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CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: Eddie Anderson

February 11, 2021 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

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

As part of RCN’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.

Of all the zany and popular comedic characters over the five decades that the Jack Benny Program was on radio and television, none was more popular nor drew as much applause at public events than Eddie “Rochester” Anderson.

Guest starring on an episode of Jack Benny’s radio show in 1936, Benny immediately realized that Anderson’s unique voice, comedic timing and quick-witted return of a line would resonate perfectly with Benny’s “slow burn” style delivery.  Benny immediately hired him as a regular full-time character on his team and, in doing so, Anderson became the first African-American regular cast member on a national medium.

Born in Oakland, California he had early aspirations of performing along with his older brother, Cornelius. In his obituary in the Ludington Daily NewsAnderson described himself as being a descendant of slaves who were able to leave the South during the Civil War through the Underground Railroad.

Anderson “acquired” his famous raspy voice as a child when his vocal cords were ruptured when he was selling newspapers. The newsboys believed those who would shout the loudest sold the most papers. The permanent damage done to his vocal cords left him with his voice now so familiar to radio and television audiences.

No one brought out the cheapness of Benny’s character better (and funnier) than Anderson, who would frequently test the penny-pincher’s budget and deliver rapid-fire lines underscoring just how little he paid his employees:

     “You can split an apple, you can split an atom, but I defy ANYONE to split my salary.”

According to Benny’s memoirs “Sunday Nights At Seven,” he came up with the name “Rochester” because he felt the way he could draw out the syllables of that name.  Anderson liked it so much he incorporated it as a middle name for any future productions, including non-Benny performances.

In 1942 while touring Europe with his entire cast and performing shows for the Allied Forces, Benny met a soldier who claimed to be a fan of the show and began to have dinner together.  During the conversation it became evident that the soldier’s favorite part of the program were jokes using prejudices (eg., drinking gin, playing craps) against people of color that were rampant during the time period.  Benny immediately got up from the table, told the soldier that he is not interested in “that type” of person listening to his show.  Benny then instructed his writers to never use any of those stereotypes nor any jokes that would be considered racist or offend any ethnicity again –  a promise to Anderson he kept through the rest of his career.

Unlike his character’s persona, Anderson was paid handsomely for his role as Rochester and used his regularly increasing salaries to enhance his love for horses, exotic boats and exquisite mansions, taking up residence in the West Adams district in California.

In the 1940s, the African-American entertainment community began purchasing homes in the district, nicknaming it “Sugar Hill.”  According to the website, westadamsheightssugarhill.com, property owners reacted to their new neighbors by adding restrictive covenants to their deeds, prohibiting African-Americans from purchasing a property or inhabiting it once purchased. The practice was later declared illegal by the US Supreme Court and Anderson lived in that mansion until his death in 1977.

Anderson also had an astute business sense.  In 1948, he saw the value and potential of Las Vegas as an entertainment center and wanted to build a hotel where African-Americans would be welcome.  Anderson failed to attract enough people willing to invest, and he was unable to complete the plan.

When the Benny program moved to television in 1949, Anderson appeared more than any other character and was a part of many of the show’s most popular episodes and funniest bits seen on the small screen.

Anderson was featured prominently in the 1963 mega star film It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. While he was given some of the funniest lines in the film, he was the only African American in the entire ensemble cast.

Anderson would make various guest appearances on television shows, including the Benny television specials until his boss’s death in 1974.  Anderson spoke very highly of Benny in memoriam until Anderson’s own death 3 years later.

You can see Anderson’s iconic Rochester character on the Jack Benny Program, along with guest appearances on other classic sitcoms seen on RCN TV.

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

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: Sidney Poitier’s Legacy

February 4, 2021 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

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

This February, in celebration of Black History Month, we here at the Showplace are putting the spotlight on those who have inspired change and broken social barriers, both inside and outside of the entertainment industry. 

Recently here at the Showplace, we began our look at one of the world’s greatest living actors / directors / activists … Sidney Poitier.  Today, we continue to highlight his legendary career . . .

After a successful nine-year run in films in the ’50s, Poitier would close out the decade by breaking new ground in the 1959 production, A Raisin In The Sun.  The play was unique in that it was the first play written by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway, as well as the first with a Black director.

According to NPR archives, writer Lorraine Hansberry noted that her play introduced details of an African American family’s life to the overwhelmingly white Broadway audiences, while director Lloyd Richards observed that it was the first play to which large numbers of Black people were drawn.  Frank Rich of “The New York Times” said that A Raisin in the Sun (for which Poitier earned a Tony Award for Best Actor) “changed American theater forever.”

Sydney would continue to look for roles that challenged racial issues throughout the 1960s.

In 1967 alone, Poitier starred in three film classics–all testing social boundaries and exploring race relations in America: To Sir With Love, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner and In The Heat Of The Night (which also inspired two additional films based on the success of Poitier’s portrayal of Detective Tibbs).

Poitier received outstanding reviews in all three films and all three pictures received widespread acclaim from people of ALL races.

According to Mark Harris’s book, “Pictures at a Revolution: Five Films and the Birth of a New Hollywood,” Poitier was very much aware of his status as an actor breaking society’s limits in entertainment, but was conflicted on the matter. He wanted more varied roles.  He also felt obliged to set an example with his characters, by challenging old stereotypes as he was the only major actor of African descent being cast in leading roles in the American film industry at that time. For instance, in 1966, he turned down an opportunity to play the lead in an NBC television production of Othello with that thought in mind.

His advocacy for social change went beyond plays and films.  Among his non-production efforts in the 1960s, he joined Charlton Heston, Harry Belafonte and other celebrities for the March on Washington in 1963.  He frequently spoke out and was very vocal in advocating for civil and economic rights for African Americans.

In the 1970s Poitier stepped out of the spotlight to an extent.  While starring in less films than he had in the previous decade, he increased his presence behind the scenes.  Among his successful big budget films as a director was Stir Crazy, starring Richard Pryor, which for many years was the highest-grossing film directed by a person of African descent.

Poitier accumulated best acting awards from various outlets and countries, including winning the Academy Award in 1964 for Lillies Of The FieldHe has captured a SAG Lifetime Achievement Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, multiple NAACP Image Awards and an Honorary Oscar – “for his extraordinary performances and unique presence on the screen and for representing the industry with dignity, style and intelligence.”

A complete listing of all of Poitier’s awards, accolades and expressions of gratitude for inspiring others would be too numerous to mention.

Poitier has occasionally starred in films over the last 30 years (later this month he will celebrate his 94th birthday).  He is currently the oldest living actor to have received an Academy Award and is one of just a small handful of surviving members of the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Actors of the first 100 years of cinema.  Among his non-film responsibilities in recent years is being Jamaica’s Official Ambassador to Japan, and a ten-year stint as a board member for The Walt Disney Company.

Poitier’s legacy both in front of and behind the camera cannot be overstated as his roles and performances continue to be an inspiration to people around the world.

You can see Sidney Poitier starring in classic films on RCN TV and check back to the Showplace all month long as we continue to feature people of color breaking barriers in the entertainment industry.  To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

 

 

 

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: Mr. & Mrs. North

January 28, 2021 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

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

 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 RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

While it may not be a familiar name to today’s mainstream media audiences, Mr. and Mrs. North was quite popular for four decades.  The idea had many different versions and through various outlets while using basically the same premise from 1930-1963.

The initial storyline, featuring this entertaining couple who happened to be master amateur sluthers, debuted in the early 1930s as a series of short stories in the New York Sun.

As their mysteries quickly became a national sensation, Author Richard Lockridge teammed with his wife Francis, to write their first novel, “The Norths Meet Murder.”  The real-life writing couple would churn out 26 mystery novels over the next thirty years.

Its success spawned a Broadway play, several featured films and its own radio show in the early 1940s.  The first movie Mr. and Mrs. North starred Gracie Allen (at the apex of her comedic fame with the wildly successful Burns and Allen radio show) and William Post in the title roles.

The radio show debuted in 1941 on NBC.  It featured multiple actors playing the husband and wife team over the years and ran continuously from 1941-1946 and again from 1947-1955. It also alternated over time on the NBC and CBS networks. In 1946 it received the first ever “Best Radio Drama Edgar Award” from the Mystery Writers of America. 

Like many popular mystery-series shows that followed, the television edition of this series would feature prominent names as guest stars on each episode.  One of its early shows featured Raymond Burr, who would go on to handle the titular character Perry Mason on television in 1957.  Burr would also have a key role in one of Alfred Hitchcock’s all-time greatest thrillers, Rear Window, within a year after appearing on “North.”

In his early days on a local television station in Philadelphia, Ernie Kovacs and his actress/wife Edie Adams would sometimes spoof Mr. and Mrs. North in sketches titled Mr. & Mrs. South on Kovacs’s morning comedy program.

One of the most popular actors to handle the role of Mr. North on television was Richard Denning.  Denning had played the husband of Lucille Ball’s character in another popular radio show, My Favorite Husband, which became the forerunner for TV’s I Love Lucy.

Ball was determined to have her own, real-life husband Desi Arnaz join her on the television version of her program, which “freed up” Denning to helm the role of Mr. North.

With Denning in the lead, the show saw a new resurgence in popularity and produced a whopping 39 episodes during the 1953-54 season alone.  By comparison, I Love Lucy, the number one rated show on TV that season, produced “just” 33 episodes and never produced more than 36 in its most successful year.  Nowadays, some popular network shows record as few as six episodes per “season.”

It is these Denning-led shows that are being featured on RCN TV this month.  Catch the Norths and their innovative detective strategies as they uncover puzzling mysteries every Wednesday at 3:30pm and a different show on Fridays at 1:30pm. (Don’t forget to set your DVR if you’ll miss either day’s airings).

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

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: The Roy Rogers TV Show

January 21, 2021 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

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

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 RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

Name the star of his own television show that also starred in over a hundred films, recorded scores of popular songs, was voted the most popular western star for 12 years in a row and lent his name to a popular fast food chain.

The answer?

Len Slye.

Better known as Roy Rogers, his shows and movies became a favorite local stop for fans of all ages.  

A few months ago here at the Showplace, we examined Rogers early movies in great detail. But Roy’s TV career also had a different kind of success on its own.

Joining Roy and his wife, Dale Evans,  for the television series was a rotating group of popular sidekicks:  his trusty horse Trigger and his loyal dog, Bullet.  Those and other TV show friends featured many of these same characters throughout the series’ run in helping Roy in fighting lawlessness in the Ol’ West, with enough time left over for some humor and usually a song or two.

The origin of the TV show actually has an interesting story attached to it. According to RoyRogersWorld.com, Rogers approached his film studio Republic Films and asked to do a TV show. The movie company refused, indicating that television was only going to be a passing fad. 

Rogers, however, learned that Republic was secretly trying to make their own deal to sell Rogers to a TV network. Roy realized that he had a clause in his contract with the film studio that denied them the ability to use his likeness for any other media outlet.  This clause allowed him to strike his own deal with NBC without involving Republic and denying them any financial profit of his show.

In addition to being one of the most popular Western television shows of the era, The Roy Rogers Show stood apart from other westerns in that it often taught a moral lesson while addressing contemporary issues that were almost ahead of their time, like environmentalism, saving natural resources and taking proper steps for gun safety.

Another unique aspect of the show is that, while set in the late 19th and early 20th century, it had “modern day” technologies like automobiles (including sidekick Pat Brady’s sometimes “riderless” Jeep, “Nannybelle”), electricity, more sophisticated guns and other inventions that didn’t exist in the “typical” western era but we’re devices commonly used in the time period of when the shows aired.

The show ran for six seasons on network television and received an Emmy nomination for Best Western or adventure series in 1955, and several times finished its seasons and the Top 30 show, according to the Nielsen ratings historical records.

When the show ended its network run on NBC, the program was picked up by CBS, who ran reruns of the show for several more years.  It remained popular through syndication avenues for the next three years, then became a popular Saturday morning staple with children for the next generation in the 1960s.

Rogers himself remained popular through various guest appearances in television over the next several decades and was even featured in a 1990s country music video with Clint Black.

And did you know that Roy’s trademark song “Happy Trails” was actually written by his wife/co-star, Dale Evans? On the TV show you can hear her sing the duet with her husband on almost every episode.

Tune in and set your DVRs for The Roy Rogers Show every Friday morning at 11am on RCN-TV.  Also, catch a special Roy Rogers movie marathon starting this Monday at 9 am.

To see the full listing of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

 

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: In Memoriam–Dawn Wells

January 14, 2021 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

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

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 RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

The end of 2020 was met with the passing of a famous television actress from a popular 1960s sitcom with a character who survived in people’s minds and hearts for decades.

Dawn Elberta Wells was born on October 18, 1938 in Reno, Nevada.  

Wells attended Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, where she majored in chemistry.  She transferred to the University of Washington in Seattle, where she graduated in 1960 with a degree in theater arts and design.

While in college, Wells entered and won the Miss Nevada beauty pageant and represented her state in the Miss America pageant in 1960.

Of course, her biggest break was being cast as Mary Ann for the cult TV classic, Gilligan’s Island, which ran for four seasons beginning in 1964, along with subsequent movies produced over the next 20 years. 

But Wells can be seen in projects both before and after she made a name for herself as a shipwrecked member of the doomed SS Minnow.

Dawn made her debut on the ABC Network’s The Roaring 20s and the movie The New Interns and was cast in early career roles in episodes of such television series as The Joey Bishop Show, 77 Sunset Strip, Cheyenne, Maverick, and Bonanza.

Over the course of the next 50 years, she starred in dozens of TV shows including appearances on Wagon Train, The Wild Wild West, Vegas, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Alf, Herman’s Head, Baywatch and Roseanne.

She also appeared in a few films and nearly a hundred theatrical productions, including Neil Simon’s Chapter 2 and had a one-woman show at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in the mid-1980s.  

She was quite busy throughout her life with many humanitarian projects and activities.  Wells was the founder of a non-for-profit educational organization with a vision of education, technical training and economic development.  Dawn lent her support to the charity, the Denver Foundation – in honor of her former TV co-star Bob Denver. She wrote a cookbook, with many recipes courtesy of her Gilligan’s Island cast mates (an example includes “the Skipper’s Goodbye Ribeyes”), with the proceeds going to charity.

One of the stories that Wells would recount for the rest of her life was boasting that people around the world know what the phrase “Ginger or Mary Ann” means, even for those who have not watched the TV show. According to her obituary posted in The Washington Post, Wells reportedly said that the majority of people has always favored her character over Ginger.

 

According to multiple sources, Wells had a very enjoyable experience on the “Island.”  She was particularly fond of the veteran actors like Alan Hale, Jr. (“the Skipper”) and Jim Backus (“the Millionaire”), saying that both were extremely gracious and very helpful in giving performance tips to the young actress.

 

There’s a story of a touching exchange between Wells and Backus that the two shared shortly before the latter’s death. We will share that story along with more little known secrets from Gilligan’s Island in an upcoming Showplace entry.  (Did you know that at one time Wells actually played Ginger?)

 

A few years before her death, Wells was named Marketing Ambassador to the MeTV Network (seen on RCN dial position 2) which had begun airing reruns of Gilligan’s Island.

 

Dawn Wells passed away on December 30, 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 virus.  She was 82.

 

You can see Wells in her famous role as Mary Ann Summers on Rescue From Gilligan’s Island on RCN TV.

 

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, 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 RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: Sidney Poitier

January 7, 2021 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

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

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 RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

By any standard, Sidney Poitier has been one of the most impactful entertainers of all time.

Portraying several of the most memorable characters ever seen on the silver screen while also mentoring some of the top contemporary performers, Portier has inspired countless actors over the last seven decades.

While his entire family lived in the Bahamas, Poitier was born unexpectedly in Miami while his parents were visiting for the weekend, which automatically granted him American citizenship. He grew up in the Bahamas, but moved back to Miami when he was 15 and to New York a year later.

According to his own autobiography, Poitier failed in his first attempt in the theater.  Despite being tone deaf and unable to carry a tune, he was given an opportunity to perform with the American Negro Theater in 1945.   At the early age of 18, Sidney’s thick Bermudian accent did not resonate well with audiences nor did they take his characters seriously on the stage.

Determined to lose his accent and improve his stature in the theater, Poitier spent the next six months training his voice and improving his acting skills.  On his second attempt at the theater, he earned a leading role in a small Broadway play.  Even though this show ran for just four days, Poitier received positive reviews along with an invitation to understudy for a bigger production, Anna Lucasta.

Soon, Sidney had to make difficult choices in choosing between starring roles on the stage or in the cinema.  Choosing the latter, Poitier began appearing in an impressive run of films through the 1950s.  Those movies include No Way Out, Blackboard Jungle, Mark of the Hawk and The Defiant Ones, which landed eight Academy Award nominations. Poitier earned a nomination for Best Actor, making him the first black male actor to be nominated for a competitive Academy Award in that category.

His landmark works of Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, In The Heat Of The Night and many more classics would soon follow.  He would also author books, voice “spoken word” albums, march for justice, become an international ambassador and lay the foundation for many great actors, perhaps none bigger than Denzel Washington, to follow in Sidney’s footsteps.

There are many more great stories on Poitier’s continuing legacy as an actor, director and writer and as a shining beacon for change.  Check back to the Showplace in a few weeks as we spotlight Poitier and other pioneers in the entertainment industry as part of our celebration of Black History Month this February.

In the meantime, you can see Sidney Poitier starring in the 1957 drama Mark Of The Hawk on RCN TV this Monday, January 11th at 1:00 p.m.

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

Classic Video Showplace: RCN Christmas Takeover 2020

December 22, 2020 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

It’s almost time for RCN TV’s annual Christmas Takeover, full of special holiday programming, classic shows and movies airing non-stop Christmas Eve through 9:00am on December 26.

In anticipation of this special event, we asked the RCN TV crew what show or movie they are most excited to see for this year’s “Takeover.”

Rick Geho: For me it is the Christmas Lights and the Steckel School “Holiday in Song” programs.

Patti Ditzel: Mine is “The Ditzel Sisters’ Christmas Special!”

Chris Popik: “Christmas Lights with Bill White 2020” since it is locally produced by RCN TV and features various homes every year.  Also, it will look different this year due to Covid-19 protocols requiring us to interview the homeowners via Zoom.

Jack Ebner: For both my wife and I, our favorite has to be the local production of “The Nutcracker.”

Paul Lewis: The new and older Christmas Lights shows, the Moravian Putz, and the Bacon “Yule Log.”

Chris Michael: My whole family always enjoys watching the “Christmas Shopping: 1955” edition of “The Jack Benny Show” as well as the very underrated movie, “The Christmas Wish.”

Merari Kingsley: The “Nuestro Valle” Christmas choral program.

Chris Zaia: All of the “Christmas Lights” episodes.  It is really exciting to see the changes to our TV production from year one until now.

Jim Frick: “The BASD Christmas Special” and the Seibert Church Christmas Cantata: “The Wonders of Christmas.”

 

What will be YOUR favorite? You and your loved ones have the opportunity to make your own holiday traditions by seeing favorite programs’ holiday adventures or enjoying shows and movies that you may have never seen before!

Be sure to catch this year’s RCN TV Christmas Takeover beginning Thursday morning, December 24!

To view the complete rundown of holiday and classic programming on RCN TV, check out the schedule and 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 RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: Bing Crosby’s Innovations

December 17, 2020 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

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

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 RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

Last week we took a look at the early career of one of the most popular names and voices heard this time of year in radio, television and movies.

Today we look at the second half of Bing Crosby’s career and how he literally changed the way shows were presented.

During World War II, Crosby came across a reel-to-reel magnetic tape device used by the Germans to record messages. He invested $50,000 in a California electronics company and convinced ABC Radio, after much protest, to allow him to tape his shows. He became the first performer to pre-record his radio shows and master his commercial recordings.

The decision was instrumental in changing the way that record companies, radio and then television shows were broadcast. No longer were networks mandated to do strictly live performances and having to repeat a brand new show for the west coast audiences. This allowed show producers to edit out “bad” portions and only keep certain parts of a show, change the order of the performances and provide various other benefits still used in broadcasting to this day.

Furthermore, this allowed for shows to be recorded and preserved, which paved the way for programs to be rebroadcast. Ultimately, this would revolutionize the industry as shows could be now re-released in syndication and find new life with whole new audiences.

Among Bing’s highlights during the second half of his career include starring in the holiday film classic, “White Christmas.” This was actually the second time that the yuletide traditional song was featured in a movie – the first being “Holiday Inn” over a decade earlier with Fred Astaire.

Crosby would continue to make movies, produce and star in semi-annual television specials, perform live in front of sell out crowds and record songs right up until his death.

A common misconception is that the popular holiday duet “Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy” with David Bowie recorded before, but airing after, his death was his last recording. However, three days before Bing’s passing, he recorded several songs for an album that was released posthumously. Ironically, the last song he recorded was an old standard called “Once In A While,” a tune asking and answering how he would like to be remembered.

Crosby was a leader in record sales, radio ratings, and motion picture grosses from 1930 to 1954. He made over seventy feature films appearances (his last film was that as a featured presenter in the 1974 star-studded blockbuster “That’s Entertainment”) and recorded more than 1,600 different songs.

Be on the lookout for Crosby’s appearances on various television shows and films on RCN TV and for his music to be featured prominently on the “Sounds of the Season” on RCN’s Music Choice channel 1944.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, 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 RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: Bing Crosby

December 10, 2020 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

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

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 RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

Just try to get through the holiday season without hearing a Bing Crosby classic tune like “White Christmas” or seeing a clip from the holiday film with the same name featuring this legendary crooner (go on, I DOUBLE-dog dare you!)

Harry Lillis “Bing” Crosby became arguably the greatest entertainer of the 20th century, contributing to great successes in music, film and radio while producing television shows and even advancing technology in the recording and broadcasting industries.

After a somewhat reckless early venture in the music industry (his drinking and temper nearly ended his career before it really began), Crosby traveled the country singing in various groups.  His great voice soon separated himself from working with a group to a solo act.  It wasn’t long before his tremendous singing style garnished a record contract…and a number of hit singles would soon follow.

In addition to his singing skills, Bing was the first to utilize the newfound technology of a microphone–instead of singers having to belt out tunes to large theaters so everyone could hear, the new amplification techniques allowed him to sing softer and more melodically, which opened up a brand new avenue for singers.

After being denied early film roles because one producer thought his ears were too big, Crosby slowly became a major film star with hits like The Big Broadcast, Anything Goes, Pennies From Heaven, Holiday Inn and the “Road To…” film series.

Crosby attempted–and succeeded–in advancing his credibility as an actor in the 1940s by winning the Academy Award for his leading role in the film, “Going My Way.” (He also was nominated for best actor in another holiday classic, “Bells of St. Mary.”)

Crosby continued to bang out number one hits while creating a new style for singing, coining the name “The Crooner”–a nickname Crosby reportedly felt was insulting. 

The tune “White Christmas” became so popular that the original disc containing the song broke from making so many copies.  Crosby, along with all the same members of his backing chorus and orchestra, came back to re-record the song and to try to perform it exactly in the same style as before to recreate the recording.  Although they used the same arrangement and musicians, there are actually slight differences in the recordings.

For example … to tell if it’s the first or second version, listen to the first few lines of the recording: “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas, just like the ones I used to know.”

Crosby did an unscripted trill in the opening verse for the word “dreaming” in the first rendition, but, in the second, did the trill for the word “know.”  More often it’s the SECOND version of this song you will hear today on radio stations and on outlets like the “Music Choice: Sounds of the Season” channel (now available for RCN customers at dial position #1944).

The song held the record for the most sold records until Elton John’s 1997 tribute to Princess Diana with the reissue of “Candle in the Wind.”

But some of Crosby’s greatest contributions to the film, radio and television industries were yet to come, as he would revolutionize all of those mediums in a way that no one else had imagined before World War II.  Details on that and more coming in next week’s Showplace blog entry.

In the meantime, you can see Crosby’s work in films like Road to Bali, his guest appearances on The Jack Benny Program and more classic shows on RCN TV.

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

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: James Stewart (Part 2)

December 3, 2020 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

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

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 RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

Last week here at the Showplace we focused on the early years of James Stewart, leading to his decorated service as a fighter pilot in World War II.

The strain of the war and his leading of fight squadrons in tense battles showed on Stewart’s facade when he first returned from fighting in Europe.  Stewart appeared to age many more years than the three he was away, and film roles were few and far between upon his return.

Stars like Stewart, Clark Gable and other major box-office draws who left to fight in the war returned to find that a new generation of leading men had taken over their mantle.

Stewart relied on an old friend, Frank Capra, to star him in an independent film project, “It’s A Wonderful Life,” which initially was panned at the box office.  Other Stewart films, regarded as commercial “failures” (at that time) forced Jimmy into the Western genre, where his more weathered-features would fit better on the big screen.  This career decision led to successful movie-starring roles in classics like “Winchester ‘73,” “The Naked Spur,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” “How The West Was Won” and “”The Man From Laramie.”  

Stewart shined in other non-color films like the gritty “Anatomy of a Murder,” light-hearted films like “Harvey” and the biographical “Glen Miller Story” and “The Spirit of St. Louis”.  Even in Cecille B. DeMille’s Academy Award-winning “The Greatest Show on Earth” filmed in glorious technicolor, Stewart’s entire face was covered by clown’s makeup through the entire picture (the reason why is cleverly revealed just before the climax and in the denouement of this epic film).  

Steward’s more weathered features were also “hidden” better in black and white television vehicles as well, starring in the teleplay, “Flashing Spikes.”  He also become a frequent guest on shows like “The Jack Benny Program” (now seen weekly on RCN TV) where he often guest-starred as himself.  This introduced him to a new audience that could “warm up” to the “real” Jimmy Stewart and give people a chance to know his genuine likeability that had already been known throughout Hollywood and in the film industry.

Stewart’s popularity would reach new heights as Alfred Hitchcock would star him in four feature-length films, including “Rear Window” and “Vertigo,” the latter film widely regarded by cinema experts as one of the greatest films of all time. 

In all, twelve of Stewart’s films have been inducted into the United States National Film Registry and five are currently featured in the American Film Institute’s list of the “100 Greatest Films” of all-time.

Be on the lookout for some of Stewart’s historic work from both the big and small screens on RCN TV.

To view this week’s current listings as well as a complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the listings section here on our website.

 

 

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