Goody-bye, Polly Bergen, and thanks for the laughs!

Polly Bergen has died. One of my favorite funny ladies. And a wonderful singer, too.

Here are some of my favorite moments with her: film clips, TV appearances and recordings. In memory of a grand dame, always outspoken, genuine and entertaining.

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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).