A Radio Treat

Two days ago, I listened to a radio broadcast from 1950, a live recording from March 23 to be exact, the day of the 22nd Academy Awards. Presented by Paul Douglas at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood with radio comments by Ken Carpenter, Eve Arden and Ronald Reagan, the show was a good two hours in length and filled with lots of joyful moments.

The show – although already exciting for any classic movie buff without great names such as James Cagney, Jane Wyman, Jimmy Stewart, Dick Powell and June Allyson, Anne Baxter and John Hodiac, Cole Porter, Ruth Roman and Barbara Hale – was entertaining from the start and blessed with a beautiful score presented by Gene Autry, Dean Martin and other wonderful performers. Despite the many differences in presentation compared to the lengthy ceremony I’ve long stopped watching each year, it amused me to find one announcement already existed back in 1950: the request for the winners to cut their thank you’s short. And trust me, the few people who said more than a heartfelt thank you, didn’t take center stage to present a short story about their lives. How refreshing to hear there once was a way to go about this differently, when recipients were in tears about their accomplishment without dwelling on it. How surprising to hear a young boy thank his parents and God – at least by today’s standards.

I know not everyone will share my sentiment, but I loved the mix of glamor and simplicity, such a charming combination. Stars and winners aside, the radio hosts also won my heart for their lively presentation and supportive attitude. Without making a fuss, they added to the style of a show that still showed signs of gratefulness and modesty towards their peers and audience. A different world, Hollywood in 1950, both good and bad, and so much fun revisiting with your eyes closed.

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Hotel

TV classics: Hotel

USA 1983-88, five seasons, 115 episodes, approximately 50 minutes each, ABC, color. Cast: James Brolin, Connie Sellecca, Nathan Cook, Shari Belafonte, Michael Spound, Heidi Bohay, Shea Farrell, Harry George Phillips and Anne Baxter.

Plot summary: For the hotel staff, life is busy at St. Gregory’s, for the guests, it’s pure leisure and luxury.

Review: Based on Arthur Hailey’s novel from 1965, Hotel focused on the lives and loves at St. Gregory, a fictional five star hotel located in San Francisco. Led by Anne Baxter as hotel owner Victoria Cabot, the show predominantly featured the professional and personal lives of general manager Peter McDermott (James Brolin), his assistant manager Christine Francis (Connie Sellecca) and their staff. Supported by a colorful collection of guest stars, including Gene Barry, Polly Bergen, Joan Fontaine, Beverly Garland, Leslie Nielsen, Debbie Reynolds, Elizabeth Taylor, Betty White, Shelley Winters, Jane Wyatt and many others, the show met the standards of Love Boat, a comedy hit also produced by Aaron Spelling on ABC at the time.

Although originally featuring Bette Davis as the head of St. Gregory who was soon replaced by Anne Baxter for health reasons, Hotel faced a lot of dramatic changes in characterization and plot. Speaking to an audience who enjoyed the mix of soap opera and celebrity appeal, the show had the perfect time slot on ABC, following an equally dramatic Dynasty. With season one available on DVD since 2009, fans of the show are invited to revisit the glamor and allure of St. Gregory’s, its sympathetic staff and matriarchal owner beautifully portrayed by Bette Davis’ 1950 on-screen nemesis Anne Baxter. A shining example of the prime time soap genre celebrated to perfection in the 1980s, the show also has the quality to appeal to those who may still be unfamiliar with the program but enjoy a cast of well-known faces and a regular dose of emotional mayhem. So for anyone who was happy about the recent comeback of Dallas on TV, this show could be the perfect treat.

Marcus Welby M.D.

TV classics: Marcus Welby M.D.

USA 1969-76, 7 seasons, 169 episodes, 48 minutes each, ABC. Cast: Robert Young, James Broslin, Elena Verdugo, Recurring cast: Anne Baxter, Christine Belford, Anne Schedeen, Sharon Gless, Gavin Brendan, Pamela Hensley

Plot summary: After living through a heart attack, Marcus Welby shares his practice a young doctor called Steven Kiley. As a general practitioner, Dr. Welby has a lot to teach to his young associate whose medical skills are as formidable as his methods are modern.

Review: Marcus Welby M.D. premiered on ABC with a two hour movie of the week in September 1969. It introduced the lead character Dr. Welby and his young associate Dr. Steven Kiley, as well as some supporting regulars such as Elena Verdugo as Consuelo Lopez, the doctors faithful nurse and secretary. Serving as a pilot episode to the following TV show, the plot focused on the characters’ background, as well as on the essentials of medical drama: emergency patients and the duality of professional opinions.

Throughout its seven years on the air, Marcus Welby M.D. stuck to its successful ingredients of featuring two generations of doctors who did their best to cure their patients. Robert Young played Dr. Welby, a general practitioner who cared for his patients as more than just customers who paid their bills. James Brolin was Dr. Kiley, his young and ambitious associate who brought a whole set of modern ideas to the Welby practice as well as an eagerness to learn his mentor’s well-tried techniques. They were supported by a hands-on secretary and a variety of regular guest stars such as Anne Baxter, Christine Belford, Sharon Gless or Anne Schedeen.

Introducing new cases every week, Marcus Welby M.D. touched a lot of medical issues otherwise not commonly addressed on television. The show also reunited Robert Young with his longtime Father Knows Best co-star Jane Wyatt, and his two time RKO co-star Barbara Hale who guest starred for an episode each.

After hitting a respectable high in ratings in its second season and a nod at the Emmys, the show declined in the mid 70s and was ultimately taken off the air in 1976 after a total run of 169 episodes. Today, the show is slowly being released on DVD to be savored by its many fans who loved the show back in the days or grew up with it in reruns. What was entertaining then is blissfully diverting now – Marcus Welby M.D. with its high quality scripts and top notch actors is a true gem.

Seasons one and two available on DVD.

Marcus Welby M.D. pilot episode, “A Matter of Humanities”

All About Eve

Talkie of the Week: All About Eve

USA 1950, 138 minutes, black & white, 20th Century Fox, Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Based on The Wisdom of Eve by Mary Orr. Cast: Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, Celeste Holm, Thelma Ritter, George Sanders, Hugh Marlowe, Gary Merrill, Gregory Ratoff, Barbara Bates, Marilyn Monroe

Plot summary: Aging Broadway star Margo Channing takes her young adoring fan Eve under her wings and ends up being ousted by the aspiring actress the not so innocent girl turns out to be.

Review: If you are into Hollywood classics, All About Eve will probably have crossed your path early on. It is one of those gems critics raved about upon release. A film that received fourteen Academy Awards nominations, including four for the star-studded female ensemble and six wins: Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Supporting Actor (George Sanders), Costume Design and Sound Recording. It earned a variety of other nominations and awards, including a bow to Bette Davis’ leading performance at the Cannes Film Festival. Popular culture has frequently paid homage to All About Eve and the originally fictitious Sarah Siddons Award introduced in the movie was turned into an actual honor by theater enthusiasts in Chicago in 1952. The Sarah Siddons Society first awarded Helen Hayes for outstanding actress of the year and is still announcing their annual winners today.

With so much cultural impact on its resumé, the film is almost bound to disappoint when you first watch it. Expectations are high, and rightly so, but All About Eve was a well-written movie back in 1950 and still is today. Joseph L. Mankiewicz created a story that’s gripping and timeless even though certain dynamics have changed in the entertainment business these days. All in all however, the sensitive bond between performing artists and their adoring fans, between experienced actresses and aspiring ones, between producers, writers and their entourage, has remained the same. It is a world of its own, so foreign to outsiders and yet so familiar to anyone who’s tied up in a business that strives on competition, rejuvenation and success.

Bette Davis was a genius pick for Margo Channing although Claudette Colbert was the original inspiration for the part. With her powerhouse performance, Miss Davis did not only win over juries and critics, but also built the ground for her fellow cast members to shine on. Anne Baxter absorbed Margo Channing’s fierce energy and created an almost eerie Eve Harrington whose admiration and lies push the story forward. Celeste Holm added a note of genuine heartiness to that group of strong-willed women while Thelma Ritter brought some much needed earthiness to the quixotic world of Broadway theater. Supported by a potent group of male actors and Marilyn Monroe in one of her early roles, the richly praised cast still leaves a lasting impression on its audience today.

For me, All About Eve is a must-see movie, one of those gems that grows on you over the years, with performances and lines that hit a nerve and stay with you. It’s a film you can watch over and over again, like many of the true classics, and they will always give you something else.

Available on DVD and VHS.