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Edward R Murrow and the Stars


MissGoddess
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Hi everyone---I just rented the newly released "Person-to-Person with Edward R. Murrow" dvds and disc two was dedicated to Hollywood greats. Murrow went to the homes of and interviewed: Kirk Douglas, Marlon Brando, Paul Newman & Joanne Woodward, Marilyn Monroe, Charleton Heston, Elizabeth Taylore & Mike Todd, Tony Curtis & Janet Leigh, Gene Kelly, Betty Davis & Gary Merrill, Sophia Loren and Humphrey Bogart & Lauren Bacall. The interviews are tantalizingly brief and therefore rather superficial, but for the fans of any of these stars---many of whom rarely gave television interviews, much less invited TV crews to their homes---it's a rare chance to see them being themselves (or if not entirely themselves, at least unrehearsed). My favorites were Bogie, Gene Kelly and Mike & Elizabeth. Bogie said one thing that I really give him mucho credit for because I've never heard any other big star admit it: he declared that being "typecast" was not necessarily a bad thing for an actor, because it can make you a star. That is so true and I've always believed it. Gene Kelly was sweet (believe it or not, so was Charleton!) and I have finally discovered why Elizabeth was so enamoured with Mike Todd: the man had charisma for miles.

 

One word of warning for any interested in buying the set: the quality of the picture ranges from poor to terrible. I don't know if they were taped as opposed to filmed, which might explain their sorry state. Still, if you can rent them, it's a peek into a world when everyone seemed so awfully pleasant and unpretentious.

 

P.S. I have to add that Marlon Brando was also interviewed (in 1955) and it's amazing to see him still as yet un-jaded about Hollywood. He is just a nice, polite young man from the midwest who still calls his father "Pop".

 

Message was edited by:

MissGoddess

 

Message was edited by:

MissGoddess

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"One word of warning for any interested in buying the set: the quality of the picture ranges from poor to terrible. I don't know if they were taped as opposed to filmed, which might explain their sorry state."

 

They were probably Kinescoped. That was a method where a movie camera was set up in front of a high quality TV monitor, and the TV image was copied to film. This was necessary in the early days since many small local stations had no national telephone cable running to them that could carry a ?live? signal. So local stations often got the weekly shows one week later and on film. For example, where I lived in Mobile, Alabama in 1953, we saw only Kinescopes until the new telephone cable was run into Mobile in mid-1953. After that, we could finally get all network programs live and we could get the Today Show live over WALA.

 

The problem with Kinescope was that film cameras and projectors run at 24 frames per second and live TV images run at 30 frames per second. So a Kinescope was fuzzy to start with, because it was a film of a TV screen, plus several film frames per second were double exposed. In other words, one film frame sometimes contained two different TV frames. That was the only way to get 30 TV frames recorded on a 24 frame film system. Kinescopes seen on TV in film form was a little better than when they were copied again later onto video tape. This caused additional frame synchronization problems, going from TV to film and back to video tape.

 

The networks usually kept their old Kinescopes stored in vaults, and many of the early TV shows are still available today. Video tape didn?t come into widespread use until the late ?50s and early ?60s. For example, some early Ernie Kovacs comedy shows were video taped instead of being Kinescoped. The tapes stored fairly well, and they look pretty good when copied over to modern video tapes.

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There were a few exceptions in the old days. For example, Dragnet and I Love Lucy were shot on film, so that the finished edited program could be sent out to air on all TV stations on the same night. This produced a better quality image and it allowed all the TV stations in the country to air the same program on the same date.

 

Desie Arnez was supposed to have been the first person to think of filming a live TV stage show (with a live audience) with three movie cameras set up in front of the stage, just as ?live? shows had been broadcast with three live TV cameras set up in front of the live stage. Shooting with three film cameras was a little more expensive than shooting with three live TV cameras, but the system worked out and it began to be used more in the future in the 1950s and ?60s, and this helped such filmed shows to retain their visual quality in future years.

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I remember that about Desi, now that you mention it. He was a remarkable man. I love discovering new "old" TV shows from the early days. There are also recent dvds of "The Golden Age of Television" which show episodes from series like Four Star Theater, etc. Again, variable in quality but fascinating stuff nonetheless.

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I've seen a few of these interviews at the MUSEUM OF TV & RADIO in Beverly Hills including Bogie & Bacall and Fred Astaire. I am disappointed the Astaire interview seems to be missing from this set. I enjoyed this interview very much when I viewed it at the museum and this was a reason to buy this set. I wonder if this was withheld due to legal clearances?

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I didn't know he interviewed Astaire---considering Gene Kelly was included I would imagine something indeed must have gone awry for them not to have Fred in there, too. Maybe the footage was damaged somehow.

 

These discs and the Cavett show have really whetted my appetite for more: bring on Jack Paar and Jack Benny (unless they are available already?????)

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Edward R. Murrow was the subject of an excellent "American Masters" documentary on PBS this fall. (Keep an eye open for a rerun later in the season.) Though the program builds to the McCarthy hearings as the highlight, clips from "Person To Person" interviews were a part of the overview also. Oddly, the "Person To Person" with Sophie Tucker showing off her home/apartment(?) and the contents of her linen closet was one of the most prominently featured episodes. But I had never seen or heard Sophie Tucker on film (or Kinescope), so it was a treat to finally form an image of this show business legend.

 

Kyle In Hollywood

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I was sorry I missed that American Masters but I did catch the following one on Walter Cronkite, which was fascinating, too. I'm surely going to look for the re-run.

 

I first learned about Sophie Tucker from a friend of mine in Hollywood, he was an oldster who has worked in production since the days of Harry Cohn @ Columbia. He told me about Miss Tucker's inimitably salty humor. I would like to see her on Person-to-Person. I was just as glad to see Mike Todd, for the same reason, becasue I'd heard so much about him but never saw the man himself. Disc 3 of this set is on its way to me, I'm not sure who's on it besides Sinatra. Disc 1 had John and Jackie Kennedy shortly after they were married. Boy, were they both nervous!

 

Miss G

 

P.S. I just wanted to add one personal observation of Murrow himself; I really like his relaxed style, even the ciggie constantly in hand. But, mostly I respond to his voice. It instantly sets me at ease and I bet this, along with his reputation, encouraged even the most shy guests to relax a little on his show.

 

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MissGoddess

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Somewhere on a bootleg I have an absolutely dismal transfer of the interview Murrow did of Astaire, so I think it exists. As it opens, Ed talks to Fred as he stands in the front yard of his home. The image is so brightly lit that you can't see Fred's features--in fact in his dark suit he looks like a dapper, well-dressed sunburst!

 

I should add that it gets better once Fred "leads" Ed inside--in that light you can actually see all of him. He demonstrates his drumming, as I recall.

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Hopefully it will turn up yet. As you describe it, the quality doesn't sound altogether much worse than some of the interviews included in the set.

 

My dream is to see an interview (on any show) with Clark Gable or Gary Cooper. I've never seen either of them doing so.

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It's funny what stays with you as you get older. I'm sure I watched, along with my parents, every single episode of "Person to Person." However, since I was quite young at the time, I can remember only three: Harpo Marx, Gypsy Rose Lee, and Sal Mineo. Harpo did not speak during his interview - his wife and four children translated his whistles, nods and horn blasts for him. Gypsy had her young son Eric (her son with Otto Preminger) play the piano, and Sal Mineo's parents were so shy about speaking English but so obviously proud, and Sal played the drums, since he had been working with Gene Krupa to play Krupa in "The Gene Krupa Story."

 

And I remember Murrow's eyebrows and cigarettes. I think it would be very instructive for the younger generation to see these interesting and articulate people of the past now, maybe after they've watched an episode of "Cribs" on MTv.

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MG,

 

Sophie Tucker was known as the "Last of the Red Hot Mommas". She often played the El Rancho Vegas in the 1950s as a headliner. The stories of her and Joe E. Brown are stage are legendary. Sinatra and the gang would make a habit of stopping in and seeing her perform whenever they were in town. MattHelm may have some more info on this.

 

From the film footage and the pictures I have seen, she sure seems like a woman and the audience is always laughing.

 

As to the Astaire episode, it would have had, more than likely, to be cleared with his widow before they could release it on the box set and she may have said no or wanted to much money.

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I can't begin to describe how excited I was (many years ago at the annual Jeanette MacDonald Intl. Fan Club clanclave in Hollywood, CA) when it was announced that we were going to see PERSON TO PERSON with Miss MacDonald, her husband, Gene Raymond and Mr. Murrow.

 

As I'd never had the good fortune to meet Miss MacDonald (and worshipped the ground she walked upon), you can imagine I was in sections, anticipating this unheard of opportunity.

 

And sure enough, on the designated night, the 16mm print was unveiled and all of us spent 30 magical minutes with Jeanette and Gene - and Mr. Murrow - as they spoke about their lives and pastimes. Can you say magical? I was completely swept away. Person to Person was as good as it got, being able to see Jeanette (who was nervous) and Gene (who wasn't) "at home" and not "in character".

 

I hope their segment is included in upcoming editions of Person to Person - well worth the $$!!!

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I'm sorry I missed it too. I have always liked the song One Of These Days and liked seeing Gracie Allen teaching the song and the waving of the handkerchief to Ronnie and his friends for a school production in one of the old Burns and Allen shows. These shows, by the way, used to be featured on small niche cable stations before they all went the way of thirty pieces of silver.

 

I then saw a brief snippet somewhere and appreciated Ms. Tucker for her larger than life personality.

 

Hopefully, one of the PBS stations will rerun the Tucker highlight.

 

I liked Murrow too. I'm sure he would have been as horrified at the talking heads of today as Serling would have been on what passes for 'drama'.

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Edward R. Morrow blew the lid off the Joseph McCarthy Hearings in the 1950's. He had the guts to confront that obsessive jerk who accused everyone of being a Communist. It is a shame that Murrow died at such a young age from cancer. His show "Harvest of Shame" in 1960, showed the Amerian people the terrible working conditions of migrate workers... We could only imagine what his view on Viet Nam with LBJ in his dictator handling of the war would have been. Also The sneaky Bastard Nixon with his Watergate fiasco and the mishandling of the First Iraq war by George Bush Sr.when he stopped at he gates of Baghdad. The only on who comes close to Morrow today is Bill Maher but he doesn't have the power and influence that Edward R.Murrow had. I venture to say that Mr. Murrow would have cleaned up the Turner Classic Message board overnight if he was assigned, he was just that good! He was a fair true American and I consider him an icon of the underdogs who were taking advantage of or falsely accused on any topic. They don't make them like that anymore "A True Honest American"

 

Bartlett

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In mentioning Nixon, there was a line from "Give 'Em Hell, Harry" in which Truman (played by James Whitmore) said that Richard Nixon was a no-good, two-faced, lying son-of-a-b***h, and that if Nixon ever caught himself telling the truth, he would throw in a lie just to keep in practice. Nixon reminds me of the troll on this board, Bartlett.

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Good point filmlover, sounds like something that Truman would say. I think that if the McCarthy hearings were held during his term ,Truman would not have allowed to have it gone as far as it did. The fact that sneaky weasel Bobby Kennedy was involved in the hearings also gave it an odorous smell. As far as Truman goes the proof about his commitment is the fact that he took a stand against General McArthur in the invasion of North Korea and stood his ground when popular opinion was on the side of McArthur. Truman was a tough cookie and didn't hesitate to speak his mind even if it was unpopular,a trait that I admired in him.

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As far as Truman goes the proof about his commitment is the fact that he took a stand against General McArthur in the invasion of North Korea and stood his ground when popular opinion was on the side of McArthur.

 

Actually, it's spelled MacArthur.

 

Speaking of McCarthy, sometimes in trying to expose the troll, Bartlett, I feel like Truman in exposing McCarthy, who was also a liar from the get go. And McCarthy liked being quoted. I wonder if Bartlett ever quoted him? Oh, I'm sorry, Bartlett, I meant the book, "Bartlett's Familiar Quotations," don't you know?

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Sorry I had my cat Merlin biting my moving hands with that typing error. Ask BobHopeFan1940. she can verify that I have a cat that likes to bite moving hands as I type as I posted on her Thanksgiving thread the other night. Thank you for pointing it out to me though, he's still biting my hand as I'm typing this!

 

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