Sunday, December 30, 2007

R.I.P. in 2007: 60s Stars

Two classic film directors influential in the 60s died on the same day in 2007: Michelangelo Antonioni (Blow up, Zabriskie Point) and Ingmar Bergman (Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Through A Glass Darkly, etc.)
Laszlo Kovacs was an esteemed and influential cinematographer, beginning with the 60s classics Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, and 70s classics Paper Moon and Shampoo.
Denny Doherty was the closest that the Mamas and Papas had to a lead singer. With just a few albums in a few years, this was one of the most important groups of the 60s, here headlining the Monterry Pop Festival, the first of the great 60s music events, organized by Papa John Phillips.

On the right in this photo is Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., already a noted political historian when he became an advisor to President John Kennedy, and promoted 60s liberalism as the "politics of hope." His sad duty later was to write indispensable chronicles of JFK and Robert Kennedy, after their assassinations. His book on RFK in particular is well worth reading today.
Posted by Picasa

R.I.P. 2007: 50s-70s TV Stars

Merv Griffin's talk show in the 60s hosted many of the boomer era
political figures, movie stars, writers and entertainers--even if Merv was a whole different era in himself.

Tom Snyder's Tomorrow show, late night on NBC, was an oasis of inquisitiveness in the 70s. He was opinionated, provocative and unpredictable, sometimes infuriating, and sometimes brilliant.
"Watch Mr. Wizard" with Don Herbert demonstrating science to kids on TV beginning in the 50s. Remember his barely disguised commercials
for breakfast cereals as lessons in nutrition? "Fruit, cereal, milk, bread & butter?" Later generations saw him again, most recently on Nickelodeon.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 29, 2007

R.I.P. in 2007: 50s TV Stars

Jane Wyman was a well regarded film actress who was among the first to make the transition to television drama. She appeared in various 50s anthologies such as General Electric Theatre, Lux Playhouse and Westinghouse Playhouse. She was a host on The Bell Telephone Hour before hosting her own anthology series, Jane Wyman Presents the Fireside Theatre. It allowed her to play a variety of roles. Later she did guest parts until landing the regular role of matriarch Angela Channing in a popular prime time soap of the 80s, Falcon Crest.
In a long and distinguished career, Kitty Carlisle Hart sang and acted on the stage and on film, then became a socially prominent advocate for the arts in New York. Though she sang in operas and operettas, boomers may remember her in Night at the Opera, starring the Marx Brothers. But she became most familiar as a regular panelist on the 50s quiz show, "To Tell the Truth," as well as a guest on other popular quiz shows of the day.
Tom Poston is also in that photo with Kitty Carlisle as a quiz show regular, though he was better known in the 50s for the expression in this photo--as one of the regulars on the Steve Allen Sunday show, especially the "Man in the Street" routine, for which he won an Emmy. In the 70s he was a recurring character on the Bob Newhart Show. He won several more Emmys there--and married Bob's "wife," Suzanne Pleshette. He had a recurring role on Mork & Mindy and did TV and movie guest parts until his death in 2007 at the age of 85.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 24, 2007

Alice in Disneyland

Posted by Picasa

Alice in Disneyland

For Boomers, Alice in Wonderland became associated with Christmas through the good offices of Walt Disney. Even before his animated movie version was completed, he showed a scene from it as part of his Christmas television special in 1950, co-hosted by the young Kathyrn Beaumont, who provided Alice's voice in the film. When his Disneyland show became a weekly series, he featured an hour version of the movie as his Christmas shows in 1954 and again in 1964.

All this is revealed on the two disk DVD of the Disney movie, still the best known dramatization of Alice. Moreover, the digitized DVD version reveals its breathtaking use of color, and of course the kind of sumptuous and witty animation that just isn't done anymore. (The people who made Yellow Submarine must have watched it many times.)

Since then, Alice's adventures have been dramatized many times in the movies and on TV. The usual practice was to fill the numerous but relatively small roles with the name actors and comics of the day. A surprising number of these Alices are available on DVD. For instance:

Jonathan Miller did a 1966 television version with Peter Sellers, John Gielgud and music by Ravi Shankar. Ralph Richardson and Michael Crawford were in a 1972 film, with Alice played by the future "Bond girl," Fiona Fullerton.

There was a 1985 version, scripted by Paul Zindel and with music by Steve Allen, that featured Donald O'Connor, Martha Raye, Telly Savalas, Shelley Winters, Sid Caesar and Ringo Starr. Kate Burton was a charming Alice in her first credited role in 1983, co-starring with her father, Richard Burton, as well as Nathan Lane and Maureen Stapleton.

And a 1999 TV movie featured Martin Short, Robbie Coltrane, Ben Kingsley, Christopher Lloyd and Miranda Richardson with Jim Henson's puppets.

By now, Alice is seen on stage (in ballets, musicals and stage plays) around the country at Christmastime. But for my money, that Disney DVD is still the best.