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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Review: Gidget Grows Up (1969) TV movie

The world was changing in the late-1960s.

The anti-authority, anti-capitalism, anti-war and free-love movements brought a shift in popular culture.

The surf culture that erupted after Fredrick Kohner’s book “Gidget” hit the shelves was starting to fade with dissatisfaction of establishment. This caused a shift in pop culture, and films and music focused more on social movements and issues rather than wanting to hold hands or surf the USA. There no longer was a place for Technicolor fluff films focusing on beach parties, surfing and wahinis in wild bikinis.

So how does Frances “Gidget” Lawrence, the surfing “girl midget” who first appeared in 1957, fit in a changing world?

She goes to work at the United Nations.

Gidget (Karen Valentine) and her friends Diana (Susan Batson) and Minnie (Helen Funai) become United Nations guides. (Comet Over Hollywood screencap)

Gidget (Karen Valentine) and her friends Diana (Susan Batson) and Minnie (Helen Funai) become United Nations guides. (Comet Over Hollywood screencap)

After three feature “Gidget” films and a 1965 television show that lasted one season, the 1969 television film “Gidget Grows Up” places Gidget in New York City. She’s ready to change the world at the United Nations (UN), which she describes as “one of humanity’s noblest achievements.”

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A day in LIFE: Jan. 19, 1948

20160118_223928Comet Over Hollywood is starting a new LIFE magazine series. At the beginning of each post, I’ll feature the film article and provide a listing of other magazine highlights. Published weekly starting in November 1936 to December 1972, over 1,800 issues of LIFE magazine was printed. I collect the magazines and decided to share the film news and current events in each film, giving a snap shot of world news and pop culture.

LIFE magazine is different from People, US Weekly or other contemporary gossip rags. LIFE was a premiere photo journalism publication with cartoons, paintings and photographs detailing wars, fashion trends, life in the United States (campus dances, award winning dogs, snow storms in Wyoming) and entertainment news.

Our second post in the series details January 19, 1948, with a cover photo of actress Marcia Van Dyke, “Virtuoso Starlet.”

Movie Spotlight in LIFE:

Virtuoso Starlet—“The Prettiest first Violinist Now is a Versatile Hollywood Actress”

Marcia Van Dyke was more than just a pretty face—her talent lay in her skills as a violin player.

Marcia Van Dyke plays the violin for producer Joe Pasternak. LIFE photo by Johnny Florea (Scan by Comet Over Hollywood)

Marcia Van Dyke plays the violin for producer Joe Pasternak. LIFE photo by Johnny Florea (Scan by Comet Over Hollywood)

“The big difference between most movie starlets and Marcia Van Dyke…is that their talent begins and ends with their pretty faces. When called on to sing or swim, they need doubles. And when call on to act, they make most movie audiences wish they were singing or swimming,” says the LIFE article.

Marcia Van Dyke said she wondered why the movies wanted her.

The answer? Not only could 25-year-old Van Dyke could sing, swim and play tennis with expertise—but the icing on the cake was that she was an accomplished violinist.

Van Dyke was first photographed by LIFE in 1947 when she was performing with the San Francisco Symphony, dubbing her “the prettiest first violinist.”

Because of this photo, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer producer Joe Pasternak wrote her a contract. In her first film, “In the Good Ole Summertime” (1948), Van Dyke plays a violinist.

Movie of the Week: The Paradine Case—“A good whodunit introduces some new European faces to the U.S. but is not the great drama it pretends to be,” says LIFE.

LIFE describes Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Paradine Case,” but does not seem to think very highly of the film.

“Its producer David O. Selznick…has such faith in it (the film) that he has listed his own name a full five times in the screen credits…”

The film introduced British actress Ann Todd, French actor Louis Jourdan, and Italian actress Alida Valli.

“The latter is deemed so great that she will be known officially as just Valli,” LIFE wrote.

LIFE said the film is overly long at 132 minutes, but is a good “whodunit” film, and that Gregory Peck and Ann Todd give “first-class” performances.

“Alfred Hitchcock’s direction and Gregory Peck’s performance all deserve Academy Awards.”

Lauren Bacall—One large photo of Bacall by photographer Eliot Elisofon. A long cutline details her “catlike grace, tawny blond hair, and blue-green eyes.” The photo is for “Life’s gallery of Hollywood beauties.” The eyes in the photo represent her nickname “The Look.” The eyes were from an optometrist. She wears a whistle on her wrist in the photo, to signify her famous  whistling line to Humphrey Bogart in “To Have and Have Not.”

Actress Lauren Bacall in a LIFE photo by Eliot Elisofon. (Comet Over Hollywood scan)

Actress Lauren Bacall in a LIFE photo by Eliot Elisofon. (Comet Over Hollywood scan)

What else was in the Jan. 19, 1948, issue of LIFE?

 “Perry Mason” mystery novel mail in coupon for three free books.

 Letters to the Editor on Lana Turner from the previous magazine, noting that her hair and jewels were all wrong at the Duchess of Windsor’s party, they didn’t approve her dating Bob Topping, and one man said “Topping can have her, I don’t want her, she’s too fat for me.” The editor replied with Lana Turner’s dimensions: 5’3”, 103 pounds, 35.5 bust, 24 waist, 36 hips.

Speaking of Pictures—A two page spread of paintings by New York artist Esta Cosgrave who painted her clients in antique dress. Clients include songwriter Garold Rome, art dealer Harry Shaw Newman, poet Mark Van Doren, and Egyptologist John D. Cooney.

Paintings by Esa

Paintings by Esta Cosgrave (LIFE scans by Comet Over Hollywood)

Warfare Spreads in the Holy Land—A seven page article and photo spread details an attack on Palestine by “Arab riflemen” that came from Syria and Lebanon. The Arab military force was driven out by British troops.

“Despite the fact that the U.N. had authorize partition of Palestine and establishment of a Jewish state, it was bitterly clear that the Jewish dream of a peaceful national home was still far from fulfilment.”

"At a secret training center newly recruited members of the Jewish Haganah Army carry illegal rifles as they go into the country for intensive drills. (LIFE/Associated Press, Lt. Dr. N. Gidal

“At a secret training center newly recruited members of the Jewish Haganah Army carry illegal rifles as they go into the country for intensive drills. (LIFE/Associated Press, Lt. Dr. N. Gidal

Taxes and Politics—An article on “what taxes will produce what results”

Picture of the Week of General Claire Chennault, 57—wartime hero of the Flying Tigers, and his bride Anna Chan, a Chinese reporter, kissing after they were married in Shanghai.

Picture of the week of Gen. Chennault and Anna Chan. Photo by Jack Birns. (Comet Over Hollywood LIFE magazine scan)

Picture of the week of Gen. Chennault and Anna Chan. Photo by Jack Birns. (Comet Over Hollywood LIFE magazine scan)

Presidential Year is Off to Noisy Start—Article on the 1948 presidential campaign between Harry S. Truman, Strom Thurmond and Thomas E. Dewey.

Boy in Pain—A doctor and police officers try to free 15-year-old Joseph Gondola’s finger from a fence. On his way to school in Patterson, N.J., Joseph slipped on the ice, grabbed for the fence and his finger went through an iron fence picket. After 45 minutes, the picket was sawed off, Joseph went to the hospital and he was able to use his hand by the en of the week.

Joseph Gondola with his finger stuck on a fence. Photo by John Crivelli from the Patterson Evening News. (Scan by Comet Over Hollywood

Joseph Gondola with his finger stuck on a fence. Photo by John Crivelli from the Patterson Evening News. (Scan by Comet Over Hollywood

PEOPLE: Is Stalin Really Sick?—The week prior, Russia’s Premier Joseph Stalin was reported to have cancer, be paralyzed, tanned and ready for vacation, and dead. Swiss newspapers reported him dead on Jan. 8, but in a photo taken four weeks prior, Stalin looked healthy. Other photos in the people section are of beauty queens in France, campaigning Charles De Gaulle, Charles Lindbergh traveling to Tokyo, and Princess Margaret.

Family Basketball—Thirteen teams of relatives play in a tournament in Wilson, N.C. The Wilson Junior Chamber of Commerce held a four day basketball tournament between Christmas and New Year’s.

Orange Blight—An infection is affecting California citrus crops. A photo shows a pathologist treating one of the diseased trees with penicillin to test the effect of the drug on the virus. In 1947, the infection killed 25,000 orange trees.

LIFE photo by Loomis Dean (Scan by Comet Over Hollywood)

LIFE photo by Loomis Dean (Scan by Comet Over Hollywood)

Half page poster for the Paramount film “A Miracle Can Happen” starring Paulette Goddard, Dorothy Lamour, James Stewart, Fred MacMurray and Burgess Meredith.

Bird Counters—Bird watchers in Washington, D.C. took the annual winter bird census. The five dozen bird counters from the National Audubon Society included anyone from teachers to government economists. In one day, they counted 12,407 birds of 77 species

Bird census counters by Francis Miller

Bird census counters by Francis Miller

“Cass Timberlane” full page poster of the Spencer Tracey and Lana Turner film.

Art of Egypt—An 11 page photo spread showing Egyptian art, tombs and temples in the Nile Valley.

Country Wide Best 10—Photospread of the top 10 best dressed women in the United States selected from their cities. The women are from Dallas, Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Atlanta, Seattle, St. Louis, Detroit, Boston and Denver.

Top 10 Best Dressed women in the United States. (LIFE scan by Comet Over Hollywood)

Top 10 Best Dressed women in the United States. (LIFE scan by Comet Over Hollywood)

New England Snowstorm—Five page photo spread detailing a New England snow storm, particularly looking at Hancock, N.H.

Photo by Robert W. Kelley

Photo by Robert W. Kelley

The Failure of Maxism—“Both socialism and communism as they actually work out, betray the hope for the better life that they once inspired,” said author John Dos Passos.

Advertisement with actor Henry Hull shaving with Williams Luxury Shaving Cream—saying that an actor’s face is extra-sensitive.

Theater: Talent Market—“The last survivors of vaudeville hawk their wares for club dates.”

After a slow death, vaudeville faced its defeat at the end of 1947, according to the article. The Loew’s State—the last vaudeville house on Broadway—did away with live performers and will only show movies. The actors turn to “club dates” booked by agents.

LIFE Goes to a French Literary Salon—The Duchess of Rochefoucauld in France still holds elegant readings in her salon.

New Air Force “Uniform”—“Ever since the independent U.S. Air Force was created last fall, fliers have been worrying about what their new uniforms would look like. Ground forces made farce like regalia which is photographed in LIFE.

The "new US Air Force" uniform, photographed by Francis Miller

The “new US Air Force” uniform, photographed by Francis Miller

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

A day in LIFE: Jan. 8, 1945

LIFE magazine, Jan. 8, 1945 (Photo/Comet Over Hollywood)

LIFE magazine, Jan. 8, 1945 (Photo/Comet Over Hollywood)

Comet Over Hollywood is starting a new LIFE magazine series. At the beginning of each post, I’ll feature the film article and provide a listing of other magazine highlights. Published weekly starting in November 1936 to December 1972, over 1,800 issues of LIFE magazine was printed. I collect the magazines and decided to share the film news and current events in each film, giving a snap shot of world news and pop culture.

LIFE magazine is different from People, US Weekly or other contemporary gossip rags. LIFE was a premiere photo journalism publication with cartoons, paintings and photographs detailing wars, fashion trends, life in the United States (campus dances, award winning dogs, snow storms in Wyoming) and entertainment news.

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

Review: The War Against Mrs. Hadley (1942)

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Comet Over Hollywood is setting aside the usually scheduled Musical Monday for a World War II themed piece.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Stella Hadley celebrated her birthday like she did every other year.

hadley

Lunch is to be served promptly at 1 p.m. with guests: her son Theodore (Richard Ney), daughter Patricia (Jean Rogers), best friend Cecila (Spring Byington), family friend Elliot (Edward Arnold) and her doctor (Miles Mander).

Everyone gathers in the sitting room, waiting for Stella, played by Fay Bainter, to make her grand entrance once the last guest arrives. After lunch, everyone sits down to listen to the Boston Symphony on the radio.

But when they turn on the radio, news of the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor, Hawaii comes through. Though a national tragedy has occurred, Stella turns a deaf ear to the news.

“Please turn off that gibberish, we want to hear the symphony. I don’t know why they would permit such programs on the Sabbath,” Stella says as the news reports play before the room comprehends what has happened.

Elliot and Ted, who work for the War Department, rush to the office; Pat runs to her room to listen to the radio, and Stella is extremely agitated that the usually scheduled program has been interrupted and demands they shut off the radio.

In the process of the news, the maid tips over a tray of Mrs. Hadley’s best tea service-which was a gift from President Coolidge and begins to sob, saying her brother is at Pearl Harbor. While Stella vaguely comforts the girl, she is more concerned that she will never be able to replace the coffee cup.

As the United States enters the war and daily life changes for Americans, Stella lives in an “ivory tower,” and continues to try to live the she was before the war.

Widow of Nathanial Hadley, owner of the Washington Chronicle newspaper, Stella is one of the most prominent women in DC and, prior to her marriage, was one of the most popular girls in Washington. Since her husband died, Mrs. Hadley doesn’t approve of the way the newspaper is being run and snubs wife of the newspaper owner, Laura Winters (Isobel Elsom).

Throughout the film, several examples of changes of daily life hit Stella Hadley and she has a hard time stomaching them. She faces most of these changes with anger, indigence and a lack of understanding of what’s going on in the world.

Pat (Jean Rogers) meets Mike (Van Johnson) at the canteen on Christmas Eve. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

Pat (Jean Rogers) meets Mike (Van Johnson) at the canteen on Christmas Eve. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

Stella is especially unhappy when the war upsets her household as they are drafted or take part in the war effort:

  • Her chauffer, Peters, lets her know he is leaving his job, because he was drafted and is reporting for service. She says she wishes he had given her more notice and Cecilia chimes in that Stella shouldn’t give the chauffer a reference for his next job.
  • Pat volunteers at a canteen on Christmas Eve. When Stella asks why she can’t stay home, Pat says, “It’s Christmas Eve for the soldiers too.”
  • Elliot moves Ted, who drinks more than work, to active service. He feels it’s the only way Ted will make anything of himself. Stella thinks she can use her influence to get Ted out of the war but can’t. Ted isn’t happy about going overseas but comes to see that it’s his duty. Angry that Elliot can’t get Ted out of the war, Stella tells him that she never wants to see him again.
  • The butler, Bennett, (Halliwell Hobbes), becomes a local air raid warden and has to leave at a moment’s notice for drills.
hadley4

Mrs. Hadley (Fay Bainter) talks with Elliot (Edward Arnold) at the War Department, trying to get her son out of the war.

Other inconveniences include having to turn out her lights during a black out drill and having to be escorted to Elliot’s office in the War Department, rather than being able to waltz back on her own.

While working at the canteen Pat meets and falls in love with soldier Michael Fitzpatrick (Johnson). The two eventually marry, but Stella, who doesn’t approve of the marriage, doesn’t attend.

Society women even scoff at her saying she doesn’t “have an ounce of patriotism in her.”

Her determination to keep everything how it was before for the war leads to Stella ending up alone.

Pat and Mike on their wedding day.

Pat and Mike on their wedding day.

Pat asked Ted to bring her their mother the wedding bouquet, since she didn't attend the wedding. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)

Pat asked Ted to bring her their mother the wedding bouquet, since she didn’t attend the wedding. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)

It eventually takes news of Ted and Laura Winters’ son from the war department for Stella to come around.

“The War Against Mrs. Hadley” (1942) is a real gem. World War II-era films are my favorite, and I haven’t seen many like this one.  This film is what would be known as a “B-Movie” but somehow; even low budget MGM films sparkle and make you feel good. Since this film begins on Pearl Harbor and depicts the start of World War II in the United States, it seemed appropriate to share a review on the anniversary of the 1941 attacks.

And on an interesting note–December 7 was really actress Fay Bainter’s birthday.

“Mrs. Hadley” was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing, Original Screenplay written by George Oppenheimer. However, the film lost to “Woman of the Year.”

War posterThe cast is wonderful. Fay Bainter and Edward Arnold are terrific as the main leads. Spring Byington is also hilariously flighty. “Mrs. Hadley” is also Van Johnson’s first credited role after four uncredited  films prior. Johnson said Bainter was kind and helpful to him during the filming. “Thank God for ‘Mrs. Hadley,’” Johnson is quoted in the book “Van Johnson: MGM’s Golden Boy.” “That was the beginning. Then I began to roll.”

This was also Richard Ney’s second film—his first was “Mrs. Miniver” that same year. Sara Algood has a small role as Johnson’s Irish mother, and character actress Connie Gilchrist has some hilarious lines in her five minutes on screen as the cook. One of my favorite characters, however, is the butler played by Halliwell Hobbes.

New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther scoffed at the film, saying it came too late coming after the start of the war and that the character of Stella Hadley is “barely reflective of an average American type.” However, I think this is an interesting time capsule for today’s viewers, showing that not everyone was in favor of the war or willing to change their lifestyles.

In the end, when Stella changes her ways and begins holding committee meetings and hosting soldiers in her home, it is also a message to 1942 audiences that it is not too late for them to get involved in the American war effort.

While “The War Against Mrs. Hadley” is a wonderful little film and one I thoroughly enjoy, it’s unfortunately rather rare. It was never released on VHS or DVD, can’t be found online, but is occasionally aired on Turner Classic Movies.

If you ever have the opportunity to see this MGM jewel, be sure to do so.

Edward Arnold and Fay Bainter in a publicity shot for "The War Against Mrs. Hadley."

Edward Arnold and Fay Bainter in a publicity shot for “The War Against Mrs. Hadley.”

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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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Halloweek: Mr. Boogedy (1986)

Many of us have movies that we watched repeatedly as children.

For my two older sisters and myself, it was the made-for-TV Disney horror comedy “Mr. Boogedy” (1986). My sisters saw it when it originally aired on Disney channel on a Sunday night in April of 1986. Eventually my parents recorded it off of the television to keep and we’ve had it ever since. I’ve watched it more times than I can count and can still quote along.

Our version of the VHS tape was recorded in the mid-1990s, complete with commercials for the New Mickey Mouse Club, an up and coming singer named Brandy Norwood and promos for movies such as “Angels in the Outfield” and “Batteries Not Included.” I’m re-watching this Pickens family favorite on the old VHS as I type.

The Davis's new home, a

The Davis’s new home, a “definite fixer upper”

The 45 minute movie follows the Davis family who moves to small town Lucifer Falls, New England to live in a in their very first house. The parents- Eloise (Mimi Kennedy) and Carleton Davis (Richard Masur)- apparently didn’t see the house in person before purchasing and just went by what the realtor said.

The family plans to open a franchise gag store, Gag City. Carleton is full of practical jokes and frequently quips “just kidding.”

When they pull up to the decrepit old house with wind blowing and lightening striking, Carleton excitedly exclaims, “Just what the realtor said, a definite fixer upper.” The rest of the family isn’t too sure- which includes two sons Corwin (David Faustino) and Aurie (Benji Gregory) and daughter Jennifer (Kristy Swanson).

family

Carleton puts down their concern that the house is haunted. When they enter, the local historian and head of the Lucifer Falls Chamber of Commerce Neil Witherspoon (John Astin) is waiting for them and warning them to leave the evil house so Mr. Boogedy doesn’t get them.

But since jokes are Careleton’s business, he assumes Witherspoon is just pulling his leg. Their first night in the house, Jennifer hears strange sneezing. She later sees a strange green light coming from a closed door and is the first person in the house to see Mr. Boogedy. She says his face looked like a “grilled cheese sandwich.” The family finds Jennifer passed out in the hall “tapping her heels together and saying ‘there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.”

Since their parents still don’t believe them that the house is haunted, Corwin, Aurie and Jennifer, pay a visit to Mr. Witherspoon to find out the story of their home:

William Hanover selling his soul to the Devil for a magic cloak.

William Hanover selling his soul to the Devil for a magic cloak.

During the Puritan days, disgruntled pilgrim William Hanover/Mr. Boogedy falls in love with the Widow Marion, who turns him down. In order to get his way, William Hanover sells his soul to the Devil for a magic cloak so he can win the Widow Marion. While Marion is taking her son Jonathan to the doctor for a cold, Hanover kidnaps Jonathan-this explains the strange sneezing in their house. To prove how powerful he is, Mr. Boogedy casts his first spell with the cloak but ends up blowing up his house instead. Now any house that is built on this property is haunted by My. Boogedy who is trapped there with Jonathan and Marion can not get to her son, who still has a cold. The Davis house is on this property.

Moved by the story, the Davis children decide they need to help Jonathan and Widow Marion, who they end up meeting and the ghosts warn them to get away from evil Mr. Boogedy.

It takes Mr. Boogedy making a stuffed dummy dance and playing their organ to convince Eloise and Carleton that the house is haunted. Eloise meets Marion, hears her story and Eloise moves the family to fight Mr. Boogedy.

Wielding a can of hairspray, a plastic baseball bat, a fly swatter, a vacuum and a toy plastic Thor hammer, the Davis family defeats Mr. Boogedy, steals his cloak and reunites Marion and Jonathan.

The plotline of “Mr. Boogedy” is simple and silly. However, just writing about this movie and spelling out the plot doesn’t truly convey just how much fun this charming little TV movie is. There are small lines in the film that make me laugh every time that typed out, wouldn’t be remotely funny.

“Eat the eggs!”

For example, there is a moment when the mom says “We need to call the realtor” after being spooked or when Aurie wears gag glasses, making his eyes huge, and urges his sister to “Eat the eggs!” as they play a joke on her. These are lines that have been quoted in my household for years because of this movie.

By far, the highlight of this movie is John Astin as Neil Witherspoon. He is creepy, yet also bumbling in a hilarious and quirky way. He’s easily my favorite character, though he is in the movie for less than 15 minutes.

The two sons in this movie, went on to star in successful 1980s sitcoms-David Faustino in “Married with Children” and Benji Gregory in “Alf.” According to a 2011 interview with “Mr. Boogedy” director Oz Scott, Joaquin Phoenix auditioned for the role of one of the sons and was turned down.

John Astin as Mr. Witherspoon

John Astin as Mr. Witherspoon

While “Mr. Boogedy” is by no means scary, it has the atmospheric, ghostly music, voices coming from nowhere and suspenseful moments of peering into shadows. But the frights are evened out well with goofiness and humor to make it not scary for children. Audiences don’t even see Mr. Boogedy until the last 10 minutes of the movie.

There is something just so pure and 1980s American about this movie. A family moves to the New England suburbs without researching the home, the daughter complains there won’t be cute boys or Bruce Springsteen listeners, the mom makes sandwiches with Kraft singles and it’s all just so refreshing. The jokes are goofy, but humorous to any ages. The writers didn’t have to resort to bodily function noises or falls like they would today in comedies geared towards children.

A year later, Disney released a second, longer made-for-TV movie sequel, “The Bride of Boogedy,” which Comet is reviewing this week.

If you have never seen “Mr. Boogedy” or need to revisit it, I urge you to do so. It is 45 minutes well spent. Turner Classic Movies is airing this rare gem as part of their Treasures from the Disney Vaults which starts at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Oct. 28. “Mr. Boogedy” airs at 2 a.m. ET on Thursday, Oct. 29, so set your DVRs.

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