Monday, March 31, 2014

Mae West: a visual pioneer in show business

In 1912, a Variety review of Mae West's act described her as "one of the many freak persons on the vaudeville stage where freakishness often carries more weight than talent, but Miss West should be coached to deliver the full value of her personality." Mae might have misinterpreted those last few words. When she appeared later at the American Roof with the Girard Boys, she wore a trick dress with a strap that broke easily, delivering the full value of her personality. 

The manager of the Roof would yell, "Don't you realize I've got a family audience?" Mae would calmly shrug and insist she couldn't help it when her strap broke. Said Variety, "The gal was always making a dress adjustment."
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It would be great to see a video of Mae West on stage with the Girard Boys, but instead enjoy her with Rock Hudson, dueting on "Baby, It's Cold Outside" during the 1958 Oscars: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZUVP_nsRjw

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Truly 'The World's Greatest Entertainer'

By Steve Crum

Al Jolson performs for the troops in Korea, 1950. Alistair Cooke wrote, "He [Jolson] had one last hour of glory. He offered to fly to Korea and entertain the troops hemmed in on the United Nations precarious August bridgehead. The troops yelled for his appearance. He went down on his knee again and sang Mammy, and the troops wept and cheered.”
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Enjoy some rarely seen footage of Jolson singing for our troops during both WWII and Korea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDtSVhe6FN4

Capitalizing on 'the worst' to make some bucks...

By Steve Crum

The Cherry Sisters had an act in the early 1900's that toured in vaudeville for 10 years before hitting Broadway at Hammerstein's Victoria. While billed at Hammerstein's as "America's Worst Act," a net was spread in front of the stage to catch the vegetables and hen fruit tossed from the audience. It's a show biz tradition to this day to term a nadir act "a road company of the Cherry Sisters." (from Show Biz from Vaude to Video...1951)
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No known footage of The Cherry Sisters exists, but here is vaudeville singer Trixie Fraganza, doing her thing in 1929: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svf4ToesTvI

Friday, March 21, 2014

Check into 'The Grand Budapest Hotel,' Wes Anderson's funniest yet

By Steve Crum
It has to be some kind of a Guinness record that I held a smile for all 100 minutes of The Grand Budapest Hotel’s running time. From Tom Wilkinson’s astute-turned-askew opening to the cute end credit addendum, the movie is indelibly Wes Anderson. In fact, it’s the best of his lot. And that hilarious lot includes the impressive Moonrise Kingdom, Rushmore, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox
Wes Anderson fans already know his body of work, but names are included for future viewing by newbies for whom Grand Budapest is a first exposure. 
One not only watches a Wes Anderson-directed and written (as is this one) comedy, but gladly hops aboard for the ride. That ride includes a loopy story filled with eccentric characters, set in unexpected environments, and a myriad number of subplots that careen back to the opening premise. Expect the bizarre and surreal. Go with Anderson’s flow. 
Add takes and double-takes in the tradition of silent film comedy, Buster Keaton in particular, as well as deadpan, face on delivery. Again think of Keaton. Also think of Bill Murray, pretty much a Wes Anderson regular, whose own stone faced style is tailor made for The Grand Budapest Hotel and a half dozen other Anderson flicks. Then imagine another dozen actors doing the same Murray schtick. By the way, Murray’s sequence in Budapest comes during the fourth act of this five parter. He plays M. Ivan, a support character involved with helping Ralph Fiennes’ M. Gustave, the central guy in the story, during a major chase. Let me add that the entire film, typical of a Wes Anderson film, includes one chase after another. 
Movement becomes the punch line, set up by dialogue, and prompted by anxiety. For example, a meticulously planned jailbreak leads to car chase, which eventually ends on an incredibly lengthy, crazy ski chase. It is hilarious, made more so by Anderson’s use of stop-motion miniatures. The use of  miniatures is yet another Anderson trademark. Exteriors of the Grand Budapest Hotel, including surrounding mountains and ski lift, are miniatures morphed with what appears to be real people in long shots. Real or animated, it all makes for pleasingly surreal visuals. 
Set in present day Europe in the make believe alpine Republic of Zubrowka, the story is a story within a story that begins with Tom Wilkinson as, simply, “The Author,” relating his younger days at The Grand Budapest Hotel, when the hotel was in its waning years. The younger writer (Jude Law now) befriends Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who agrees to tell him of his association with the hotel in its glory days, circa 1932. At that time, we discover, he was the lobby boy known as Zero (played by Tony Revolori). Without either spoiling or complicating the tale, just know that Fiennes' M. Guastave H. is the hotel’s concierge, intimately involved with many of the guests. His character is the crux of the plot, and Fiennes carries it superbly in a very uncharacteristic comedy role. 
Sure the movie is brimming in other star names (Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, and Tilda Swinton amongst), but it is Anderson’s story telling that uses them so effectively. Their presence is not primarily as star value as, say, in 1974’s Murder on the Orient Express. Instead, each part is plum and comedically necessary. Who would have even thought of casting Tilda Swinton or Ralph Fiennes in a wild comedy? VoilĂ , they seem perfectly cast. 
Besides Anderson’s expected use of wide-angle shots and of characters running from right to left and vice versa, there are his endless track shots. Pacing is key. Orson Welles once said, and I paraphrase, that a sign of a great director is not noticing the direction. Yet we do notice Wes Anderson’s direction, and feel better entertained because of that awareness. 
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GRADE on an A to F scale: A
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Ladies and gentlemen, the official trailer to The Grand Budapest Hotel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svf4ToesTvI

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A ‘Temptation’ of a story from 1969…

This Feb. 20, 1969 story of mine, published in The Bulletin (Emporia State’s newspaper), was deemed good enough to garner a Best Investigative News Story award. At that time, Emporia State University was called Kansas State Teacher’s College.
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SHADOW OF MYSTERY STILL LOOMS OVER TEMPTATIONS APPEARANCE
By Steve Crum
It all began with an innocent question: “I wonder who is sponsoring The Temptations?” Little did we know. 
The Teachers College Union Activities Council and Special Events Department were contacted and they knew nothing of any Temptations booking. Maybe the College of Emporia had something to do with it? They denied any such knowledge. Maybe an independent organization with the schools? Still negative.
Then who? Signs proclaiming “The Exciting Temptations In Concert” were posted throughout the city. Both D. & E. Drug Stores had been selling tickets to the concert for one day, and had already collected approximately four hundred dollars from ticket sales. The Temptations were to appear at the Civic Auditorium, March 7. And no one knew anything about it. Hence, a phone call to the manager of D. & E. Drugs, Ed Streit.
Streit was naturally disturbed at our interrogation, because he was selling tickets to the concert under the knowledge the Teachers College was sponsoring the group. And that the group was indeed THE Temptations. And that the tickets, which priced at $2.50 and $3.00, were “legitimately” supported by the college. Imagine his surprise. And imagine our bewilderment.
Onward we delved.
Tony Gregory, an agent for the William Morris Agency who books The Temptations, was called. He informed us that The Temptations would be appearing in Philadelphia on the evening of March 7. The Teachers College was definitely not on The Temptations agenda.
A Gary Stevens of Wichita had scheduled the Emporia Civic Auditorium for The Temptations, March 7. When contacted about the matter, Stevens reported he had been asked by a friend, Jack Skinner, to do a favor in securing the use of the auditorium, and that he (Stevens) knew nothing of the group that was to appear. Stevens added he had made “no contact” with Streit, no contact with the ticket printer, no contact for ushers, and that he did not know anything about about the group. It was just a favor for a friend.
The friend: Jack Skinner, a Las Vegas nightclub performer. When called, Skinner denied any knowledge of booking the group. However, Skinner admitted knowing Stevens. 
Hence the paradox. “The Temptations” are not coming to Emporia. That is, the nationally known, famous group. D. & E. Drugs is cordially returning ticket money to those who desire a refund. And “The Exciting Temptations”?
It could have been a sellout. 
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Addendum: After the story was published, signs for the “Temptations” concert rapidly disappeared around town. There was never even a wannabe concert of Temptations impersonators. I have always felt that those who planned the concert definitely capitalized on The Temptations name, but thought they could legally get around any fraud by advertising the act as “The EXCITING Temptations.”
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And now...the REAL Temptations...in concert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpPPGYLN3ik

Friday, March 14, 2014

Shades of ‘The Bad Seed’ + ‘All About Eve’…it’s ‘Ruthless!’

Published Dec. 22, 1995 in The Kansas City Kansan.

KCK NATIVE’S PRODUCTION ‘RUTHLESS!’ IS WITTY MUSICAL

By Steve Crum 

Tina has “Broadway on the brain.” Tina has talent. Tina will kill for a good part. Eight year-old Tina is the central character in the brilliantly conceived Ruthless!, a knockout-witty showbiz musical spoof playing through Dec. 31 at the Unicorn.

Cleverly mounted by KCK native Marvin Laird (music) and Joel Paley (book and lyrics), Ruthless! takes affectionate jabs at dozens of media (particularly film) cliches. The Bad Seed plot hook is supported by hat tips to Gypsy, All About Eve, and A Star is Born, among other stage and movie classics. We are talking one-liners, set pieces, and musical numbers. The 20-plus very tuneful songs, in fact, are parody-laced, and the dialogue is savvy, snappy, and funny.

Director J. Kent Barnhart has fashioned a well-paced production complemented by an energetic, talented cast. Co-producer Marvin Laird recently said that of the many Ruthless! touring productions over the last couple of years (it is playing in four cities now), the KC package is the best he has seen.

The two-act story opens in a 1950’s kitsch-deco, Denmark home wherein pathetically perfect mother Judy (Teri Adams) has focused her life around precocious daughter Tina (real-life 11 year-old Samantha Barrett). Enter Sylvia St. Croix (Terry O’Reagan), a would be talent agent who pressures Mom Judy to place Tina in her stage career care. After a deadly school play incident, the young trouper is sent to reform school for the criminally talented aka “The Daisy Clover School for Psychopathic Ingenues.” 

While her daughter serves time, Judy discovers her own showbiz genes, changes her name and attitude, and becomes the crustless toast of Broadway. Mama is surrounded by a personal secretary (Vicki Baker), an obnoxious theatre critic (Rosanna Coppedge); and inquiring reporter Emily Block (Cheryl Benge). The terrific cast is topped by Adams, Barrett, and O’Reagan.

A triple conflict resolution that includes hidden identities amongst hilarious hokum is the capper. Ruthless! is a farcical gem. 
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Since this review was published, Marvin Laird and Joel Paley have remade their award winning Off Broadway play, Ruthless!, in preparation for another run in New York City. The best selling 1994 Los Angeles Original Cast recording is evidently out of print, but available on several web sites.
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Besides being my friend and fellow Kansas City Kansan, the very gifted Marvin Laird has been Bernadette Peters’ arranger, conductor, and pianist for decades. 
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Enjoy this promo for Ruthless! The Musical: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgbSMDkZilI

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Among best of best Republic serials...

Published Feb. 2, 1996 in my weekly Crum on Film column that ran in The Kansas City Kansan.

MORE SCREENINGS OF SOME OLD FAVORITES

By Steve Crum 

After all these movie-going, widescreen years. After all the popcorn that has spilled by the aisle-side. Those schlocky, corny films are dear and near. Rarely Oscar caliber, true, but fun to view. Consider this installment of a critic’s Shameless Screenings. 

Movie Serials

Originally shown an episode once a week for 10-15 weeks before the Saturday feature film (along with a cartoon, previews and newsreel), dozens of serials can still be appreciated via videotape. The best were made by Republic Pictures, the cream of B-movie producers during the 1930’s-early ‘50s. 

These action-packed black and whites packed the best special effects (of the time) and the most spectacular stunt work into each 20-minute chapter. The hero was always on the verge of being crushed, crashed or exploded. But we’d have to wait until next week to see how he would get out safely. 

•The best of the best is 1941’s The Adventures of Captain Marvel, featuring upright Tom Tyler as the comic book “Shazam” superhero in the best flying sequences this side of Commando Cody. Also, this Marvel guy is no slouch about carrying out violent death sentences on his enemies, such as gleefully pitching a hoodlum from atop a 20-story warehouse. (Note the same falling scream used in all Republic serials.) 

•1943’s The Masked Marvel (no direct relation to Captain Marvel—except they both have their origins in Marvel brand comic books) is a modern (’43) action hero in a double-breasted, gray flannel suit and hat! Add a black upper face mask, and you get some of the best two-fisted fighting in serials. The gimmick in this one is there are five guys dressed in the same wardrobe, working as insurance agents side-by-side. One by one, they are killed off, finally revealing the real Masked Marvel’s secret identity. MM is laced with propaganda, typical of serials and mainstream films of the WWII era. In this one, he battles a Japanese infiltrator and his gang of saboteurs.

Though not possessing super powers, MM does turn a neat trick in one scene by jumping from a standing position straight up, over 100 feet, lighting atop a wall. And he does it backwards!

The Adventures of Red Ryder (1940) stars Don Barry as the Fred Harman comic strip western hero, always accompanied by Native American sidekick Little Beaver. (“You betchum, Red Ryder!”) So popular was the serial that it not only made Barry a major B-western star, it gave him a nickname for life, Don “Red” Barry. In real life, Barry’s hair was not red. 

This is a great stunt film that ends in the last chapter with an incredible fall by Red and the bad guy down what looks to be the Grand Canyon. No way could Republic writers come up with a logical way he could survive the death dive. So in the last 30 seconds of the final chapter while everyone, including Little Beaver, is crying and mourning the late Ryder, who do you think comes galloping from out of nowhere, his arm in a sling? Yep, pardner, Red Ryder lives. 

His classic explanation to the Beav: “Well, we fooled ‘em this time, sprout.” The end. Fadeout. 
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And now, boys and girls, the coming attraction promo for The Adventures of Captain Marvel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kn8PJ4AEhmY

Remembering Ben Johnson...

Published on April 19, 1996 in the Kansas City Kansan on the occasion of actor Ben Johnson’s death.

COWBOY ACTOR’S DEATH MEANS END OF AN ERA FOR WESTERN FILMS

By Steve Crum 

Ben Johnson rode with the best of them on and off screen during his 60-plus cowboy years as a trick and stunt rider, rodeo star, actor, and ultimately Academy Award winner. His death at 75 on April 8 adds closure to the great era of Western movies that spanned from William S. Hart and Tom Mix silents to John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. Most of his cowboy co-stars and directors are long gone, including mentors Duke Wayne, Ward Bond, and John Ford—the revered “John Ford Stock Company.” Under Pappy Ford, Ben Johnson’s gutsy, hard riding heroics forever dazzle in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Ford Apache, and Rio Grande.

Yet his best Western work, Ford’s low-keyed Wagonmaster, gave him his first stretch as star actor. Teamed with another Ford stock actor, Harry Carey Jr. (who is still alive), Johnson is terrific as a cowpuncher who very reluctantly agrees to guide a group of Mormon settlers (led by Ward Bond) to their promised land out West. 

It was always Ben Johnson in a cowboy hat, even in monster film Mighty Joe Young (he ropes that giant ape), and later roles as a modern day Lone Star lawman in The Sugarland Express as well as owner of a has been movie theater (his Best Supporting Actor Oscar) in The Last Picture Show. A late career highlight was his gritty part as a weathered outlaw in Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, restored and re-released last year.

The Oklahoma cowboy off-screen was devoted to raising thousands for afflicted children via his annual charity rodeo in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was also devoted to his fans, appearing regularly at dozens of nationwide film festivals.

Alan Brehm, a friend of mine who is a premiere film collector and historian possessing a fantastic collection of John Ford memorabilia, witnessed Johnson’s open persona at last summer’s Memphis Film Festival held at a local hotel there. 

“Ben was the main reason I went down there,” said Brehm. “He was supposed to come in early on a Friday, but arrived late, at 9 p.m.” Brehm said Johnson had not been feeling well, and was encouraged by an aide to go to his room to rest. Twenty minutes later, Johnson appeared at the door of the festival’s main area, his friend still pressuring him to get some sleep. Ben Johnson was adamant about staying.

“These are my fans,” he said. “If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be here.” For the next hour or so, Johnson tirelessly greeted fans and signed autographs. Then he returned to his room. Brehm, who was staying at the same hotel, was in the hall at about 1 a.m. and saw Johnson carrying an armload of folders to his room. 

“Goodnight, Ben!” yelled Brehm. “Get some sleep!” “Yeah, boy!” was his reply.

A treasure of Brehm’s is the movie still of Rio Grande that Johnson personalized with a quote directed to his character in the same film: “You’re a man I can trust. Your friend, Ben Johnson.”

Reports are that Johnson died of a heart attack after visiting his mother at the retirement community in which they both lived. The beloved old cowboy will be missed.
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This photo of Ben Johnson was taken during the 1995 Memphis Film Festival. 
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A nice tribute to both Ben Johnson and his sometime co-star, Harry Carey Jr.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXtVwIEOGm8

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Retro book review: 'Hollywood Hi-Fi'

This book review/feature was published July 12, 1996 in The Kansas City Kansan.

WHILE ACTORS MAY LOOK GOOD, THEY AREN’T ALWAYS VOCALISTS

By Steve Crum 

Truly bad celebrity vocalizing can be both painful and fascinating to the discriminating listener. Take Burt Reynolds, who warbles Cole Porter with Cybill Shepherd in 1975’s disastrous musical, At Long Last Love. Please take Burt Reynolds! Yet the double soundtrack record album is collectible more so for Reynolds’ strained singing. Figure that out.

Authors George Gimarc and Pat Reeder have not only figured that out, but tapped into a gold mine of bizarre musical gigs with their fascinating soft back book, Hollywood Hi-Fi. Subtitled Over 100 of the Most Outrageous Celebrity Recordings Ever!, the 128-pager chronicles movie and TV stars who should have stuck with what they knew best and left the songs to the singers. Luckily they didn’t. Otherwise posterity and recordings would suffer from not having the likes of Pee-wee Herman singing “Surfin’ Bird,” and Archie and Edith Bunker screeching “Oh Babe, What Would You Say?”

Gimarc and Reeder contend that “laughing yourself limp” while listening to Bette Davis sing the soberest “Mother of the Bride” (on a 45 rpm recording) is far more entertaining than, say, “listening to 45 minutes of C-minor arpeggios from John Tesh.” Good point. The book is also a salute to “a whole genre of records that has been largely ignored by pop culture historians.” It is a fun and fast read, crammed with background information and clever jabs. Original album and 45 covers are featured as well

For TV rerunners there are the recordings of Telly (Kojak) Savalas, the girls from Petticoat Junction, Beverly Hillbillies Buddy Ebsen and Irene Ryan, and Jim (Gomer) Nabors and George (Goober) Lindsey. Of course, Nabors obviously had the majority of Pyle singing talent, being featured in over a dozen Columbia albums. Other TV tuners include Dennis Weaver (Gunsmoke), Joe E. Ross (Car 54, Where Are You?), and Danny (The Partridge Family) Bonaduce. Late of the late night talk show, Arsenio Hall even cut a CD, Chunky A. It puts the wrap on rap.

Robert Mitchum singing? Yep, on an album called Calypso…Is Like So…. If you can take that, then take the commercially recorded songs of Marlon Brando, Walter Matthau, Lee Marvin, and Rock Hudson.

Dozens more stars have been pressed on vinyl, tape, and CD; and all are documented herein. Eighteen of the tracks, in fact, are available on a co-produced (by the book’s authors) Hollywood Hi-Fi CD. It makes beguiling background noise while reading the companion book. 
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Checking my own truly strange celebrity recordings, I found a wealth of weirdness, some included in Gimarc and Reeder’s book. Those not chronicled, but that I have:
•Cary Grant warbling “Christmas Lullaby,” a mostly talked, string-sappy, tearful earful found on a limited edition Christmas album produced by the now defunct Grant’s store chain. No relation to Cary.
•Tough guy star John Garfield reading “Raymond the White Rabbit” on a children’s album. 
•Ted Knight doing his Ted Baxter voice on a single, “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose.” At one point, he quips, “Are you as tired of this song as I am?” Oh, yes. 
•Renee Taylor (now the nanny’s mom on The Nanny) singing a 1960’s forgotten tune, “I’m In Love With Jack.” The Jack is John F. Kennedy, and Taylor sings the song a la Jackie’s voice, accompanied by a cha-cha arrangement. (“I really fell in love…cha-cha-cha…on the night of the Great Debate…cha-cha-cha.”) A collector’s showcase.
•Other all-time forgottens include: “The Humphrey Bogart Rhumba,” Red Buttons' “The Ho Ho Song,” Bill Cosby’s “Stand Still For My Lovin’,” and Richard Chamberlain barely modulating “Close To You,” recorded during his Dr. Kildare days. 

Imagine what could have been done with this material had MTV existed back then. Staggering. 
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Authors Gimac and Reeder are featured in this promo for their book in which we get to hear William Frawley aka Fred Mertz sing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDUFw0GA-2E

Monday, March 10, 2014

Movie Asides: 'THE GODFATHER'

By Steve Crum
A bizarre scene unfolded opening night* in 1972 of The Godfather at the Empire Theater in Kansas City. I was seated far enough back to the left that I could pretty clearly see the right side front rows of the audience. At that angle I witnessed irony. 
The film began, and Marlon Brando’s Vito Corleone mumbled in widescreen closeup to a thug disciple about making an offer not to refuse. Simultaneously, a tardy movie patron—a burly guy—was cutting his way across the third row from the front aisle, making people stand in the process and blocking others from watching the movie. 
It pissed off another burly guy so much he screamed at the interrupter to get the hell out of the way. A fist fight immediately began between the two, juxtaposed with the godfather softly talking on the screen, stroking his kitty cat. Meanwhile, ushers (remember when movie theaters had ushers?) made their way to quell the disturbance. Surprisingly, no police were involved, and the two quarrelers finally, quietly settled down a few seats apart, and the focus was back on The Godfather and its own tale filled with fist fights and endless killings. Life imitates art imitates life imitates ad nauseam. 
Igniting the audience’s edginess was the fact we all had to wait in line so long to get in, and it was a sold-out showing. The Godfather was also a highly publicized and anticipated event. Anxiety reigned. 
As it turned out, excitement about the movie was justified. Director Francis Ford Coppola’s gem is now film lore, a classic in the truest sense. 
When I watch it at home now, I keep looking around to see if any fist fight has broken out. 
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*Even though I attended what I thought to be opening night, it has been reported that the actual opening night was the night before. KC’s Italian-American Unification Council “felt the movie was harmful, so harmful that two of its leaders spent their own money buying every ticket to the premiere showing.” Therefore, opening night played to an empty house. Maybe that fist fight in the audience the second night was a planned event?
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Here is an offer you cannot refuse...the trailer to The Godfather: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sY1S34973zA

Sunday, March 9, 2014

'Waiting for Godot' continues to frustrate, challenge

Among the first reviews I ever wrote is Waiting for Godot. Seasoned professional theatre critics still struggle with making some semblance out of Beckett’s tragi-comedy, featuring a surreal plot and eccentric characters. As a 20 year-old college student, I sat there taking notes, never really knowing what the hell was happening on stage. But the actors were acting, so I figured whatever I tried to explain about the goings-on would be just as valid as anyone else’s interpretation. 
As it turned out, several little old ladies in the audience stormed out of the theatre in obvious disgust at the dialogue and stage actions. I think they left during the farting scene. 
The illustrious Emporia Gazette critic was there the same opening night, and gave Godot a sound thumbs down. This gave me some notoriety since we were so opinion-split. I was told more folks attended the production than expected, because they wanted to see which critic was on the mark. 
Nonetheless, what follows is what was published in The Bulletin, Emporia State’s student newspaper, on Oct. 18, 1967. 
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QUALITY OF SEASON'S FIRST, MAKES 'GODOT' WELL WORTH WAITING FOR
By Steve Crum
Waiting for Godot, the first New Theatre production of the season, opened Monday evening.
It was brilliant.
The plot is centered upon two seemingly ignorant men who encounter various problems while waiting for the mysterious man, Godot. The primary concern of the entire play is not the appearance of Godot, but instead, the discipline of waiting.
The attitude of each of the characters is one of confusion and uncertainty. As a study of man’s actions, both mental and physical, author Samuel Beckett is perceptive. Psychologically, the play ponders and answers many questions that are seemingly devoid of answers. One of the characters, Didi, rationalizes at one point, “When you seek, you believe.”
Being one of the most famous of the “Theatre of the Absurd” productions, Godot traditionally incorporates several recognizable qualities: broken dialogue, inconsistency in progression and harmony, a minimum of props and scenery, and at times, almost hellish dreamlike visions.
Directed by William E. McDonnell, himself a graduate of the “absurd theatre,” Godot exhibits precision. One more clearly understand because director McDonnell makes them understand.
There are only five characters in the play: Jim Daniels as Estragon (Gogo); Larry Remmers as Vladimir (Didi), Conrad Jestmore as Lucky, Patrick Kelley as Pozzo, and promising newcomer to the New Theatre stage, Indulis Dambro as the boy messenger.
Jim Daniels and Larry Remmers should undoubtedly be applauded for their frequently too realistic characterizations of Gogo and Didi. Daniels, as the sarcastic and sleepy hobo, blended appropriately with Larry Remmers, portraying the bombastic bed wetter and sometime intellectual. 
Conrad Jestmore holds the more physical part in his portrayal of the man servant of Pozzo. Jestmore does not speaks very much during the course of the play (he is usually bent over, grumbling somewhat), but it is a high point when he does speak. His “soliloquy” is memorable, though, on my part, unquotable. He must have said something.
The part of Pozzo, the egotistical slave driver, is enacted by Patrick Kelley. Here again, the character required versatility, and Mr. Kelley was effective.
Waiting for Godot will run through Oct. 21. Tickets are still available at the College Theatre box office, New Humanities Building. The price is 50 cents plus activity ticket, which is an inexpensive way to see an extremely high caliber play.

During the “showdown” scene of Godot, insults are directed at each of the two participants much like bullets, the mortal wound occurring with the mention of “critic.” It was difficult to keep from smiling. 
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An excerpt from the 2014 Broadway revival of Waiting For Godot, featuring Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUXtzkLTABI

Backstage, Onstage...with Preservation Hall Jazz Band

CBS Sunday Morning, this morning, featured a piece on New Orleans’ venerable, famous Preservation Hall Jazz Band. This prompted memories of seeing and hearing the touring Preservation Hall group in 1967 while I was studying at Emporia State University (then Kansas State Teachers College). Before their fantastic performance, I chatted with two of its members, Billie and De De Pierce. They are long since dearly departed. 
While other veteran Preservation Hall musicians have passed on since its founding in 1961 (the average age at any given time is 70-75), replacements (mostly elderly) have stayed on, died, and been replaced themselves. Repeatedly. Lesley Stahl’s CBS feature did a fine job covering the current band and its history. 
My take on the band was published in The Bulletin, the university newspaper, Oct. 11, 1967, when I was a 20 year-old junior. 
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PRESERVATION HALL ROCKS EMPORIA WITH ‘DIXIELAND’
By Steve Crum
Even if one were to understate the Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s Oct. 4 performance, the review would have to include such superlatives as “tremendous,” “exciting,” and “unforgettable.”
Why use such complimentary terms? If you were there, then you know why. If you were not there, then you missed something.
The fire member group, billed as “The Last original Dixieland Band Direct From New Orleans,” displayed a musical technique that dates back to the New Orleans jazz era of 1919.
There have been many imitators of the Dixieland sound. The Preservation group was the real thing.
Their music hit deep. You could not help but move when it moved, smile when it was happy, or to feel mellowed when it was sad. Their music leveled. It manipulated.
Take for an example the Emporia audience who presented the jazz group with a standing ovation…at the end of the first half of the show. Three more such ovations occurred during the second half.
Fifteen minutes before their performance began, Billie and De De Pierce, the two featured performers, sat backstage. They were quiet. Perhaps they were thinking about the 14 week cross-country tour they are presently on. For a group whose average age is 70 years, an extended tour is a tiring experience.
Surprisingly, however, it was a youthful Mrs. Pierce who praised the current trend of music. “We like all music.” She spoke of her memories as a young woman, of her long marriage to De De, and of New Orleans, When asked about once playing jazz for funerals, De De added, “Oh yeah, and they still have funerals like that down there.”
Soon it was time for the aged Dixieland musicians to perform. Billie led her almost blind husband out to his chair at stage center. He picked up his trumpet, and she sat down at the piano. The rest of the company soon came out: Jim Robinson, trombonist; William Humphrey Jr., clarinetist: and Josiah “Cie” Frazier, drummer. 
The following two hours were memorable.

It is too bad there were not more college students there. They would have witnessed a vanishing era, and then walked aaay feeling good inside. 
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Enjoy this brief overview of Billie and De De Pierce in performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NiPDC_QTUts