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“Dickie” Jones

August 11, 2022 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

 

One of the great things about revisiting classic television programs is rediscovering people now primarily known for “other” roles.

Take, for example, Dick Jones–co-star of The Range Rider–one of the nostalgic shows which debuted on the Astound TV Network as part of our new summer programming schedule.  You may not remember the name, but we can pretty much guarantee that you have seen or heard his work.

Born Richard Percy Jones on February 27, 1927 in a small Texas town, “Dickie” (as he was called through his early years) literally grew up performing in rodeos and western shows, which helped prepare him for some of his biggest career performances as an actor.  His mother also encouraged him to take speech lessons and utilize his unique voice.

His family moved to Hollywood to allow him an opportunity to get a career in films.

Fans of 1930s and early 1940 films will remember him for his roles as Jimmy Stewart’s page in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, as “Killer” Parkins in the late 1930s Nancy Drew films, and as a frequent guest star on the popular Our Gang (The Little Rascals) shorts.  He was also a regular performer as Artimer “Artie” Peters in the popular B-western films starring Hopalong Cassidy.

Jones scored his most famous and well-known role at the age of 11 as the voice of the titular character in the original version of Walt Disney’s Pinocchio.  At the time of its release, it was initially considered a box-office bomb.  Filmed on a budget of $2.6 million, it has since gone on to become a classic–earning well over $160 million – and has since become one of the most beloved cartoon films of all-time.

“Dickie” then put his career on hold to fight for the Allies in World War II.

Upon his return to the states, he shortened his first name to “Dick” and once again became a familiar face to 1950’s audiences in a variety of western-themed programs, including classics like The Gene Autry Show, Annie Oakley, The Lone Ranger, The Blue Angels, Buffalo Bill Jr., Wagon Train, The Gray Ghost, The Night Rider and Pony ExpressHe also starred in the full-length film, Requiem Of A Gunfighter.

But his longest and most visible on-camera starring role was on The Range Rider, in which he co-starred with Jock Mahoney.  Although both actors were roughly the same age, Mahoney’s 6-foot-5 frame made it look like Jones’ character, Dick West, was that of a much younger, smaller sidekick. (Jones’ height was estimated to be about 5’4″ at this time).

The show attempted to feature leading characters who had a reputation for honesty and emphasizing fairness for ALL peoples, including Native Americans–which wasn’t often the case for westerns filmed in early 1950s’ television.

In a crowded field of similar genre-driven shows, “Rider” was a standout performer in the ratings and earned a full three-year first release run before going into syndication.       

The quality of the episodes never waned.  Even today, the episodes during the program’s final season are among the highest rated shows by viewers on the IMDB website.  In fact, its third-last show ever produced, titled, “Two-Fisted Justice”, is rated one of the program’s all-time best episodes.

The Range Rider show itself also provided a number of early television appearances for stars who went on to have success in the entertainment field, including Bob Woodward, Denver Pyle, William Fawcett and others.

Be sure to watch and set your DVRs for The Range Rider, airing for the first time ever on ATVN this summer, every Friday morning at 9:30am.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on the Astound TV Network, check out the weekly listings here.

 

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

 

Ghosts on the Loose

August 4, 2022 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

 

If you want a little scary movie-going experience mixed with a lot of comedy, you need look no further than the 1943 tongue-in-cheek spooktacular, Ghosts on the Loose.

The film features an eclectic mix of movie stars from the 1940s.

The East Side Kids was popular with many “tweens” in this area who would regularly flock to the theaters on Saturday afternoons during this decade to see the entertaining group of youngsters work their way in and out of quirky adventures.  The Kids, who came from the poor side of the tracks, starred in 21 films between 1940 and 1946 and “Ghosts” premiered at the height of the young actors’ popularity.

To play the villain, Co-Producer Jack Dietz made the wise decision to get perennial scaremaster Bela Lugosi for the part.  Lugosi made such a perfect antagonist while fitting in nicely with the light-heartedness of the film, that he reunited with the East Side Kids for several other movies over the next few years.

For the role of Betty the bride, the producers also struck gold by asking Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer if they could “borrow” an actress and received a then-unknown actress by the name of Ava Gardner.  Gardner, (The Snows of Kilimanjaro, The Night of the Iguana) of course, would go on to star in dozens of films over the next several decades and received multiple Academy Award nominations throughout her career.

Originally called Ghosts in the Night, the production got off to a rocky start as days before shooting Dietz was convicted of tax evasion.  Co-Producer Sam Katzman, who was the regular producer for all of the “East Side Kids” movies, took over the full reins of the project and immediately changed the film’s title.

The movie starts off with one of its funniest bits as the “Kids” are preparing for a wedding.  Among the early film hijinx includes the gang trying, but humorously failing, to rehearse the often used “Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes” while also taking other “unique” approaches to have traditional wedding elements ready for the big day.

The film dips into more serious territories as the group tries to fix up what they believe will be the happy couple’s new home–not realizing it’s a “haunted” house that is actually occupied by Nazi propagandists.  

Lots of light-hearted moments ensue as the “Ghosts” (aka the Nazis) try to scare the kids out of the house, only to have the youngsters repel every effort to be scared away and eventually to teach their adversaries a lesson. (The “Ghost in the Mirror” skit is my personal favorite!)

While not one of the highest-grossing films overall in 1943, it did mark one of the biggest highlights during the “Kids’” popular run in films and is a frequent favorite during the month of October for film fanatics anxious to experience some Holloween-based storylines while enjoying good humor and not getting overly spooked!.

Be on the lookout for Ghosts On The Loose on ATVN this Friday at 9:30pm (or set your DVR, if you’re afraid to watch it later in the evening). 

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on ATVN, check out the weekly listings here.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

Summer ‘22 Trivia Edition

July 21, 2022 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows, key names in the “Golden Age” of entertainment history and legendary cinematic performances.

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I hope all of you are having a wonderful summer and have enjoyed reading background insights and little known information about our classic programs and watching them on the Astound TV Network!

Now it’s time to test your knowledge by taking our Classic Video Showplace “summer 2022” edition of our quiz. 

See how you do answering the following questions and then check out the answers listed below. 

Have fun!

  1. Which former professional sports star played himself in a motion picture based on his own courageous journey to break baseball’s color barrier?
  2. Name the actress who played the lead in television’s first successful female-driven comedy program? (Hint: The answer is not Lucille Ball)
  3. What former US Olympic gold medalist starred in the show featuring real life stories based on the French Foreign Legion?
  4. What innovative technique created in 1953 was used to enhance visual images for motion pictures and was utilized in films like The 12 Mile Reef ?
  5. Which early television Western was one of the first programs to treat Native Americans fairly and equally when distributing justice?
  6. What country was the “All-American Comedian” Bob Hope born in?
  7. Ernest Borgnine burst on the scene with his Academy Award-winning portrayal of the titular character in 1955’s Oscar for Best Picture, Marty.  On what show was his final television appearance? 
  8. Veteran actor George Kennedy served under what legendary war hero, who’s life was later made into a 1970 Academy Award winning motion picture and was portrayed in the film by Academy Award Winner, George C. Scott?
  9. Speaking of Scott, which of his co-stars in 1959’s Anatomy of a Murder flew bombing raids missions during the last two years of World War II? (This pilot/actor also won an Academy Award).
  10. What is the unofficial term used to describe a hit show, taking a drastic change in plot lines just to create a ratings grabber – only to have the ploy backfire and lead to the eventual cancellation of the program?

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Answers:

  • Jackie Robinson
  • Gracie Allen (The Burns and Allen Show premiered a full year PRIOR to I Love Lucy)
  • Buster Crabbe
  • CinemaScope
  • The Range Rider
  • England
  • SpongeBob SquarePants
  • Patton
  • James Stewart 
  • “Jumping the Shark”

You can see all of the above-mentioned actors and many of these classic films and television shows during this summer’s programming lineup on the Astound TV Network.  To see the full listing of classic programming on ATVN, check out the weekly listings here.

Don’t forget to keep checking back to the Showplace for more classic trivia and little-known bits of information about some of the greatest shows and movies of all time.

 

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

Dennis Day

July 14, 2022 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

The return of The Jack Benny Program to the ATVN lineup also includes the reappearance of one of television’s most beloved entertainers of the 1940s and 1950s.

Dennis Day was born Owen Patrick Eugene McNulty to Irish immigrants in The Bronx, New York on May 21, 1916.

After graduating from Manhattanville College, Day entered and won a national competition orchestrated by bandleader Larry Clinton.  Shortly thereafter, he recorded his first single, “Goodnight, My Beautiful.”

At the same time, singer Kenny Baker had decided to leave The Jack Benny Radio Show–which was the number-one ranked comedy program at that time.  (Baker would resurface one year later on the radio show of Benny’s on-air nemesis, Fred Allen.)

Day was one of hundreds of tenors who auditioned, featuring singers from all around the world.  What got Dennis the job?

According to the book, Sunday Nights at Seven, Day was so nervous when they called his name to audition, that his immediate response was to blurt out, “Yes, please.” Benny and his writers were caught off guard by the unusual response (one they incorrectly thought was an attempt to interject some humor into the role) and gave the 23-year old the job.

Unbeknownst to Benny and the writing staff, Day was also a great mimic and voice actor who would fill in for legendary voice man Mel Blanc when he missed time due to a serious car accident.  Day would also impersonate other legendary film actors and famous people of the time in both the radio and television versions of the program (one of his best mimics was that of Winston Churchill on the TV episode guest-starring Raymond Burr).

Day not only made a smooth transition to the cast of the nation’s most popular program, but his own fame spawned his very own radio show which ran for several seasons.  Day would later host his own television show at the same time that Benny’s show ran.  There would be frequent jokes on the latter’s program that the young tenor has “two shows to Benny’s one.”

Day’s youthful appearance was also utilized frequently as the target of many jokes–his naive approach often frustrated Benny, culminating with the host yelling for “that crazy kid” to get off his show.

In fact, Day’s attempts at a television show actually preceded Benny’s. A Day In The Life of Dennis Day tried to transition his radio show to television, but the pilot was never picked up.

A second pilot, The Dennis Day Show, in which he hosted a variety program, also failed to get momentum on the CBS Network.

In 1952, a third attempt, The RCA Victor Show (later renamed The Dennis Day Show), succeeded on NBC and ran for three seasons.  Unlike his first attempt, the newer version had Day portraying a more mature character without the naivete he exhibited on the CBS show.

Even so, Day continued to appear on the Benny show posing as “that crazy kid” even through its final year in 1965, when Dennis was nearly 50 years old.

Day would continue singing and making appearances on popular television comedy and variety programs off-and-on over the next decade.

Day’s last two major on-air appearances were as voice animations for two popular annual cartoons.  In 1976, he was the voice of “The Preacher” in the Rankin-Bass production, Frosty’s Winter Wonderland, and again worked with them in 1978, when he voiced Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, in The Stingiest Man in Town, which was their animated version of Charles Dickens’ novel, A Christmas Carol.

On June 22, 1978, Day died from ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease.  He was surrounded by his wife of 40 years, Peggy Almquist, and his 10 children.

Be sure to set your DVRs and watch Dennis’s original role on The Jack Benny Program on the Astound TV Network’s programming lineup, every Wednesday at 12 noon.  Also, you can binge-watch a number of great early “Benny” episodes as part of a mini-marathon this Monday starting at 8pm on ATVN. 

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on ATVN, check out the weekly listings here.

 

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

People Are Funny

June 30, 2022 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on the Astound TV Network with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

 

There are many examples in film and television history where life imitates art.

But there are many fewer times when art imitates another art form.

Such is the unique case in the 1946 classic movie, People Are Funny.

The film was based on the popularity of the radio show of the same name (and would later spawn a TV show) and starred venerable vaudevillian and film star Jack Haley, best known for his dual role as Hickory Twicker/the Tin Man from The Wizard Of Oz.

People Are Funny — the radio show — was created by John Guedel and ran from 1942 to 1960 in which contestants were asked to carry out stunts in order to prove that…dare I say, “people are funny.” Many of these stunts lasted weeks, months, or even years. But contestants who were successful received prizes. For example, in 1945, the host announced that $1,000 would go to the first person to find one of 12 plastic balls floating off California. Two years later, an Ennylageban Island native claimed the prize.

Riding the momentum of the radio success, Paramount Pictures came up with a fictional storyline, using the real radio program and show’s producer:

John Guedel (played by actor Phillip Reed) is panicked and dumbfounded when his popular radio show Humbug is immediately taken off the air for making fun of the legal profession. Given a deadline to produce a replacement, Gudel contacts his writer/girlfriend Corey Sullivan to help him but Corey has another client, Leroy Brinker, seeking a radio show for himself. The two come across a radio show put on in a small town called People Are Funny that mixes bizarre challenges for contestants with musical entertainment. Corey gets the show’s producer, Pinky Wilson, to bring his show to Mr. Guedel.

One of the fictional schemes in the movie was when a young singer agrees to partake in the program, showing off his vocal cords but also agreeing to play the game show–while answering questions in a stockade.  He’s sucked into the deal by being promised a date with a real “honey,” only instead of a young girl he’s met with the sticky stuff made from bees.

The film had no shortage of big names for the time period.  In addition to Haley playing the role of Pinky Wilson, the movie also starred one-time pop idol turned mainstream actor/musician Rudy Vallee in the role of Ormsby Jamison.

Ozzie Nelson, riding the success of his own popular radio show, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, played the role of Leroy Brinker.

The role of the Master of Ceremonies for the fictional “People Are Funny?” … none other than the REAL host of the radio show, Art Linkletter, who starred in the radio edition from 1943 until the program’s end in the early 1960s.  He also later anchored the television version of the show, which was very popular in the mid-1950s and won a pair of Emmy Awards.

Linkletter, among many notable programs he would go on to host, also had a short stint as host of the “Tonight Show,” filling in between the sudden and unexpected departure by host Jack Parr and when Johnny Carson was contractually able to take over the role.

You can see People Are Funny — the movie — on ATVN this Friday evening at 8pm.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on the Astound TV Network, check out the weekly listings here.

 

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

Jane Wyatt

June 23, 2022 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

 Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

Before you check out the star-studded cast in the film, Katherine, on ATVN over the next week, you may be interested in the fascinating background about one of the movie’s central characters–that of Katherine’s mother–played by Jane Wyatt.

Jane Waddington Wyatt was born on August 12, 1910 in the unique village of Franklin Lakes, New JerseyFranklin Lakes was formed by an act of the New Jersey Legislature from portions of Franklin Township, based on the results of a referendum and was named for William Franklin, the illegitimate son of Benjamin Franklin.  

At a young (undisclosed) age, she moved to attend Miss Chaplin’s School in New York City and starred in the roles of Joan of Arc and Shylock.  She attended Barnard College for two years before leaving to join the Berkshire Playhouse in Stockbridge, Massachusetts for six months and took on a variety of roles.

Wyatt then auditioned for and won an understudy role in the Broadway play, Trade Winds.  When her turn came to perform, she received terrific reviews and earned a motion picture contract from Universal Studios.

For nearly 15 years, she made a name for herself starring alongside some of Hollywood’s best known actors of the era, including Frank Capra‘s Lost Horizon with Ronald Coleman, Gentleman’s Agreement with Gregory Peck, Task Force with Gary Cooper, None But The Lonely with Cary Grant, and with Randolph Scott in the western drama, Canadian Pacific.

Wyatt’s film career came to a screeching halt in the early 1950s when she was blackballed for criticizing Senator Joseph McCarthy and his anti-Communism investigation campaigns.

She went back to New York City and performed once again on the stage until television came calling.

Wyatt won the role as Robert Young’s on-screen wife in the popular family comedy, Father Knows Best – winning three Emmy Awards in consecutive years for Outstanding Lead Actress in a TV comedy in 1958, 1959 and 1960.

She then made a number of guest appearances on shows throughout the 1960s, including Wagon Train, Going My Way, Here Comes The Brides, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and Love, American Style.

But her best-remembered television appearance was as the human mother of the alien character, Mr. Spock, on Star Trek.

Wyatt would go on performing on television shows and films sporadically in the 1970s and early 1980s–her most memorable roles were as Emily Alman in Katherine, Anna, mother of the Virgin Mary, in 1978’s The Nativity and a recurring role in the medical drama, St. Elsewhere.

Her final acting gig was a return to playing Spock’s mother in the 1986 motion picture, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Wyatt was quoted as saying that she received more fan mail from those two appearances on the original “Star Trek” show/film series than any other acting performance she had throughout her career.

Wyatt suffered a stroke in 1995 and never acted again.

She died peacefully in her home on October 20, 2006 at the tender age of 96.

Be on the lookout for Jane Wyatt’s standout performance in the 1975 film, Katherine, coming up on the ATVN Movie Vault, this Saturday at 9:30 pm on ATVN.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on the Astound TV Network, check out the weekly listings here.

 

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

 

The Life of William Bendix

June 16, 2022 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation. 

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

William Bendix, who would go on to star in radio, television and films, had an auspicious start to his working career.

He would be fired as a bat boy for the New York Yankees baseball team.

The reason?  He obeyed orders from Babe Ruth during the height of his popularity to go out and buy him hot dogs and sodas right before a game — which was against team rules.

Twenty years later, Bendix starred in the The Babe Ruth Story motion picture, portraying the titular character.

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Bendix was born in Manhattan, the only child of Oscar and Hilda (Carnell) Bendix. Named William after his paternal German grandfather, his uncle was composer, conductor, and violinist Max Bendix.  He would work odd jobs through the Great Depression, until deciding at the age of 30 to try his hand at acting.

After six years, he starred in his first feature film, The Glass Key, and in other film noir flicks. He had success largely playing rough but kind-hearted gangsters, soldiers or “blue-collar” type roles.  From 1942 until his death in 1964, Bendix was featured in 66 movies.  His greatest individual accomplishment in films was earning an Academy Award nomination for his role as a soldier in the 1942 war classic, Wake Island.

But in addition to his success on the big screen, Bendix became a national treasure throughout the 40s and 50s by portraying the fictional Chester A. Riley in the hit radio and later television series, The Life of Riley.

Originally a radio treatment to be a vehicle for Groucho Marx in a show called, “The Flotsam Family,” series creator Irving Brecher saw Riley in a film in which he played a taxi cab driver with a heavy Brooklyn accent.  According to the book “Raised on Radio,” Brecher went back and rewrote the premise of his show, basing the lead character on a “meat-and-potatoes” man of the house with comical frailties, casting Bendix in the lead.

The result was a Top 20 show through the latter half of the 1940s, in a period that also featured other radio show giants hosted by legends like Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Milton Berle, Red Skelton, George Burns and Gracie Allen, and many others.  Bendix also starred in the film version of the show in 1949 — the movie grossing $1.6 million at the box office.

The comedic plotlines centered around Riley himself — a gullible and clumsy but big-hearted man. Although operating with the best of intentions, Riley had the inclination of turning slight misunderstandings and slightly troubling situations into near-disasters.  He also had the uncanny ability to successfully play off of unique characters like his neighbor Waldo Binny, “Digger” O’Dell (“the friendly undertaker”), his co-worker and best friend, Gillis, and other colorful personalities.

To give yourself a treat, find copies of “Riley’s” radio shows involving his traditional Thanksgiving and Mother’s Day holidays episodes and also an episode entitled, “A Spicy Book.”

His trademark lines uttered on the show were some of the most popular catch-phrases of the decade.

Because of his movie contract, Bendix was not available when the series transitioned to television.  After an initial failed attempt with “The Great One” (Jackie Gleason) in the title role, Bendix reclaimed the role of Riley in 1953.  The show quickly shot up in the Nielson’s ratings (reaching as high as #16 in its first season), followed by five more years as a hit show, perennially winning its time slot.

William continued acting in movies and guest-starring on television until he was cast to star in a brand new sitcom in 1964 but CBS removed him from the project because of a rumor of ill-health.  This action severely curtailed Bendix’s job opportunities in the industry.  Bendix sued the network, claiming that he was in great health, and won the lawsuit, but the damage was done for the remainder of his career.  He later died of pneumonia at the age of 58.

In his obituary in The New York Times, Bendix was quoted as saying, “I’ve had a long, varied, pleasant, eventful career. I don’t hate anybody and I don’t have any bitter thoughts. I started out without any advantages, but I’ve been lucky and successful and I’ve had fun.”

You can see William Bendix in one of his most prominent film roles–that of Nick, the Saloon Owner, in the film, The Time of Your Life, in the “RCN Movie Vault” this Saturday at 9:30 p.m. on ATVN.  (This movie was made in 1948, at the height of his popularity on radio.)

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on ATVN, check out the weekly listings here.

 

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ATVN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

 

Buster Keaton’s Early Career

June 10, 2022 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

You can’t look at early cinema without studying the great contributions by comedian/producer/director/screenwriter Buster Keaton.

Joseph Frank “Buster” Keaton has been credited with inspiring fellow legendary directors and comedians from Orson Welles to Mel Brooks to Johnny Knoxville.

He started in the entertainment business at the age of six, working with his parents doing physical comedy and vaudeville acts and road shows.  Some of his most popular acts were getting thrown by his father, who pretended to be angry with him. (Buster and his family toured with renowned illusionist Harry Houdini for years.)

Unbeknownst to the audience, a suitcase handle was sewn into Buster’s clothing making it easy for his father to reach in and throw his child who had become very proficient at landing on his feet and avoiding injury doing what seemed like extreme physical acts.

According to busterkeaton.com, his act was advertised as “The Roughest Act That Was Ever in the History of the Stage”.  Decades later, Keaton said that he was never hurt by his father and that the falls and physical comedy were a matter of proper technical execution. In 1914, Keaton told the Detroit News: “The secret is in landing limp and breaking the fall with a foot or a hand. It’s a knack. I started so young that landing right is second nature with me. Several times I’d have been killed if I hadn’t been able to land like a cat. Imitators of our act don’t last long, because they can’t stand the treatment.”

It was also as a child that he learned that if he smiled during his physical comedy routines, he didn’t get as many laughs from the audience.  Thus, he quickly developed the ability to not show any expression on his face during his routine–an action that later earned him the nickname “the great stone face.”

Originally skeptical of the new medium that was film, Keaton quickly adapted his highly entertaining physical humor to the big screen and became one of the greatest early comedians in the cinemas.

After great success in films as an actor and comedian between 1917 to 1920, Keaton quickly formed his own production company, allowed him to produce and direct his own films and create unparalleled physical comedic scenes throughout the rest of the 1920s.

Among his great physical highlights caught on film include Keaton sitting on top of a collapsing two-story building and escaping unharmed – as if he was on a surfboard riding a wave and dismounting like he was on a beach.

His 1926 classic, The General, combined tremendous feats of physical comedy with Keaton’s love of trains, including an epic locomotive chase.  Initially, it was not considered a financial success.  In addition to going way over budget, many people couldn’t stand watching so many death-defying physical acts (done, of course, without the benefits of any CGI).  However, the film is regarded by many as one of the greatest comedy films of all time.

The myth that Keaton couldn’t make a successful transition to talkies was just that — a myth.  Unlike , who disliked talking pictures vehemently, Keaton did immediately jump in to the new innovations and starred in a number of successful, early sound pictures for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.  It was his growing discontent of working with MGM, his overwhelming work schedule, an ugly divorce and an increasing dependency on alcohol that drove him out of the film industry for several years.

But Keaton’s film career and legendary work was far from over. We will look at more of Buster’s great legacy in a future blog entry here at the “Showplace.

In the meantime, you can see Buster Keaton in one of his early talkies, Parlor, Bedroom and Bath on Thursday, June 16, at 9:00 am on ATVN.

 

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on the Astound TV Network, check out the weekly listings here.

 

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

House on Haunted Hill

May 26, 2022 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on Astound TV Network with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

It may be a cliche, but it also can be very true…

You can’t top an original.

So is the case for the original version of the supernatural horror film classic, House on Haunted Hill.

The 1959 motion picture starring Vincent Price, Richard Long and Carol Ohmart sends shivers down viewers’ spines in the first few seconds of the film (even before the conclusion of the opening credits and not a single visual picture appears on the screen.)

The characters immediately break the “fourth wall” by looking and speaking directly to the audience and details are given about their background and announce that evening’s activities.

The movie’s premise is that Frank and Annabelle Loren (Price and Ohmart) are a twisted married couple who invite five people to a rented establishment for a “haunted house” party, offering their guests $10,000 if they can stay the entire night.

All five guests who attended the party were complete strangers to each other (or were they?) and agreed to the deal.  All the attendees are from different backgrounds and were each chosen for different reasons.  At midnight, the doors were locked.  With the windows barred and no working radios or telephones available, the twists continue to evolve as Frank accuses Annabelle of trying to kill him to inherit his money and…

Well, you’ll have to watch it to experience all the turns, thrills and chills for yourselves!

The movie was based on a story of the same name by Shirley Jackson that came out a year before the film was released and was a huge success–grossing over $2.5 million at the box office and was made on an estimated budget of $200,000.

Price, of course, was already well-known as an icon in the horror industry at the time of “House’s” release after years of successful work in both radio and motion pictures.  His starring role in this film continued a steady stream of 1950s box office hits, coming after The House of Wax, The Fly and The Return of the Fly.

Price’s co-star, Richard Long, would go on to become a household face in the 1960s as the star of the popular television western, The Big Valley.

The film’s director, William Castle, was a big fan of the original novel and didn’t stray far from the book’s premise.  According to an article published on Halloween 2014 in “Architect” magazine, Castle selected one of the eerie, yet historic Gothic houses built by Frank Lloyd Wright to film the exterior shots of the movie.  Interior scenes were filmed on sound stages built to replicate Victorian styles of the late 1800s.

Castle also did a remarkable job of utilizing the key elements of black-and-white film by featuring long shadows across many scenes, and built suspense by strategically delaying character’s faces as they slowly appear in scenes due to lack of light.

Castle himself was a big fan of legendary scaremaster Alfred Hitchcock and tried to recreate many traditional dramatic elements used by the Master of Suspense.  Ironically, Hitchcock reportedly loved Castle’s horror classic and his decision to use black-and-white filmmaking.  Hitch used the exact same color process in his very next film, Psycho.

The lasting success of “House” is indicated by a 90% fresh rating on the popular film review site “Rotten Tomatoes”, and has spawned several subsequent movies following the original’s premise.

You can see the 1959 version of House on Haunted Hill, starring Vincent Price, airing Friday, June 2, at 9:30 pm, on the Astound TV Network.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on ATVN, check out the weekly listings here.

 

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

George Kennedy

May 12, 2022 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

One of the great aspects of the classic film, Charade, is its all-star cast.  Cary Grant, Audrey Heburn, James Coburn…the list goes on.

But people may be surprised to know that one of its biggest stars–and arguably the  movie’s most sinister villain, George Kennedy, was actually appearing in one of his earliest movie roles!

Kennedy was born on February 18, 1925, in New York City, into a show business family. He made his stage debut at the tender age of two — in a touring company’s production of Bringing Up Father.  Aside from a few television appearances, it would be nearly 35 years until George made it onto the Silver Screen.

Enlisting in the United States Army at the age of 17 during World War II, Geroge served 16 years, reaching the rank of captain. Kennedy served in the infantry under George S. Patton, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and he earned two Bronze Stars. Kennedy re-enlisted after the war and was discharged in the late 1950s due to a back injury.

After a recurring role on television’s Phil Silvers Show, Kennedy made his film debut in 1961’s The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come, followed quickly by more prominent roles in the western, Lonely Are The Brave (starring Kirk Douglas), the romance/mystery/comedy, Charade, and a thriller, Strait-Jacket (with Joan Crawford).

A few years later, George appeared in the classic Cool Hand Luke and won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the role while also receiving a nomination for the corresponding Golden Globe.

Before the 1960s were out, Kennedy had appeared in 27 films before the end of 1969, including classics like Shenandoah, The Flight of the Phoenix, The Dirty Dozen, Bandolero, The Boston Strangler and the film version of McHale’s Navy.

But George’s success would continue early in 1970.

Kennedy would star in three films that year, none bigger than one of 1970’s summer blockbusters (and there were several), AirportThe star-studded air-disaster drama would be Universal Pictures’ biggest commercial success to date and earn ten Oscar nominations. Kennedy won a Golden Globe as a supporting actor portraying the character, Joe Patroni.

Airport would spawn a new generation of “disaster films,” including three other sequels.  Kennedy was the only actor to appear in each new installment of the film series.

George would continue to star in a wide variety of genres for the next several decades.  In 1988, he would introduce himself to a new generation of moviegoers by handling the role of Captain Ed Hocken — sidekick to Leslie Neilsen’s legendary turn as Lieutenant Frank Drebin, in The Naked Gun film series.

The first installment is regarded as one of the greatest comedy films of all-time and is even listed on The New York Times’ top 100 movies ever (Kennedy’s movies have several entries on this list).  George would continue to work in various film and television projects until the 2014 film, The Gambler.

At the time of his death in 2016, Kennedy was the oldest living actor to win an Oscar.  Coincidentally, he died the day of the 88th Academy Awards ceremony. 

You can see George Kennedy in classic films, including Charade, airing this Saturday at 8pm on ATVN.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on ATVN, check out the weekly listings here.

 

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ATVN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

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