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CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: James Stewart

November 25, 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.

One familiar face on television screens this time of year is that of Jimmy Stewart in the annual holiday traditional airing of “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

But many people do not know that this 1946 film was a commercial failure upon release and there were many other Stewart-led movies that received much greater attention.  The time period of the “Wonderful Life’s” release marked a low-point in this legendary actor’s career as he seriously considered retiring from film-making altogether, as Stewart found very few roles offered to him.

James Maitland Stewart, the son of a hardware store owner, initially did not want to become a movie star when he left home to attend Princeton University and was planning on returning to his hometown of Indiana Pennsylvania to take over the family business.

But future movie stars Margret Sullivan and Henry Fonda would play huge roles in his life and his decision to “play around” in the theatre while on the East Coast. 

According to his biography by Marc Eliot, Stewart had a crush on Sullivan and continued to pursue her from afar by continuing to act on stage with her in various theatrical productions.

Slowly, Stewart began the foundations of his lasting “everyman approach” to acting and started to get starring roles in the theatre.  This eventually led to a casting call in Hollywood. where he once-again roomed with Fonda and the two became life-long best friends.

Sullivan was well-aware of Jimmy’s shyness/lack of ego and desire for the spotlight, and would ask directors to cast Stewart opposite her in leading roles, in films like “The Shopworm Angel,” The Mortal Storm” and “The Shop Around The Corner” (later remade in the more contemporary “You’ve Got Mail” with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan).

Other leading ladies like Katherine Hepburn, Marlene Deitrich and Ginger Rogers would also request the unassuming Stewart to play opposite of–guaranteeing them of top-billing.

But soon it was Jimmy that was becoming the major star, with featured performances in “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington,” “Frank Capra’s You Can’t Take It With You,”  “Destry Rides Again” and “The Philadelphia Story,” in which he won the Academy Award for Best Leading Actor.

Stewart was well on his way to earning the title of the third greatest American Male Actor of all time as ranked by the American Film Institute.

But that’s when World War II broke out.

Stewart enlisted in the Air Force as a pilot and led several successful bombing raids in defeating the Axis Powers.  He eventually was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and was awarded the United States Air Force Distinguished Service Medal.

After becoming a decorated war hero, Stewart was anxious for his triumphant return to Hollywood to resume his acting career…but Hollywood wasn’t quite ready for him after the war.  We’ll have more on the life of James Stewart next week here at the Showplace.

In the meantime, you can see Stewart’s early work in films like “Made for Each Other” and more 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: “Congratulations, It’s A Boy”

November 18, 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. 

 

Congratulations, It’s A Boy may never be mentioned in the same breath as Citizen Kane, The Godfather, Vertigo or other all-time greats.

The plot is simple: a swinging bachelor has to grow up after his young 16-year-old illegitimate son he did not know about shows up and wants to spend time with him.

It is a light-hearted movie with some decent jokes and humorous moments and is a fine flick to watch if you’re in the mood for a feel-good film.

However, it is a significant vehicle to see five very special people involved in this production–three of them actors just before they embarked on other roles that would make them household names.

Bill Bixby plays the role of the bachelor and, prior to this film, was seen in small roles on some prominent television shows like My Favorite Martian.  He did have starring roles but on unsuccessful TV shows (The Magician), and had larger parts in rather mediocre film releases (The Apple Dumpling Gang.)

Shortly after starring in Congratulations, he would take over the role as Dr. Bruce Banner–the alter ego to the Incredible Hulk.  Bixby would end up playing this role throughout the remainder of his life, starring as the beaten down protagonist in search of a remedy for his experimentation with gamma ray radiation. His own “Hulk” television show and later television movies spanned three decades.

Congratulations also starred Jack Albertson, who had much greater success in films than Bixby at this point, but was a couple years away from starring in the role that he would be best remembered by – Grandpa Joe in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Tom Bosley was also featured in this film, just a few years before he would become “Mister C,” son to Ron Howard’s Richie Cunningham on the long-running sitcom Happy Days.  Bosley would also continue to star in popular shows like Murder, She Wrote and The Father Dowling Mysteries and had other prominent television guest starring appearances.

Last but not least, the film stars Ann Southern who had already made a name for herself in comedic films and television performances.  So good, in fact, that the Queen of Comedy, Lucille Ball, once referred to Southern as the “best comedian in the business, bar none.”

One more prominent name associated with Congratulations was its producer, Aaron Spelling.  Later in this same decade, Spelling would embark on creating shows like Love Boat, Charlie’s Angels, Fantasy Island, Dynasty and Hart to Hart and then Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place, Charmed, 7th Heaven and more.

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

 

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: Man With A Camera

November 5, 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.

In the early 1970s, Charles Bronson was THE biggest movie box office draw in the world (according to allmovies.com).

Just a handful of his starring roles include the “Death Wish” movie series, “The Magnificent Seven,” “Mr. Majesty”, “The Great Escape,” “The Dirty Dozen” and “Once Upon a Time in the West.”

He was also offered top billing in other iconic films including the lead role of Tuco in “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” before turning it down and asked for, but was eventually rejected for, the role of “Superman,” that eventually went to Christopher Reeve.

Before all of those flicks, Bronson played the lead role in the TV series “Man with a Camera.”

After receiving bit parts on both the big and small screens for almost a decade, “Camera” marked Bronson’s first-ever starring role.

Bronson portrayed the fictional Mike Kovac, a former war correspondent turned freelance photographer. His uncanny ability to get unique camera shots that no other photographer can match, leads him to finding out information which involves Kovac in a series of heart-pounding adventures.

“Man With A Camera” was produced by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s Desilu Studios and aired for two seasons on ABC.  While most of the series’ storylines were set as occurring in New York City, all location shooting for the program was done in Hollywood.

After “Camera” was cancelled in 1960, Bronson did not stay idle for long. His very next project was “The Magnificent Seven,” which started an amazing run of top-tiered movies, and vaulted Bronson into the stratosphere among the industry’s most popular figures. He’s still regarded as one of the toughest on-screen action figures of all time to this day.

The show also marked some very early on-screen appearances by future stars like:

  • Yvonne Craig (“Batman,” “Kissin’ Cousins”)
  • Angie Dickinson (“Rio Bravo,” “Police Woman”)
  • Norma Crane (“Fiddler On The Roof, “They Call Me Mister Tibbs!”)
  • Harry Dean Stanton (“The Godfather Part II,” “Cool Hand Luke,” “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me”)

…to name a few.

You can see “Man With A Camera,” every Wednesday afternoon at 3 p.m. this fall 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: “Junction’s” Tragic Fates

October 28, 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 talked about the origins of Petticoat Junction, from its beginnings as the popular spin-off from The Beverly Hillbillies through a great amount of success in the ratings through the mid-1960s.

Despite numerous cast changes throughout the show’s run, Junction was a perennial ratings hit and posted big overall numbers right up until its final years.

But real life issues slowly started to creep in and affected life in even this most rural, fictional town of Hooterville.

Smiley Burnette, the former singing cowboy, western film star and longtime sidekick to Gene Autry had become arguably the most popular figure on the show. Around the middle of season four his health started to decline and his appearances became less frequent.  Shortly after season four wrapped, Burnette succumbed to leukemia just after celebrating his 56th birthday.

Burnett’s cohort operating the show’s popular train, The Cannonball, was Rufe Davis, who also started to have health issues.  He left the regular cast after season five, although he did return for a few guest appearances in season seven.

Davis was replaced by Byron Foulger, for two years before he too became too ill to finish out the show’s final season. (He passed away the same day the final episode of Petticoat Junction aired.)

But the show’s biggest loss was yet to come.  

Series star and veteran radio/television character actress Bea Benaderet, who portrayed the show’s matriarch Kate Bradley, was diagnosed with lung cancer during the show’s third season.

Initially, she tried to hide her condition from the crew and even her castmates. But slowly her weight loss became more apparent and she began making less frequent appearances on the show during season five — all due to her treatment for the cancer.  After initially looking much more frail when she returned to the show after a long hiatus, she appeared to begin to make a recovery by the end of season five. 

However, in the time between the end of season five and the beginning of shooting season six, the cancer returned…and it was spreading rapidly.

Show Creator and Executive Producer Paul Henning moved up the decision that one of Kate’s daughters would have a baby early in the sixth season so Benaderet could be part of that program.  However, because of the cancer’s advancement, she only appeared in that particular episode through a voice over.  Her character was either written out of the next several shows or a stand-in, who’s back would face the camera, would be on the set for a limited time with no lines.  

Benaderet never returned to the set again.  She passed away a short time after recording her last audio appearance–13 days prior to her final episode’s air date.

Following her real life death (and a time slot change from their familiar Tuesday evenings to the dreaded Saturday night lineup), the show fell out of the Nielsen Top 30 ratings for the first time.  Announcing a main character’s death on a show was non-existent for 1960’s television and so the surviving characters initially mentioned her briefly in plot lines but CBS insisted the scriptwriters say that Kate was simply “out of town.”

Ironically, the ratings later improved during the show’s final year.  June Lockhart took over as the program’s new female lead and other new cast members began connecting to and bringing back audience members to Hooterville once again.  However, after the seventh season (and despite solid ratings), the CBS Network canceled the show due to the now infamous “Rural Purge.”

There’s also great stories about the Bradley’s family dog, the hotel used as the show’s main setting, an interesting history of the train used on the program and how the Bradley daughters made history with ties to the Beatles … but we’ll save those stories for another Showplace entry in the future.

You can return to visit the Shady Rest and all the people of Hooterville by tuning in to Petticoat Junction on RCN TV as the show airs Wednesdays at 11:30 a.m.

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

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “Petticoat Junction” Origins

October 22, 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.

One of the most impressive facts about the long-running comedy series The Beverly Hillbillies (which you can also see on RCN TV) in 1960s television was the success of its spin-offs. 

None did better than its original off-spring, “Petticoat Junction.”

The show 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 that would later become Ethel Mertz on the TV version of the program.  After handling the role of Lucille Ball’s neighbor/side-kick on radio, I Love Lucy Executive Producer Jess Oppenheimer spotted Vivian Vance in a play and chose her to play Ethel on television over Benaderet.)

Benaderet’s character on “”Junction,” Kate Bradley, operated a palatial but not overly ostentatious, Victorian-style hotel called the “Shady Rest.”

She was the anchor of a creative collection of zany characters that made up the fictional town, Hooterville, the show’s main setting.

Similar to its mother-ship, also created by Paul Henning, Petticoat Junction rarely crossed the line into controversial topics. 

Instead, 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 (and often lazy) Uncle Joe.  Despite the title song’s indication that he’s “movin’ rather slow,” Edgar Buchanan became one of the most 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.

In addition to being the local gossipers, which often ignited several plot lines, they operated Hooterville’s train, “The Cannonball.” The 1890s steam-driven train linked together all the town’s inhabitants and businesses in the extreme rural setting, along with the residence of their nearest link to the rest of civilization – a small town called Pixley.

Burnette wasn’t the only actor smiling after the first several seasons of the program.  The comedy show with it’s quirky characters and simplistic way of life connected with its audience.  Teamed with the already successful Jack Benny Program on Tuesday nights, 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.

We’ll have more on the rise and fall of Petticoat Junction next week here at the Showplace.

In the meantime, check out these popular episodes on Wednesday mornings at 11:30 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: “Road To Bali”

October 15, 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 talked about the history and running elements of the famous Road To… movie series featuring Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour and Bob Hope.

As promised this week, we’ll take a look at the Road To Bali (airing on RCN-TV) which was memorable for many reasons.

For beginners, it was the first of the movie series to be shot in color.

While previous films fired zingers at, and/or made references to, prominent contemporary stars of the day, this was the first of the series to feature cameos from other actors.  Among the special appearances in this film include Humphrey Bogart, Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Jane Russell and Bing’s brother, Bob Crosby, who was a prominent band leader and was featured in two of the nation’s most popular radio shows at the time of the film’s production and release.

Bali held a significant layoff between its release and its predecessor, Road To Rio, due to salary arguments and production issues. The film was initially shot in 1950 for a same year release but took nearly two years to make it to the silver screen.  The only other time there had been more than a one year span between movies was between Road To Morocco and Road To Utopia, which was delayed due to World War II issues and the fact that Crosby was also making two other movies (Going My Way and The Bells of St Mary’s) that both would earn him Academy Award nominations (winning the Oscar for the former film.)

Fans of the series would probably agree that the screenplay – normally not one of the strengths to this film series anyway – was even more ridiculous than any of the earlier films in the series, complete with a volcano god initiating a mass eruption, Jane Russell popping out of a tiny basket because of Hope’s flute playing and, for a few seconds, Crosby’s and Hope’s characters (George and Harold) being married to themselves, instead of either one of them “getting the girl” as normally happens in these films.

As discussed last week, there were the usual continuing gags in this film, including Hope breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience.  Contrary to its predecessors, however, the movie ends with Hope asking the audience a question and leading to an open-ended, somewhat unresolved finale.

The constant rewriting of scenes, with Hope and Crosby continuing to try to outdo each other, started to strain the relationship between the three leading stars.  Lamour, in particular, was growing tired of the often lengthy takes while the male leads would jockey for control of the punchlines, along with an erratic work schedule and lengthy delays caused by the two male stars’ desire to sneak away for a round of golf between scenes. The off-color jokes by Hope, usually directed at her, also caused animosity on the set, according to famed biographer Arthur Marx.  This friction also made for the last time that Lamour would be the leading lady in the Road To… movies.

While Bali still was well received and did moderately well at the box office, it marked the first time that one of the ‘Road To…” pictures did not outgross its predecessor.  It’s opening weekend – released on Christmas Day – debuted in the fourth position at the box office and held a decent run in theaters.  Hope was very critical of Paramount spending far less in advertising for this film – more than half of the amount that he had expected them to commit to the project.

This production also sparked a series of conflicts between Crosby, Hope, Lamour and Paramount Pictures…and this popular movie franchise, along with the relationships between all of its stars, would never quite be the same again.

But that’s a story for another movie … and for a future “Showplace” blog entry.

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

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “Road to…” History

October 9, 2020 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.

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.

Coming up next week on RCN TV, we will present one of the famous “Road to…” movies that were extremely popular in the 1940s and early 1950s.

But to better enjoy these humorous films set in picturesque locales, it’s important to understand the history and continuing characteristics of these films, along with their enduring legacies.

In the late 1930s it was hard to find two more popular international entertainers than Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.  Both had popular radio shows, had starred in their own films multiple times and were raking in major cash with live performances and topping the nation’s record sales (Crosby had a decade of top singles and Hope had just released the song “Thanks for the Memory,” which won an Oscar for Best Original Song and would later become his personal theme song).

It would seem like a no-brainer today to pair these two legends, along with up-and-coming starlet Dorothy Lamour, for a series of films that would take them around the world and allow both Crosby a vehicle to sing and for Hope to tell jokes.

Unfortunately for Paramount Pictures it took several OTHER combinations of performers to reject the idea before the studio decided on Crosby and Hope.

The plot of these films–usually secondary to the vehicle they provided the leading stars–always involves Crosby and Hope in a hair-brained scheme or “get rich quick” idea which  goes awry and leads to grand adventures in exotic locations.

The films were packed with timely zingers and references to other prominent, contemporary actors, movies and even jokes at Paramount’s expense.

While there’s some debate as far as how much of the movies were scripted and what lines were improvised, it seems certain according to most Crosby and Hope biographies that a large amount of rewrites were done on each screenplay–even as they were filming the scenes themselves.

Other continuing occurrences with the films include Hope breaking the fourth wall and telling jokes directly to the audience.  Hope would usually have a nickname that would often contradict itself from film to film.  Crosby would be featured with a monologue on some aspect of everyday life combined with crooning at least one song that would become a hit single.  Lamour would be featured in dazzling wardrobes and single-handedly made the word “sarong” a household name in the Forties.  Lastly, a version of the “patty cake” game with slight alterations in each movie would help get the starring duo out of a tough jam.

The initial film, Road To Singapore, was a smashing success with critics and at the box office when released in early 1940.  The first five films would continually outgross its predecessor and were produced with very little conflict.  The outbreak of World War II hurt some intended filming locations and later films’ contract disputes between Crosby and Hope were the two notable exceptions.  Money issues in the early 1950s also caused a bit of a rift between the two stars–one that eventually worked itself out and saw the pair teaming up for several other projects.

In our next entry here at the “Showplace,” we will have more on the Road to Bali which you can see in the “RCN Movie Vault” next week on RCN TV.

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

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CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “Made For Each Other”

September 24, 2020 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 RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

 

 The film, Made For Each Other, was not the most successful film in 1939.

Competing with the likes of The Wizard Of Oz, Gone With The Wind, and other classics, it was not a surprise when this film did not make a ton of money upon its release.

However, it is significant and deserves a viewing for many reasons.

Carole Lombard is probably one of the most underrated stars of the 20th century.

In her short life she was one of the top dramatic actresses in the first few years of “talkies” and, in the 1930s, was one of the most successful comedic actresses of the time period.

In 1939, the year Made For Each Other was produced, Lombard was the highest paid female actress and the entire industry.

Ironically, at the height of her comedic fame she decided that she would be taking more seriously as an actress if she returned to dramatic roles, as she did in this film.

It looked like this career decision would turn out to be the right one as critics lauded Lombard’s performance.  Sadly, it turned out to be her last great dramatic role.

Despite her death at the tender age of 33, Lombard had one of the most diverse and interesting careers in the “Golden Era” of Hollywood. The year 1939 was a pivotal time for Carol — both as an actress as well as for herself personally and for the nation.  We’ll be focusing more on her great work as an actress and as a humanitarian in a future blog entry here at the “Showplace.”

Stewart, meanwhile, was just beginning to mark his legacy and, in this film, was still developing his famous on-screen persona that would make him the third most popular male movie star of all time.

One of Stewart’s biggest traits was his slow, drawn-out delivery – almost as if he is truly reflecting on his lines before he says them. Alfred Hitchcock used this skill to perfection in his thriller films starring Stewart as the actor’s deliberate stutter often caused tension and anxiety at key moments.  Stewart’s “stammering” is something that is barely noticeable in his earliest works.

In Scott Eyman’s “Hank and Jim: The Fifty-Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart,” Jimmy points out that in his early film roles he was all “hands and feet.”

Knowing these facts, it’s very interesting to see his on-screen performance in “Made” and to watch these traits as the actor says his lines and maneuvers his way around the set.

Stewart had just starred in Frank Capra’s You Can’t Take It With You and would also be performing in the classics Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and Destiny Rides Again later this same year.

It’s fascinating to go back and watch both of these iconic actors’ performances in this film, knowing what was to come down the road for both of them.

You can see Made For Each Other starring Carol Lombard and Jimmy Stewart this Monday at 2:30 p.m. 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: “Algiers”

September 2, 2020 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 RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances. 

The 1938 film, Algiers, has the double distinction of not only being a successful movie upon its release but also in spawning several other projects and catchphrases that have survived to this day.

The film grossed over $150,000, which was not only a high mark for the time period, but also more than doubled its net gain after total production costs.

Charles Boyer played the lead, Pepe Le Moko, which was also the title name of the original novel and a French-produced film that was made prior to Algiers.

According to TCM.com, Boyer was not fond of this movie for two big reasons.

First of all, both producer Walter Wanger and director John Cromwell made a conscious decision in trying to mirror the French film to their English-speaking version, complete with using the same music score and set designs.

Furthermore, they insisted that Boyer copy the style of Jean Gabin, the original actor who portrayed the lead in the initial French version, and refused to let Boyer stray far from the original intention for his character.

Boyer was critical of the lack of creativity during the production process but grew to hate this role even more as he became known for the line that would follow him for the rest of his career: “Come with me to zee Casbah.”

As the popularity for that line grew, Boyer felt demeaned as an actor as the line was repetitively and increasingly lampooned in the years that followed.

According to several sources, Boyer’s ‘Pepe Le Moko’ character led to the creation of the popular Looney Tunes’ star, Pepe Le Pew, modeled after Charles’ delivery.  Looney Tunes specifically parodied Algiers in an episode entitled, “The Cat’s Bah,” 15 years after the film’s release.

Ironically, much like “Play it again, Sam,” that is still linked with Humphrey Bogart to this day, Boyer didn’t actually say the “Casbah” line himself.

The movie also marked the first major role for Hedy Lamarr, who embarked on a 28-year movie career, starring in 30 films.

According to “Film History: An International Journal” by David Pierce, the screenwriters of Casablanca cited Algiers as the inspiration for their film with the original intention of starring Lamarr in the now legendary role of Ilsa Lund. In 1942 Lamarr was contracted to MGM, who would not release her from her contract, so Ingrid Bergman ended up getting the female lead and Casablanca went on to make cinematic history.

Do you think Hedy Lamarr could have done a better job than Bergman as Ilsa Lund?  Do you think Boyer’s performance really sparked the inspiration for Pepe Le Pew?  You can speculate for yourself after watching Algiers this Monday, September 7, at 2:30 p.m. 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: The Fabulous Dorseys

August 26, 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.

One of the great things about the internet is that young people can rediscover things from previous eras and stumble across genres they might never get to experience otherwise.  Glenn Miller, Henry James, Count Basie and other stars of old standards from the big band era are now readily available to audiences on XM/Sirius Radio’s Junction; and other outlets as more and more young people are finding these golden classics for the first time.

Heck, there was even a report of a local football team using a polka song as its theme music last fall.

But no look into the music of the 1930s and & 40s would be complete without a serious discussion about Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey. Their accomplishments, creations and personal feud are all prominently featured in the 1946 film, “The Fabulous Dorseys.”  Part documentary, part fiction and a surprising number of well-performed comedic lines make up this very entertaining film about two of the swing time era’s greatest legends.

The film spans the time from the boys’s upbringing in a small Pennsylvania town to their dominance around the world with their various musical masterpieces.

Jimmy Dorsey, primarily known for his work on the clarinet, was one of the major songwriters and big band leaders in the 1920s through the ‘40s. Probably his best remembered songs were “Pennies from Heaven” with fellow legends Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong and performing the original 1930 recording of “Georgia on My Mind”; Trombonist Tommy, known as the “Sentimental Gentleman of Swing”, is best remembered for tunes like “Song of India”, “Opus One”, “The Sunnyside of the Street”; and “I’ll Never Smile Again.”

And this film had no shortage of successful musical performances, complete with some of the best old standards like “Getting Sentimental Over You,” and the aforementioned “I’ll Never Smile Again”.  The film also had smaller roles and cameos from other stars from the Big Band Era, including Paul Whitman, Bob Eberly, Helen O’Connell and famed pianist Art Tatum.

Sadly, nearly all of these former music greats have long since been forgotten. But through this film, their names live on.  Tragically, both brothers died before their 57th birthdays within 10 years of the release of this movie.

The film was directed by Alfred E. Green (The Jackie Robinson Story  & The Jolson Story) who successfully directed many performers-turned-actors playing themselves in films and, by this time, was well-known for bringing out an entertainer’s personality traits while not overplaying the star’s acting abilities and keeping their comedic lines within the context of the film.

You don’t have to be fans of old standards to enjoy this well-produced partial biopic that makes for a very entertaining story even without any previous knowledge of the Dorseys’ great history.

Tune in and dance along to this great look at the Big Band Era. “The Fabulous Dorseys” next airs on Tuesday, September 1 st , at 9 a.m. on RCN TV.

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

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