James Garner

When I heard the news about James Garner’s death, I was unable to make an entry on Talking Classics. However, I was saddened by the news but glad to have come across a good selection of his work since.

He was one of those actors who always entertained me, on television and on the silver screen. I liked him on Maverick and The Rockford Files, loved seeing him in multiple Westerns or quarreling with Doris Day. I enjoyed him alongside Julie Andrews, guest starring on shows such as Chicago Hope or as a regular on 8 Simple Rules. As an old man, he made me smile in Space Cowboys and cry in The Notebook. In interviews, he always came across as a likable human being, as someone who did not take his career for granted or saw himself as the center of the universe. He was married once, for 58 years, an avid sports fan and a veteran of the Korean War. He worked several jobs before he started acting at the age of 25 without formal training but a lot of life experience instead. For his natural talent, he was rewarded with an Academy Award nomination, three Golden Globes and two Emmy awards.

On July 19, James Garner died at the age of 86 in his home in Los Angeles. He will long be remembered for his genuine career as well as his support for the University of Oklahoma – and, thanks to the internet, for the smart and funny things he had to say about it.

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Singing Along II

As promised, here’s part II of my musical post. On this beautiful, sun-kissed weekend what else matters but some fresh air, a good smoothie and some swell tunes?! So here we go, lean back. This is Radio Talking Classics for you with a selection of classic songs from Hollywood, Broadway and beyond.

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Singing Along

The sun is moody, my household’s a mess (as usual at the end of the week) and I have a long list of chores. And what do I do?! Procrastinate of course. I had a lovely breakfast, practiced my dancing steps and now I love to play some of my favorite songs to sweeten my day.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t stop singing along when a classic song comes up. Especially if it’s a tune I haven’t listened to in a while but have always loved. Once a song has popped up in my mind, another one usually follows and I end up with an entire playlist. So, fellow music lovers, let’s see what I’ve come up with so far. Maybe you’re in the mood to join my lilting.

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My Favorite Wife

Talkie of the Week: My Favorite Wife

USA 1940, 88 minutes, black & white, RKO Radio Pictures. Director: Garson Kanin, Written by Bella & Samuel Speweck, Leo McCarey, Based on Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem “Enoch Arden”. Cast: Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, Randolph Scott, Gail Patrick

Plot summary: When Nick gets married seven years after his first wife went missing at sea, he does not reckon to end up being a bigamist by the end of the day.

Review: After seven years on a lonely island with the only other survivor of a shipwreck, Ellen Arden returns home only to find out that her husband got married to another woman. Unwilling to let go of him without a fight, she follows him to his honeymoon destination and stirs up his new life. As silly and entertaining as it sounds, this screwball classic was based on a poem by Arthur Lord Tennyson and received three Academy Award nominations including Best Story. And rightly so. Led by Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, the cast lived up to the decent script and turned My Favorite Wife into a success.

Using their chemistry to create a direct opposite to the nature of Nick Arden’s relationship with his new wife, Dunne stressed the warmth and sass of her character which benefited Grant’s despair and confusion. Convincing as always in his comedic roles, Cary Grant switched from disbelieving to enamored to jealous within a few short scenes, always allowing his fellow cast to sparkle next to him. Gail Patrick (who would later produce the Perry Mason TV series) did a beautiful job as his new wife Bianca, rejecting her unexpected rival and despairing at a marriage that turns out to be invalid. Randolph Scott gave an equally brilliant performance as Ellen’s former shipwreck partner, annoying Grant’s Nick Arden out of his wits.

Successfully remade as Move Over, Darling with Doris Day, James Garner, Polly Bergen and Chuck Conners in 1963, My Favorite Wife is one of those gems that never get old. With its stellar cast and excellent writing, the film is still diverting and funny on DVD today. It’s the perfect movie for a lovely spring night when you crave a smile and feel like watching a good movie with a couple of friends who enjoy the classics.

My Favorite Wife trailer

What’s My Line?

TV classics: What’s My Line?

USA 1950-67, 17 seasons,  876 episodes, 25 minutes each, CBS, black & white. Presented by John Charles Daly. Panelists: Arlene Francis, Dorothy Kilgallen, Bennett Cerf, Louis Untermeyer, Hal Block, Steve Allen, Fred Allen, Mystery celebrity guests: Julie Andrews, Eve Arden, Desi Arnaz, Fred Astaire, Lauren Bacall, Lucille Ball, Candice Bergen, Polly Bergen, Carol Burnett, James Cagney, Claudette Colbert, Sean Connery, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Doris Day, Kirk Douglas, Errol Flynn, Joan Fontaine, Ava Gardner, Judy Garland, James Garner, Bob Hope, Grace Kelley, Gene Kelly, Deborah Kerr, Hedy Lamarr, Angela Lansbury, Jack Lemmon, Sophia Loren, Myrna Loy, Allen Ludden, Paul Newman, Debbie Reynolds, Ginger Rogers, Mickey Rooney, Jane Russell, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, Ann Sothern, Jimmy Stewart, Barbra Streisand, Elizabeth Taylor, Gene Tierney, Lana Turner, Robert Wagner, Betty White, Joanne Woodward, Jane Wyman, Robert Young et al.

Game summary: Four panelists are trying to guess the occupation of their guests and the identity of the mystery celebrity of the week.

Review: What’s My Line? was one of the longest running and most popular game shows on American TV. Launched as early as in 1950, the show was broadcast weekly on CBS for seventeen successful seasons until it was continued on a daily basis in syndication. Transferred to radio as well as to audiences worldwide, the format was a big success and didn’t go off the air until 1975. In its history, What’s My Line? featured a lot of famous mystery celebrity guests such as Lucille Ball, Bette Davis, Myrna Loy, Elizabeth Taylor or Robert Young, some of whom appeared more than once.

With its easy format, the game show was an entertaining half hour of guessing what the weekly guests were doing for a living, for the panelists as much as for the TV audience. Broadcast live in the beginning, What’s My Line? lived of the chemistry between its regular panelists and their host John Charles Daly. Arlene Francis, Dorothy Kilgallen and Bennett Cerf stayed with the show the longest while the fourth spot on the panel was usually given to a famous incoming guest. The thrill of the show lay in the variety of professions the panelists had to guess by asking funny as well as witty “yes-and-no only” questions. The mystery celebrity guest was always the cherry on top of each episode when the blindfolded panel of four queried its way to revealing who was sitting next to their host.

Like so many of the classic game shows, What’s My Line? is a lot of fun to watch these days. The panelists, guests and celebrities are entertaining and hilarious at times. The program is innocent for today’s standards, classy and polite. The game is harmless and relaxing, a perfect show to watch at the end of a hectic day.

Selected clips available on youtube (see links above).

The Approaching New Year

With the new year fast approaching, I’ve decided to have a look at 2012 because I may love vintage but I rather look ahead than back. So what’s cooking?!

On January 17th, America’s sweetheart Betty White is going to complete another decade. She’ll be turning  ninety. I know she just recently said that’s not an accomplishment but that it just happened, bless her for  counting her blessings like that. But still. Ninety is quite a milestone. And with her popularity, filmography  and attitude she definitely outshines an entire studio full of performers less than half her age.

 

On April 18th then, my personal Tinseltown darling, RKO’s 1940s starlet and Perry Mason‘s renowned girl Friday, Barbara Hale, will join Ms. White, my N Hollywood grandma and their club of Fabulous at Ninety. Although long retired, well-deserved and (apparently) happily so, Ms. Hale is still fondly remembered by Della Street fans and classic cinéastes from around the globe. More and more of her work has been published on DVD or online in recent years and I sincerely hope that 2012 will reveal more of her bubbly warmth for us all to enjoy.

Then several films and TV shows will celebrate their anniversaries. Here are some examples:

  • Ironside (1967-75, NBC)
  • The Lucy Show (1962-68, CBS)
  • My Little Margie (1952-55, CBS & NBC)
  • Perry Mason TV show (1957-66, CBS)
  • A Likely Story (1947, RKO, directed by H.C. Potter, starring Barbara Hale and Bill Williams)
  • The First Time (1952, Columbia, directed by Frank Tashlin, starring Robert Cummings and Barbara Hale)
  • Ivanhoe (1952, MGM, directed by Richard Thorpe, starring Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor)
  • The Miracle Worker (1962, United Artists, directed by Arthur Penn, starring Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke)
  • Pat & Mike (1952, MGM, directed by George Cukor, starring Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey)
  • Singin’ in the Rain (1952, MGM, directed by Stanley Donen, starring Gene Kelley and Debbie Reynolds)
  • That Touch of Mink (1962, Universal, directed by Delbert Mann, starring Cary Grant and Doris Day)
  • What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962, Warner Bros., directed by Robert Aldrich, starring Bette Davis & Joan Crawford)

Of course there are many many more, e.g. Bambi (1942), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Mrs. Miniver (1942) or To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). Also other TV shows like The Carol Burnett Show (1967-78) or The Flying Nun (1967-70).

The legendary Barbara Stanwyck had her screen debut as a fan dancer in Broadway Nights eighty-five years ago. She would’ve turned one-hundred and five on July 16th, Raymond Burr ninety-five on May 21st.

I could continue this list ad infinitum. But I rather wish you a smooth start into the new year and hope you’re looking forward to all the vintage treats that will be revisited and adored on this blog in the up-coming leap year.

Bless y’all!

The Doris Day Show

TV classics: The Doris Day Show

USA 1968-73, 5 seasons,  128 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, CBS, color. Created by: James Fritzell. Cast: Doris Day, Denver Pyle, McLean Stevenson, Rose Marie, John Dehner, Jackie Joseph, Phillip Brown, Tod Starke, James Hampton, Paul Smith, Fran Ryan, Bernie Kopell, Naomi Stevens, Kaye Ballar, Peter Lawford, Patrick O’Neal, Billy DeWolfe

Plot summary: Doris Martin is a widowed mother who raises her sons on the family ranch until she moves to San Francisco to become a working girl.

Review: The Doris Day Show was on the air for five seasons and had many distinct format changes, it is thus a little tricky to review. It’s probably safe to say however that die-hard fans of the show’s leading lady have embraced the program for what it mostly was: a vehicle for Doris Day to entertain her audience on the small screen.

In spite of her rather steady success and the network’s interest in keeping the The Doris Day Show on the air for another season, Ms. Day herself decided to cancel the show as both, the main attraction and executive producer of the show. She had been signed on for a five year run and decided to resign from acting altogether as the show ended in the spring of 1973.

The show was not, like many others of its era, revisited in perpetual reruns but was released on DVD with a variety of extras. It is thus available for a new generation of Doris Day enthusiasts who have been unfamiliar with the final acting endeavor of their favorite star. Lifelong fans of Doris Day’s work may also enjoy revisiting the ever-changing world of Doris Martin, from a widowed mother to a single city girl.

All in all, The Doris Day Show benefits from Doris Day’s movie stardom and musical fame. The theme song Que Sera already puts you in the mood for some good-natured entertainment and reminds you of Ms. Day’s many big screen hits. It was my main reason to have a closer look at the program and I haven’t regretted looking for it. It may not have made it on my top ten list but it’s still an enjoyable show for everyone who appreciates those comedy programs from the late 60s  when a certain kind of innocence still prevailed and was backed by an approving audience.

The Doris Day Show pilot episode

The Doris Day Show: “Doris’ House Guest” (season 4)

Vintage Christmas

So this is it, only one day left till Christmas Eve.  Let’s doll up and spend the holidays with some of those joyful classics. Have yourself a charming vintage Christmas. And bless y’all!

Christmas songs:

Christmas TV episodes:

Christmas radio:

The Glass Bottom Boat

Talkie of the Week: The Glass Bottom Boat

USA 1966, 110 minutes, color, MGM. Director: Frank Tashlin, Producer: Everett Freeman and Martin Melcher, Written by: Everett Freeman. Cast: Doris Day, Rod Taylor, Arthur Godfrey, John McGiver, Paul Lynde, Edward Andrews, Eric Fleming, Dom DeLuise, Elisabeth Fraser, Dick Martin, George Tobias, Alice Pearce, Ellen Corby, Dee J. Thompson

Plot summary: Lady killer manager snags himself a fake mermaid gone supposed spy and tries to keep her hooked.

Review: The Glass Bottom Boat, also known as The Spy in Lace Panties is a highly entertaining example of a spy movie comedy from the 1960s. Doris Day gets to show off her dramatic acting talents, as well as her goofball qualities and exceptional singing voice. She is supported by charming co-star Rod Taylor who tries to sweep her Jennie Nelson right out of her mermaid tail. Picking up on films à la James Bond and Doris Day’s many romantic comedies, this film is a beautiful genre mix and positively tacky piece of hilarity.

With songs like “Que Sera, Sera” (which was originally featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s  The Man Who knew too Much in 1956 and won an Academy Award for best original song) and the title song The Glass Bottom Boat, this film “beats” its audience into the right mood for an endless cycle of slapstick, mishaps and misdemeanor with a healthy dash of the famous 1960s sense of humor and sexy flirtation.

The screwballish comedy presents a wonderful supporting cast for its leading lady and gentleman, including TV couple cameos by Alice Pearce and Geroge Tobias who starred as the odd spying neighbors on Bewitched at the time. In addition to this attention to pop culture detail, the film presents an eye-catching composition of colors, wardrobe and props. It is a real treat to watch Doris Day being so beautifully lit and featured, even forty-five years after the release of this package of silly fun.

Doris Day once said that all she wants is to make people happy, and that’s what this movie does.The Glass Bottom Boat is the perfect film for a rainy Indian summer night when the sky’s been gray for days and the heart needs some cheering up. Deliciously composed to relax it leaves a taste of carefreeness in your mind and paints a smile on your lips that may last for days.

Available on VHS and DVD. The Glass Bottom Boat trailer