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Golden age: Roll call

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Was there anyone more adorable than Penny Singleton? Especially when she played Blondie in Columbia’s long-running series based on the popular comic strip. Other performers came and went at the studio (a war even raged in the background), but for twelve years Penny and costar Arthur Lake were in their own little world as Blondie and Dagwood Bumstead. They entertained moviegoers and helped them forget the more serious issues of the day.

 

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Altogether there were 28 films that showed the antics of the Bumstead household. Later Penny would gain even more fans when she was voicing June Jetson in Hanna-Barbera’s animated classic The Jetsons. In 1990 she "played" the character again in a feature film version. But it was her tenure as Blondie for which she is most remembered.

 

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Before she signed with Columbia, Penny had previously worked at Warner Brothers. Mostly she appeared in comedies, but there were some exceptions. For example, she had a role in the Jane Russell drama YOUNG WIDOW; and she can be seen slinging lead with Glenn Ford and Ann Miller in the western GO WEST, YOUNG LADY. Ford had previously played a supporting role in BLONDIE PLAYS CUPID. In fact, most of Columbia’s rising stars paid their dues supporting Penny as Blondie. Performers like Rita Hayworth, Larry Parks and Janet Blair.

 

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After her movie career went into decline Penny kept busy on television. Often she would use her talents as a voice actress for commercials and various animated programs. Audiences couldn’t get enough of Penny. She was delightful and always had a way of making people laugh, even when she was having a bad hair day.

 

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  1. blondie (1938); columbia; comedy; arthur lake; 70 mins.
  2. blondie on a budget (1940); columbia; comedy; rita hayworth; 72 mins.
  3. blondie plays cupid (1940); columbia; comedy; 68 mins.
  4. blondie goes latin (1941); columbia; comedy; tito guizar; 68 mins.
  5. go west, young lady (1941); columbia; western; glenn ford; 70 mins.
  6. blondie goes to college (1942); columbia; comedy; janet blair; 74 mins.
  7. blondie for victory (1942); columbia; comedy; stuart erwin; 71 mins.
  8. blondie’s holiday (1947); columbia; comedy; jerome cowan; 67 mins.
  9. blondie’s anniversary (1947); columbia; comedy; william frawley; 67 mins.
  10. blondie’s hero (1950); columbia; comedy; arthur lake; 67 mins.

 

12 years and 28 films - what a run for Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake,

 

Penny Singleton also starred in the original version of "Good News".

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12 years and 28 films - what a run for Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake,

 

Penny Singleton also starred in the original version of "Good News".

 

Yes, she did. Thanks for mentioning it. She was billed as Dorothy McNulty in the 1930 version of GOOD NEWS.

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Vince Edwards had already played the title role in the independently produced comedy MR. UNIVERSE when he was signed to a contract at Columbia. The Mr. Universe movie capitalized on his boyish charm and allowed him to show off his physique.

 

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He had been a championship swimmer and trained for the Olympics in college. He decided to study acting, learning the craft with other future Hollywood notables (including Grace Kelly). His acting career took off and his aspirations for the Olympics were set aside.

 

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At first Columbia typecast Vince in crime dramas. His looks made him a natural for film noir, usually cast in bad boy roles. Most of these pictures were hits, and they established him as a leading man. But they didn’t exactly do a whole lot to make him a household name. That wouldn’t happen until he worked on television.

 

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In 1961 Vince signed on to play the lead role in a medical drama series– Ben Casey. It was a huge success with TV audiences, even if the formula had been borrowed from MGM’s even more successful Dr. Kildare series with Richard Chamberlain. For five seasons, Vince played Dr. Casey, and he began to gain more control behind the scenes. In addition to acting, he would direct episodes of the program.

 

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When his hit TV show ended production, it went into syndication. But Vince wasn’t one to sit around and not work, so he looked for another project. Instead of jumping back into the weekly series grind, he went back to movies full time. He experienced a career resurgence when he appeared in several big budget films in the 60s.

 

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  1. cell 2455, death row (1955); columbia; crime; william campbell; 77 mins.
  2. the night holds terror (1955); columbia; crime; jack kelly; 86 mins.
  3. murder by contract (1958); columbia; crime; phillip pine; 81 mins.
  4. city of fear (1959); columbia; crime; lyle talbot; 81 mins.
  5. the victors (1963); columbia; war; albert finney; 175 mins.
  6. hammerhead (1968); columbia; crime; judy geeson; 99 mins.
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screen-shot-2017-04-09-at-8-11-44-pm.png

 

Vince Edwards had already played the title role in the independently produced comedy MR. UNIVERSE when he was signed to a contract at Columbia. The Mr. Universe movie capitalized on his boyish charm and allowed him to show off his physique.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-05-at-2-00-10-pm.png

 

He had been a championship swimmer and trained for the Olympics in college. He decided to study acting, learning the craft with other future Hollywood notables (including Grace Kelly). His acting career took off and his aspirations for the Olympics were set aside.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-05-at-2-08-45-pm.png

 

At first Columbia typecast Vince in crime dramas. His looks made him a natural for film noir, usually cast in bad boy roles. Most of these pictures were hits, and they established him as a leading man. But they didn’t exactly do a whole lot to make him a household name. That wouldn’t happen until he worked on television.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-05-at-2-01-09-pm.png

 

In 1961 Vince signed on to play the lead role in a medical drama series– Ben Casey. It was a huge success with TV audiences, even if the formula had been borrowed from MGM’s even more successful Dr. Kildare series with Richard Chamberlain. For five seasons, Vince played Dr. Casey, and he began to gain more control behind the scenes. In addition to acting, he would direct episodes of the program.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-05-at-1-51-18-pm1.pn

 

When his hit TV show ended production, it went into syndication. But Vince wasn’t one to sit around and not work, so he looked for another project. Instead of jumping back into the weekly series grind, he went back to movies full time. He experienced a career resurgence when he appeared in several big budget films in the 60s.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-05-at-1-59-08-pm.png

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  1. cell 2455, death row (1955); columbia; crime; william campbell; 77 mins.
  2. the night holds terror (1955); columbia; crime; jack kelly; 86 mins.
  3. murder by contract (1958); columbia; crime; phillip pine; 81 mins.
  4. city of fear (1959); columbia; crime; lyle talbot; 81 mins.
  5. the victors (1963); columbia; war; albert finney; 175 mins.
  6. hammerhead (1968); columbia; crime; judy geeson; 99 mins.

 

"The Victors" is such an interesting film - if only it were shown on TCM - or, for that matter, on DVD - or somewhere. 

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Janis Carter’s movie career lasted about a dozen years, from the early 1940s until the mid-1950s. During that time she appeared in films at several Hollywood studios; though the majority of those years were under contract at Columbia. She initially set out to be an opera singer and wound up singing on Broadway which brought her to the attention of a Hollywood mogul. However, by the time she was landing lead roles at Columbia, she was not exactly used for her musical skills.

 

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Janis appeared in quite a few crime dramas during the war years, when Columbia had several mystery series in production. For instance, she costarred with Richard Dix in one of the Whistler movies; then was assigned to work with Chester Morris in a BostonBlackie picture; and this was followed by a role opposite Gerald Mohr in a retooled version of The Lone Wolf. These were hardly challenging roles, but Janis made the most of them.

 

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When she was not cast in crime pictures, the actress was typically featured as a second lead in comedies headlined by bigger name actresses. She supported Lucille Ball, Barbara Hale and Rosalind Russell in these films. Sometimes she was loaned out and fared a little better. She wrapped up her Columbia contract in 1951 with a lead opposite Randolph Scott in the hit western SANTA FE.

 

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After her days at the studio were over, Janis freelanced for a while. But by 1953 she was done with movies and went back east. She found jobs on live television programs and also found stage work. Then she married and decided to give her career up for love.

 

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  1. the mark of the whistler (1944); columbia; crime; richard dix; 60 mins.
  2. one mysterious night (1944); columbia; crime; chester morris; 61 mins.
  3. the ghost that walks alone (1944); columbia; comedy; arthur lake; 63 mins.
  4. the fighting guardsman (1945); columbia; adventure; anita louise; 84 mins.
  5. the notorious lone wolf (1946); columbia; crime; gerald mohr; 64 mins.
  6. framed (1947); columbia; crime; glenn ford; 82 mins.
  7. slightly french (1949); columbia; comedy; dorothy lamour; 81 mins.
  8. and baby makes three (1950); columbia; comedy; barbara hale; 83 mins.
  9. a woman of distinction (1950); columbia; comedy; rosalind russell; 85 mins.
  10. santa fe (1951); columbia; western; randolph scott; 87 mins.
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Nice to see Janis Carter get some notice.    The book Film Noir (Ward  \ Silver),  said that if she was put into more first rate noir \ crime production she might of ended up being viewed today like Stanwyck is.

 

Carter was able to generate a lot of sexual tension;  one couldn't take your eyes off her and that was a good thing for the noir males in those films since she also couldn't be trusted!

 

 

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Nice to see Janis Carter get some notice.    The book Film Noir (Ward  \ Silver),  said that if she was put into more first rate noir \ crime production she might of ended up being viewed today like Stanwyck is.

 

Carter was able to generate a lot of sexual tension;  one couldn't take your eyes off her and that was a good thing for the noir males in those films since she also couldn't be trusted!

 

She should have had a bigger movie career. Some noir actresses (Lizabeth Scott and Gloria Grahame come to mind) don't really succeed in westerns, but Janis Carter did. She was equally at home in both genres, just like Dorothy Malone and Barbara Stanwyck.

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John Derek’s parents were performers and both appeared in silent films. His father had even worked as a director in Australia but died when John was still young. John’s mother continued to take small roles in talkies but mostly focused on her son’s upbringing. During those years, she helped instill in him an interest in motion pictures, which John carried forward for the rest of his life. In the mid-1940s, John served in the military. When he was discharged, he signed a contract with producer David Selznick and found representation with super agent Henry Wilson.

 

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Selznick and Wilson placed him in two of Selznick’s pictures– SINCE YOU WENT AWAY and I’LL BE SEEING YOU (both made at the end of the war). John had minor roles, and he didn’t catch on. A few years later he had become friends with Humphrey Bogart and convinced Bogart to use him in the crime drama KNOCK ON ANY DOOR. It was one of the first pictures Bogart did after leaving Warners, about a hoodlum headed for the electric chair. John got the part and was a sensation. It led to a long-term contract with Columbia.

 

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Next Columbia cast him in ALL THE KING’S MEN as Broderick Crawford’s son, then there were several modestly budgeted programmers. These were usually pirate pictures or costume dramas where John was seen as an adventurer on the high seas. They were respectable productions and gave him a succession of lead roles in crowd-pleasing spectacles. Also Columbia put him in westerns and social message dramas with top stars; in fact, he worked with Brod Crawford several more times.

 

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In the mid-50s, John left Columbia and began to work at Republic and Paramount. He did a few international films later in the decade, but he remained involved in big budget Hollywood pictures as well. Notably, he had roles in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and EXODUS. By the early 60s, he had grown dissatisfied with acting and decided to turn his attention towards photography and directing. He would go on to direct movies like his father had done, and most of them featured his various high-profile wives.

 

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  1. knock on any door (1949); columbia; crime; humphrey bogart; 100 mins.
  2. all the king’s men (1949); columbia; drama; broderick crawford; 109 mins.
  3. rogues of sherwood forest (1950); columbia; adventure; diana lynn; 79 mins.
  4. mask of the avenger (1951); columbia; adventure; anthony quinn; 83 mins.
  5. saturday’s hero (1951); columbia; drama; donna reed; 111 mins.
  6. the family secret (1951); columbia; drama; lee j. cobb; 85 mins.
  7. scandal sheet (1952); columbia; drama; broderick crawford; 82 mins.
  8. prince of pirates (1953); columbia; adventure; barbara rush; 80 mins.
  9. ambush at tomahawk gap (1953); columbia; western; david brian; 83 mins.
  10. mission over korea (1953); columbia; war; john hodiak; 85 mins.
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John Derek’s parents were performers and both appeared in silent films. His father had even worked as a director in Australia but died when John was still young. John’s mother continued to take small roles in talkies but mostly focused on her son’s upbringing. During those years, she helped instill in him an interest in motion pictures, which John carried forward for the rest of his life. In the mid-1940s, John served in the military. When he was discharged, he signed a contract with producer David Selznick and found representation with super agent Henry Wilson.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-05-at-5-10-50-pm.png

 

Selznick and Wilson placed him in two of Selznick’s pictures– SINCE YOU WENT AWAY and I’LL BE SEEING YOU (both made at the end of the war). John had minor roles, and he didn’t catch on. A few years later he had become friends with Humphrey Bogart and convinced Bogart to use him in the crime drama KNOCK ON ANY DOOR. It was one of the first pictures Bogart did after leaving Warners, about a hoodlum headed for the electric chair. John got the part and was a sensation. It led to a long-term contract with Columbia.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-05-at-5-12-07-pm.png

 

Next Columbia cast him in ALL THE KING’S MEN as Broderick Crawford’s son, then there were several modestly budgeted programmers. These were usually pirate pictures or costume dramas where John was seen as an adventurer on the high seas. They were respectable productions and gave him a succession of lead roles in crowd-pleasing spectacles. Also Columbia put him in westerns and social message dramas with top stars; in fact, he worked with Brod Crawford several more times.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-05-at-5-10-08-pm.png

 

In the mid-50s, John left Columbia and began to work at Republic and Paramount. He did a few international films later in the decade, but he remained involved in big budget Hollywood pictures as well. Notably, he had roles in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and EXODUS. By the early 60s, he had grown dissatisfied with acting and decided to turn his attention towards photography and directing. He would go on to direct movies like his father had done, and most of them featured his various high-profile wives.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-05-at-5-09-49-pm.png

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  1. knock on any door (1949); columbia; crime; humphrey bogart; 100 mins.
  2. all the king’s men (1949); columbia; drama; broderick crawford; 109 mins.
  3. rogues of sherwood forest (1950); columbia; adventure; diana lynn; 79 mins.
  4. mask of the avenger (1951); columbia; adventure; anthony quinn; 83 mins.
  5. saturday’s hero (1951); columbia; drama; donna reed; 111 mins.
  6. the family secret (1951); columbia; drama; lee j. cobb; 85 mins.
  7. scandal sheet (1952); columbia; drama; broderick crawford; 82 mins.
  8. prince of pirates (1953); columbia; adventure; barbara rush; 80 mins.
  9. ambush at tomahawk gap (1953); columbia; western; david brian; 83 mins.
  10. mission over korea (1953); columbia; war; john hodiak; 85 mins.

 

He was a very good actor AND a great beauty.

 

But the Tarzan film with Bo Derek was a bad film.

 

So was the follow-up film with her.

 

They were essentially films that fed into sexual fantasies.

 

But his film career was superior to his directorial efforts.

 

And, hey, how could you not include "The Adventures of Haji Baba"?

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He was a very good actor AND a great beauty.

 

But the Tarzan film with Bo Derek was a bad film.

 

So was the follow-up film with her.

 

They were essentially films that fed into sexual fantasies.

 

But his film career was superior to his directorial efforts.

 

And, hey, how could you not include "The Adventures of Haji Baba"?

 

Sorry. I was focusing on his Columbia output, since that is my theme this week. HAJI is a Fox film, but yes, it's enjoyable and should be seen.

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Occasionally Columbia Pictures put British performers on long-term contracts. Often these actors remained in England and made films in London. Or they might have been brought to Hollywood for one picture to support an American star in some historical drama, then sent back to England. In the case of Valerie French, she relocated to America.

 

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She had started behind the scenes but switched to acting and snagged a supporting role in a Rex Harrison comedy before Columbia hired her. She possessed a raw sex appeal normally reserved for more exotic European stars, and she used it to her advantage in motion picture assignments. When she arrived in Hollywood, she was quickly put in westerns– she had a supporting role in a Randolph Scott picture; and there was a lead opposite Glenn Ford in JUBAL, which is probably her most known film.

 

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Columbia also used Valerie in other genres, though she was usually typecast as sultry women who lured men into dangerous situations. For instance, the studio placed her in a science fiction story with Gene Barry; and there was a turn in a crime drama with Kerwin Mathews. Valerie’s performance in THE GARMENT JUNGLE garnered excellent reviews.

 

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After another western and a horror flick, her contract was not renewed. She then focused on television jobs as well as theater work. In the 1960s Valerie appeared on Broadway, and she generated considerable heat with one of her stage roles. Also she made one more film at the end of the decade. It was directed by Edward Dmytryk and shot in Spain, where she had spent her early childhood.

 

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  1. jubal (1956); columbia; western; glenn ford; 100 mins.
  2. decision at sundown (1957); columbia; western; randolph scott; 77 mins.
  3. the garment jungle (1957); columbia; crime; kerwin mathews; 88 mins.
  4. the 27th day (1957); columbia; science fiction; gene barry; 75 mins.
  5. the hard man (1957); columbia; western; guy madison; 80 mins.
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Occasionally Columbia Pictures put British performers on long-term contracts. Often these actors remained in England and made films in London. Or they might have been brought to Hollywood for one picture to support an American star in some historical drama, then sent back to England. In the case of Valerie French, she relocated to America.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-05-at-7-36-57-am.png

 

She had started behind the scenes but switched to acting and snagged a supporting role in a Rex Harrison comedy before Columbia hired her. She possessed a raw sex appeal normally reserved for more exotic European stars, and she used it to her advantage in motion picture assignments. When she arrived in Hollywood, she was quickly put in westerns– she had a supporting role in a Randolph Scott picture; and there was a lead opposite Glenn Ford in JUBAL, which is probably her most known film.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-05-at-7-37-42-am.png

 

Columbia also used Valerie in other genres, though she was usually typecast as sultry women who lured men into dangerous situations. For instance, the studio placed her in a science fiction story with Gene Barry; and there was a turn in a crime drama with Kerwin Mathews. Valerie’s performance in THE GARMENT JUNGLE garnered excellent reviews.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-05-at-7-38-56-am.png

 

After another western and a horror flick, her contract was not renewed. She then focused on television jobs as well as theater work. In the 1960s Valerie appeared on Broadway, and she generated considerable heat with one of her stage roles. Also she made one more film at the end of the decade. It was directed by Edward Dmytryk and shot in Spain, where she had spent her early childhood.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-05-at-7-37-13-am-07-

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  1. jubal (1956); columbia; western; glenn ford; 100 mins.
  2. decision at sundown (1957); columbia; western; randolph scott; 77 mins.
  3. the garment jungle (1957); columbia; crime; kerwin mathews; 88 mins.
  4. the 27th day (1957); columbia; science fiction; gene barry; 75 mins.
  5. the hard man (1957); columbia; western; guy madison; 80 mins.

 

Off-topic, but "The Garment Jungle" is one of Kerwin Matthews' best performances.

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Off-topic, but "The Garment Jungle" is one of Kerwin Matthews' best performances.

 

They're all great in it, especially Lee J. Cobb. It should air more often on TCM.

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Can you guess the ones I will be spotlighting..?

 

Singers

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Saturday April 15-- #514: Opera singer who costarred with Esther Williams.

Sunday April 16-- #515: Que sera, sera.

Monday April 17-- #516: Opera star who appeared in talkies.

Tuesday April 18-- #517: Diva who made films at RKO.

Wednesday April 19-- #518: Popular crooner at Fox in the 40s.

Thursday April 20-- #519: Singer who entertained the troops.

Friday April 21-- #520: He played the great Caruso.

Saturday April 22-- #521: Opera singer who made films at Columbia in the 30s. 

 

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Lauritz Melchior was one of the world’s most important singers. His success in opera productions took him in a variety of artistic directions. He capitalized on the opportunities that came his way, and audiences were richer for it.

 

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He started his career in Europe as a high baritone. But a mentor decided after hearing him perform one day that he had the potential to switch over to operatic roles as a low tenor. This proved a fortuitous bit of advice, and after a period of retraining, Lauritz found his niche. He became widely celebrated across the European continent; and in addition to his stage work he began to cut records. This was followed by the chance to work in America.

 

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After establishing himself in U.S. opera productions, Lauritz became just as well-known in North America as he had been overseas. Soon MGM signed him to a movie contract. From 1945 to 1947, he would appear in four of Joe Pasternak’s productions. One film starred Kathryn Grayson– it was the smash hit TWO SISTERS FROM BOSTON; and there were two musicals with Esther Williams; as well as another with Jane Powell.

 

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After his tenure at Metro Lauritz returned to the world of opera and continued to tour extensively. He remained active until he went into semi-retirement in the mid-1950s. There was another musical– made at Paramount with Rosemary Clooney. This was followed by some sporadic television appearances. In an episode of Danny Thomas’ show, he played Shirley Jones’ father and of course, both were featured musically in the story.

 

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  1. thrill of a romance (1945); mgm; musical; van johnson; 105 mins.
  2. two sisters from boston (1946); mgm; musical; kathryn grayson; 112 mins.
  3. this time for keeps (1947); mgm; musical; esther williams; 105 mins.
  4. luxury liner (1948); mgm; musical; jane powell; 98 mins.
  5. the stars are singing (1953); paramount; musical; rosemary clooney; 99 mins.
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Doris Day had already enjoyed success as a singer in clubs and on radio when Warner Brothers hired her to appear in her first full-length motion picture. Actually, she was a last-minute substitution for Betty Hutton.

 

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Warners had made a deal to borrow Betty from Paramount for ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS and the script had been written with her in mind. But when a pregnancy forced Betty to bow out of the picture, Doris was given the chance to take over. The film was a tremendous hit with audiences, and so were the next few musicals the studio produced with Doris. She wasn’t even the lead star in her films of the late 40s– that distinction came with 1950’s TEA FOR TWO– but it was pretty clear in those early productions Doris was the main attraction.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-07-at-7-23-55-pm.png

 

From 1948 to 1957, Doris enjoyed a succession of hits at Warners. She was paired with Gordon MacRae several times; and there was a memorable collaboration with Howard Keel in Doris’ own favorite, CALAMITY JANE. Doris also worked with Frank Sinatra in the tearjerker YOUNG AT HEART. Next there were some films at MGM, including a nonmusical called JULIE; as well as a picture with Clark Gable at Paramount. She continued to do well with audiences, though most roles and situations were fairly standard and didn’t require too much in the way of acting.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-07-at-7-27-06-pm.png

 

She finally had a chance to take on more “adult” roles when she signed a deal with Universal. In 1959 she made the sex farce PILLOW TALK with Rock Hudson. She and Rock teamed up two more times; and Doris also had several hits with James Garner. However, a few years later, her film career was in decline. A series of financial setbacks caused her to do a weekly television series which she began the same year her movie career ended.

 

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From 1968 to 1973 The Doris Day Show aired on CBS. Though it began as a rural sitcom, by its second season it was reformatted. Soon Doris moved off the farm with her TV kids and into the city (San Francisco) where they started a new life. The program was retooled once more (the kids were dropped without explanation), and she was suddenly a middle-aged single career women. After five seasons, Doris packed it in and decided it was time to enjoy her well-earned retirement.

 

09d8a-screen2bshot2b2016-12-192bat2b2-00

  1. romance on the high seas (1948); warners; musical; jack carson; 99 mins.
  2. it’s a great feeling (1949); warners; musical; dennis morgan; 85 mins.
  3. tea for two (1950); warners; musical; gordon macrae; 98 mins.
  4. calamity jane (1953); warners; musical; howard keel; 97 mins.
  5. young at heart (1955); warners; musical; frank sinatra; 117 mins.
  6. love me or leave me (1955); mgm; musical; james cagney; 122 mins.
  7. the pajama game (1957); warners; musical; john raitt; 101 mins.
  8. teacher’s pet (1958); paramount; comedy; clark gable; 120 mins.
  9. pillow talk (1959); universal; comedy; rock hudson; 102 mins.
  10. the thrill of it all (1963); universal; comedy; james garner; 108 mins.
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screen-shot-2017-04-16-at-12-28-59-am.pn

 

Doris Day had already enjoyed success as a singer in clubs and on radio when Warner Brothers hired her to appear in her first full-length motion picture. Actually, she was a last-minute substitution for Betty Hutton.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-07-at-7-20-47-pm.png

 

Warners had made a deal to borrow Betty from Paramount for ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS and the script had been written with her in mind. But when a pregnancy forced Betty to bow out of the picture, Doris was given the chance to take over. The film was a tremendous hit with audiences, and so were the next few musicals the studio produced with Doris. She wasn’t even the lead star in her films of the late 40s– that distinction came with 1950’s TEA FOR TWO– but it was pretty clear in those early productions Doris was the main attraction.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-07-at-7-23-55-pm.png

 

From 1948 to 1957, Doris enjoyed a succession of hits at Warners. She was paired with Gordon MacRae several times; and there was a memorable collaboration with Howard Keel in Doris’ own favorite, CALAMITY JANE. Doris also worked with Frank Sinatra in the tearjerker YOUNG AT HEART. Next there were some films at MGM, including a nonmusical called JULIE; as well as a picture with Clark Gable at Paramount. She continued to do well with audiences, though most roles and situations were fairly standard and didn’t require too much in the way of acting.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-07-at-7-27-06-pm.png

 

She finally had a chance to take on more “adult” roles when she signed a deal with Universal. In 1959 she made the sex farce PILLOW TALK with Rock Hudson. She and Rock teamed up two more times; and Doris also had several hits with James Garner. However, a few years later, her film career was in decline. A series of financial setbacks caused her to do a weekly television series which she began the same year her movie career ended.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-07-at-7-27-42-pm.png

 

From 1968 to 1973 The Doris Day Show aired on CBS. Though it began as a rural sitcom, by its second season it was reformatted. Soon Doris moved off the farm with her TV kids and into the city (San Francisco) where they started a new life. The program was retooled once more (the kids were dropped without explanation), and she was suddenly a middle-aged single career women. After five seasons, Doris packed it in and decided it was time to enjoy her well-earned retirement.

 

09d8a-screen2bshot2b2016-12-192bat2b2-00

  1. romance on the high seas (1948); warners; musical; jack carson; 99 mins.
  2. it’s a great feeling (1949); warners; musical; dennis morgan; 85 mins.
  3. tea for two (1950); warners; musical; gordon macrae; 98 mins.
  4. calamity jane (1953); warners; musical; howard keel; 97 mins.
  5. young at heart (1955); warners; musical; frank sinatra; 117 mins.
  6. love me or leave me (1955); mgm; musical; james cagney; 122 mins.
  7. the pajama game (1957); warners; musical; john raitt; 101 mins.
  8. teacher’s pet (1958); paramount; comedy; clark gable; 120 mins.
  9. pillow talk (1959); universal; comedy; rock hudson; 102 mins.
  10. the thrill of it all (1963); universal; comedy; james garner; 108 mins.

 

Her husband, Martin Melcher, had signed her up for "The Doris Day Show" without her knowledge.

 

When he died suddenly and left her without funds, she had to do the TV show.

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Her husband, Martin Melcher, had signed her up for "The Doris Day Show" without her knowledge.

 

When he died suddenly and left her without funds, she had to do the TV show.

 

On her 90th birthday there was a tribute to her on Me-TV with a marathon of episodes from the series. Many costars and guest stars and friends of hers were interviewed and those segments aired between the episodes. She even did a voice-over at the end, using the event to publicize her animal-rights foundation. So doing the sitcom turned out not to be a terrible thing and years later she was still able to use it to promote charitable causes.

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While most opera stars who wind up in the movies tend to be foreign born, Lawrence Tibbett was originally a Bakersfield boy. Growing up in California, he had been the son of a lawman who was gunned down in the line of duty. Money was tight and to help make ends meet, Lawrence found jobs singing since it was something he was good at doing. Later he served in the first World War, and after his military duty, he went to Los Angeles to find more work as a singer.

 

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During his time in Los Angeles, Lawrence sang in movie theaters. Then he went to New York to professionally train for the opera. After a period of study, he snagged a job with the Metropolitan Opera, and it was the beginning of great things for him. He would go on to perform in around 600 productions with the Met. When he wasn’t focusing on opera, Lawrence took roles in musical theater, which prepared him for his subsequent movie career.

 

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It was MGM that signed Lawrence during the talkie era. Big screen musicals were suddenly all the rage. Since he had proven himself on stage and with numerous recordings and radio performances, he seemed like a natural fit for the studio. However, his tenure at MGM was not too lengthy. Lawrence would only make four films at Metro, two in 1930 and another two in 1931. He earned an Oscar nomination for one of them and had the chance to work with diverse costars like Laurel & Hardy as well as Jimmy Durante and Lupe Velez.

 

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He returned to live concert work after this, but in 1935, 20th Century Fox signed him and he made two more pictures. In 1949 one of his songs was used by Fox in the crime drama HOUSE OF STRANGERS. And while Lawrence did make one appearance on television, the rest of his career was mostly dedicated to the stage and to radio until his retirement.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-08-at-10-40-42-am.pn

09d8a-screen2bshot2b2016-12-192bat2b2-00

  1. the rogue song (1930); mgm; musical; catherine dale owen; 104 mins.
  2. new moon (1930); mgm; musical; grace moore; 78 mins.
  3. the cuban love song (1931); mgm; musical; lupe velez; 88 mins.
  4. the prodigal (1931); mgm; musical; esther ralston; 76 mins.
  5. metropolitan (1935); fox; musical; virginia bruce; 79 mins.
  6. under your spell (1936); fox; musical comedy; wendy barrie; 62 mins.

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Some musical stars have more interesting lives than others. Lily Pons is a perfect example. She grew up near Cannes and during WWI, Lily entertained French soldiers by singing to them. As she became older, she began to pursue a career as a professional singer. She was encouraged to devote herself to opera, which is what she did. By the late 1920s she was a star in France and other parts of Europe.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-08-at-11-51-39-am.pn

 

In 1931 she had her debut at the Metropolitan in New York City. At the time most Americans had never heard of her, but that quickly changed. Overnight she became a sensation in the U.S., and Lily would spend the next three decades performing at the Met. Several years later she became an American citizen. She also had a movie contract offered to her by RKO.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-08-at-11-54-33-am.pn

 

Lily only made four motion pictures. The first three were at RKO in the mid 30s. She was usually put in romantic musical comedies. Her first movie paired her with young rising star Henry Fonda and sixth-billed Lucille Ball. In her second cinematic venture Lily costarred with Gene Raymond; Lucille Ball appeared again in a sixth-billed role. For Lily’s final RKO production, she worked with Jack Oakie and Edward Everett Horton. She wouldn’t make another movie until after the war, when she had a cameo in CARNEGIE HALL, directed by Edgar G. Ulmer.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-08-at-11-56-44-am1.p

 

During the second World War, Lily and her conductor husband toured with the USO and entertained the troops. In the late 40s and 50s she was back at the Met; and she also played live concerts around the country. One town in Maryland was named after her, and each year she sent out her Christmas Cards from there.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-08-at-11-51-16-am.pn

09d8a-screen2bshot2b2016-12-192bat2b2-00

  1. i dream too much (1935); rko; musical comedy; henry fonda; 97 mins.
  2. that girl from paris (1936); rko; musical comedy; gene raymond; 104 mins.
  3. hitting a new high (1937); rko; musical comedy; jack oakie; 85 mins.
  4. carnegie hall (1947); ua; musical; marsha hunt; 144 mins.
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screen-shot-2017-04-18-at-6-35-27-am.png

 

Some musical stars have more interesting lives than others. Lily Pons is a perfect example. She grew up near Cannes and during WWI, Lily entertained French soldiers by singing to them. As she became older, she began to pursue a career as a professional singer. She was encouraged to devote herself to opera, which is what she did. By the late 1920s she was a star in France and other parts of Europe.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-08-at-11-51-39-am.pn

 

In 1931 she had her debut at the Metropolitan in New York City. At the time most Americans had never heard of her, but that quickly changed. Overnight she became a sensation in the U.S., and Lily would spend the next three decades performing at the Met. Several years later she became an American citizen. She also had a movie contract offered to her by RKO.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-08-at-11-54-33-am.pn

 

Lily only made four motion pictures. The first three were at RKO in the mid 30s. She was usually put in romantic musical comedies. Her first movie paired her with young rising star Henry Fonda and sixth-billed Lucille Ball. In her second cinematic venture Lily costarred with Gene Raymond; Lucille Ball appeared again in a sixth-billed role. For Lily’s final RKO production, she worked with Jack Oakie and Edward Everett Horton. She wouldn’t make another movie until after the war, when she had a cameo in CARNEGIE HALL, directed by Edgar G. Ulmer.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-08-at-11-56-44-am1.p

 

During the second World War, Lily and her conductor husband toured with the USO and entertained the troops. In the late 40s and 50s she was back at the Met; and she also played live concerts around the country. One town in Maryland was named after her, and each year she sent out her Christmas Cards from there.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-08-at-11-51-16-am.pn

09d8a-screen2bshot2b2016-12-192bat2b2-00

  1. i dream too much (1935); rko; musical comedy; henry fonda; 97 mins.
  2. that girl from paris (1936); rko; musical comedy; gene raymond; 104 mins.
  3. hitting a new high (1937); rko; musical comedy; jack oakie; 85 mins.
  4. carnegie hall (1947); ua; musical; marsha hunt; 144 mins.

 

Lily Pons and Gene Raymond were delightful in "That Girl From Paris".

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Lily Pons and Gene Raymond were delightful in "That Girl From Paris".

 

Yes they were. Ray, you asked me to do a lengthier piece on Gene Raymond. In May, I will be doing a column on Gene and his wife Jeanette MacDonald. Look for it on the Today's Topic thread.  

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Not every radio star is meant to become a movie star. This was certainly the case for handsome Perry Como whose hit recordings brought him to the attention of executives at 20th Century Fox. In 1943 the studio signed him to a seven-year contract, and he was placed in a few morale boosters. But as soon as the war was over, Perry’s tenure at the studio was basically over, too.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-09-at-11-04-18-am.pn

 

Of course, he would continue to make more hit records and go on to star in a very successful television program. So it wasn’t like Perry just vanished from the scene.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-09-at-11-07-56-am.pn

 

Usually Perry’s films paired him with Vivian Blaine and Carmen Miranda. Together they made SOMETHING FOR THE BOYS, which featured Michael O’Shea; DOLL FACE with Dennis O’Keefe as the male lead; and IF I’M LUCKY, where Perry was the lead. After he was done at Fox, Perry went to MGM for one musical, WORDS AND MUSIC, where he appeared in a segment with Cyd Charisse.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-09-at-11-23-02-am1.p

 

In later years Perry talked about his experiences in the movie making business. He felt radio and television were the keys to his success, because he could be more himself with audiences in those mediums. After his weekly television show took off, there were more offers to return to the movies but either Perry was too busy or too reluctant to give it another try. And by then, he no longer needed to prove himself.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-09-at-11-05-00-am1.p

09d8a-screen2bshot2b2016-12-192bat2b2-00

  1. something for the boys (1944); fox; musical comedy; carmen miranda; 87 mins.
  2. doll face (1945); fox; musical comedy; vivian blaine; 80 mins.
  3. if i’m lucky (1946); fox; musical comedy; vivian blaine; 78 mins.
  4. words and music (1948); mgm; musical; cyd charisse; 120 mins.
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screen-shot-2017-04-19-at-7-36-28-am.png

 

Not every radio star is meant to become a movie star. This was certainly the case for handsome Perry Como whose hit recordings brought him to the attention of executives at 20th Century Fox. In 1943 the studio signed him to a seven-year contract, and he was placed in a few morale boosters. But as soon as the war was over, Perry’s tenure at the studio was basically over, too.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-09-at-11-04-18-am.pn

 

Of course, he would continue to make more hit records and go on to star in a very successful television program. So it wasn’t like Perry just vanished from the scene.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-09-at-11-07-56-am.pn

 

Usually Perry’s films paired him with Vivian Blaine and Carmen Miranda. Together they made SOMETHING FOR THE BOYS, which featured Michael O’Shea; DOLL FACE with Dennis O’Keefe as the male lead; and IF I’M LUCKY, where Perry was the lead. After he was done at Fox, Perry went to MGM for one musical, WORDS AND MUSIC, where he appeared in a segment with Cyd Charisse.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-09-at-11-23-02-am1.p

 

In later years Perry talked about his experiences in the movie making business. He felt radio and television were the keys to his success, because he could be more himself with audiences in those mediums. After his weekly television show took off, there were more offers to return to the movies but either Perry was too busy or too reluctant to give it another try. And by then, he no longer needed to prove himself.

 

screen-shot-2017-04-09-at-11-05-00-am1.p

09d8a-screen2bshot2b2016-12-192bat2b2-00

  1. something for the boys (1944); fox; musical comedy; carmen miranda; 87 mins.
  2. doll face (1945); fox; musical comedy; vivian blaine; 80 mins.
  3. if i’m lucky (1946); fox; musical comedy; vivian blaine; 78 mins.
  4. words and music (1948); mgm; musical; cyd charisse; 120 mins.

 

Actually, I like Perry Como and Vivian Blaine in "If I'm Lucky".

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She was called “the first lady of swing.” Probably there was no other female vocalist who dominated the airwaves during the war years like Martha Tilton. She had started singing on small radio stations in the mid-30s, and the right people heard her. Soon she was offered the chance to perform on bigger stations and to start singing with some of the most important bands around.

 

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During the late 30s Martha was most closely associated with Benny Goodman’s band. Years later she’d play herself in a biographical drama about Goodman’s life. Their association peaked with a number one song, ‘And the Angels Sing,’ which topped the charts in 1939. She went solo after this, though she still played engagements with other big bands. In the 40s she was hired by Hollywood studios to dub actresses who couldn’t sing too well. She dubbed Barbara Stanwyck in one film, and Anne Gwynne in another; and Martha also sang a number in one of Rita Hayworth’s pictures.

 

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Occasionally Martha appeared as an on-screen vocalist. She had a small role in an Anna Neagle musical at RKO, and Universal used her in the musical comedy STRICTLY IN THE GROOVE. Meanwhile poverty row studio PRC was anxious to feature her in a few of its low-budget productions. These gave Martha her best roles and of course showcased her musical talents. She starred in the appropriately titled SWING HOSTESS.

 

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When she wasn’t on screen or performing on the radio, Martha traveled extensively during the war entertaining the troops. She was often near the front lines, putting on shows with people like Carole Landis or Martha Raye. After the war she continued to cut records, and she appeared on television, earning an Emmy award in 1960.

 

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09d8a-screen2bshot2b2016-12-192bat2b2-00

  1. sunny (1941); rko; musical; anna neagle; 98 mins.
  2. strictly in the groove (1942); universal; musical comedy; leon errol; 60 mins.
  3. swing hostess (1944); prc; musical comedy; iris adrian; 76 mins.
  4. crime, inc. (1945); prc; crime; leo carrillo; 75 mins.
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