NOW AVAILABLE IN KINDLE!

NOW AVAILABLE IN KINDLE!
My 5th Biography

NOW AVAILABLE!

NOW AVAILABLE!
My 4th Biography

NOW AVAILABLE IN KINDLE!

NOW AVAILABLE IN KINDLE!
My 3rd Biography

For Bill, His Pinup Girl: The Shirley Booth & Bill Baker Story

For Bill, His Pinup Girl: The Shirley Booth & Bill Baker Story
My 2nd Biography

Love is the Reason for it All: The Shirley Booth Story

Love is the Reason for it All: The Shirley Booth Story
My 1st Biography

Joe Franklin Enjoying Jim Manago's Biography of Shirley Booth

Joe Franklin Enjoying Jim Manago's Biography of Shirley Booth
"We Can Never Forget The Wonderful Memories of This Dear Friend" Photo Courtesy Steve Friedman

Sach would say: "Ohp! Ohp! Ohp!"

My third published book is Behind Sach: The Huntz Hall Story, by Jim Manago (BearManor Media). Yes, we did get to bring a copy to Joe Franklin. He smiled when he saw his name was in the acknowledgements. It reads:

Special thanks to Joe Franklin for inspiring my life-long study of movies.

Oftentimes we'd visit him at his 43rd Street office in New York City. Thought I'd never live to say this giant is now gone. We have so many wonderful memories over the years. We will miss his love, enthusiasm, and friendship.

Our time was brief as he was hurriedly leaving his office to appear at a local club, Don't Tell Mama. We walked over to the club with Joe and his associates. Just before he entered he gave us a glance, a last memorable smile. Sadly, we just sensed on our way home that it would be the last time we would see him alive. A little over a month later, on January 24th, 2015, he died. His 89th birthday would have been several months later on March 9th.

I am the author of five books, with two of them on Shirley Booth. My first one, Love is the Reason for It All: The Shirley Booth Story by Jim Manago (BearManor Media), is the story of her life from 1898 to 1994, available in paperback and Kindle. Pictured above is Joe Franklin reading it in 2009 (photo courtesy of Steve Friedman).

My second book, For Bill, His Pinup Girl: The Shirley Booth & Bill Baker Story by Jim Manago, tells the story of Shirley's second marriage from 1943 to 1951, with several never-before-published family photos. That's when she lived on a farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. As of August 26, 2014, For Bill, His Pinup Girl is no longer in print.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE

All content on this site, unless otherwise noted, is the property of Jim and Donna Manago. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Nothing may be reproduced without prior written permission.

Shirley in her Broadway Stage Dressing Room

Shirley in her Broadway Stage Dressing Room
Photo Courtesy Leslie Sodaro

Shirley Weds Bill Baker, Jr.

Shirley Weds Bill Baker, Jr.

Monday, February 13, 2017

THIS JUST IN! For Bill His Pinup Girl: The Shirley Booth & Bill Baker Story Will Be Available for FREE!

Yes, soon you will be able to read my second book, For Bill, His Pinup Girl: The Shirley Booth & Bill Baker Story (published in 2010), at this site for FREE!  


This is being done to stop all the sellers that have jacked up the original selling price from $18.95 to hundreds of dollars. 


STAY TUNED!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Best Part of The Holidays . . .

The Best Part of the holidays has been re-watching some really well-made films from so many years ago!

Holiday Inn (1942) - This entertaining film is saturated with thirteen Irving Berlin tunes. One of my favorite moments comes early on as the amazing Astaire and Virginia Dale number, "You're Easy to Dance With." It is the simplest though best dances ever filmed, being shot in almost one continuous take (with only two cuts). I just love it! 

Interestingly, although the film features the major holidays, it does not have anything for the lesser ones, such as St. Patrick's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Labor Day and Halloween! I would have loved to see Marjorie Reynolds & Bing Crosby do a Halloween number!  

Here's my excerpt of my review which The Big Reel published back in December of 1983.  What I would add now is that I just love the fact that it's a film within a film and that we get to see actual film production techniques. Also, I just love that final scene when we pull back from inside the ballroom of the inn to be outside to the singing of "Lets Start the New Year Right." It is a truly wonderful moment that surely ends the film quite well.

HOLIDAY INN
by Jim Manago

One of my favorite films to view during holiday times is the Paramount 1942 film Holiday Inn. It was directed and produced by Mark Sandrich, one of those studio directors pretty forgotten today—perhaps his best films included the Astaire-Rogers vehicles The Gay Divorcee (1934), Top Hat (1935), and Holiday Inn. The film is saturated with 13 tunes by Irving Berlin, with a comical scenario based upon the idea of Berlin, and heavily laden with Bing Crosby’s and Fred Astaire’s star charm. 

First opening during the beginning of August, in a month lacking any holidays, Holiday Inn "offers a reason for celebration not printed in red ink” concludes the reviewer for The New York Times.

‘Lazybones’ Crosby leaves the difficult life of nightclub performer (the 365-day grind) to become a farmer. Realizing the physical routine is harsher than what he left, Crosby conceives of "Holiday Inn" while resting up in a sanitarium: a place of home cooking, relaxation, and entertainment—open holidays only. Thus, Crosby has some 350 days to “kick around in” as he says. Astaire, unsatisfied with his dance partner (actually she left him), tries to steal Crosby’s girl throughout the film’s remainder, but eventually fails.

The most notable song from the film, “White Christmas” is introduced by Crosby to co-star Marjorie Reynolds in a cozy New England farmhouse living room with a fireplace burning and snow falling outside. The song’s lyrics are “impressionistic” since they suggest a mood by sensory impressions of things happening at Christmas time. A “White Christmas,” “glistening treetops,” the sound of “sleigh bells in the snow” and the writing of Christmas cards are elements evocative of that warm atmosphere of Christmas. Holiday Inn will hold your interest even after this lovely tune is performed early in the film. The numbers for the other holidays are equally outstanding (they include “Let’s Start the New Year Right,” "Be Careful, It’s My Heart," "Abraham," "I Can’t Tell a Lie," "Easter Parade," "Say it With Firecrackers”).

Undoubtedly, Holiday Inn has to be examined as another example of Hollywood’s escapist films. This musical is among the Paramount Studio’s best accomplishments at the time. A film dealing with the holidays, particularly with songs for each holiday, was new to film musicals. Yes, the clichéd triangular love story does weaken the film somewhat. However, this type of film certainly entertained millions and kept the film industry alive even during a major war.

It’s really fascinating that such a light-hearted song-and-dance routine film could be made at this horrible time in world history with only a one-minute reference to the pressing problems of the real world. In the middle of the number “Song of Freedom” with Crosby singing, the stage curtains open to a screen showing a montage sequence of war preparations, factory operations, the President speaking, etc.

Though none of the war’s evils are shown, this brief sequence reminds the viewer that even though they are experiencing a fictional story, there exists a real responsibility of each viewer to our beloved nation to protect his freedom so that “all God’s people shall be free” (lyrics to song). Though some may consider the sequence an obvious propaganda intrusion, I believe it functions beyond that on a more legitimate level of instilling an intense pride for American values and acts as an exhortation for us to be sure to continue defending those values.

Holiday Inn, really a forgotten film, has been criticized for being episodic in narrative structure. However, despite any such alleged flaws, it is an enjoyable experience. A relaxing spirit pervades the film no doubt, and this is due to the angelic charm of Bing Crosby. The romantic conflict is even played for its comic possibilities, and it is never to be taken seriously. 

*****

Scrooge

This 1951 classic is no doubt the best version of Charles Dickens’ immortal story “A Christmas Carol.” It stands the test of time. Available in b&w and colorized versions.

Most portrayals of Charles Dickens’ miser Scrooge make him into an overly mean one-dimensional, cardboard character to the point that he is not fully human anymore. I recently sat through nearly a dozen versions of Dickens’ perennial holiday favorite, including the starring Seymour Hicks, Reginald Owen, Mr. Magoo, Albert Finney, George C. Scott, and so on. 

The best remains the 1951 British production. Here, Alastair Sim shines as Scrooge, accompanied by a superb supporting cast. No one has surpassed the actor’s brilliant interpretation of Scrooge. His portrayal makes Scrooge a very real and sympathetic person. You could feel for his frailties, and appreciate how unhappy he is, because of his hardened heart.

He is played as a three-dimensional, suffering human being, struggling with his greed, forced to find peace and serenity. When he awakes on Christmas morning after being visited by the spirits, you have a believable exhilaration.

What really matters most from Sim’s multi-layered dynamic portrayal is that Scrooge realizes that life is only meaningful when you live with faith, tolerance, and kindness. What is truly remarkable about these qualities is that the more you give of them, the more you have!

*****

It's A Wonderful Life

The 1946 slice of life classic looks better with each passing year. This inspirational film makes it known once and for all time that life, despite its trials, disappointments and sadness, is indeed worth living! 

Anytime is a good time to dust off your copy of this holiday masterpiece. Most certain is that you must own this one movie on DVD. 

In this endearing fantasy, George Bailey is on the verge of killing himself. However, his guardian angel shows him what a mistake that would be to give up living. The powerful but simple message that the movie so beautifully offers is that each person, like George Bailey, has a very special unique gift -- his very own life. Most importantly, that gift of life is meaningful only when it is shared with others.

Throughout his films, the Italian-American director and producer Frank Capra (1897-1991) presented us with a profoundly optimistic view of life. Capra once said that although he had a very humble peasant origin in Sicily with plenty of hardships, he vowed not to die a peasant. With It’s A Wonderful Life, Capra achieved royal status. 

Even though it was a box-office disappointment when first released, television has made it more and more popular each year. Some seventy years later, Capra’s moving expression of his belief in and love of humanity remains one of the best films of all time.

Twenty-five years ago, I contributed a video review to a weekly local paper. As I look back over all those years, re-read my review and watched this movie once again, I discovered that many things have changed in my life. However, It’s A Wonderful Life still remains the same. The acting by James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Henry Travers, and others is just as convincing as it seemed so many years ago. The dialogue and the scenes are unforgettable. 

Even after a lifetime of viewing this movie more than seventy-five times, I find it has become more relevant and enjoyable. I know undoubtedly that It’s A Wonderful Life will remain forever a brilliant life-affirming movie. Its uplifting and joyful finale (perhaps the best ever) is always refreshing in a world darkened by pessimism, cynicism, and insanity. 

It truly is a wonderful life! 
Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2016


A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

The best TV Christmas episode ever is the one entitled " 'Twas the Night Before Christmas" from The Honeymooners... 

I recall the wonder of hearing Shirley Booth's voice as Mrs. Santa Claus in the memorable holiday classic The Year Without a Santa Claus. This was her final project. Shirley sang and told the story in this Rankin-Bass stop-motion puppet special that appeared on ABC. 

The Year Without a Santa Claus is one of the best programs Shirley Booth did.  The classic also had Mickey Rooney reprising the voice of Santa Claus, which he did originally in Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (1970).

The animated classic tells the story of the year when Santa Claus is sick with a cold. Thanks to the dire advice from Santa’s physician that nobody cares anymore about Christmas, Santa Claus decides he will not deliver presents. However, his elves, Jingle Bells and Jangle Bells, think that if they could convince Santa otherwise, he might change his mind.

In order to accomplish this, the elves have to get to Southtown, U.S.A. to find children who care. However, there is Heat Miser and Snow Miser to contend with who have a problem deciding on whether it should snow or not in Southtown. Mrs. Claus intervenes by going to Heat Miser and Snow Miser’s mother. By the conclusion, Santa realizes the error of his thinking and decides to deliver presents after all.

The music includes Rooney singing "I Believe in Santa Claus." The mayor and townspeople offer "It’s Gonna Snow in Dixie." The Snow Miser and Heat Miser both sing a song. In addition, the best number is when the little girl sings "I’ll Have a Blue Christmas Without You." The children all joined in the finale with "Here Comes Santa Claus." 

This television program could have been more aptly titled, "Almost the Year Without a Santa Claus." Shirley sings the title track and "I Could Be Santa Claus."

Interestingly, "I Could Be Santa Claus" is Mrs. Claus' wishful transgender desire that anyone could be Santa Claus. Mrs. Claus notes how she has "fantasized it a lot," and that no one would know the difference. She questions, "why can't a lady like me?" be Santa Claus.

Unfortunately our culture gets too stuck up in this gender binary world, with males dominating everything. So Santa Claus is defined and always seen as male-gendered. Apparently society ridiculously and staunchly insists on such rigid male and female gendered roles that if we transgress those "norms" somehow we are toppling our civilization. It's unusual to see something, if ever so slightly, challenge those "norms" back in the 1970's.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Best Christmas Song:


There is at least one song that provides a dose of pathos at Christmas time. That is, it offers a balance to the saccharine and sickeningly overplayed holly-jolly songs everywhere you go (in part due to corporate greed). 

"Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" musically reminds us of the bittersweet experience of Christmas-time for many people. Look around you and you will see the desolate, the stigmatized, the lonely, the grieving, the unemployed, the homeless, the sick, the dying, and so on. 

And now with a very uncertain future for our country, one cannot celebrate Christmas  without acknowledging this reality - and doing something about it.

Judy Garland effectively introduced this song composed by Hugh Martin in the 1944 film Meet Me in St. Louis.


****

MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS

MGM. 1944. Running Time: 113 minutes.

Produced by Arthur Freed
Directed by Vincente Minnelli
Screenplay by Irving Brecher and Fred Finklehoffe, 

based on The New Yorker stories and novel by Sally Benson
Music Adapted by Roger Edens
Dances by Paul Jones
Photography by George Folsey
Dance Director: Charles Walters
Art Directors: Cedric Gibbons and Lemuel Ayers
Songs by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane

Musical Numbers: “The Boy Next Door”
“The Trolley Song”
“Meet Me in St. Louis” (by Andrew Sterling & Kerry Mills
“Skip to My Lou”
“Have Yourself a Merry Christmas”

Awards: National Board of Review Awards – Ten Best Films of the Year List
National Board of Review Awards – Best Acting – Margaret O’Brien
Cast includes: Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien, Leon Ames, Mary Astor and Harry Davenport


“This is a musical even the deaf should enjoy….”
James Agee on Meet Me in St. Louis


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Anyone Remember Edward G. Robinson as Santa Claus in Larceny, Inc?



Larceny Inc.

One of my favorite Edward G. Robinson's films is Larceny, Inc. It is a fine spoof of the Warner Brothers' gangster films. The stellar cast includes Broderick Crawford, Anthony Quinn, Edward Brophy, Jane Wyman, and Jack Carson. Anyone remember this film? I have always enjoyed this quite funny and well-written 1940 comedy. 

Larceny, Inc. tells the story of a recently released convict J. Chalmers 'Pressure' Maxwell (Robinson), who along with Crawford and Brophy, buy a luggage store in order to tunnel into the next-door bank.  They hit water and oil  pipes while business upstairs booms quite annoyingly. Eventually they abandon their heist plans at mid-point when they realize their future is best served by staying honest. Just when Robinson has a change of heart, Leo Dexter (Quinn in one of his earliest roles) breaks out of jail and wants to settle an old score by forcing them to finish the bank job because he needs some loot. Robinson and Quinn are particularly superb - and they have some great lines. Interestingly, it all comes to a climax on Christmas Eve. 

Some amusing moments to watch for: The film has a wonderful Christmas scene of Robinson outrageously dressed as Santa Claus, smoking a cigar, and being a lookout on Christmas Eve while tunneling continues underneath the bank!  Also, Quinn delivers a memorable line: "You guys couldn't steal a towel out of a hotel without my help!" There’s a very young Jackie Gleason mugging it up as a soda jerk. 

What makes Larceny, Inc. so funny is that the actors played it really straight and serious!

Speaking of Anthony Quinn, Shirley Booth starred in only one film with him. That film, Hot Spell, opened on September 17, 1958 - according to Shirley's scrapbook. It offered Shirley the opportunity to be nominated for The New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress.  Hot Spell is a tragic tearjerker with a screenplay adapted by James Poe, based on the play and novel by Lonnie Coleman named Beulah Land.

I didn't like Hot Spell as it's just too melodramatic.  It seems the problem lies in the writing. The film doesn't satisfy me - even though Booth has some shining moments. 

ON THIS DATE 42 YEARS AGO: December 10, 1974 - Shirley Booth offered her voice to play Mrs. Santa Claus in The Year Without a Santa Claus. This was her final project. She sang and told the story in this Rankin-Bass stop-motion puppet special that appeared on ABC. Mickey Rooney reprised the voice of Santa Claus, which he did originally in Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (1970).

Friday, December 2, 2016

By My Crackling Fireplace In My Cozy Connecticut Farmhouse...

Last night by my crackling fireplace, I enjoyed watching that truly charming 1945 gem, Christmas in Connecticut.  My cozy Connecticut farmhouse living room looks like the set from of Holiday Inn.   All that's missing is Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds.  My chestnuts are cooking slowly in the cast-iron skillet.  Anyone that knows me, knows that I just love the nutty sweet aroma and  taste of chestnuts.  

Christmas in Connecticut is one of the few films that gets better each passing year. I have written before about the basics, such as the plot. Here’s some more thoughts on my favorite Christmas film of all time…


Christmas in Connecticut, produced by William Jacobs and directed by Peter Godfrey, comes from an original story by Aileen Hamilton (the screenplay by Lionel Houser and Adele Commandini).  The humorous film has many superb moments. For instance, there is the scene where Liz (Barbara Stanwyck) decorates the tree with the large glass balls.  She drops one after Dennis Morgan solemnly sings the traditional “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”  Morgan also delivers in fine tenor the lovely “The Wish That I Wish Tonight,” a song written especially for the film by Jack Scholl and M. K. Jerome.

There are a number of romantic and visually exquisite scenes, albeit brief but memorable, such as when the smitten Liz sits down and rocks in her rocking chair.  The music adds to the mood by contributing to the film’s funny and romantic moments.  So much more can be said about those wonderfully composed scenes…there's some great black & white cinematography!






Pictured above is Elizabeth Lane’s menu that Mr. Yardley sees in his publication. I tried to locate a recipe for Roast Goose Bernoise – it is apparently a fictitious food. Everyone online keeps offering Roast Goose Garbure Bearnaise as the film’s menu – however, that is not what is depicted in the magazine nor spoken of in the film.

Christmas in Connecticut gives us the flavor of 1940’s Christmas - at least the way filmmakers saw it.  In short, I just love the whole production from start to finish!  

Sydney Greenstreet said it best in the film’s last lines: “What A CHRISTMAS! What A CHRISTMAS!”
 
I must admit I was so absorbed by this film that I started writing this piece as if I was Elizabeth Lane.  If you've seen the film, you will know what I am talking about.  No, I do not have a crackling fireplace, nor a Connecticut farmhouse, nor an open fire where I can roast chestnuts.  But like Liz, I wish I had more of those niceties of life - but cannot afford them. Writing is an under-appreciated profession that pays zilch. I have so little materially, but still can find joy in the true and non-commercial spirit of the season!   

*****


THANKS FOR VISITING!
 
JOIN ME AGAIN SOON!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

"Can You Forgive The Pig-Headed Old Fool For Having No Eyes To See With Nor Ears To Hear With All These YEARS?"

One of my favorite moments that stays with me Christmas and throughout the year is found in the 1951 film Scrooge. I am speaking of the great Alastair Sim version. That film is so well-acted and moving. If I can confine my point to just one scene, then I would pick the very touching and tender moment when repentant Scrooge visits his nephew. The scene works so well in capturing Scrooge's change of heart, especially with the song "Barbara Allen" being sung, but effectively stopped mid-verse when Uncle Ebenezer walks in.
 
Scrooge asks his nephew's wife: "Can you forgive the pig-headed old fool for having no eyes to see with nor ears to hear with all these years?" The sense of exhilaration captured here is phenomenal! It just does not get any better than that!

Of course, many of the best scenes and dialogue were not from Dickens' original "A Christmas Carol" story. They were the wonderful brainchild of the now forgotten screenwriter/novelist Noel Langley. He was born on Christmas Day in 1911, and died on November 4, 1980.

It's Langley that made several adjustments and additions to the Dickens story. Langley wrote in the cinematic style that Dickens also wrote in (of course Dickens was doing this before cinema was even invented). What Langley brought to the story blends well with Dickens' story and it helps to flesh out Scrooge and the other characters. I am sure that this is part of the reason why the 1951 adaptation of the Dickens story is so endearing. 

Langley's contribution lives on in the definitive version of Charles Dickens' immortal tale.  

*****

THANKS FOR VISITING!

JOIN ME AGAIN SOON!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

82 Years Years Later: MARCH OF THE WOODEN SOLDIERS Still Among The Most Enduring Films Ever Made!


YES, PIX-11 in New York will again show that true film gem this Thanksgiving Day. The schedule is for two showings, one at 9 a.m. and again at 3 p.m.

It will also be shown on Christmas Day at 1 p.m.

I offer a special "Thank You" to the intelligent management at PIX for keeping this film alive for so many years now!


*****


THANKSGIVING!  

Thanksgiving reminds me of my dearly departed Aunt Mary from Brooklyn.  Money was so tight that my Aunt could not afford a turkey and so she served-up a large roasted chicken to her four children every Thanksgiving.  The best part of this is that she told them it was a turkey - and they did not really know the truth till years later because they never ate turkey before!


Thanks to Aunt Mary and all the other people that have given me special memories at this time and throughout the years!


My favorite films to view on Thanksgiving Day include the original 1933 King Kong, the original 1949 Mighty Joe Young and the 1934 version of Victor Herbert's (1859 - 1924) operetta Babes in Toyland from 1903.  The latter is best known by the 1948 re-released title of March of the Wooden Soldiers.


These films always played on television in the background on Thanksgiving afternoon in my New York family home. Thanksgiving wouldn't be the same without them!  Since those glory days when broadcast television ruled, today it has become such a wasteland of banal situation comedies and Jerry Springer-style garbage ever-eager to disrespect someone.

Thankfully the only thing that has not changed in all these years is that WPIX Channel 11 in New York continued to air March of the Wooden Soldiers on Thanksgiving  Day.  Yes, WPIX has kept alive the magic of that memorable gem!  

Regarding the various versions of Babes in Toyland...


Please be sure to avoid the two later film versions of the classic operetta. The 1986 Drew Barrymore version is the poorest, but I found the Disney version from 1961 to be surprisingly disappointing.

That horrendous Disney version features Annette Funicello & Tommy Sands. This production changed too many things, and it did nothing better. Most importantly, the film removed the bogeyman as villains, provided embarrassingly poor set designs, and it managed to stick us with some bad casting in the leads.  In addition, Ray Bolger over-acted too much as the villainous Barnaby. Besides that, the humorless impressions of Laurel & Hardy (Gene Sheldon & Henry Calvin) added nothing at all to this film.


I disliked the Disney version of Babes in Toyland throughout, starting from the uninspired opening minutes.   It was almost as bad as the 1967 Dr. Dolittle - and that is really sinking low. The Disney take on Herbert's best numbers ("Castle in Spain," and "Go To Sleep") totally ruined them by changing the tempo. The experience of watching this lackluster version was painful indeed!  Ed Wynn as the toymaker offered the only pleasure in this entire production - but not enough to recommend the film to you.


Laurel & Hardy shine in the 1934 Hal Roach production. However, the real star of this film is definitely Felix Knight.  The latter singer (well-known in his time, but forgotten today) steals the show with his wonderful voice. Knight's singing of the superb "Castle in Spain" and, "Go to Sleep, Slumber Deep" is truly unforgettable. It doesn't get any better than that!

March of the Wooden Soldiers was regularly referred to as an ingenious classic back in the 1960's when I was growing up - and now fifty years later it stands alone as one of the few really worthwhile films to see every year. It has definitely stood the test of time.

There are so many great moments.  If I had to pick just one I would say I just love the appearances of that mouse that looks like Mickey.  Of course, it was really a Capuchin monkey - indeed a quite intelligent animal. Just hope the trainers were kind back in those days - though I doubt animal rights were a consideration then.

Simply stated, I would select March of the Wooden Soldiers as one of the most enjoyable films among the many thousands I've seen in my lifetime, as well as being one of the best films that was ever made in 1930's Hollywood!


***** 

Toyland:

Brooklyn-born Glen MacDonough (1870 - 1924) wrote the lyrics to the popular holiday song "Toyland," which first appeared in the 1903 Babes in Toyland. The song opens March of the Wooden Soldiers.  The sound quality of that film's operatic singer makes it difficult to understand the lyrics at times.  So I offer them to you:


1. When you've grown up my dears,
And are as old as I,
You'll often ponder on the years
That roll so swiftly by, my dears,
That roll so swiftly by.
And of the many lands,
You will have journeyed through,
You'll oft recall
The best of all,
The land your childhood knew!
Your childhood knew.

*Chorus
2. When you've grown up, my dears,
There comes a dreary day.
When 'mid the locks of black appears
The first pale gleam of gray, my dears,
The first pale gleam of gray.
Then of the past you'll dream
As gray-haired grown-ups do,
And seek once more
Its phantom shore,
The land your childhood knew!
Your childhood knew. *Chorus

*Chorus:
Toyland. Toyland.
Little girl and boy land.
While you dwell within it,
You are ever happy then.
Childhood’s joy-land.
Mystic merry Toyland,
Once you pass it’s borders,
You can never return again.


Yes, MacDonough knew what he was writing about!


*****


The 1949 film Mighty Joe Young would always be a late afternoon movie in New York on Thanksgiving Day. It's been years since I saw it again - and last year I had the great pleasure of finding a VHS copy.  Recently I purchased the DVD.

The 1933 film King Kong, with that monstrous-sized beast, always seemed to get all the attention because it was an early 1930's film classic.  I still love that film's sound effects and superb Max Steiner score. However, you will have to ignore the film's racist depiction of all natives as stereotypical crazed savages as that era's bias.  See it for what it is; namely, the limitations of that period of American/European culture. 


The later Mighty Joe Young uses the same creators - director Ernest B. Schoedsack and producer Merian C. Cooper, with the addition of John Ford as executive producer.  Robert Armstrong appears in a prominent role again.

I chose this film as my after-dinner film today because I love the more detailed movements and expressions of the lovable Joe Young. Especially notable is the wonderful orphanage rescue scene. This film lends a credibility and sympathy to the character - which King Kong lacks. Of course, special thanks to many - but mostly to the late Ray Harryhausen for his superb stop-motion animation. In some ways this makes Mighty Joe Young substantially better than King Kong


I especially enjoyed seeing young actress Terry Moore in another film (besides playing the boarder in Shirley Booth's famed Come Back, Little Sheba). Interestingly, 85-year old actress Moore is still making appearances and signing autographs. I would also enjoy interviewing her as well.

MIGHTY JOE YOUNG is not scheduled for broadcast or cable-TV as far as I can determine, but it is available on DVD.  That disc features a commentary with Harryhausen and Moore, besides two featurettes with Harryhausen on the making of the film.


*****

Yes, Thanksgiving is celebrated throughout our land as a day to give thanks. But there is an annual event that goes on for American Indians or Native Americans at Plymouth each year since 1970. It is known as the National Day of Mourning in recognition of the past injustices done to the indigenous people of the Americas. It involves a public march with a view towards changing racist attitudes and stopping the destructive myths. 

For too long Native Americans ("savage Indians" as we were taught) have been deprived of their fundamental rights and respect as human beings. Hollywood perpetuated the distortions we were taught in schools. Not only were they dehumanized and their history distorted, but sadly so much of their culture has been decimated in the name of Manifest Destiny and American progress.

We have chosen to enjoy the myths associated with this day - such as Pilgrims and Indians eating together in unity. The reality is starkly disturbing.

I cannot celebrate this day without acknowledging the suffering of Native Americans, and hope that someday we can fully learn to respect other cultures and peoples throughout this world.

We need to stop getting too involved in the affairs of other countries. If only our leaders would study and learn from our first President. Although he was a product of an era that offered no rights to many people, George Washington did offer much wisdom regarding the dangers of political party power struggles, as well as the destructiveness of involving ourselves in the unrest of foreign countries. 

I respectfully appreciate that it is a day that all people give thanks, as well as A National Day of Mourning for some.


*****

Producer/screenwriter Robert Youngson: 
(November 27, 1917 - April 8, 1974)


I have always loved black & white films, especially silent films - though I know that few people share my appreciation.  So I was happy  to learn that The Artist received top honors at the Academy Awards.  The Artist won five Oscars, including Best Picture (to Producer Thomas Langmann), Best Director to Michel Hazanavicius, Best Actor to Jean Dujardin, Best Score, and Best Costume Design.   It's great to know that silent films have not been forgotten!


Speaking of silents, I remember enjoying silent comedies back in the 1970’s thanks to watching PBS' "The Silent Years," hosted by Orson Welles and Lilian Gish. In addition, I always enjoyed those clips assembled in the films of producer/screenwriter Robert Youngson made from 1957 to 1970.


It’s these films that I have come to re-watch again recently after so many years since first seeing them.  I have found that they still hold up as a great assemblage of silent film comedy. Youngson spent countless hours watching literally many hours of silent films to put together these amazing compilation films.


If you have never seen and appreciated silent film comedies, then Youngson’s films would be a perfect starting point.  And for those quite familiar with these classics, I would still recommend seeing them as they are quite entertaining and well-made.

The list of talents seems endless - for example, there's Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, Billy Bevan, Charlie Chaplin, Charlie Chase, Vernon Dent, Jean Harlow, Buster Keaton, Edgar Kennedy, Harry Langdon, Carole Lombard, Snub Pollard, Will Rogers, Ben Turpin, Andy Clyde, Charles Murray, the Keystone Kops, and the list can go on and on...

Youngson's compilation films:

The Golden Age of Comedy (1957)
When Comedy Was King (1960)
Days of Thrills and Laughter (1961)
30 Years of Fun (1963)
MGM's The Big Parade of Comedy (1964)
Laurel & Hardy's Laughing 20's (1965)
The Further Perils of Laurel & Hardy (1967)
Four Clowns (1970)



Anyone remember these films?  

Youngson uses for theme music my favorite composition of all time, the amazingly beautiful melodic Etude, Opus 10, No.3. That superb and nostalgic composition by Frederic Chopin opens and closes the films.  To see Valentina Lisitsa playing it, GO TO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpiJbQvBP8A

*****


Shirley Booth's Recipe:


With the holidays beginning, I offer you a recipe from Shirley Booth which first appeared in Good Housekeeping, December 1964. 
Shirley gave Sally Edwards credit for these tarts.



CHESS TARTS
l package piecrust mix or favorite pastry for 2 crust pie
2 eggs
1/4 c. butter or margarine
dash salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup seedless raisins
1/2 cup snipped, pitted dates
1/2 cup chopped California walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy or whipping cream
candied cherries
slivers of preserved orange peel
slivers of preserved citron
green seedless grapes


Make day before serving as follows:


1. Make up piecrust; then, on lightly floured board, roll it out 1/8-inch thick.  For each petal tart shell, cut out 5) 2 1/4-inch fluted pastry rounds.  Place 1 round in bottom of each of 6) 2 3/4′inch muffin-pan cups.  Wet edges of rest of rounds, then press 4 of them to sides and to round in bottom of each cup, overlapping edges slightly.


2. Prick well with 4-tined fork.  Refrigerate 30 minutes; bake at 450 degrees F. 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool; lift each carefully from cup; store at room temperature.


3. In saucepan beat eggs well; then add butter or margarine, salt sugar, raisins, dates.  Cook, stirring constantly, until thick.  Refrigerate this filling, covered with waxed paper.


~About an hour before serving:


1. Stir walnuts and vanilla into filling; then pile some filling in each tart shell. Whip cream; use to top tarts.  In center of each mound of cream place a cherry; surround with orange peel and citron.  Refrigerate.


2. Arrange tarts on pretty serving plate; pass, with tiny bunches of grapes. Makes 6.”




*****

Christmas and The Hopes:
I am reminded of the loss of a very special lady five years ago...This is my post from September 20, 2011:

Dolores DeFina Hope
May 27, 1909 - September 19, 2011
Rest in Peace

Yes, she's gone. After 102 years of living, laughing, singing, and giving the world some wonderful memories, singer and philanthropist Dolores Hope has died yesterday of natural causes.

In memory of Dolores Hope, I dedicate this post. I offer my condolences to her family and friends throughout the world.

Dolores reached her 102nd birthday, and husband Bob Hope died two months after his 100th birthday eight years ago.

What comes to mind is one of my favorite television moments. It is from 1993, when Dolores and Bob sang "Silver Bells" on one of their last Christmas specials.  The brief two-minute duet with chorus and orchestration (including plenty of bells) makes this version quite endearing.  The huskier sound of Dolores along with Bob's distinctive sound make it quite different than other versions of the song.

In addition, the song displayed Bob with the 17 various female guest stars who sung this song with him over his years on television. The segment ends with idyllic footage of their horse-drawn sleigh being pulled across a snowy landscape.  This "music video" captures a beautiful energy in those three minutes. It's somehow transcends the mundane reality that it depicts - and provides a timeless piece of Christmas nostalgia!

So much can be said about Dolores and Bob, in particular, they shared a love for each other, as well as for entertaining people all over the world. They will always be with us thanks to what remains of them -- Bob's films, and their radio & television programs.Yes, we will always have those programs and so many wonderful memories.

Dolores & Bob, WE THANK YOU! You both will be always missed and remembered!

*****





Did You Know? One early account said that Shirley Booth’s first appearance on stage occurred while attending P.S. 152 in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. There she read in class her Thanksgiving composition entitled, "The Autobiography of a Thanksgiving Turkey." 


HAPPY THANKSGIVING!  
 
*****

THANKS FOR VISITING!
 
JOIN ME AGAIN SOON!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

"All This Vast Majesty Of Creation – It Had To Mean SOMETHING!"

  
Richard Matheson:

I have been fond of this science fiction writer's work since the early 1970's when I first saw the film, The Incredible Shrinking Man. Richard Matheson (February 20, 1926 – June 23, 2013) wrote the screenplay from his original story (published as “The Shrinking Man”). He wrote so many other meaningful and realistic stories, but if Matheson did nothing else other than this, he would be worthy of remembering.

With assistance from director Jack Arnold, the final five-minute soliloquy offered by Scott Carey has never left me – it is thoughtful and profound. 

Those final images of several galaxies with the existential voice-over is unforgettable. With the last line of the film Scott comes to a new understanding: "To God, there is no zero, I Still EXIST!"

No, I never got the chance to personally thank Richard Matheson for that story. Nevertheless, he gave us one of the few intelligent and meaningful science-fiction films that should be celebrated as long as motion pictures exist.  

Richard Matheson will live on in the stories he created.  Yes, he remains among the truly best science fiction writers of all ages!


*****

Here's that intensely thoughtful and meaningful metaphysical soliloquy that is offered by Scott Brady.

There is no other film that I know of that has said something as basic and profound as this - juxtaposed with some great visuals. Here it is...


"My fears disappeared -
As if tuned to some great directing force
I was getting smaller – what was I?
Still a human being or was I the man of the future?


If there were other bursts of radiation,

other clouds drifting across seas and continents,

Would other beings follow me into this vast new world?
So close the infinitesimal and the infinite -

but suddenly I realized it’s really just the two ends of same concept,
The unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet -
Like the closing of a gigantic circle
I looked up, as if to somehow I could grasp the heavens –

the Universe, world's beyond number,
God’s silver tapestry spread across the night,

And in that moment I knew the answer to the riddle of the infinite,
I had thought in terms of man’s own limited conception,
I had presumed upon nature that
“Existence begins and ends,” – Is man's conception - not nature’s.


And I felt my body dwindling, melting, becoming nothing
My fears melted away – and in their place came acceptance.

All this vast majesty of creation

– it had to mean something.

Then I meant something too.

Yes, smaller than the smallest –

I meant something too.


To God there is no zero –

I STILL EXIST”


*****

from the conclusion of

The Incredible Shrinking Man
 Universal – International Studios, 1957
Directed by Jack Arnold

Screenplay by Richard Matheson from his novel
Produced by Albert Zugsmith
Starring Grant Williams as Robert Scott Carey
& Randy Stuart as Louise Carey


This film is one of the best science fiction films ever made. Not only is it a masterpiece of special effects but it is also a powerful meditation on how a person can overcome his/her fears and accept his/her life as it is.

The shrinking man becomes so small he could fit through one of the holes in a window screen. But his fear of getting even smaller disappears. He realizes what really matters most is that he’s still alive! That's something I wish we all would never forget for a single day of our lives!

The Incredible Shrinking Man offers excellent special effects, a striking reliance on visuals rather than dialogue, a superb finale, and the supreme terror offered by the character named "Tomorrow." The latter was billed at that time as "the world's only trained Tarantula!"

*****

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