by James Stewart). While watching the movie last night I couldn’t help picture those two performing those roles.

I have only been to one other Moonlight Movie series in Greenville back in 2011 to see Strangers on a Train. It wasn’t a pleasant experience due to people talking and continuously getting up and down during the film.

However, last night was much more relaxing and everyone was respectful of the movie.

The only disappointing thing is no one applauded when the film started or when actors entered their first scene like at the Turner Classic Film Festival, however I heard several people around me say they had never seen the movie again.

Revisiting “The Philadelphia Story” was fun and I reminded me how great a movie it was. I’m discovering seeing movies on the big screen is a very special experience.

After all-they were made to be seen that way.

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McCrea in May contest at Comet

Comet Over Hollywood is hosting it’s first ever contest in celebration of Turner Classic Movies finally honoring Joel McCrea as May’s Star of the Month.

As my biggest heartthrob and favorite actor, I had to do something for Mr. McCrea, as well as thank all of you for your support of Comet.

I am giving away three Joel McCrea comedies on DVD: 

Jean Arthur realizes a strange man (Joel McCrea) is staying in her apartment with the permission of border, Charles Coburn in "More the Merrier" (1943).

-The More the Merrier (1943): The World War 2 housing shortage comedy also starring Jean Arthur and Charles Coburn.

Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert in "Palm Beach Story" (1942).

-The Palm Beach Story (1942): McCrea’s wife Claudette Colbert divorces him in order to earn McCrea money from a millionaire in this Preston Sturges comedy. The movie also stars Mary Astor and Rudy Vallee.

Screenwriter Joel McCrea lives as a hobo to see the other side in "Sullivans Travels" (1941).

-Sullivan’s Travels (1941): McCrea is a screen play writer tired of writing fluffy comedies. He travels as a hobo for inspiration for a serious script; getting into trouble and risking his life. The film also stars Veronica Lake.

The contest will be open from Tuesday, May 1, 2012, to Thursday, May 31, 2012. There will be three winners-each receiving one of these DVDs-announced in June.

To enter send the answers to the following questions to cometoverhollywood@gmail.com:

1. What actress was married to Joel McCrea for 57 years?

2. What film did McCrea say was his personal favorite film he made?

3. What is the name of McCrea’s actor son? Name a movie he was in.

4. What actor did McCrea say he always received “leftover scripts” from, including his famous role in Hitchcock’s “Foreign Correspondent”?

5. What was the name of the movie where Joel McCrea played James Kildare (starting off the Lew Ayres series)?

Good luck everyone and spread the word! Remember, email your answers to cometoverhollywood@gmail.com.

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