Thursday, June 23, 2016

Worth 1,000 Words...and Records: WALLICHS MUSIC CITY

By Steve Crum

Here's an overview of part of the immense Wallichs Music City, a fantastic record store that thrived from 1940-78. The main store was in Hollywood, and owned by Glenn E. Wallichs, co-founder of Capitol Records. Wallichs Music City was the first of its kind to put albums on display in plastic, so as not to damage the paper covers as customers browsed through all the records that were alphabetically arranged according to genre. Wallichs created this system based upon library index cards. Sounds familiar? Thousands of record stores throughout the country then adopted the same system.

I only got to visit the store once during a visit to Southern California, but I remember the three albums I bought there: the soundtrack to Cool Hand Luke, the John Gary Carnegie Hall Concert album, and a cut-out of the Pepe soundtrack album. (I think I paid 50 cents for Pepe.)

Worth 1,000 Words: Izat you, ZaSu?

By Steve Crum

The brilliant comedienne and Parsons, Kansas native ZaSu Pitts, born Eliza Susan Pitts, explains how to properly pronounce her unusual first name. Besides her terrific comedy acting on TV with Gale Storm and in movies with Thelma Todd, Pitts is memorable as a dramatic actress in the silent classic Greed (1924). ZaSu's final role was as a telephone operator in 1963's It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

Remembering the great ones: VERNA FELTON

By Steve Crum

Verna Felton, shown with Lucille Ball in one of her infrequent appearances on I Love Lucy, is an Emmy nominated veteran actress known for her great radio, TV and movie live action and voice work. Among her TV appearances, she played Hilda Crocker on December Bride (Emmy nominated) and Dennis Day's mother on The Jack Benny Program. Movie-wise, I love her as the compassionate, savvy neighbor Mrs. Potts in Picnic (1955).

Felton's voice work is highlighted by Walt Disney animated classics, even though she did do some TV voices on The Flintstones. Her voice will live forever in such Disney films as Dumbo (Mrs. Jumbo), Cinderella (Fairy Godmother), Alice in Wonderland (Queen of Hearts), Lady and the Tramp (Aunt Sara), Sleeping Beauty (Flora and Queen Leah), and The Jungle Book (Winifred the Elephant)--her final role. She died of a stroke on December 14, 1966, the day before Walt Disney died. Vera Felton is interred at the Grand View Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Worth 1,000 Words: Stan & Ollie visit 'My Little Margie'

By Steve Crum

Here is something rarely seen: a signed photo of the cast of My Little Margie (Charles Farrell and Gale Storm) the day Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy visited their set at Hal Roach Studios. Stan and Ollie made the majority of their classic comedies on the Roach lot. The popular sitcom My Little Margie ran from 1952-55, and years thereafter in reruns.

Worth 1,000 Words: Downtown Vegas with The Rat Pack

By Steve Crum

Three Rat Packers (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford) stroll anything but incognito through downtown Las Vegas during the premiere of Ocean's 11 in 1960.

Worth 1,000 Words: The Revenge of Karloff and Company

By Steve Crum

Universal makeup artist supreme Jack Pierce gets humorously attacked on the set of Son of Frankenstein (1939) by Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and director Rowland V. Lee.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Worth 1,000 Words: The Ricardos and The Mertzes in Cuba

By Steve Crum

That's Ann Sothern, Rudy Vallee and Cesar Romero guesting on "Lucy Takes a Cruise to Havana," a 1957 episode of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour. Since the plot involves a flashback sequence of how Lucy and Ethel met Ricky and Fred, Mr. Mertz (William Frawley) appears in a toupee.

Worth 2,000 Words: From Al Jolson to Ricardo Montalban

By Steve Crum

Here's a very cool pic of the Studio Theatre, aka the CBS Radio Playhouse, at 1615 Vine Street in Hollywood, between 1936-39. That is when Al Jolson headlined his Lifebuoy Show on radio. Imagine attending a broadcast--wow!

In 1953, the building was renamed the Huntington Hartford Theatre and then, in 1964, the James A. Doolittle Theatre. That was when UCLA acquired the property. Finally, The Ricardo Montalban Foundation bought the building in 1999 and renamed it--guess what--the Ricardo Montalban (see photo). It features a resident troupe presenting plays for younger people, as well as various film festivals.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Worth 1,000 Words: Stan & Ollie pose in Minnesota

By Steve Crum

Here is a very rarely seen photo of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy obviously having fun while posing at the University of Minnesota Theatre set for Peer Gynt in October, 1940. The Boys were playing the Orpheum in Minneapolis at the time. Said Hardy to reporters: "Your Minnesota weather--brr!--as far as I'm concerned. It was minus 30 degrees this morning."

Sunday, June 5, 2016

45 years ago, the U.S. Army & Muhammad Ali...

This last Friday, June 3, 2016, "The Greatest" died. My only link to him was like the millions who were watching or listening to him as he fought Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden in New York City 45 years ago. Despite what the poster states, it WAS broadcast on radio. Return with me now.
By Steve Crum

On March 8, 1971, I was temporarily living in a wooden barracks at Fort Dix, New Jersey--waiting along with a hundred other soldiers to be flown to Germany the next day. New Jersey was snowy and cold. Many of the guys in the barracks had their transistor radios on that evening--so many one could hear the live play-by-play of the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier "Fight of the Century" a hundred yards away from our barracks door outside.

It was a huge event in American culture. This bout between Ali and Frazier was the first time two undefeated boxers fought each other for the heavyweight title. Ali lost after 15 rounds, his first professional loss.

I am not a boxing fan--then or now, but that event gave me and my fellow soldiers a welcome diversion from the anxiousness of traveling to the unknown abroad as well as our shared homesickness.

Friday, June 3, 2016

A Mini-Review of one great Mini-Series: 'ROOTS' [2016 remake]

By Steve Crum

Despite Snoop Dogg's well publicized rant against the 2016 remake of Roots, I have to comment on the power and glory of the 4-part, 8-hour miniseries that ended last night. It is superb TV. For Heaven's sake, it is superb movie making--probably the best television viewing of this year or several years. Based on Alex Hailey's best selling book and 1977's record setting TV mini-series, Roots can be compared to Schindler's List in the sense it is a motion picture everyone, meaning every one of us, must see...and never forget.

The production is first rate, including multiple directors helming different episodes. Of the dozens of fine actors featured, these six are particularly impressive: Regé-Jean Page (pictured here as Chicken George), Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Tom Lea), Malachi Kirby (Kunta Kinte), Forest Whitaker (Fiddler), Anika Noni Rose (Kizzy), and Michael James Shaw (Marcellus). Expect these, and probably more, to receive Emmy noms.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Worth 1,000 Words: KARLOFF, CHANEY & LORRE display their roots via new route

By Steve Crum

A (probably) colorized pic of the cast of "Wizard's Leg and Owlet's Wing," a memorable Route 66 episode that aired Oct. 26, 1962. For the record, we are looking at (back row) George Maharis, Boris Karloff, Martin Milner...and (front) Peter Lorre and Lon Chaney Jr.

A colorized screen grab (above) finds the three horror movie vets scurrying down a motel corridor. 

Another scene includes Chaney arising from a casket in full Mummy wrapping. 

Boris Karloff gets made up (for the very last time) as Frankenstein's monster in preparation for the 1962 episode.

The 3 ghouls observe how they have created widespread terror as they gaze over a motel balcony.

Worth 1,000 Words: The former First Lady & the then Chairman of the Board socialize

By Steve Crum

OK, OK----as requested, here are Eleanor Roosevelt and Frank Sinatra at a function in 1960, no doubt a Democratic function.

Worth 1,000 Words: HOPE, CROSBY & LAMOUR sing and dance in Singapore

By Steve Crum

The first of the Road pictures: The "Sweet Potato Piper" number from Road to Singapore (1940) with Dorothy Lamour, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. 

Notice the two extras looking directly at the camera.