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CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: Victory At Sea

June 29, 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. 

For the many people who will be staying home for this year’s Fourth of July or for people who have RCN’s TiVo and DVR products, a tremendous way to spend the holiday would be to watch the documentary series marathon, “Victory at Sea” (followed by an encore performance of the 2019 Allentown Fireworks Spectacular).

This Emmy-Award Winning, limited-run series on NBC recounts historic battles and key moments in the United States victory over the Axis powers in World War II.

The idea for the show came from United States Navy Lieutenant Commander Harry Salomon.  While working on writing a historical review of World War II, Solomon uncovered millions of feet of actual newsreel footage, covering the wars’ darkest moments and the Allied Forces’s greatest victories.

After leaving the Navy in 1948 Solomon and fellow Harvard grad Robert Sarnoff, who was the son of NBC President David Sarnoff, approached the network about making a documentary series based on this footage.

The series was green-lighted by NBC for a whopping $500,000 budget (one of the largest of the time period) and was an instant hit.

The scenes were accompanied by legendary songwriter / composer Richard Rodgers, who was coming off several huge Broadway hits and is one of just two people ever to win an Emmy, a Tony, a Grammy, an Academy Award and a Pulitzer prize.

Excerpts from this soundtrack have been used for many movies, television shows and special events ever since.

After its network run, the footage was re-edited again with a brand new narration and was released as a self-contained hour and a half long featured film.  A few years later, NBC re-edited the footage a third time for a television movie showing. Its success had also included a successful spin-off show called, “Project Twenty.”

See the best moments of the “Victory at Sea” saga as part of a special Independence Day marathon on RCN-TV, followed by the Allentown Fireworks Show.

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

 

 

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “The Lucy Show” Legacy

June 24, 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 Classic Video Showplace, we took a look at the origins and beginning of “The Lucy Show,” the first series starring Lucille Ball after her record-setting role in her nine-year run as Lucy Ricardo with real-life husband, Desi Arnaz.

(The cast of “The Lucy Show” through the first three seasons)

Like her initial TV series, “The Lucy Show” was well-received by critics and fans alike and quickly became a top 20 staple in the Nielsen television ratings.

By the end of the show’s first season on the air, Arnaz, tired of the business aspect of the entertainment industry, asked Ball to buy him out as co-president of the show’s production company, Desilu.

Lucille took full control of the show’s direction from season two onward, and later named her new husband, Gary Morton, as co-executive producer.

After its first three, rather smooth years on television, this series was in for a rocky, yet equally successful run during the rest of its years on TV.

During the summer hiatus between the series’ third and fourth seasons (back when television seasons actually lasted nearly an entire year), Vance decided to step away from the project (more on that in a moment.)

Vance was initially replaced by Ann Southern (who then left because she demanded, but was denied, sharing top-billing with Lucy).  Joan Blondell, who was also a friend of Ball’s, was then brought in as her sidekick.  Despite the friendship, Lucille realized the on-camera chemistry was not working between the two and quickly replaced her with Mary Jane Croft, appearing in a different role than she had performed earlier in the series.  (Croft also played several characters on the original show, including the role of Lucy’s neighbor during “I Love Lucy’s” sixth season – the last of the 30-minute editions of this program.)

Vance’s departure from the show evolved from a continuing rift between her and Ball–one that started over miscommunication between both actors’ agents, studio executives and the show’s producers.  Vance would later return to appear on the show on a part-time basis and, eventually, the long-standing friendship between the two was renewed.

An argument between Ball and her longtime “Lucy” writing staff (two of which had worked with Lucy since her radio show, “My Favorite Husband”, in the 1940s) led to their dismissal. Lucille’s on-camera children were also fired from the show (despite Candy Moore becoming a very popular teen idol at that time) and the setting for the program shifted to a new location, with no mention of her children again for the rest of the show’s run.

One of the reasons for the show’s move to California: to make it more realistic when special guest stars would happen to cross paths with Lucy in her adventures.

Ball made another shrewd business decision as executive producer:  despite less than 5% of Americans having color television sets in 1963, she insisted on filming the episodes in color, pointing out they could make more money in syndication with colorized episodes.  Even so, CBS rejected that idea and continued to broadcast these shows in black-and-white for two more seasons, even though they were filmed in color.

Also, unlike most shows that were being produced in the early 1960s, “The Lucy Show” was filmed in front of a live audience (with a laugh track added only for jokes that did not get a good response).  The studio audience became a staple for many sitcoms in the decade that followed.

While Ball rarely ad-libbed lines during this production, there were several episodes in which mishaps occurred during filming that made it to the final cut.

One example included Lucy getting trapped in a shower filled with rapidly rising water, and Vance, without breaking character, was left to improv and create lines in order to buy time for Ball to recover from her unintentional misadventure. The scene, with a mistake and all, made it to the final version of the episode.

Another famous experience included fellow legendary comedians Bob Hope and Jack Benny trying to outdo each other with one liners while the cameras continue to roll without interruption.  While the live audience never seemed to catch on to these unexpected lines and occurrences, it’s fun to go back and watch an episode like this to see how these talented actors responded when things went off script.

The show itself was never canceled. Instead, Ball, tired of running the large Desilu Productions, sold the company to Paramount, and with it the rights to this incarnation of her show. The very next year she formed a new, smaller production unit (with herself as the creative head) and launched the equally popular “Here’s Lucy” sitcom, which ran for six additional seasons. 

You can see “The Lucy Show,” every Wednesday morning at 11am on RCN-TV.

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

 

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “The Lucy Show” Origins

June 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.

According to legend (aka, “The ‘I Love Lucy‘ Book” by Bart Andrews) when “The Lucy Show” pilot was being filmed, co-star Vivian Vance and Executive Producer (and Lucille Ball’s former husband) Desi Arnaz were watching high above the stage on the catwalk, both in tears with Vance proclaiming, “It isn’t the same, is it?”

This, of course, was a reference to the impossible task of trying to repeat the amazing success of one of television’s all-time greatest comedies, “I Love Lucy,” which share ratings numbers that have rarely ever been matched, even to this day.

Still, the follow-up to the initial Lucille Ball-starred TV show had a tremendous run in its own right, packed with trend-setting elements and interesting storylines – both on and off screen.

First of all, it was one of the first shows to feature two divorced women living without their husbands while successfully raising young children.

The show was successful both in terms of popularity and critical acclaim, capturing several Emmy awards and nominations throughout its six-year run.  This, despite numerous cast, setting and show format changes, including its controversial switching from black-and-white to color photography.

According to “The Lucy Book” by Geoffrey Mark Fidelman, the show was never meant to last beyond one season and was a tool by Desilu Productions (owned by Arnaz and Ball) to try to reverse the production company’s trend of producing struggling television shows. The idea was to try to force CBS to buy a bundle of failing Desilu shows in order to have “The Lucy Show” on their schedule. (This technique is now employed by most major networks, forcing outlets to carry smaller, less-watched channels while holding highly successful network(s) as bait.)  

Ironically, Ball first balked at the idea of such a ploy, only to use this strategy in renewing this series in its later years.

Ball was initially hesitant to get back into television and only would do so after insisting that the original “I Love Lucy” writers, co-star Vance and other regular guest stars (Mary Jane Croft, Gale Gordon) would be involved in this production.

The show’s airing network, CBS, had some reservations before green-lighting the show. The TV executives felt that Ball would have trouble carrying the series without her husband on screen with her, like on “I Love Lucy.”  In another ironic twist, back in 1949, the same network wouldn’t believe that Arnaz could carry off the role of being Lucy’s husband – even though they were married in real life. It took Lucille’s ultimatum that Desi would play her husband or she wouldn’t do the show before CBS gave its approval for the original series.

Vance also needed persuasion to return to the small screen to become Lucy’s sidekick.  Tired of being called “Ethel” in public, she insisted on using her real name on the show and also demanded more glamorous clothes as opposed to the ones Lucille forced her to wear repeatedly on the original series.

With some of her most trusted friends, long-time colleagues – both on and off screen – and even her former husband serving as the show’s executive producer, Ball’s “The Lucy Show” was primed to be a major hit on CBS. 

However, this was just the beginning of a tumultuous relationship for many of the people involved, including ripping apart one of television’s best loved friendships.

More on this show in next week’s blog entry….

You can see “The Lucy Show,” every Wednesday morning at 11am on RCN-TV.

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

 

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: Roy Rogers- “The Movies”

June 11, 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.

Roy Rogers starred in a television show which successfully ran for several years and had some unique stories of its own (which we will address in another blog entry).

But this week, we’ll focus on his early career and successful cinematic performances, many of which are airing this month on Monday mornings on RCN-TV.

Contrary to what you may think, one of the most popular cowboys of all time, Rogers was born in the non-western town of Cincinnati, Ohio. He traveled to different cities and toiled in several jobs before eventually starting his entertaining career as a musician in Inglewood, California.  His first gig was as a member of a short-lived musical group called “The Rocky Mountaineers” in 1931.

It took three more years (and participating in several additional failing musical groups) before Rogers, now a part of a group called “The Sons of the Pioneers,” recorded his first successful song, “Tumbling Tumbleweeds.”  More musical successes soon followed which gave Rogers the start of his movie career in 1935.  However, once again, it took Rogers several years before he found success on the big screen.

In 1938, Republic Pictures held a contest looking for a singing cowboy; the contest included several established movie actors of the time. However, Rogers, still relatively unknown in the film industry, won the contest and soon hit it big with several successful movies.

(Rogers with Lynne Roberts in “Billy the Kid Returns“)

Two of his first big movie hits were the 1938 films “Billy The Kid Returns” (starring alongside the popular Smiley Burnette) and “Shine On, Harvest Moon” (co-starring with Mary Hart).

(Rogers and Hart in “Harvest Moon”)

Both of these films will be shown in the “RCN Movie Vault,’ airing on Monday, June 15, starting at 9 a.m.

By 1940 his surging popularity allowed him to rewrite his contract and included owning the rights to his likeness, leading to the sale of the popular Roy Rogers action figures.

Along with Gene Autry, Rogers became one of the most popular “B movies” Western stars in the 1940s and early 1950s.

He supported John Wayne in the 1940s classic, “Dark Command”, and for 16 consecutive years won the ‘Motion Picture Herald Top 10 Money Making Western Stars’ poll.

While his trademark song, “Happy Trails”, did not come along for several more years (the song was written by his future wife, Dale Evans), Rogers continued to cross-market his movie and music successes throughout the 1940s, resulting in a number of popular Western films still reviewed by film students to this day.

A unique aspect of Rogers’ films was that it would often spill out of the atypical Western genre. For example, sometimes his trustee horse, Trigger, would go off for several minutes on an animal adventure. It was a rarity in many Hollywood films to go several minutes without a single bit of dialogue nor hardly any musical accomplishments.

You can see the many different elements of Roy Rogers’ classic films on Monday mornings over the next several weeks 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: You Bet Your Life

June 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. 

Over the last few years there’s been a resurgence of interest in game shows with popular 24-hour channels devoted to the genre like “Buzzr” and “GSN.”

Even major networks have brought back forms of old format game shows–some dating back to the early 1950s but with new guests and hosts–back to prime-time television.

But one of the most unique and popular game show formats that’s been impossible to reproduce is the Groucho Marx piloted vehicle, “You Bet Your Life.

Following a string of popular movies with his famous Marx Brothers in the 1930s and early 1940s, Groucho hit a lull from an entertainment production standpoint around the World War II era.

His later movies failed to equal his earlier success and Groucho also longed to find his niche as a solo act.

However, very few media vehicles provided the format for what his style was best suited – the art of ad-libbing. He struggled as a scripted actor and also did not have much success as a pure stand-up comedian.

According to Groucho’s son, Arthur Marx, in his book, “Life with Groucho,” it was John Guedel, producer of the Bob Hope radio show, who envisioned a new project for Groucho.

During a guest spot on Hope’s show, the audience was in an uproar over a nearly completely ad-libbed comedy bit by Groucho, who was angry that the host kept him waiting so long before bringing him out for his appearance.

Guedel speculated that Groucho would flourish playing off different guests on each program and, in between comedy bits, asking contestants questions from which they could win money. And “You Bet Your Life” was born.

An even more forward-thinking idea for this program – they recorded over an hour worth of programming for each individual episode, enabling them to edit out less funny bits or improv jokes that did not go over too well.

Editing the show was also a must in order to get by radio and television network sensors.  Groucho frequently used risque humor and double entendres that would often test sensors’ approval.  The ability to cut out any jokes that went over the line allowed Marx to push the envelope more than other TV shows of that era without upsetting any sponsors.

“You Bet Your Life” became one of the first early television successes as its format easily transferred from radio to television in 1950. In fact, the program became so popular that it was simulcast on both mediums – one of the very few programs ever to accomplish this.

The show was a great success with an original run that spanned 14 years.  Because of the show’s simple format and the fact that so much of the program was based on Groucho’s comedy bits, “You Bet Your Life” was one of the few game shows that survived the quiz show scandal in the late 1950s.

Groucho’s popularity also soared to new heights during the show’s run although most people at the time didn’t know that his trademark mustache, thick eyebrows and round glasses were fake during his early years.

In his book, “The Secret Life of Bob Hope,” his son Arthur recounts a story where his father was on a train with other celebrities. When they all got off at the train station, no one paid attention to the makeup-less Groucho — with fans mobbing all the other famous movie stars. Feeling rejected, Groucho quickly slipped back on the train, put on his makeup and then exited the train in grand fashion — drawing most of the fans’ attention to him and away from the other celebrities.

The show also had a successful syndication run and was repackaged as “The Best of Groucho” and continued to broadcast many years later.

According to the Los Angeles Times, in 1973 NBC mistakenly felt the show had become too slow for a modern audience.  They sold the rights to Guedel and Marx, who immediately put the show back into syndication and it once again became a popular program for stations to run for several more years.

It also went down in television history as the medium’s first ever show produced in front of a live audience.

The format has been repeated several times over the last few decades, featuring several popular comedians as the show’s star.  None of them has ever reached the success of the original and not a single one of the remakes lasted more than a single year. 

A “You Bet Your Life” marathon starring Groucho Marx will be featured on Monday evening, June 8, starting at 9 pm 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 Most Dangerous Game”

May 29, 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.

“The Most Dangerous Game” features a storyline that most people have probably read about or seen, but whose name they may not remember off the tops of their heads.

It’s an original short story, written by Richard Connell in the 1920s, and is required reading in many schools.

The plot? A man arrives on a remote island owned by an eccentric recluse with a unique desire for big game hunting.  The lost man, after being greeted warmly and initially treated very hospitably, soon discovers that he is the hunter’s next target in a do-or-die, winner-take-all game of hunting each other.

This story has been repeated many times for radio plays, television scripts and full movie productions.

But the first ever film version of “The Most Dangerous Game,” made in 1932, has several unique characteristics.

First of all, it was one of the first talking motion pictures to base its story on a recently written publication.

(Wray and McCrea as the film’s protagonists)

It featured four of the biggest movie stars of the time – Fay Wray, Leslie Banks, Joel McCrea and Robert Armstrong. Two of its stars, Wray (Kong’s love interest) and Armstrong (with his classic line: “it wasn’t the airplanes, it was beauty that killed the Beast”) would reunite the following year in the classic and original version of “King Kong.”

Noble Johnson also had smaller roles in both “Game” and “Kong.”

Many of the sets used in the former film were re-created for Kong’s homeland and several interior shots. In a few scenes, it’s easy to see the similarities where the same locations were reused.

(Banks as the sardonic Count Zaroff)

Buster Crabbe, who won a gold medal in swimming at the Olympics that same year, had a small role in the film as well. Crabbe would go on to star in over 100 films and have success playing the titular roles in “Flash Gordon,” “Tarzan,” and “Buck Rogers.”

“Game” was produced by soon-to-be legendary film creator David O. Selznick and distributed by the iconic David Sarnoff’s RKO pictures – the same company that would be responsible for “Citizen Kane,” a film widely regarded as the greatest movie of all time.

According to the “Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television,” the film grossed an unusually high (for its time) $70,000 in its initial release and $443,000 overall.

In addition to receiving widespread praise from both critical reviewers and moviegoers alike, it remains a favorite even today – receiving the almost unheard of 100% rating by Rotten Tomatoes.

In addition to multiple remakes, specific references to the 1932 film have been used in many modern-day vehicles, including the 2007 movie, “Zodiac,” starring Jake Gyllenthaal, and FX Network’s “Son of the Beach.”

“The Most Dangerous Game” will be featured in the RCN Movie Vault (Retro Movie Special) on Wednesday, June 4, at 9 pm, and again on Saturday evening, June 6, at 8:30 pm.

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

 

 

 

 

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “The Jack Benny Program”

May 21, 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 1931 media mogul Ed Sullivan invited Jack Benny to guest host his national radio program.

Benny opened the program by saying, “This is Jack Benny.  I’ll pause while everyone says, Jack who?”

Following that appearance, Benny never went more than a few months without being on either a radio or television program, until his death on December 26, 1974.

The television version of his “Jack Benny Program” debuted on a Los Angeles TV station in 1949 as an hour long special.  This was followed by a regular 30-minute show continuing until 1965 when Jack decided to cut back and just do semi-regular hour-long “specials.”

But before he even appeared on the small screen, Jack was the most well-known radio character in the medium’s history, finishing with the best “Hooper Ratings” (before Nielsen came along) for many years in the 1930s-40s.

Unlike many radio personalities, Benny found a smooth transition to television and was a perennial ratings favorite in the 50s and early 60s.  Even though Benny himself wasn’t convinced it would work as he continued to do his radio show simultaneously with his TV program until 1955.

He was known in show business as the “comedian’s comedian” and even his harshest critics had to admit his comedic timing was impeccable.

To what did Jack attribute his success and longevity on radio and TV?

According to his memoir, “Sunday’s at 7,” Benny believed it takes about five years for an audience to become familiar with the characters, therefore allowing you to play around with his/her idiosyncrasies.  Once an audience becomes familiar with you, you can have a regular storyline while mixing in the comedy according to each actor’s quirks and personalities.  It also allowed for ongoing jokes that could follow characters from week to week and allow its writers to build ongoing bits of humor that could continue to get more outrageous as the series went on.

When he made the transition to television, the nation had already fallen in love with his cast, including Benny’s “professional” traits.  Jack’s most frequent characters on his television show were his sarcastic wife Mary, his quick-witted valet Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, singer Dennis Day, who was naive to a fault, his rotund but lovable announcer Don Wilson, voice genius Mel Blanc and character actor Frank Nelson, whose running gag was playing a different character on each appearance.

Jack had found success on radio playing a character who was incredibly cheap, vain and self-absorbed — complete opposites of the person he was in real life.  His reasoning was that everyone either has or knows someone who exhibits these foibles, so why not poke fun at them?  Years later, TV creator/producer Larry David would say almost the same thing about his greatest accomplishment, “Seinfeld,” following many familiar characteristics seen on the Benny show.

There’s many great stories to uncover and ways in which Benny broke new ground during this program’s 16-year run on TV.  We’ll delve into that discussion in another blog entry at a later time.

Meanwhile, it won’t take you five years to become familiar with the “Benny” players.  You’ll find that Jack and his talented team of writers developed timeless comedy (and great timing in the performers’ delivery) that is still incredibly funny over 70 years later.

“The Jack Benny Program” currently airs Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. on RCN TV.

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

 

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “Charade”

May 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.

If you want to see one of cinema’s greatest on-screen pairings, backed by a tremendous supporting cast, in front of a majestic Paris setting, a gorgeous Henry Mancini score and one of the most riveting climaxes to a movie in the 1960s, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better film than “Charade.”
The film stars legendary actors Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Walter Matthau, George Kennedy, James Coburn, Ned Glass and others.

(Stars Grant and Hepburn)

“Charade” starts off with a beautiful pan shot of the countryside, the stillness shredded by the sound of a fast-moving steam engine, a body ruthless tossed off the train and a haunting extreme close-up into the eyes of the dead body, all in the first 30 seconds before rocking the audience into the movie’s famous opening theme song.

Viewers quickly learn that the widow, Regina “Reggie” Lampert (Hepburn) really didn’t know her new groom very well when she is told by the police that her husband had many aliases.  She is further startled to learn her husband not only sold all of their belongings but is the owner of a great deal of money, which three other seedy-looking characters (Kennedy, Colburn, Glass) claim is theirs.

In comes the charming Grant (we won’t spoil things by telling you his name) to try to help Reggie, who is quickly targeted by everyone else, including the CIA (no spoiler here either) as the only logical owner of the cash, but she claims she had no idea of its existence in the first place.

Adding to the web of lies, her new confidant turns out to have his own series of aliases, and questionable motives for trying to help Reggie.

The film’s tone rapidly alternates between humorous moments, romance, intrigue and mystery.  As suspects begin getting bumped off it leaves very little downtime before having all questions resolved in its edge-of-your-seat finale.

“Charade” received numerous Academy and Golden Globe Award nominations (winning several) and is one of the few films ever listed simultaneously on the American Film Institute’s top 100 moments in the often conflicting movie categories of comedy, romance, thrillers and murder mysteries … AND places in the top 100 film scores.

Plus, the funeral scene is one of the funniest “macabre moments” you may ever witness.

Oh by the way, the film was also directed by yet another cinema legend, Stanley Donen, whose long line of iconic films includes “Singing in the Rain,” “On the Town,” “Royal Wedding,” “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” and many others.

“Charade” is a must-see and will be featured in the RCN-TV Movie Vault on Friday, May 22nd at 7:30 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: “Beat The Devil”

April 29, 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.

Very few actors can say they were a bigger box office draw that Humphrey Bogart in the 1940s and early 50s.

He starred in several films regarded as the greatest of all time and won his first Academy Award in what many called the ultimate on-screen pairing with Katharine Hepburn, The African Queen, in 1951.

In 1999, the American Film Institute designated Bogart as the greatest male film actor of cinema’s “Classic Era.”

And in 1953, Bogart teamed with another screen legend, Peter Lorre, Academy Award winning director John Huston, multiple-Oscar nominated actress Jennifer Jones, Bernard Lee (the original “M” in the James Bond movie series) and one of the sexiest leading ladies of the era, Gina Lollobrigida, in one of Bogart’s last films, Beat The Devil.

(Beat The Devil stars, from left, Jones, Bogart and Lollobrigida)

The film was originally intended as a sequel of one of the greatest film noir flicks of all time, The Maltese Falcon.  However, shortly after co-writers Houston and Truman Capote started the screenplay, they changed direction and instead wrote a spoof of Falcon and similar films of the genre.

Unlike later parody films, the plot is interesting and the comedic lines nicely accompany the storyline with neither getting in the way of each other. While not a typical film style for any of the leading stars, the actors generally received positive reviews for their performances.

Bogart got in a real-life car crash during the production and had to have several of his lines dubbed over in order for the film to be completed on time.

The actor they hired to double Bogey’s voice?

The then-unknown actor Peter Sellers who, among other great films, became the genius behind The Pink Panther movies. (Can you tell which scenes he was in?)

Though nearing the end of his legendary career, Bogart was still clearly on his game, following up this film up with his Oscar-nominated performance in The Caine Mutiny.

Film critic Roger Ebert included Devil in his “great movie” list and singles it out as perhaps the first ever successful “camp film” in cinema history.

Beat The Devil will be featured in the RCN Movie Vault on Thursday, May 7, at 9:00 am.

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

 

 

 

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “Heartbeat”

April 20, 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 100 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.

People probably best remember Ginger Rogers as the other half of the greatest on-screen dancing team of all time.

But you may not know that Rogers also carved out a pretty significant leading lady persona starting in the late 1930s through the 1940s and starred in some very interesting flicks.

One of her top roles was a film called Heartbeat, directed by Sam Wood (The Pride of the Yankees, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, A Night at the Opera).

Initially, when starting her solo career, Rogers made the mistake of trying to cast herself with more reserved and less-known leading men. This backfired when, for one of her first starring films, she asked for a virtually unknown actor by the name of James Stewart to co-star in the film Vivacious Lady.  Stewart ended up stealing the spotlight despite Rogers participating in one of the most vicious on-screen fights of the time period.

(Stewart would receive his first Academy Award nomination in his very next film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, followed by an Academy Award-winning performance in The Philadelphia Story the next year.)

Rogers did not make that same mistake in Heartbeat. Her co-stars were Basil Rathbone (who starred many times as the titular character in the Sherlock Holmes film series) and Adolphe Menjou (the star of the Charlie Chaplin classic A Woman in Paris.)

Rogers stars as Arlette, a young and rather inexperienced pickpocket who gets adopted into the professional thieving world by Professor Aristide (Rathbone).  On her first assignment she is caught by a wealthy ambassador (Menjou) and is forced to partake in yet an even bigger game of deception.

The film is a wonderful blend of comedy and romance, complete with a very fulfilling twist in the end.

Heartbeat was one of Rogers’ great films during her solo years, sandwiched around classics like Tom, Dick and Harry, I’ll Be Seeing You, The Major and the Minor, Kitty Foyle and Bachelor Mother.

She would also return to co-star with Fred Astaire one last time a few years after Heartbeat in the production, The Berkeleys of Broadway.

Heartbeat will be featured in the RCN TV Movie Vault this Sunday, April 26,  at 4 p.m.

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

 

 

 

 

 

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