Saturday, October 14, 2017

THE LAST DAYS OF BING CROSBY

The year 1977 began poorly for Bing. In March 1977, during a televised concert to celebrate his fifty years in show business, he fell backwards into an orchestra pit headfirst. He ruptured a disc in his back, and was hospitalized for a month. After recovering, he made appearances all over the world, from Norway to England to tape a Christmas special, which featured David Bowie the famous Christmas duet. After taping the special, he recorded his final album, Seasons.

Bing’s next stop was the London Palladium for a two-week engagement. Then he and his band went to Brighton where they performed their final performance on October 10. The next day Bing was a guest on the Alan Dell radio show, where he sang eight songs with the Gordon Rose Orchestra. Later that day he posed for photos for the Seasons album. The next day Bing headed for Spain to play golf and die.

On the afternoon of October 14, 1977, Bing was playing at the La Morajela golf course near Madrid, Spain. He finished 18 holes with a score of 85, and with a partner, defeated two Spanish golf pros. After his last putt, Bing bowed to applause and said, "It was a great game." He was about 20 yards from the clubhouse, when he collapsed from a massive heart attack. His three golfing companions remarked that he did not look tired and was even singing around the course, though he seemed to be favoring his left arm near the end of the game. They thought he had slipped. They carried him to the clubhouse, where a physician attempted to revive him, to no avail. Bing Crosby was dead on arrival, at the Red Cross hospital. He was 74.


A few hours after learning of her husband’s death, Kathryn issued a statement, "I can’t think of any better way for a golfer who sings for a living to finish the round." Their son Harry, 19, and the family’s former butler, Alan Fisher, flew to Spain to accompany Bing’s body back to LA.

The most widely heard voice of the 20th Century and maybe all time was silenced on that fateful day on October 14, 1977...


Friday, October 6, 2017

RECENTLY VIEWED: THE KING OF COMEDY

I have a confession to make. I do not like Jerry Lewis. When he was teamed with Dean Martin, I always thought that Dean was the talented one, and his character in all of Jerry's movies were the same. Personally, Jerry Lewis always seemed like a bitter and angry man. However, one of my favorite movies of all-time was The King Of Comedy. Since Lewis died a couple months ago, I got the opportunity to watch the underrated 1982 film, and surprisingly Jerry was the best part of the film. The King of Comedy is an American satirical black comedy film directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis and Sandra Bernhard. Written by Paul D. Zimmerman, the film focuses on themes including celebrity worship and American media culture. 20th Century Fox released the film on February 18, 1983, in the United States, though the film was released two months earlier in Iceland. The film began shooting in New York on June 1, 1981, to avoid clashing with a forthcoming writers' strike, and opened the Cannes Film Festival in 1983.

After Raging Bull was completed, Scorsese thought about retiring from feature films to make documentaries instead because he felt "unsatisfied" and hadn't found his "inner peace" yet. He had purchased the rights of a script by film critic Paul D. Zimmerman. Michael Cimino was first proposed as director but eventually withdrew from the project because of the extended production of Heaven's Gate. Scorsese pondered whether he could face shooting another film, particularly with a looming strike by the Writers Guild of America. Producer Arnon Milchan knew he could do the project away from Hollywood interference by filming entirely on location in New York and deliver it on time with the involvement of a smaller film company.


In the biography/overview of his work, Scorsese on Scorsese, the director had high praise for Jerry Lewis, stating that during their first conversation before shooting, Lewis was extremely professional and assured him before shooting that there would be no ego clashes or difficulties. Scorsese said he felt Lewis' performance in the film was vastly underrated and deserved more acclaim.

Robert DeNiro prepared for Rupert Pupkin's role by developing a "role reversal" technique, consisting in chasing down his own autograph-hunters, stalking them and asking them lots of questions. As Scorsese remembered, he even agreed to meet and talk with one of his longtime stalkers. DeNiro also spent months watching stand-up comedians at work to get the rhythm and timing of their performances right. Fully in phase with his character, he went as far as declining an invitation to dinner from Lewis because "he was supposed to be at his throat and ready to kill him for [his] chance."


According to an interview with Lewis in the February 7, 1983, edition of People magazine, he claimed that Scorsese and De Niro employed method acting tricks, including making a slew of anti-Semitic epithets during the filming in order to "pump up Lewis's anger." Lewis described making the film as a pleasurable experience and noted that he got along well with both Scorsese and De Niro. Lewis said he was invited to collaborate on certain aspects of the script dealing with celebrity life. He suggested an ending in which Rupert Pupkin kills Jerry, but was turned down. As a result, Lewis thought that the film, while good, did not have a "finish." In an interview for the DVD, Scorsese stated that Jerry Lewis suggested that the brief scene where Jerry Langford is accosted by an old lady for autographs, who screams, "You should only get cancer," when Lewis politely rebuffs her, was based on a real-life incident that happened to Lewis. Scorsese said Lewis directed the actress playing the old lady to get the timing right.

Even though Jerry Lewis was basically playing himself in the film, he definitely had a good range. Surprisingly DeNiro took a back seat to Lewis in the film. My favorite scene in the film is near the end when a crazed Sandra Bernhard is trying to seduce Jerry. It was pure film gold. The film originally did not make a lot of money, but in recent years it has developed a big following. The movie also showed that Jerry Lewis was a lot more than the slow man-child that he portrayed in most of his films...

MY RATING: 9 out of 10




Friday, September 29, 2017

BORN ON THIS DAY: GREER GARSON

It is sad when great movie stars that were huge for a time are now largely forgotten now. Today marks the birthday of a beautiful an talented actress that is not remembered as she is. That actress is Greer Garson. A major star at MGM during the 1940s, Garson received seven Academy Award nominations, including a record five consecutive nominations, winning the Best Actress award for Mrs. Miniver (1942).

Greer Garson was born on 29 September 1904 in Manor Park, East Ham, then in Essex, now part of London, the only child of Nina (née Nancy Sophia Greer; died 1958) and George Garson (1865–1906), a commercial clerk in a London importing business. Her father was born in London, to Scottish parents, and her mother was from Drumalore (or Drumaloor), County Cavan. The name "Greer" is a contraction of "MacGregor", another family name.

Louis B. Mayer discovered Garson while he was in London looking for new talent. Garson was signed to a contract with MGM in late 1937, but did not begin work on her first film, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, until late 1938. She received her first Oscar nomination for the role, but lost to Vivien Leigh for Gone with the Wind. She received critical acclaim the next year for her role as Elizabeth Bennet in the 1940 film, Pride and Prejudice.


Garson starred with Joan Crawford in When Ladies Meet in 1941, and that same year became a major box-office star with the sentimental Technicolor drama, Blossoms in the Dust, which brought her the first of five consecutive Best Actress Oscar nominations, tying Bette Davis' 1938–42 record, which still stands. Garson won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1942 for her role as a strong British wife and mother in the middle of World War II in Mrs. Miniver. (Guinness Book of World Records credits her with the longest Oscar acceptance speech, at five minutes and 30 seconds, after which the Academy Awards instituted a time limit.) Also nominated for Madame Curie (1943), Mrs. Parkington (1944), and The Valley of Decision (1945), she frequently costarred with Walter Pidgeon, ultimately making eight pictures with him: Blossoms in the Dust (1941), Mrs. Miniver (1942), Madame Curie, Mrs. Parkington, Julia Misbehaves (1948), That Forsyte Woman (1949), The Miniver Story (1950), and Scandal at Scourie (1953).


In 1951, she became a naturalised citizen of the United States. She made only a few films after her MGM contract expired in 1954. In 1958, she received a warm reception on Broadway in Auntie Mame, replacing Rosalind Russell, who had gone to Hollywood to make the film version.In 1960, Garson received her seventh and final Oscar nomination for Sunrise at Campobello, in which she played Eleanor Roosevelt, this time losing to Elizabeth Taylor for Butterfield 8. Her final role for television was in a 1982 episode of The Love Boat.

Greer Garson outlived many of her MGM friends and peers. She died from heart failure on April 6, 1996 at the age of 91...



Tuesday, September 26, 2017

MUSIC REVIEW: DON CICCONE SINGS BRIAN GARI

Anyone who knows me, knows I don't buy much new music. The last album I bought was a Count Basie CD featuring his hits from 1939.

However, I had the fortune to scrape some pennies together and treat myself to Don Ciccone Sings Brian Gari. A treat it definitely was. Every track, even the radio interviews and audio outtakes, was great to hear.

Don Ciccone was the lead singer and songwriter of The Critters.Ciccone wrote the group’s hit, “Mr. Dieingly Sad,” which reached the Billboard Top 25 in 1966. He later joined Frankie Valli’s Four Seasons from 1973 through 1981 before becoming the musical director and bassist for Tommy James and the Shondells. Don Ciccone had a fabulous voice that was sadly silenced on October 8, 2016 at the young age of 70.

The songs that Don sang were written by Brian Gari. Brian has been in the industry for fifty plus years has written almost 900 songs. He had his first song published at 15 and recorded at 17. He signed with Vanguard Records in 1975 recording for them through 1976. For the next few years he performed his songs in New York comedy and cabaret clubs such as the Ballroom, Reno Sweeney, Catch a Rising Star, the Improv, the Comic Strip and the Copa. All along he was writing what was to become his first Broadway musical, LATE NITE COMIC , which debuted in October of 1987 at the Ritz Theatre (now the Walter Kerr.) The album made Top 10 for film and show albums at Tower Records. His songs have been performed and/or recorded by such artists as Margaret Whiting, the Tokens, Jana Robbins , Kaye Ballard, Lesley Gore., Andrea Marcovicci, and now the late great Don Ciccone.

Don recorded the musical gems over a period of time from 1971 to 1990. Despite the twenty year period, what is great is that Don's voice aged so well. As for the songs, it makes me happy that someone like Brian Gari is continuing to write great compositions. My favorite recording is a surprisingly upbeat - "Where Did The Music Go", but there really isn't a bad song on the album. Other high points of the CD are songs like "Bicycle Ride", "Happy Thoughts", and "I Just Had To Say My Last Goodbye" - which is another favorite of mine. 

An added feature is a great radio interview that Don Ciccone had with a young Alan Colmes. Colmes sadly died last year as well. You can see the admiration that Brian Gari had for Ciccone as this CD is lovingly put together. You can also see the admiration that Don had for Brian as he really sang all of the songs here with love and respect. The world is seemingly in chaos now, but this CD shows that beauty and creativity is not dead. The late Don Ciccone would be proud...

MY RATING: 10 out of 10

If you would like to buy a copy of this CD, please order through this link for the $14.99 price:



Thursday, September 14, 2017

HISTORY OF A SONG: YOU DON'T OWN ME

My daughter is currently four and addicted to super heroes. She has grown up movie tastes and one of her favorite movies is 2016's Suicide Squad. One of the character's in the film is Harley Quinn (played by actress Margot Robbie), the Joker's girlfriend. When they introduce her on the screen the song "You Don't Own Me" plays, and my daughter loves singing it and does a great job. It's scary! I wanted to look into some of the history of this song.

You Don't Own Me" was a popular song written by Philadelphia songwriters John Madara and David White and recorded by Lesley Gore in 1963, when Gore was 17 years old. The song was Gore's second most successful recording and her last top-ten single. On November 27, 2016, the Grammy Hall of Fame announced its induction, along with that of another 24 songs.

The song expresses a threatened emancipation, as the singer tells a lover that he does not own her, that he is not to tell her what to do or what to say, and that he is not to put her on display. The song's lyrics became an inspiration for younger women and are sometimes cited as a factor in the second wave feminist movement. Gore said, "My take on the song was: I'm 17, what a wonderful thing, to stand up on a stage and shake your finger at people and sing you don't own me." In Gore's obituary, The New York Times referred to "You Don't Own Me" as "indelibly defiant". The song was Gore's last top-ten single.



The song was covered by Australian singer and songwriter Grace and was released as her debut single. It features American rapper G-Eazy. Grace's version was produced by Quincy Jones, who also produced the original recording by Lesley Gore, and Parker Ighile. It was released on 17 March 2015 one month after Lesley Gore died, and peaked at number one on the ARIA Charts, later being certified 3× Platinum by the ARIA. The song was also a success in New Zealand, peaking at number five for two consecutive weeks, and in the United Kingdom, peaking at number four.

In an interview with House of Fraser, Grace said "[Quincy Jones] told me how the song came out during the feminist movement and how it was such a strong statement. I loved the song, started researching Lesley Gore and fell in love with her as an artist. [You Don't Own Me] really inspired me."

The song was featured in the third trailer for the 2016 film Suicide Squad and appeared on the film's soundtrack album as I wrote earlier. The song was a favorite song of my dad's and he had Leslie Gore's 45rpm of the song. However, it now brings tears to my eyes as I see my daughter sing it. To me the song represents the future of women like my daughter and a better life they will hopefully have... 



Monday, September 4, 2017

THE FATE OF THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED

The death of US comedy legend Jerry Lewis has prompted renewed interest in his notorious "lost film", The Day the Clown Cried.

The unreleased movie follows a clown who is sent to a concentration camp and told to lead children to their deaths.

Lewis, who has died at the age of 91, gave his copy of the film to the US Library of Congress. In 2015, the library confirmed it would be shown to scholars and members of the public - but not before June 2024. Some, however, are not prepared to wait that long.

"RIP jerry lewis, release 'the day the clown cried' immediately," wrote one Twitter user.

"Is it horrible that my first thought upon hearing about Jerry Lewis's death is 'now they can release The Day The Clown Cried'?" asked Paul DeBruler.

Lewis directed the 1972 film and played the leading role - a clown who is arrested in Nazi Germany for drunkenly defaming Hitler. Lewis, who died on August 20, 2017, rarely discussed the film in interviews.


The character is then thrown into a concentration camp, where he is beaten and forced to lead children into gas chambers.

Lewis kept what is believed to be the only copy locked in a private vault before donating it to the Library of Congress.

US comedian Harry Shearer, one of only a handful of people known to have seen the film, said he was "stunned" by how bad it was.

In 1992, he said: "This movie is so drastically wrong, its pathos and its comedy are so wildly misplaced, that you could not, in your fantasy of what it might be like, improve on what it really is."


The film's release was initially blocked by co-writer Joan O'Brien, according to the Lewis biography King of Comedy by Shawn Levy.

Later, Lewis himself didn't want the film to be shown, at least not in his lifetime, and rarely spoke about it.

On one of the few occasions he broke his silence, he said it was "bad, bad, bad" and would "never be seen".

"I was ashamed of the work and I was grateful I had the power to contain it all and never let anyone see it," he said in 2013.


Last year, images from the film featured in a BBC documentary titled The Story of The Day the Clown Cried, and clips have emerged on YouTube.

Various purported versions of the script have been circulated online, inspiring both live readings and video re-enactments.

Lewis was famous around the world for his partnership with Dean Martin, his fund-raising for muscular dystrophy and his numerous hit comedies.

For all his attempts to keep it under wraps, though, his infamous Holocaust drama remains a source of continued fascination and debate...