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Carole Lombard

March 6, 2024 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

 In honor of Women’s History Month, the Showplace honors prominent female-driven classic programs and women who “changed the game” and made a lasting impact in the Golden Age of Hollywood.

 

Amongst a crowded category of extraordinary women, the most prominent and impactful actress in the 1930s was arguably Carole Lombard.

Bursting onto the screen at the age of 12 in the silent picture, A Perfect Crime.  She caught the eyes of prominent directors, among them Charlie Chaplin, who auditioned her for his classic, The Gold Rush.  

While she was not cast in the film, her audition increased her growing reputation in Hollywood.

At 16 she was signed to a movie contract by Fox to play in low-budget western and adventure films that did not test her range as an actress. According to biographer Wes Gehring “Carole Lombard: The Hoosier Tornado”), she commented on her dissatisfaction with these roles: “all I had to do was smile prettily at the hero and scream with terror when he battled with the villain.”  She was released from her contract at the age of 18 when a car accident left a slight scar on her face.

Lombard was also under contract to film pioneer Mack Sennett and later referred to her time working with him as, according to Gehring’s book, the “turning point of her career”.

In 1930 she signed a contract with Paramount Pictures, who ironically was assigned to play dramatic roles.  After a few non-comedy features she was cast as the lead in the ahead-of-its-time, screwball comedy, Twentieth Century, which began her rapid rise as one of the funniest ladies in cinema.

By 1937, she became the highest paid actress in Hollywood, earning five times more than President Franklin D. Roosevelt was making at that time.

Through the remainder of the 1930s, she starred in many of the decade’s finest comedies.  Most critics would agree her role in My Man Godfrey, which came with an Academy Award nomination as Best Lead Actress, was her finest performance.

At the height of her comedic fame, she did the unthinkable for a Hollywood actor OR actress…she tried to break her typecasting.

Lombard made the controversial decision to lead a dramatic tear-jerker in Made for Each Other in which she plays a wife and mother facing financial problems and a life-threatening illness for her baby.

Lombard received rave reviews for her “serious” acting and proved that she was not only more than a pretty face, but showed the world that a woman actor can reach new heights and show just as much range in performing as a man.

Unfortunately, the film itself did not receive positive reviews and was not considered a financial success.  Lombard’s other attempts at dramatic roles were held in less regard, forcing her to return to comedy films for the rest of her career.

It was during this time that she married Clark Gable, who was arguably the most popular male actor in Hollywood at the time.  Fresh off his success in the classic Gone With The Wind, Gable married Lombard and became the nation’s “supercouple” of the early 1940s.

Lombard returned to prominence in the cinema with another successful string of comedy films and became even more relevant in the hearts and minds of her audience.  During World War II she used her star-power to lead several successful campaigns for war bonds, helping to raise over $2-million in a single evening.

It was during one of these campaigns that took her life while flying in an airplane.  Due to reports (later to be determined as false) that Japanese fighters were spotted in the vicinity, airplane warning lights were turned off so as to not aid the enemy planes from spotting dangerous mountainous terrain.  Lombard’s plane pilot was not familiar with the dramatic incline of the 8,300-foot Potosi Mountains during takeoff and crashed the plane, killing Lombard and everyone on board.

Her final picture, To Be Or Not To Be, released after her death, garnished, like so most of her other movies, tremendous praise for her performance.  She reportedly said it was the most fun she even had while making a motion picture.  

It was her 58th featured film. She was 33 years old when she died.

Fans and celebrities alike all mourned her tragic death. For her husband, it was said that Clark Gable was never quite the same, personally or professionally, after her passing.

You can see Lombard in classic films like 1936’s My Man Godfrey, her dramatic turn in Made for Each Other and other great pictures, as part of the “ATVN Movie Vault” seen regularly on our network.  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 or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

 

Roy Glenn (Part 2)

February 19, 2024 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.

 

 As part of Astound Broadband’s celebration of Black History Month, we here at the “Showplace” are putting the spotlight on African American actors who excelled not just on the big and small screens but those who also inspired change with their courage and perseverance.

 

Roy Glenn was a victim of the stereotypical casting of African-Americans over the first 20 years of his career as an actor and entertainer in the radio, television and film industries.  But in the early 1950s, the versatile performer was about to branch out when given the opportunities he deserved.

 

One of his larger film roles was that of a lawyer in the 1950 biopic film, The Jackie Robinson Story, the picture featuring Ruby Dee and Robinson, starring as himself.  The picture focused on Robinson’s struggle for racial equality and his perseverance to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball in the 1940s.

 

The following biographical information was obtained via a Bill Caldwell article in the “Joplin Globe” (first appearing May 26th, 2018).

 

In 1951 he broke into television – cast in The Amos ‘n Andy Show in multiple roles for 16 episodes over a four-year period. Glenn appeared as an FBI agent on the show — this at a time when there were no black FBI agents in America. His bass-baritone voice gave him an edge on playing authority figures. CBS kept the show for four years, finally pulling it in 1955 after many complaints of racial stereotypes and biases on the program.

 

In 1954, Otto Preminger wanted to put together Oscar Hammerstein’s version of the opera “Carmen” as an all-black contemporary film. He produced the film with Glenn, Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte, Pearl Bailey and Diahann Carroll. The film won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy in 1954. Dandridge was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress.

Glenn kept busy with ongoing roles in television series. In 1957, he appeared on 11 different shows. He was everything from a dock worker to a police detective to a gravedigger to a bartender to a minister to a stonemason to a cowpoke on Rawhide. He had a recurring role on The Jack Benny Program over a 10-year period. It was in the 1960s that he landed roles that gained him increased recognition, including the 1961 classic, A Raisin in the Sun.

His highest-profile role was in 1967 when he portrayed Sidney Poitier’s father in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (which also featured Louis Gossett Jr. in his film debut).  The conflicting viewpoints between the two generations were shown point blank in an argument between the father and son. Glenn’s character made the pointed comment that his son’s interracial marriage would be a crime in at least 16 states were it known.        

He also appeared on Broadway in the play Golden Boy, which starred Sammy Davis Jr. The play, another boxing story, ran for 568 performances over two years from 1964 to 1966. He was described as a “Hollywood big name” along with Lola Falana, Louis Gossett Jr. and Ben Vereen by one reviewer.   It was in 1970 that Glenn was elected the first black national officer in the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, an actors union contemporary with the Screen Actors Guild. The union voted him recording secretary during its 1970 convention in Louisville, Kentucky.

While Glenn never had a starring role in any television show, he continued to land significant roles on the big screen in classic films like St. Louis Blues, The Sound and the Fury, I Love You, Alice B. Tokias! (1968), The Great White Hope (1970) and in the popular sequel, Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971).

 

Other prominent films he played in during the 1950s and 60s include The Royal African Rifles, The Golden Idol, Riot in Cell Block 11, The Raid, Carmen Jones, A Man Called Adam, Hang ‘Em High and Finian’s Rainbow.

 

In all, Glenn played in over 50 motion pictures.

 

Glenn once again played a lawyer in Escape, a role that turned out to be his final film role.

 

Glenn died of a heart attack brought on by cardiovascular disease in his home in Las Angeles, California.  He left behind three children and his wife of over twenty years, Francis.

 

He was just 56 years young.

 

Be sure to tune in to see Roy Glenn’s performances in classic films like The Jackie Robinson Story, and more, airing regularly on the Astound Broadband 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.

Roy Glenn (Part 1)

January 31, 2024 By Meagan Ryer 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.

As part of Astound’s celebration of Black History Month, we here at the “Showplace” are putting the spotlight on African American actors who excelled not just on the big and small screens but those who also inspired change with their courage and perseverance.

Reflecting back on the past reveals a sad inequality among many years of film, radio and television histories. While African American performers were extremely rare on radio programs and early TV shows, it was even harder to find a regular performer or even a recurring guest star on nearly any show throughout the 1940s and 1950s.
One exception to that was Roy Glenn.

Roy Edwin Glenn was born in Pittsburgh, Kansas, on June 3rd, 1914.
Glenn’s first experiences in film was in the 1936 romantic comedy, Kelly The Second (produced by legendary filmmaker Hal Roach) and Dark Manhattan, which was released a year later.

For reasons unknown, most of Roy’s first 12 roles in motion pictures were all “uncredited,” even for performances which had multiple lines. The practice of not listing all actors in a film’s credits is not unheard of, but given the racial prejudices of the time in Hollywood, his omission from the credits of so many large productions seems suspicious at best.

Glenn got his start in radio in the 1940s by guest starring on the radio drama The Adventures of Rocky Jordan (also titled: The Man With No Name). He then started getting regular recurring roles in successful radio shows like The Jack Benny Program – a role that spilled over when the popular radio comedy was made into a television show.
Roy was noted for his resonant voice–a trait that would help him get some significant film and radio roles later in his career.

Glenn also worked with Jack Webb, creator of Dragnet, in the radio drama Pete Kelly’s Blues, about a jazz musician. Glenn was cast as the piano player, a skill in which he happened to be very proficient.
The following is from a May 26th, 2018 Bill Caldwell article on Roy Glenn’s life in the “Joplin Globe:”
Black cast films were movies with all-black casts planned to appear and bring in black audiences.

In the South, segregated theaters showed the films, while in the North, they appeared in black neighborhoods or at designated showtimes. According to some sources, as many as 500 such films were produced from 1915 to 1954. They spanned genres from musicals to mysteries to crime to westerns. Most black actors and actresses never transitioned into the Hollywood films, as most black cast films were produced outside of the Hollywood system.
It was after World War II that he began to be cast in stereotypical roles. Several of his other roles were in jungle adventure films as a “native” or witch doctor. Glenn appeared in the Twentieth Century Fox film, “Slave Ship,” cast as a slave in the story about a slave trader who wanted out of the trade. He was cast in another Fox film as a singing porter in “Life Begins in College.”

But soon, Roy Glenn was given an opportunity to act more in non-stereotypical roles, and Glenn certainly made the most of those opportunities. We’ll take a look at the
second half of Roy’s career, in two weeks, here at “The Showplace.”

Be sure to tune in or set your DVRs to catch Roy Glenn’s frequent guest starring appearances on The Jack Benny Program and other TV shows and classic films airing regularly on the Astound Broadband TV Network.
To view the complete rundown of classic programming on ATVN, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

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.

Now and Then

November 8, 2023 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

I don’t often do music reviews in this space nor offer many opinions on new releases, but in lieu of the Beatles first single released in 28 years (and probably the last, at least without “AI” intervention), I thought it would be appropriate to make an exception for this week.

(ATVN video customers can hear the music of the Beatles and also the solo career hits of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr on several “Music Choice” channels available – most often heard on channels 1932 and 1933.)

As a lifelong Beatles fan, I was excited to hear what was actually going to be released with the group’s “new” single.  There are many varying opinions about this song, “Now and Then,” written by Lennon in the late 1970s.  A “demo” he recorded on cassette tape was released in the early 80s, but the remaining three Beatles briefly toyed with the idea in the mid-1990s of making it into a completed song before Harrison decided to abandon the project.

Now, 28 years after that attempt and 52 years since the band members were in the same recording session together, comes their “final” song. 

While it won’t make many Beatles’ fans list of their top 10 songs ever produced by the “Fab Four,” I did believe there are several strong points that make this a significant contribution to the band’s legacy.

Here’s an objective listing of my thoughts – good and not-so-good –  on the release of this song:

LIKES
  • The fact that McCartney didn’t try to “overwhelm” the song with his tradition pop tools that he’s utilized very efficiently over the last half century and still tried to keep it similar to a “John song” (although both would wildly vary in their styles throughout their careers)
  • The inclusion of the band’s legendary producer George Martin’s son, Giles, in the recording, with a very classy symphonic string arrangement that would have made his dad proud, and is very reminiscent of many classic Beatles songs
  • Thanks to modern recording techniques, Lennon’s voice was “freed” from the track coupled with his upright piano recording and a low “hum” that was on the original tape, making his voice crystal clear. This was a refreshing change from the muffled voice and subsequent “tricks” that spoiled the release of previous posthumous Lennon solo songs that were made into the “Beatle” catalog like “Free As A Bird,” and, to a lesser extent, “Real Love”
  • The inclusion of snippets of previous Beatles songs like “Because,” “Here, There and Everywhere” and “Elenor Rigby”, all of which include Harrison in the vocals
  • Double-tracking John’s voice (something the singer asked for in many of his songs) and the subtle variances in the rhythm sections during the verses and percussion auditions near the end of the song. Also, Paul’s backing with a top harmony is very reminiscent of many great Beatles songs and is even something that John often ask Paul to do with his songs according to the “Beatles Anthology” 
  • The irony of a song sung by Lennon (in 1979) and by McCartney (in 2023) WITHOUT the use of AI, in effect singing about (to?) each other through the former’s tragic death AND the fact that this group’s last song is about each other and “making it through,” together 
  • Paul’s counting at the beginning is reminiscent of the first ever Beatles hit song in America, “I Saw Her Standing There,” but in a much softer tone, which provides an appropriate bookend to the groups first and last number one U.S. single
  • The “Now and Then” demo cassette was simply labeled “For Paul,” indicates he was writing about his former bandmate and the fact that the two got to sing “together” and provides an appropriate final chapter to the relationship between these two musical giants
NOT SO MUCH
  • The fact that Harrison didn’t care for the song when he was alive and refused to do more than provide a brief rhythm guitar bit and a side guitar contribution (which is present but enhanced by McCartney).  His estate (his wife and son) gave their consent to include his work in the production, but it’s somewhat difficult to imagine that Harrison would give his “ok” had he not succumbed to throat cancer in 2004. (The fact that Harrison HATED technology interfering with songs also suggests that he would not have approve of this release)
  • Although they tried to include Harrison by taking snippets of previous Beatles songs that included his vocals, the song still is missing the “magic” of the group–and it’s not hard to believe his creative absence (either instrumental or vocal) is part of that reason…which is why some die-hard fans don’t even consider this a “Beatles” song and, instead, refer to it as one of the better Lennon solo efforts further enhanced by McCartney and Starr.
  • The exclusion of both of the “I don’t want to lose you” refrains that was on the original demo recording.  Already, there’s people producing “alternate” versions of the song (a few quite good) that took the new officially released song and mixed it with the original bridges.  One could argue the song was “tighter” without it, but again, with two members of the group no longer with us to give their input, listeners are left to wonder their opinions…and what could have been

 

What are your thoughts on the new release? Should they even call it a “Beatles” song?  With emerging technology, I’m sure there will be many “new” songs (or different versions) of their work…but should there be?

 

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.

In Memoriam…David McCallum

October 11, 2023 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

To honor the recent passing of this Scottish actor and musician, we reflect on the life and career of David McCallum.

David Keith McCallum was born on September 19th, 1933 in Glasnow, United Kingdom.

His family, who came from a musical background, encouraged him to pursue music.  He learned to play the oboe and began doing voice work for the BBC at an early age.  At 17 he earned the role of Oberon at London’s famous Garden Stage Theatre (then known as the Play and Pagent Union) in an open air production of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

His early film work included playing the Titanic radio operator in 1958’s retelling of the Titanic disaster in  “A Night To Remember.”  He played Judas Iscariot in the biblical epic, “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” and got a role in “Freud: The Secret Passion,” under the guidance of legendary film director John Huston.

On the set of the 1957 film “Hell’s Drivers,” McCallum fell in love with cast member Jill Ireland and the two married.

Among his musical contributions include four records for Capitol Records in the 1960s.  Among his best known works includes a track called, “The Edge,” which was later sampled by Dr. Dre and can be heard on the video game, Grand Theft Auto IV.  He would go on to record many albums while playing a variety of instruments.

He also appeared on television in the early 1960 with a guest starring role on an episode of “Perry Mason” and appeared multiple times on “The Outer Limits.”

He became a household name to American TV audiences with his recurring role as a Russian agent on the hit 1960s drama, “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”  Despite the anti-Soviet Union feelings of the time, McCallum’s character, with his “Beatle-like” haircut, instantly struck a chord with younger audience members in 1964, just as Beatlemania was making its way to the United States.  His performances were so well received that his role was elevated to be on par with established star Robert Vaugh for the show’s final three years on the air.

During the show’s run he would frequently play the guitar and also song a duet with Nancy Sinatra.  His then-wife Jill guest-starred on “U.N.C.L.E” on several episodes, but the two divorced before the show ended its run.

McCallum won two Emmy Awards for his performance on the program and reunited with Vaugh years later in the television film, “Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E.”

His biggest role in the 1970s occurred when he headlined the British-Canadian film production of “King Solomon’s Treasure,” which was based on the novel King Solomon’s Mines.  The movie features other notable stars including Patrick McNee (“The Avengers,” “A View To A Kill”),  Britt Ekland (“The Man With The Golden Gun,” “The Night They Raided Minsky”) , and Wilfred Hyde-White (“My Fair Lady,” “Let’s Make Love.”)

In the 1980s and 90s, he continued to star in plays in different countries, he had small roles in film and also guest starred on a few television programs (most noticeably “Murder, She Wrote,” and  “Seaquest DSV”), as well as starring in a TV mini-series with Diana Rigg called “Mother Love.” He also recreated a role similar to the one he portrayed in “U.N.C.L.E” for one episode of the TV action show, “The A-Team.”

Contemporary television viewers knew him best as Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard on the hit forensic science program, “NCIS.”  After recently completing its 19th season this summer, McCallum was the only original cast member still starring on the program.

On September 15th of this year, David died of natural causes in a New York City hospital.  He had recently celebrated his 90th birthday.

In further tribute to this great actor and musician, the Astound TV Network will show McCallum in his starring role of “King Solomon’s Treasure,” this Thursday at 9 am.

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

 

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.

Richardo Montalban (Part 2)

September 28, 2023 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

This week here at the Classic Video Showplace, we continue our celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month with part two in our series on the legendary and diverse career of Richardo Montalban.

 

After having over a decade of success in full length films, Ricardo Montalban had seen enough of stereotypical Hollywood roles and decided to make the potential career-killing decision to leave Hollywood and turn down any roles that featured Spanish or Mexican actors in a stereotypical or prejudicial way.

He left Hollywood to star in the Mexican produced films, Untouched and A Life in the BalanceHe traveled to Italy to make The Queen of Babylon and Desert Warrior.  He starred on Broadway in Seventh Heaven and co-starred with Lena Horne singing calypso in Jamaica, a role which earned him a Tony Award.

He even played the role of a Japanese dancer in 1957’s Sayonara, a role which he believed was worthy of an Academy Award.

Montalban would return to Hollywood to star in numerous movies and in television guest appearances, provided that he played roles that did NOT enhance a prejudice of stereotypes against Hispanic actors.

Between 1960 and 1978, Ricardo starred in 27 films and was on over 50 television shows, including top hits like The Untouchables, Bonanza, Here’s Lucy, The Dinah Shore Show, Gunsmoke, The Man From U.N.C.L.E, The Virginian, Ironside, Hawaii Five-O, Columbo, and Police Story.

For 13 years, he was the spokesperson for Chrysler motors and his pitches of the car’s “rich Carenthian leather,” struck a chord with the public.

In 1978, he was selected in one of his most memorable roles as Mr. Roarke on the ABC drama Fantasy Island.  A role which lasted seven years and made him a television icon.

In 1982, film director Nicolas Meyer was given the task of saving the Star Trek “enterprise,” after its first feature film disappointed critics and fans of the show.

Meyers and Executive Producer Harve Bennett went through the entire catalog of original episodes and selected Montalban’s performance on an episode called, “The Space Seed,” to build the movie that would eventually become, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.

Ricardo revealed in interviews that he asked for the original tapes of that performance.  He said he wanted to build the anger his exiled character exhibited on that episode and add 15 years of frustration and revenge to recreate his memorable “Khan” for the film.

His performance not only made him one of the greatest villains in cinematic history but the movie, even today, is regarded as the greatest Star Trek film ever.  It saved the “Trek” franchise and spawned numerous television shows, webcasts, books, movies sequels and reboots, which are still being produced today.  (Ricardo’s legendary performance as Khan was recreated posthumously for the 2019 show, Star Trek: Short Treks.)

Montalban showed his versatility a few years later by starring as another memorable villain in the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker comedy classic, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!  (I personally think the last thirty minutes of that film is the funniest half hour in cinematic history.)

Ricardo would continue to be a popular television star on shows throughout the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, in programs like Murder She Wrote, Dynasty, The Colbys and Chicago Hope as well as a voice-over actor on Kim Possible, Dora The Explorer, Family Guy, and American Dad.

Despite being confined to a wheelchair for the rest of life because of a birth defect that was triggered by a movie stunt accident (see “part one” of our blog for more on that), Ricardo continued to perform as a voiceover actor and had on-camera appearances on both the small and large screen, including being a part of the Spy Kids film trilogy.

Montalban died due to “complications from advanced age” at his Los Angeles home in November 2008–a little more than 14 months after the passing of Georgiana Young, his wife of 53 years.

Montalban was 88.

Ricardo Montalban’s work deserves iconic status, not just during Hispanic Heritage Month, but for all time.  His tremendous and diverse work on screen, the class he exhibited in interviews, the respect he showed his peers and his then-radical decision to risk his career in order to change people’s preconceived notions about Spanish and Mexican people, all put in a class by himself in the entertainment industry.

 

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.

Richardo Montalban

September 14, 2023 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

Today, here at the Classic Video Showplace, we kickoff the celebration of Hispanic Heritage with a look at the legendary and diverse career of Richardo Montalban.

Richardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalban y Merino was born on November 25th, 1920 in Terreon to Spanish immigrants Genaro Montalban Busano and Ricarda Merino Jimenez.  

As a teenager he moved with his brother Carlos to Los Angeles and later to New York City, where he got his first role in a 1940 play titled, Her Cardboard Lover.   He started working as an extra or with small singing roles in short films (billed simply as “Ricardo”) and gradually began to build his screen time before his mother got ill and he returned to be with her in Mexico.

While in Mexico he began performing in Spanish-language films.  Between 1941 and 1947, he performed and later starred in 17 full length films–all produced in Mexico.

Former actor-turned-successful film director Norman Foster, who directed Charlie Chan films and worked with Orson Wells, Walt Disney and other Hollywood legends, was living in Mexico due to visa issues.  Forster saw Montalban’s work and featured him in several films, quickly making him a star.

During this time, Ricardo found the love of his life–Georgiana Young, who was half-sisters of movie stars Polly Ann Young, Sally Blaine and Lorette Young.  The latter became the star of her own television series and would later cast her brother-in-law frequently as a guest star in many different roles.  Georgiana and Ricardo were married in 1944, a bond that lasted until her death in November 2007.

Ricardo’s success in foreign films then caught the attention of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayor producers, who were looking for an authentic looking/sounding Mexican bullfighter to play opposite Esther Williams in a movie called Fiesta.  The film was viewed as a success by both critics and movie-goers and MGM immediately signed Montalban to a long-term contract.

He then took on a variety of roles and starred with some of the biggest names in Hollywood.  Montalban danced in a Frank Sinatra vehicle, The Kissing Bandit, he was Lana Turner’s love interest in Latin Lovers, he sang in multiple films with Williams, he served as a soldier in the wildly successful 1948 film Battleground, and was the lead in several film noir films around the turn of the decade.

Montalban was born with arteriovenous malformation in his spine which was aggravated when he was thrown from his horse and trampled on during the filming of the 1951 film Across The Wild Missouri.  Despite being in constant pain, he continued to work.  The condition never healed and later left him paralyzed below the waist down for the last 15 years of his life.

Instead of lashing out, Ricardo said in various interviews and speeches that he thanked God for the opportunity to use his physical disability to inspire him to create an organization to help support and promote people with handicaps.

In an article entitled “Dignity First” written by Jim Bawden for the Toronto Sun on February 22nd, 1986, Montalban revealed that he was disgusted with many of the Hispanic stereotypes he was either forced to play or refused to play–only to have them go to other actors who would take the role.

He felt so strongly about this that he later teamed with other Hispanic actors to form the Nosotros Organization, which means “We” in English.  Among the organization’s work included forming the Golden Eagle Awards, which identifies outstanding contributions by Latino actors.

By the mid-1950s, he had had enough of the stereotypes and decided to make the potential career-killing decision to leave Hollywood and turn down any roles that featured Spanish or Mexican actors in a negative or prejudicial way.

Montalban was just beginning to make his mark in both Hollywood and the entertainment industry as a whole.  In addition to changing many people’s views on Hispanic actors, he was about to impact the film industry in a way few others had ever done.

We’ll have more on the life and legacy of Montalban in two weeks here at “The Showplace.”

In the meantime, be on the lookout for Ricardo Montalban’s early television work on programs like The Loretta Young Show, Bonanza and other shows and movies, seen on the Astound TV Network.

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

 

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.

Petticoat Junction “Returns”

August 23, 2023 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.

 

On September 3rd, the Astound TV Network will officially launch our fall programming schedule.  Among the changes to the ATVN broadcast lineup includes the return of a classic 1960s sitcom to our schedule – Petticoat Junction.

The “Junction” was somewhat revolutionary for its time in that it featured a single, widowed mother raising three kids on her own.

Veteran radio and television character actress Bea Benaderet, after three decades of small roles and guest-starring on some of the most classic programs of all time, finally got her first chance at a leading role. (She actually played the role of Lucille Ball’s trusted neighbor on Ball’s radio show that would later become the Ethel Mertz role on the TV version of the program, I Love Lucy.)  

Benaderet’s character on “Junction,” Kate Bradley, was the anchor of a creative collection of zany characters that made up the fictional town, Hooterville, the show’s main setting.

Plot lines relied on feel good situations and familiar family issues with Benaderet often solving the problems of her daughters and their neighbors.  

One of the highlights of the cast was their live-in Uncle Joe, played by Edgar Buchanan, who became one of the more popular sit-com figures of the early/mid-1960s television landscape.

Another popular pairing of characters were the train conductors, Floyd Smoot and Charlie Pratt, played by Rufe Davis and Smiley Burnette.

Burnette wasn’t the only actor smiling after the first several seasons of the program. Petticoat Junction became one of the most successful comedies on television for the first several years of its run.

However, the cast and crew were in for more twists and turns than anyone ever found on the Cannonball’s train tracks over the next few years.  Tragically, the end of the 1960s not only started a decline in popularity for the “Junction” but some of the show’s most beloved characters met a dubious fate in real life.

We’ll have more on Petticoat Junction in a future blog entry here at the Showplace.

In the meantime, check out this program’s popular episodes making their return to the ATVN Wednesday programming schedule, starting on September 6th.

 

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

 

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.

Walter Matthau

June 8, 2023 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.

 

 While he may not be the most dynamic actor of the latter half of the 20th century, it’s hard to dismiss the acting contributions of Walter Matthau.

Walter John “Matthow” (he would later change the spelling of his last night once he got into show business) was born on October 1st, 1920 in New York City’s Lower East Side.  Matthau attended a Jewish summer camp as a boy where he first performed on stage.

After graduating from high school he briefly worked as a Montana forester, a gym instructor and a boxing coach before enlisting in the Air Force during World War II.  He served in the same squadron as James Stewart and flew bombing missions across Europe during the Battle of the Bulge.

Upon the completion of the war, Matthau returned to the States and decided to become an actor.

After playing bit parts in summer stock, Matthau’s first role on Broadway was an understudy to an 83-year-old English Bishop in Anne of the Thousand Days.  He shortly thereafter became a leading star on Broadway before making his film debut as a villain in The Kentuckian, a radio staff writer in 1957’s A Face In The Crowd (also starring a pre-Mayberry Andy Griffith) and a drunk in the 1958 Elvis-vehicle King Creole.

Matthau returned to the stage to win the first of many acting awards–a Tony for best lead actor in Broadway’s A Shot in the DarkHe then starred in Lonely Are The Brave (with Kirk Douglas) and teammed with Cary Grant, Audrey Heburn, James Colburn and others in the suspense-thriller Charade, before playing his most memorable role as the sloppy Oscar Madison in the stage play, The Odd Couple, winning his second Tony Award.

“Every actor looks all his life for a part that will combine his talents with his personality,” Matthau said in an interview with “Time” magazine in 1971. “The Odd Couple was mine. That was the plutonium I needed. It all started happening after that.”

Matthau then captured his first Academy Award in the 1966 film, The Fortune Cookie, playing shady lawyer, “Whiplash Willie.”  

He continued to excel in all different types of roles across all genres on the stage and big screen.

Matthau would receive Oscar nominations for best actor in the films, Kotch and The Sunshine Boys (he won a Golden Globe for Best Lead Male Actor for the latter film). He played the lead in the musical Hello, Dolly! and in the comedy, Cactus Flower.  He played a detective tracking down a mass murder in The Laughing Policeman, a bank robber on the run from the mafia in Charlie Varrack, a wise-cracking transit official in the action drama, The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, he played three separate roles in Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite and as the coach of an overachieving baseball team in  The Bad News Bears.

…and that was just between 1972 and 1976!

 

Matthau would continue to have success in films throughout the 1980s, including another Academy Award nominations for his roles in Hopscotch and First Monday in October.

While movie roles started to become scarce for the veteran actor in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Matthau hit his stride again with three comedy blockbusters, Grumpy Old Men, its sequel, Grumpier Old Men and Out To Sea.  He also appeared in the controversial Oliver Stone political-thriller, JFK and as Mr. Wilson in the movie version of Dennis The Menace.

Walter’s son Charlie became a filmmaker and directed his father in 1995’s The Grass Harp. 

In Walter’s last film, Hanging Up, Matthau gave a powerful performance as a dying screenwriter. Charlie appeared in his father’s last film as the younger version of his father’s character.

Matthau died of a cardiac arrest after filming wrapped.  He was 79.

Check out Matthau’s masterful performance in the classic suspense film Charade and many others 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.

 

Mary Tyler Moore

May 4, 2023 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.

 

Later this month on HBO Max, a documentary will air on one of the most iconic women in television history – Mary Tyler Moore.  

  

Mary Tyler Moore born on December 26, 1936, to Irish-Catholic parents in the Brooklyn Heights district of Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood and was the oldest of three children.

At the age of eight, Moore’s family moved to California to give Mary greater access to working in television.

At 17, she auditioned and was the producers’ choice for the role of Danny Thomas’s daughter in the hit sitcom Make Room For Danny, but was later turned down for the role by Thomas himself who didn’t believe anyone with a nose that small would be a believable daughter of his (Thomas later regretted that decision).

At 19 she landed her first on-camera job as “Happy Hotpoint,” a tiny dancing elf on the Hotpoint commercials that aired on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet television show.  For shooting 39 different commercials she received $6,000 but was fired when she became pregnant and could no longer fit into the elf costume.

Instead, Moore got the role of the secretary on the radio hit-turned-TV show Richard Diamond, Private Detective.  During her pregnancy she was often shot behind a desk or not seen on camera at all, to cover her condition.  She also guest-starred in a number of popular television shows throughout the rest of the 1950s.

While with child, she married Richard Meeker in 1955 but the family was soon hit with tragedy when Mary’s only sister was found dead from a combination of alcohol and painkillers.

In 1960, Danny Thomas’s production company was looking to recast following a failed pilot for a Carl Reiner television show based on his own experiences while working as a television comedic writer on Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows.  For the part of the star’s wife, Thomas remembered a talented young actress who had auditioned for his show, but only remembered that she had “three first names.”  After a search, they extended an invitation to Moore to be teamed with Dick Van Dyke as Laura and Robert Petrie on the program that would become The Dick Van Dyke Show.

Despite an 11-year gap in ages, the pairing of Moore and Van Dyke worked so well that Reiner abandoned his original idea to have most of the show focus on Rob’s “work life,” and instead wrote more lines for Moore and centered more stories around the couple’s home life.

During the show’s run, Moore married the man who would become her agent, Grant TInker, who would later play a huge role in another popular television show led by his wife.

Mary’s “Laura” character struck a chord with audiences and critics alike, earning her several Emmy nominations (winning twice) and became a cultural icon, emulating styles similar to Jackie Kennedy in the early 1960s.

The show was a ratings hit for all five years it was on, but both creator Reiner and star Van Dyke said they wanted to end the show “while on top” and pursue other projects.

For Moore, she took roles in several Broadway plays, including one as the lead in a story based loosely on the hit film Breakfast At Tiffany’s.  The production, however,  received such horrible reviews in Boston and Philadelphia theaters that the production closed before it ever reached New York.

Mary’s publicist claimed her singing performance had been hampered by a bout with bronchial pneumonia.  However, acting opportunities for Moore in the later 1960s were fewer and far between (save three movies in which she starred with Julie Andrews, Robert Wagner and Elvis Presley).

For Moore, both tragedies and even greater success in the entertainment industry awaited her.  We’ll look at the second half of Mary Tyler Moore’s legacy as an actress, an activist and a humanitarian, next week here at “The Showplace.”

In the meantime, you can see Mary Tyler Moore in her first iconic role as “Laura Petrie” on The Dick Van Dyke Show, as part of a steady rotation of classic television shows on ATVN’s Classic TV Showcase.  Tune in or set your DVRs for it each week at 9 am on Tuesdays mornings on the Astound TV Network. 

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

To watch the upcoming documentary on Moore’s career, call 1-800-Astound to add HBO Max to your video service package.

 

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.

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