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About Whipsnade

  • Rank
    Advanced Member
  • Birthday 02/15/1958

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  • Gender
  • Location
    Arroyo Grande, California
  • Interests
    Old movies, radio & music (before 1970). History & philosophy. Raising chickens. Sport fencing (foil & epee). Fly fishing and hiking.

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  1. Not a bad idea. Other variations on the theme (since you brought up Sherlock Holmes) would be a history of detective movies. Think of all the movie series detectives that could be discussed: Sherlock Holmes, Charlie Chan, Philo Vance, Hildegarde Withers, Bulldog Drummond, Nick Charles (The Thin Man), and Mr. Moto, just to name a few. Then there could be the single entry detectives in movies such as, "The Mad Miss Manton," "The Maltese Falcon," "Footsteps in the Dark," and "The Big Sleep." Later efforts could include the "Miss Marple" series with Margaret Rutherford. And parodies abound: Red Skelton's "Whistling" trilogy, Abbott & Costello in "Who Done It?," and Bob Hope's "My Favorite _____" trilogy. It could even come forward enough to include "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid," with Steve Martin.
  2. Music was an essential component of all the classic Warner Brothers cartoons. Several of them were mini-musicals in parody form. Charlie's Girl mentioned one, the send-up of Wagnerian opera, "What's Opera, Doc." Another Operatic send-up, "The Rabbit of Seville," poked fun at the Italian Opera of Rossini, "The Barber of Seville." So much of my early education in classical music and opera came from these cartoons, that when I hear the music (almost fifty years later) I still think of Bugs and the gang.
  3. And Julie Newmar was one of the brides in "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers." She later played "Cat Woman" in the "Batman" television series.
  4. It appears that the use of "air" in Astaire was intentional. Fred's mother, Johanna Austerlitz, was concerned about finding a suitable stage name for Fred and Adele. She wanted a name that had "star quality." She was concerned about both the length of the family name and its foreign sound, neither of which would look good on a theater marquee. The process of finding an appropriate name began around 1907, when Fred and Adele (approximate ages 7 and 10) were students at the Alviene Master School of the Theatre and Academy of Cultural Arts, in New York. Although some have theorized that the name came from a distant maternal uncle with the surname L'Astaire, the evidence suggests that that the origin was not that specific. Various stage billings at the Alviene School show that the name evolved over time. Fred and Adele were variously listed as "The Austers," "The Astiers," "The Astares," and "The Astairs," before finally becoming "The Astaires." The final version had a continental and sophisticated "air" about it, without all the foreign and historical baggage of "Austerlitz." In solidarity with her children, stage mother Johanna Austerlitz adjusted her name to conform with theirs - she became "Ann Astaire." She gave them the name, but it was their responsibility to make it mean something. By 1930, they had made it world famous; by 1960, he had made it immortal.* *Riley, Kathleen. The Astaires: Fred and Adele (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012). pp. 21-25.
  5. I never saw this in a theater, but I do have fond memories of this movie on TV within a couple years of its release. Although they thought it was ridiculous, my parents made sure we saw it. Things had changed so much by this time (ca. 1966), that the early Beatles looked pretty tame. I've always felt that the revolutionary nature of their early music has been understandably overstated. They broke out first and get the lions share of the credit, but they did not operate in a vacuum. In general, early Beatles songs were more wholesome and commercial (and therefore, less revolutionary) than a lot of their competition. At the same time that the Beatles hit it big, other important British bands, like the Rolling Stones and the Animals, were embracing more controversial subject matter. And it was The Dave Clark Five that was the most popular challenger to the Beatles and topped them on the charts in 1964. By 1965, the LA scene changed American music and challenged the British with revolutionary bands, like The Byrds, Love, and later, The Doors. Meanwhile among the British Invaders, The Rolling Stones became the primary competitor to the Beatles. Then by 1967, the San Francisco scene asserted itself with their answer, in the form of Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. And later Invaders, like Cream and Traffic, joined the Stones in competing with the Beatles. While the Beatles led a lot of this in the beginning, they followed much of it in the end. While it is important to acknowledge their impact, it is equally important that we not overstate it. Statements about the sizes of their crowds also need to be put into context. The crowds were larger than before, but so were the venues where they performed. Additionally, The record crowds could have been proportionally similar to earlier crowds, because the general population was larger than before. Twenty years earlier, large crowds of young girls screamed and stormed stages to get at Frank Sinatra. Twenty years before that, young crowds pursued Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee. In all these eras, parents rolled their eyes and wondered what was wrong with their kids. It is ever thus.
  6. Since this has gone "off topic," I can throw in my two cents and say that I actually enjoyed "Guys and Dolls." I didn't expect to and was surprised that it exceeded my relatively low expectations. I've never been a fan of Brando but thought he was acceptable in this role. Yes, making it through his singing was challenging but survivable. I did think Sinatra was a bit subdued but thought it fit the character. Now I know he was upset about his part. It wasn't a great movie, but it was good. It had the Damon Runyon flavor and some great characters, like Nicely, Nicely. Now, back to the topic: "Gigi" is a movie that I like more each time I see it. Leslie Caron was an acquired taste for me, but I've developed a deep appreciation for her abilities. She is very cute and endearing in this film. And of course, Maurice is Maurice, and he needs to be nothing more. His songs are a highlight for me. The duet with Hermione Gingold, "I Remember It Well," is priceless, and modern PC BS not withstanding, "Thank Heavens for Little Girls" is a classic (my, how puritanical we have become). In this movie, Louis Jourdan is a cipher, but it does have Eva Gabor. It's always nice to see her outside of Hooterville. FYI: Another showcase for Caron that I saw recently on TCM is "Fanny" (1961). It is not a musical, but it co-stars Maurice (along with Charles Boyer).
  7. I've been a long-time fan of Alice Faye, ever since I saw her opposite Tyrone Power, in the 1937 movie "In Old Chicago," almost 45 years ago. Since then, I have sought out her other movies, and listened to her singing and acting on radio. I always felt she was a much more "explosive" bombshell than Betty Grable. Twentieth Century clearly pushed other actresses ahead of Faye (Grable, Darnell, etc.) for reasons that I never understood. In frustration, she walked out on Zanuck & Co. in 1945, and returned to her roots in radio. She got her start in radio as a singer with Rudy Vallee's band and was introduced to a national audience on his radio show in the early thirties. Before radio, she was in small-time vaudeville. Then, she got her break on Broadway, in the "George White's Scandals of 1931," After Vallee introduced her on radio, she started in movies in 1934 and made 32 movies between then and 1945. After her 1945 walkout, she starred in only one more movie, "State Fair" in 1962, though she had occasional cameos in later films. In 1974, she returned to Broadway for a revival of "Good News," with John Payne (and later, Gene Nelson). In 1946, she and her second husband*, Phil Harris, became the stars of the long-running "Fitch Bandwagon," when it changed its format from variety to situation comedy. After two years with Fitch, the couple changed sponsors to Rexall Drugs and changed the show's name to "The Phil Harris - Alice Faye Show." Through several sponsors, the show remained on radio until 1954. On these wonderfully hilarious shows about their married life, she sang and butted heads with Phil, then he sang and did something stupid with his guitar player, Frankie Remley (played by Elliot Lewis). They had running gags about Phil's drinking and illiteracy, and her wealth, movie career, and singing talent . She proved herself to be a skilled comedienne. She and Harris married in 1941 and had two children. They remained together until his death in 1995. Though Zanuck fed rumors of a fierce rivalry between her and Betty Grable, Faye held no grudge against her. They were close friends at the time and remained friends until Grable's death in 1973. Alice Faye was a great star and a class act. *Her first husband was singer, Tony Martin. Band leader Phil Harris was a long-time cast member of "The Jack Benny Show," from 1936 to 1952.
  8. I think Astaire wins on both counts. His long apprenticeship was served as a partner with his older sister, Adele, and involved dramatic acting, singing, dancing, and light comedy. By the time he made his movie debut, in MGM's "Dancing Lady" (1933), he had been a professional performer for more than 25 years. This training made him a better actor and singer than Kelly. As to their dancing, I incline more towards the light and graceful Astaire style to the more powerful and athletic Kelly style. Astaire seemed to float on air with an effortless grace, while Kelly's grace forced its way through the air and dominated it. Both defied gravity - Astaire ignored it, while Kelly conquered it. Kelly always looked like he was working hard; Astaire looked like he was hardly working. It is a great thing that we have both and don't have to choose, because they are both amazing. But if I had to choose, I would take Fred Astaire.
  9. Thanks for the correction. My reference to Porter was a mistake in my draft that I intended to correct but didn't. I was looking for a second recognizable name for stylistic reasons and meant to change it to Jerome Kern, who did the score for the 1922 flop, "The Bunch and Judy Show."
  10. Just finished a great book on Fred Astaire's early life and his pre-movie career as a dance partner with his older sister, Adele Astaire. It was written by Kathleen Riley under the title, "The Astaires: Fred and Adele" and was published by Oxford University Press in 2012. While they started out as a small-time child act, they came into their own in the late teens through the twenties and were world famous. Fred's first collaborations with the Gershwins and Cole Porter occurred in this era and were written for this pairing. They had several long running shows on Broadway and the London stage. After years of being enthralled by Fred and Ginger, I came across recordings of the London shows, "Lady, Be Good!" (1926) and "Funny Face" (1928). With these, I first learned about Adele and their pairing. Throughout most of their years together, she was considered the standout talent of the pair, while Fred was viewed as a supporting player. He was always considered to be in her shadow but harbored no resentment towards her. They remained close until her death in 1981. When she retired from the stage in 1932, the pundits all felt that Fred would fade away in obscurity. None of them sensed the greatness that he would achieve on film. The book was a great read and provided a fascinating portrait of this influential pair of siblings (and the important role their parents played in guiding their career). Fred and Adele were as famous in the history of Broadway as Fred and Ginger are in the history of Hollywood. Riley, Kathleen. The Astaires: Fred and Adele (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).
  11. Almost all of my television viewing before 1983 was on black and white TVs. In spite of this, I still remember these programs as if they were in color. I never felt like I was missing out on something if I saw a color program in black and white. Because of this, I don't understand the appeal of colorizing black and white film.
  12. 1) I would speculate that the use of starting credits was something of a holdover from stage productions, where programs allowed the audience to acquaint themselves with the cast before the program began. While beginning credits were more common in the Golden Age, end credits were occasionally used. And Universal used both frequently in the 1930's. The cast listing at the beginning was followed by a repeat listing at the end, under the heading "A Good Cast is Worth Repeating." With "Frankenstein" (1931), the beginning credit listed a question mark for the role of the Monster, while the end credit listed Boris Karloff. In the mid to late sixties (when I was a kid), I remember most movies I went to had end credits that were quite long. There were two ways to avoid the crowd exiting: one was to jump up and bolt for the door as soon as "The End" appeared; the other was to sit all the way through the credits, at which time the theater was almost empty. A lot of these movies did not start out with a title and then go into the story. The action would start and build for several minutes before a title and minimal credits were listed. 2. Not sure why overtures are no longer used - perhaps the music is not good enough to bear repeat listening. 3. I know "Gone with the Wind" was more successful than "The Wizard of Oz." 4. Another reason not to have Aunt Em and Uncle Henry play additional characters in Oz was that they were the personification of what Dorothy had lost and was trying to find - home, and home meant family (it is an MGM film). The other characters were important to her, but she didn't long to return to them. She wanted to return to her family. After all, there's no place like home!
  13. Good to know I wasn't alone in my early and obsessive pursuit of classic movies. Hello, fellow traveler! You know what a challenge it was to be a film buff back in the pre-cable, pre-VCR Stone Age. Kids today have no idea how much work we had to do to get our movies. Most of my viewing was on a 12 inch screen and all of it was in black and white (with no remote). We lived too close to the foothills, so we could not get KABC Channel 7 on our rooftop antenna. Half a block to the south , my friend could get it. It was all about positioning Indeed, our LA Channel 11 (KTTV) had similar programming and all sorts of great TV reruns. You stirred my memories: Before I was a teenage film buff in solitary pursuit of classic films, I was just a kid watching the TV my dad turned on. He loved the movies of his youth (in the 30's and 40's) and introduced all of his 4 kids to them. I especially remember watching Laurel and Hardy, Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes and Francis the Talking Mule movies. He also introduced us to the Three Stooges and the Warner Brothers Cartoons (with Bugs, Daffy, Porky, and Foggy). He also loved newer TV offerings, like Rocky & Bullwinkle and the historical compilations by Robert Youngson, Like "The Golden Age of Comedy" (1957). When these came on, it was mandatory family viewing. Later on, some of my happiest memories with my siblings were watching comedies with the Three Stooges or W C Fields and laughing so hard that we could hardly breath. Without the early introduction and training provided by my father, I might not have become the obsessed film nut that I am today. Thanks Dad! And thanks Zea, for stirring even more "Memories" of the hardships that we "Two Sleepy People" had to go through to see our movies (with apologies to Bob Hope and Shirley Ross)!
  14. I have to agree that Oscar makes a great second fiddle (or banana). He is an amazing talent in his own right, but his piano talent doesn't compete directly with the singing and/or dancing of the lead. And he adds greatly to the humor in the film. Donald O'Conner and Danny Kaye filled these kinds of roles many times, but did so in ways that tended to compete with the lead - think of O'Conner dancing with Kelly in the Moses Supposes clip from "Singin' in the Rain" (1952). Another good pair of foils were Victor Moore and Helen Broderick playing second fiddle to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in "Swing Time" (1936). They were the humorous counter-point to the standard romance of Fred and Ginger in the movie. They provided comic relief to the story without interfering in the courtship ritual, and they do so without competing artistically with the leads. After Fred and Ginger do the classic "Pick Yourself Up" routine, Victor and Helen perform a hilarious and clumsy lampoon of it. This was a very different pairing than the one that played opposite Fred and Ginger in "Follow the Fleet" (1936). The pairing of Randolph Scott and Harriet Hilliard in this film serves as a romantic sub-plot that competes with the romance of Fred and Ginger; they are co-stars, not second fiddles. This was a repeat of the formula that was used in the earlier Astaire & Rogers movie, "Roberta" (1935), where Randolph Scott and Irene Dunne co-starred with Fred and Ginger. The secondary love interests in these movies distracted from the primary one between Fred and Ginger and resulted in them being considered among the weaker entries in the series of films they did.
  15. In the early and mid 1970s (before VCRs), I watched all those Paramount classics on Channel 5. As a young film buff, it was my primary resource for viewing films. I saw so many great classics for the first time on the overnight programming called "Movies until Dawn." W C Fields, Bob Hope, The Marx Brothers, and so many others. Channel 5 also had weeknight 8PM movies, and often had theme weeks, like a Road Movie week or Abbott & Costello week. Good Times! Other great movie sources in LA in the seventies were "The Million Dollar Movie" on KHJ Channel 9, and "The Late Show" and "The Late, Late Show" on KNXT (now KCBS) Channel 2. I left the area in 1977 and moved to a town with only 3 channels. This was my movie "dark ages." Until I got my first VCR in 1983, good movies were few and far between. From VCRs, to cable (AMC was the best source before Turner pulled his library and founded TCM), to Satellite (DirecTV), to DVDs, then finally DVRs & TMC, I have been on a 35 year classic movie binge that I could not have dreamed of in the 1970s. Because of all of this, I can say that, "I, too, remember Shirley Ross." Not all of us had insomnia. In those pre-VCR days, I had an alarm clock and a pot of coffee. I would get the "TV Guide" and plot out the weekly viewing options. If a desired movie came on at 3 or 4 AM, I would set the alarm and go to sleep early. Many a movie was seen for the first time through the combined haze of half-awake, blurry eyes and the steam of hot coffee.
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