Review: “Rod Taylor: Pulling No Punches” (2016)

Rod Taylor

In the 1950s, Hollywood was filled with suave and stylish stars like Cary Grant and William Holden, and the brooding method actors like Marlon Brando and James Dean.

And then there was Rod Taylor, who was in a class all his own.

Hollywood’s top director, Alfred Hitchcock, cast him in “The Birds” (1963), Walt Disney wanted him to voice a Dalmatian, and even Albert “Cubby” Broccoli approached Rod Taylor about playing James Bond. (He refused because he thought that sort of story was best for television—it would never work in films—later saying this was the stupidest remark he ever made).

A 2016 documentary, “Rod Taylor: Pulling No Punches” highlights this standout actor’s life and work. Rod Taylor himself helps tell his story through an interview that was filmed in 2012.

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Review: The New Gidget TV series (1986-1988)

The 1980s are remembered for big hair, leg warmers and neon colored clothing set to a soundtrack of David Bowie and Michael Jackson. But it was also filled with 1960s nostalgia and reboots.

The Monkees were on a revival tour in 1986, Sam and Dave’s “Soul Man” sold Campbell’s Soup, and the California Raisins sang Marvin Gaye’s “Heard It Through the Grapevine.”

And then there were the television reboots. There was “The New Leave It to Beaver” (1983-89), The New Monkees (1987), The Munsters Today (1987-91), and The New Lassie (1989-92).

Caryn Richman and Dean Butler as Gidget and Moondoggie in a publicty shot for “The New Gidget.”

And there was “The New Gidget” (1986-88), which was the last film or TV show about Frances “Gidget” Lawrence, the surfing girl midget. While three made-for-TV movies filled the gap (Gidget Grows Up, Gidget Gets Married, and Gidget’s Summer Reunion), “The New Gidget” (1986-88) comes 20 years after the first Gidget (1965-66) TV show graced the small screen.

Following the made-for-TV movie “Gidget’s Summer Reunion” (1985), the television show follows married Gidget (Caryn Richman) and Jeff “Moondoggie” Griffin (Dean Butler) working as a travel agent and architect. Gidget’s niece Dani (Sydney Penny) lives with the couple while her parents, Gidget’s sister Anne and brother-in-law John, live overseas. William Schallert plays Gidget’s father, Russ Lawrence, and reminds Gidget that Dani’s exploits aren’t too different from her own as a teenager. Gidget’s old friend LaRue (Jill Jacobson) runs the travel agency with her in Santa Monica.

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Book Review: “My Way of Life” by Joan Crawford

A disclaimer before I begin my review of “My Way of Life” by Joan Crawford: this is a book review. I’m not here to discuss Christina Crawford and whether or not her “Mommie Dearest” accusations are true. I’m also not discussing the “Feud” TV show. Furthermore, I do like Joan Crawford and have watched almost all of her films, minus a handful of her silents (I would say my favorites are A Woman’s Face, Possessed (1947), Mildred Pierce and Love on the Run). Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll continue.

Actress Joan Crawford by photographed George Hurrell, 1935. The blouse was designed by Adrian.

Starting in Hollywood in 1925, Joan Crawford endured a career that spanned 47 years. When her career began at age 19, she was every bit the flapper—the personification of youth. Even author F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “Joan Crawford is doubtless the best example of the flapper, the girl you see in smart night clubs.”

As her career continued into the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and on, Joan Crawford assumed the sophisticated lady persona that was popular of the time. Well-dressed, well-mannered and well-bred, this was an image that Crawford maintained for the rest of her life. And this is what “My Way of Life” focuses on.

My Way of Life” is really a Hollywood self-help book. The book begins with Joan telling her readers what she is doing today, in 1971 when the book was published. Joan lives alone in an apartment in Manhattan, always busy at her desk. She tells us a bit about her background, the school she dropped out of (Stephen College in Missouri), her early days in Hollywood, and a bit about each of her husbands (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.; Franchot Tone; Phillip Terry and Alfred Steele).

Joan dictated the book on a tape machine, which was then put together by Audrey Davenport, who Joan thanks at the start of the book.

“It’s my philosophies rather than an actual biography. My life story has been told over and over. My thoughts about life are newer,” Joan Crawford said in a July 6, 1971, newspaper article.

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Review: Gidget TV series (1965-1966)

Until a few weeks ago, I never had watched an episode of the TV version of “Gidget” (1965-66) starring Sally Field. But as I kicked off my third summer of surfing through the “Gidget” franchise, I bought the series and took the plunge—and then I binge watched all 32 episodes for two weeks until I finished.

As I have mentioned before, my favorite Gidget in the films is Sandra Dee, who originated the role. At second place was Karen Valentine, who played Gidget in a TV film “Gidget Grows Up” (1969). However, I have to admit that Sally Field may nudge Valentine from that spot.

Frances “Gidget” Lawrence’s life story undergoes several adjustments throughout the duration of the Gidget series (1959-1986). In 1959, we start off with a shy, smart, innocent only child of two parents. Once she finds love in Hawaii (1961) and Rome (1963), Gidget gets less naïve and more precocious.

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Stars at Twilight: “Christmas Eve” (1986)

At age 4 in 1917, she made her first film appearance as an uncredited fairy in “The Primrose Ring.” Actress Loretta Young performed in 94 films from 1917 to 1989 and was the star of the successful television show, “The Loretta Young Show.” Young acted almost all her life, performing in her last role, the TV movie “Lady In A Corner” (1989), at age 76.

But we are focusing on Young’s second to last role: the TV movie “Christmas Eve” (1986).

Loretta Young and Trevor Howard in "Christmas Eve" (1986)

Loretta Young and Trevor Howard in “Christmas Eve” (1986)

Young plays wealthy Amanda Kingsley who dedicates her time to helping the homeless, taking in stray cats, reading to children and directing choirs. Her butler Maitland (Trevor Howard) is her begrudging, but loving, sidekick and friend who accompanies her on these all-night outings of helping the needy.

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On the Small Screen: The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet — Halloween Party

Throughout the Halloween season, Comet Over Hollywood is spotlighting Halloween episodes of classic television shows. 

“The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet”— “Halloween Party”
Season 1, Episode 5

Air Date: Oct. 31, 1952

Plot:
The show begins with young Ricky dressed in his skeleton Halloween costume. His mother, Harriet Nelson, says it “gives her the willies.”

Ricky Nelson in his skeleton costume.

Ricky Nelson in his skeleton costume.

“My skeleton costume makes me look real thin and people feel sorry for you and give you more cake and ice cream,” Ricky said.

Ricky’s brother David comes home with a box of Halloween goodies and decorations. He’s the class treasurer and just bought everything for a school Halloween party.

During the conversation about Halloween parties, their dad, Ozzie Nelson, comments “Yeh Halloween is a lot of fun for kids” and continues to say that as you get older, you get tired of parties and games aren’t fun. He says, “It’s time to give Halloween back to the kids.”

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Review: Geordie (1955)

Never have I stumbled over a more delightful film.

While searching for films about sports, the 1955 British film “Geordie,” released in the U.S. as “Wee Geordie,” came up in the results. I hadn’t heard of this film or several of the stars, but I decided to give it a go and I’m glad I did.

Geordie is smaller than the other students and gets picked on.

Geordie is smaller than the other students and gets picked on.

Directed by Frank Launder, “Geordie” follows a young boy named Geordie MacTaggart (Paul Young) who is the smallest in his class and Scottish village. The “wee” boy is fed up with being picked on at school and harassed about his height.

Geordie spots an advertisement for a mail-order body-building course on the back of his father’s (Jameson Clark) newspaper. He orders Henry Samson’s (Francis DeWolff) exercise correspondence and continues to work through the course until he’s a tall, strong 21 year-old man (Bill Travers — who was 6′ 6″). Geordie’s girl Jean (Norah Gorsen) is aggravated by the exercises and feels like it takes up all of his time.

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Review: Orry-Kelly and the “Women He’s Undressed” (2015)

Poster WOMEN HE'S UNDRESSED - Courtesy of Wolfe VideoAt 14, loving both classic films and fashion, I always kept my eyes peeled for the film’s costume designer. With 293 credits to his name from 1932 to 1963, Orry-Kelly was a name I often spotted.

Dark Victory (1939), Now Voyager (1940), Casablanca (1940), American in Paris (1951), Auntie Mame (1958), Some Like it Hot (1959), and Gypsy (1963) are just a few films that he added to his resume.

While many today will name Edith Head when put on the spot to name a costume designer, she wasn’t the only one in Hollywood. Head’s costumes were lovely and she deserves all her accolades, but many costume designers seem to be cast in a shadow as dark as her round black glasses.

“Women He’s Undressed” (2015), a new documentary directed by Gillian Armstrong, gives audiences the opportunity to learn more about the prolific costume designer, Orry-Kelly.

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Review: Gidget’s Summer Reunion (1985) TV Movie

From 1959 to 1986, there were nine versions of “Gidget” on TV and film, live action and animated.

I’ve refrained from calling versions made from 1959 to 1972 “the worst” of the Gidget series, because they aren’t.

“Gidget Goes Hawaiian” isn’t great but it has some bright spots and is colorful. “Gidget Goes to Rome” is a little too syrupy sweet, and “Gidget Gets Married” was just goofy.

gidgetBut the worst came in 1985 with the two hour made-for-TV movie “Gidget’s Summer Reunion.”

Gidget (Caryn Richman) and Moondoggie/Jeff (Dean Butler) are married, living in a house they can’t afford and working paycheck to paycheck. Gidget runs a travel agency and Jeff works as a contractor and has a sexy blond boss, Anne (Mary Frann). Their 15-year-old niece Kim (Allison Barron) comes to stay the summer and is ready to learn how to surf and gets tangled with a college-aged surfing jerk (Vincent Van Patten) who only has one thing on his mind.

Gidget is so busy at work that her marriage is falling apart and Anne is reaching out her claws for Jeff. Just as Gidget attempts to patch up her married and is planning a surprise birthday party for Jeff with the old surfing gang, she has to take over on a tour of Hawaii when her tour guide gets sick.

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Review: Gidget Gets Married (1972) TV movie

Gidget and Moondoggie’s romance started onscreen in 1959 on the beaches of Malibu.
Though the real Gidget didn’t marry “Moondoggie,” the fictional one tied the knot in a 1972 TV movie, “Gidget Gets Married.”

At the end of the TV movie “Gidget Grows Up” (1969), Gidget and Jeff get engaged. Two years later, Gidget (Monie Ellis) has left her job at the United Nations and is now working as a first grade teacher. Jeff “Moondoggie” Stevens (Michael Burns) returns home from the Air Force and is ready to get married immediately.

Jeff/Moondoggie (Michael Burns) and Gidget (Monie Ellis)

Jeff/Moondoggie (Michael Burns) and Gidget (Monie Ellis)

The two go to Gidget’s dad (Macdonald Carey) who is wary of such a quick wedding but relents when he hears Jeff has an engineering job lined up. Former child star and Gidget’s old landlord Louis B. Latimer (Paul Lynde) attends the wedding and brings his movie cameras to capture the moment.

The movie is less about the wedding and more about the newlyweds adjusting to married life, new jobs and communities.

They move to Florida for Jeff’s job at Worldwide Dynamics. Their home is located in a company owned community and furniture is provided by Worldwide Dynamics, which doesn’t sit well with Gidget, because she can’t decorate her first home. Jets also fly over Gidget’s neighborhood. Worldwide Dynamics is separated into three communities based on status within the company and the neighborhoods aren’t supposed to fraternize.

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