Sunday, August 2, 2015

From Tallulah Bankhead to Mary Martin

In 1953 MGM distributed the independently produced Main Street To Broadway which (fictionally) documents the behind-the-scenes process of producing a dramatic play on Broadway from origination to opening. Despite the barest plot (attributed to Pulitzer Prize winning playwright/screenwriter Robert E. Sherwood), the producer managed to gather a stellar cast of theatre luminaries. Some of the ensemble play themselves in small scenes that have nothing to do with the plot and some play parts in the screenplay by Samson Raphaelson (Ernst Lubitsch's screenwriter).

The story concerns playwright Tony Monaco writing a play in which he hopes Tallulah Bankhead will star. (Tom Morton plays Tony Monaco, a few years before he took the stage name Tony Monaco and toured in the national company of I Can Get It For You Wholesale.) He meets actress Mary Craig (Mary Murphy from The Wild One) who is ready to quit the New York theatrical scene and go back to South Terre Haute to marry. They fight, they kiss and they fall in love only to be separated by their different worlds.

If for no other reason, this film exists to allow Tallulah Bankhead to caricature herself - something she did often in real life but rarely on screen. Monaco is persuaded by his agent (played by Agnes Moorehead) to write a play that shows off Bankhead as a normal American housewife. (At one point, Bankhead opines "Aren't they writing plays for nice people like ME ANYMORE?!?!") He goes home with Mary - actually follows her in a stalky type thing - and literally dreams up Calico and Lust after watching Mary's parents (Rosemary DeCamp and Clinton Sundberg) living their life. In the dream, Tallulah is dressed in calico and an apron, sewing and welcoming neighbors to the door (although it ultimately turns into a camp version of a Bankhead-type melodrama).

All Tallulah's scenes in a badly digitized TV rip
See below if you want a good version

Another fascinating scenario concerns the evolution of the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II song There's Music In You. From Hammerstein's lyrical inspiration after seeing playwright Tony and Mary kissing on the street to Rodgers plunking out a tune while Hammerstein sings to the final incorporation of the finished song by Mary Martin in a new (fictional) musical, these scenes mark the only time the two musical geniuses appeared on screen. There's Music In You was written especially for Main Street To Broadway and was considered a trunk song (term for a songwriter's stash of unused material) until 1997 when it was interpolated into the new television production of Cinderella and sung by Whitney Houston. The song was also used in the 2013 Broadway production of Cinderella.

From Tallulah Bankhead to Mary Martin continues after the WORLD INTERNET PREMIERE
of the Mary Martin Sings There's Music In You video compilation.

Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II and Mary Martin in
There's Music In You. Note the spelling of 'Rogers' name in the call board.

Main Street To Broadway also has the following scenes and attributes.
  • Helen Hayes instructs a young actress how to focus before introducing the film and discussing the soon-to-be-demolished Empire Theatre. She returns to narrate the play's opening and list the luminaries attending.
  • Shirley Booth talks with, and signs autographs for, fans and demonstrates why she is so beloved. (See Hazel: The Maid With The Most and See Miss Shirley Booth for more information.

  • Cornel Wilde acts in a workshop reading of the playwright's somewhat misogynistic first play with ingenue Mary.
  • Rex Harrison and then-wife actress Lilli Palmer discuss what's in their refrigerator; Rex wants a bagel and salami.
  • Radio and television's Molly Goldberg, Gertrude Berg, plays Tony's motherly landlady.
  • Ethel Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore and Louis Calhern bail the despondent playwright out of jail and offer him hope after Bankhead rejects the new play.
  • John Van Druten works with Constance Carpenter (as Anna) and the cast of the still running The King And I which he had directed the year before.
  • Al Hirschfeld draws one of his trademark caricatures.

  • New York Giants manager Leo Durocher gets a dugout scolding from Tallulah.
  • After having testified for the House Un-American Activities Committee, Jack Gilford was hired to play behind the bars of the theatre box office as treasurer.
  • Humorist Herb Shriner, father of director Wil (Frasier) and actor Kin (General Hospital), sympathetically plays Mary's hometown boyfriend.
  • Academy Award winner James Wong Howe was cinematographer for Main Street To Broadway.

Main Street To Broadway has never been released on DVD. It was released on VHS tape - a used version of which you can buy on Amazon from a third party for $100. Or you can send me an email and I can send you link to download a nice rip of the VHS for free. Your choice.

Mary Martin's studio version of There's Music In You

Whitney Houston's version of There's Music In You 1997

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The High Bridge, New York

The High Bridge (originally the Aqueduct Bridge) is the oldest bridge in New York City. On June 9, 2015 it reopened as a pedestrian and bicycle thruway after being closed for over 40 years. It connects The Bronx and Manhattan over the Harlem River. The eastern end is located in the Highbridge section of The Bronx near the western end of West 170th Street, and the western end is located in Highbridge Park in Manhattan, roughly Washington Heights. These are pictures taken on a walk over the bridge on July 11, 2015.

The High Bridge Water Tower was built in 1866-72, and was accompanied by a 7-acre reservoir. The High Bridge system reached its full capacity by 1875 and, with the opening of the Croton Aqueduct, the High Bridge system was less relied upon. During World War I it was shut down. In 1949 the tower was removed from service, and a carillon (bell) was installed in 1958. The tower was damaged by arson in 1984. It was restored in 1989-90.

Is this the last remaining Howard Johnson's Motel in existence? It's on The Bronx side of the High Bridge.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Watch and Wear: Florence Lawrence

She made more movies than Bette Davis and Katherine Hepburn combined. She was more recognized by moviegoers than Meryl Streep. She equaled Hedy Lamarr by inventing something society still uses to this day. And she had plastic surgery before Joan Rivers made it vogue. Yet no one remembers her: The Biograph Girl, The Imp Girl, The Girl of a Thousand Faces. Historically, she is referred to as the first Movie Star but it was the early 20th century before actors and characters were documented on film stock. Anonymously, she was so loved that the American public demanded to know her name and soon they found out: Florence Lawrence.

The Taming Of The Shrew 1908

Florence started performing on stage and in vaudeville as Baby Florence, the Child Wonder before finding work as an extra for the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company in the fledgling film industry of turn of the century New York City. D.W. Griffith was her director and Billy Bitzer her cinematographer. Her natural abilities turned into bigger parts and the public started writing letters to Biograph asking who she was. Florence was soon hired by the Independent Moving Picture Company (IMP). The company even capitalized on her fame by referring to her in IMP advertisements as The Biograph Girl. It was this marketing move by IMP that forced other film production companies to start advertising the names and faces of the actors appearing in their pictures.

The Lure Of The Gown 1909

Before these production companies followed suit though, they tried to nip it in the bud by announcing to the national press that Miss. Lawrence, The Biograph Girl, had been killed in an automobile accident. Lawrence's pictures and the story were plastered all over the national newspapers. The story was so ensconced in the mindset of the film-going public that she had to travel to St. Louis (where the story originated) to quell the rumors of her demise. The plan worked but by her own admission Florence took a sabbatical from motion pictures starting in 1913.

Growing Up With The Movies is the story of Florence’s early career
as told to writer Monte M. Katterjohn. This PDF (also accessible on
contains all four parts as published in Photoplay magazine issues
dated November/December 1914 and January/February 1915.

The Country Doctor 1909

According to Kelly R. Brown’s 1999 biography The Biograph Girl, Florence was able to afford an automobile. In 1914, she developed a mechanical signaling arm that, with the press of a button, raised or lowered a flag on the car’s rear bumper that signaled which way the car would turn. She also devised a brake signal that worked on the same principle: with the press of a button, a “STOP” sign flipped up from the back bumper. Because Florence never bothered to file patents, unlike Hedy Lamarr, she never got the recognition she deserved. (Her mother, also an inventor, patented the first electrical windshield wipers in 1917 but never got credit either.)

Florence did attempt a comeback in 1922 by starring in The Unfoldment but nothing much came of it. It was around this time she reportedly got a nose job to help in procuring work. She ultimately found work at M-G-M usually in uncredited bit parts. In 1937, she was diagnosed with a disease described a rare bone marrow disease which was incurable at the time. On December 28, 1938, Florence called in sick and some time in the afternoon swallowed cough syrup and ant paste. She was found by a neighbor and was rushed to Beverly Hills Emergency Hospital where she was pronounced dead at 2:45 p.m. A suicide note found in her home was addressed to her housemate Bob Brinlow and stated:
Dear Bob,

Call Dr. Wilson. I am tired. Hope this works. Good bye, my darling. They can't cure me, so let it go at that. Lovingly, Florence - P.S. You've all been swell guys. Everything is yours.

Lawrence's death was ruled a "probable suicide" owing to her "ill health" and she was buried in an unmarked grave in the Hollywood Cemetery (now Hollywood Forever Cemetery). In 1991 an anonymous British actor paid for a memorial marker which reads The Biograph Girl/The First Movie Star. In 2000 William J. Mann published The Biograph Girl which blends the facts of Lawrence's life with fiction. Instead of fading into oblivion and committing suicide, a doctor helps Lawrence fool the public into thinking she committed suicide but instead lives at a nursing home. A journalist discovers Lawrence at the nursing home and decides to write a biography about her. In 2013, the Gale Theatre Company introduced Florence which tells her story through dance, video, and physical theater.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Costa Rica 2004

In March, 2004, a group of friends went to Costa Rica. We left only footprints and returned with only memories - and these pictures.

See the rest of the pictures on my Pinterest board.

See the rest of the pictures on my Pinterest board.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Legend of Walks Far Raquel

Raquel Welch had a bee in her bonnet regarding her 1979 television acting debut The Legend Of Walks Far Woman; she wanted people to see it. But NBC Entertainment president Brandon Tartikoff saw no commercial potential, and shelved it when it was delivered to the network. This was especially disappointing to Welch who fought hard to get the film made and who co-produced it under the Raquel Welch Productions banner.

The novel Walks Far Woman by Colin Stuart tells a tale based on the life of his great grandmother. From this novel, Evan Hunter (author of The Blackboard Jungle and The Birds screenplay) fashioned the teleplay of Walks Far, a Blackfoot woman forced to leave her tribe after killing to avenge her husband's death. She meets up with, and joins, a Sioux tribe where she is accepted until banished (again) for killing her violent Sioux husband. It was 1979 when Raquel Welch, Bradford Dillman, Nick Mancuso, director Mel Damski and the rest of production team descended upon Montana (including Billings, Red Lodge and Hardin) to film this epic Western that followed the story of Walks Far from 1874 until her death in 1953.

The Legend Of Walks Far Woman was filmed as a three-hour television movie and, except for the stars, all actors were either Native or Mexican Americans. The lifestyle of the Indians - wild and free on the prairies - is the backdrop and the film doesn't shy away from brutality and doesn't pander to American Indian stereotypes, portraying them with failings and virtues. By the film's end, Welch ages to 103 with Del Armstrong and Hallie Smith-Simmons applying her makeup.

For three years, the film sat collecting dust but Welch and her lawyers never gave up. In 1982, it was edited to two and a half hours and given a time slot on May 30. Before it had a chance to air though the last reel was ditched and an end with 20 seconds of the 103 year old Walks Far added with a voiceover to fill in the gaps. The resulting film is disjointed and the ending just ridiculous. The greatest asset is the locale and Raquel Welch's performance which begins haltingly but warms up nicely. (A weird anomaly is hearing the characters speak about speaking the Indian language when they are clearly speaking English.)

The version that aired was, much to Tartikoff's chagrin, a ratings success. According to reports of the time, Tartikoff appeared before the nation's TV critics in Burbank the day after the movie aired and described receiving a 7 a.m. call from NBC's New York offices. It was a call giving me the overnight ratings shares for the top three markets Tartikoff said and for The Legend of Walks Far Woman, they were something like 36, 24 and 36. I said "Great -- she got her measurements."

Welch stayed at the Northern Hotel in Billings while filming in the summer of 1979. She escaped the notice of many who had gathered to see her deplane at the Billings airport, but signed autographs after reaching her car.

Welch probably does not approve of the truncated version of the film although it's high ratings probably made her happy. In 1983, she also won a won a Bronze Wrangler at the Western Heritage Awards and a Nosotros Golden Eagle (for Hispanic achievements in the entertainment industry) for her role. The Legend Of Walks Far Woman was released on VHS tape in several countries. It has never been released on DVD in the United States although Australia and Spain seem to have copies floating around. It's hard to tell whether these are bootlegs or official releases.

FREE DOWNLOAD: I have a digital copy of The Legend Of Walks Far Woman.
It's 115 minutes and even with all the edits, it would behoove any fan of Raquel Welch to drop me an email.
I will then send you link from which you can download it.

Follow Michael,'s board Walks Far on Pinterest.

Two dumb review links from People Magazine 1982: 1 and 2

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Thanks For The Mammaries, Jim Bailey

According to Playbill, Jim Bailey

'...dreamed of playing Broadway, and in 2001 landed a commitment from the Shubert Organization to open his biographical revue, Judy Garland Live! at one of its theatres on Oct. 16 of that year--50 years to the day after the real Garland opened a legendary stand at the Palace Theatre. The production was far along, with Joey McKneely signed to direct and choreograph and Ann Hould-Ward (Beauty and the Beast) providing the costumes. But after repeated delays the production failed to complete its capitalization and was finally "indefinitely" postponed.'
Jim Bailey might not have 'played' Broadway (although in a 2009 interview he said he was in the chorus of several Broadway shows) but he certainly 'played' the dames that played Broadway. RIP.

Interesting to see how Carol Burnett sets Jim's performance up
for his first appearance on The Carol Burnett Show. First she
introduces Jim in a tuxedo, explains what he does with pictures,
and finally introduces his performance in full drag. Probably the
only way to get female impersonation on television back in 1972.
Kudos to Carol for introducing Jim to America.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Little Natasha Ryan Cried Last Night

For television movies in the 1970s, the go-to actress to play an emotionally and physically abused little girl was Natasha Ryan. In films like Sybil (playing the title role as a little girl), The Amityville Horror and The Entity (taunted by spirits with James Brolin and Barbara Hershey respectively), the appealing Ms. Ryan left an indelible impression on those who watched her cinematic abuse.

Natasha's most poignant role might be the engrossing and depressing Mary Jane Harper Cried Last Night, in which the child is physically abused by Susan Dey. The television movie (written by Joanna Lee who also wrote Dey's Cage Without A Key) also stars Kevin McCarthy, Priscilla Pointer, Rhea Perlman, Bernie Casey and Tricia O'Neil. It's on YouTube in seven parts and watching it again made me wonder what happened to the embattled Natasha Ryan.

Ryan's last film role was in 1983. The rest of her story was documented in this interview by Cindy Bellinger (who died of cancer in 2012) for the Santa Fe New Mexican. It was published on August 1, 2007 and titled Down the Street: Former Actress Finds Comfort in Glorieta.

This is a story about heading one place and ending up somewhere else. Natasha Ryan left Southern California nearly 14 years ago. "I was on my way to Canada and decided to stop three places," said Ryan. "One was Santa Fe. I liked it, so I stayed for a while. But I was curious about Wisconsin. So I tried that, too. But I came back to Santa Fe." Ryan was 23 at the time.

Now 37, she lives atop a mountain in a cabin with no running water or electricity, but it's home - maybe the only place she's been able to call home since she was a child. "I didn't have a pretty childhood," said Ryan, who was raised by a foster family. Ryan said she worked in movies and television starting at the age of 1; by the time she was 13, she had appeared in 16 movies and television series. TV shows on her resume include Starsky and Hutch and movies include The Entity and The Day Time Ended. From 1975 to 1980 she played the young Hope Alice Williams in the soap opera Days of Our Lives. In 1976, at the age of 6, she played the role of young Sybil in the TV movie about a woman with multiple-personality disorder. When she turned 13, things changed.

"Overnight I became a really fat, pimply, ugly kid, and I wanted to be like other 13-year-olds," she said. "I wanted a mohawk. I wanted to dye my hair and pierce everything. They wouldn't even let you get a tan in the summer. So I quit making movies." Ryan said she was kicked out of her foster home and ended up living on the streets in Venice, Calif. "The whole time I tried not compromising my morals for a burrito, and I tried to sleep," she said. "That's not an easy thing to do for a 14- year-old girl, to find a safe place to sleep." A few others on the streets became her protectors. "I called home several times, but my foster mother wouldn't let me come back," Ryan said. "So I continued living in an old brick building, The Ellison, with a working gigolo and drug addicts."

Many Web sites are devoted to Ryan. "My 15-year-old daughter, Sienna - I named her after a crayon - told me there are a lot of Web sites about me. But I'm completely computer illiterate (and) haven't seen them." After years of doing the "Santa Fe shuffle" - working various jobs such as blowing glass, working with silver and leather and coaching in a gym - Ryan now works in construction. "I fell into the manhole of construction," she said. She and her crew do solar construction, plastering and anything else that needs to be done, and she saves every cent for her daughter's education. "Sienna is 15 and goes to Desert Academy," Ryan said. "Her passion is acting. Guess she got the gene." Her daughter's father lives in Santa Fe, and Ryan said Sienna spends more time there. "She's embarrassed about living in a hippie shack and bringing her friends here," she said. "But I hope some day she'll become part of a back-to-the-Earth revival and thank me."

Ryan found her land in Glorieta when she was teaching a friend's daughter to drive. They went up a steep road and learned the land at the top was for sale. That was that. She said she lives frugally to save money. But some of her earnings will soon be spent on a Russian turtle she got as a gift. "It's only 6 months old, but it needs a climate that's constantly 90 degrees," she said. In the house, all the solar power goes to him. "It's this little guy that'll probably force me onto the grid so I can keep him cozy," Ryan said. "And I'm ready to take a shower in my own house."
Nice to read that little Natasha Ryan is not crying anymore.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How Clara Bow Broke Into The Movies

How I Broke Into The Movies was published in 1930 and contains articles on the title theme written by movie stars of the day like Laura LaPlante, Jean Hersholt, Douglas Fairbanks, Dolores Costello, Richard Dix, Leatrice Joy, and 53 other notable actors. As time goes by, I will be publishing these articles under the umbrella label WORLD INTERNET PREMIERE - because they are.

The first article from the book was published in my blography on Marion Davies. The second article was published in my blography on Colleen Moore - which also announced the WORLD INTERNET PREMIERE of the Moore's 1925 silent film Ella Cinders - newly scored with jazz music of the 1920s. This latest upload reveals the story of how Clara Bow, another flapper of the silent screen (and boisterous actress of many sound films) broke into the movies - in her own words.

Clara Bow is most famous for her performance as the perky and gregarious shop girl in IT and for then becoming known as the IT girl because of it. Elinor Glyn is the English novelist who wrote the book and the screenplay based on it. (Many of her books are available to read on With IT, you win all men if you are a woman and all women if you are a man. IT can be a quality of the mind as well as a physical attraction. Although she is credited with the invention of the term, the concept predates Glyn's book and movie but it was Clara who caused it to have a huge impact on the culture of the 1920s.

IT the full movie starring Clara Bow

How Clara Bow Broke Into The Movies continues after the
WORLD INTERNET PREMIERE of How I Broke Into The Movies by Clara Bow.

How I Broke Into The Movies Clara Bow picture
Right click to open the image in a new tab.

How I Broke Into The Movies by Clara Bow
Right click to open the image in a new tab.

Following the phenomenal success of IT, Clara was the top female star in Hollywood for four years running (1927-1930). This time period included four of her sound films which negates the false impression that she stopped making movies because a thick Brooklyn accent got in the way of her transition to sound. She was actually afraid of the microphone and, because of her ability to make money for the studio, Paramount Pictures pushed her into talking films without training.

Clara sings I'm True To The Navy Now in Paramount on Parade from 1930.
The song was not in Clara's movie of the same name.

The following films can be viewed on I'm guessing the uploader - not me for once - changed the titles to fool the copyright police. All are sound films except for Wings.
  1. Love Among The Millionaires from 1930 is listed as Poor Boy Rich Girl (although the embedded screen title is Rich Boy, Poor Girl). It's a musical romance in which Clara sings! (That's Worthwhile Waiting For, Believe It Or Not, I've Found My Man, Love Among the Millionaires, Rarin' To Go)
  2. The Saturday Night Kid from 1929 is listed as Love 'Em And Leave 'Em. Clara co-stars with the husky-voiced Jean Arthur very early in her career!!
  3. True To The Navy from 1930 is listed as The Girlfriend Of The Navy. Clara's future husband Rex Bell appears as well as Frederic March and uncredited turns from Frances Dee and Louise Beavers!!
  4. The Wild Party from 1930 is listed as Stella's Merits. Clara stars with Frederic March (again) and is directed by Dorothy Arzner!!
  5. Hoop-La from 1933 is listed as (surprise) Hoop-La and is Clara's last movie role. She was 28 when she left Hollywood and made almost as many sound features as she made silent ones.
  6. Wings (a 111 minute version) from 1927 is listed as The Shooting Star. The silent film is available on DVD at it's original length of almost two and a half hours and is the first winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Parisian Love can be viewed here.

Other reasons that contributed to Clara's departure from Hollywood were the lifelong mental health issues from which she suffered, enduring many stays in the sanitarium and shock treatments. She also went through a media circus when she charged her secretary Daisy DeVoe with financial mismanagement; DeVoe spouted many personal and damaging details about Clara while on the stand and the scandal sheets ate it up.

Rare film footage of Clara Bow in color

One (of many) falsehood(s) that followed Bow throughout her life (and was published in the gossip tome Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger) was that she bedded the entire University Of Southern California football team. Her on-screen wrestling match with a very well-endowed, male Great Dane dog in the 1933 talkie Call Her Savage probably did not help her in the eyes of the increasingly puritanical American public. She left Hollywood around the same time the Production Code was put into place and lived quietly with Bell (who also left Hollywood for a career in politics). They had two children and Bow died in 1965 from a heart attack.

Clara Bow: Discovering the IT Girl, TCM documentary

Get Your Man a 1927 silent film, literally as this version has no musical soundtrack

This interview was published in a 1929 book by Lee Shippey called Personal Glimpses of Famous Folks and Other Selections from the Lee Side o' L.A.

I found this PDF on Dr. Macro's wonderful movie scan site
and uploaded it to for safe keeping.

Follow my board Clara Bow on Pinterest.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Sugar-free Vegan Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

These (processed) sugar free vegan oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are delicious and very simple to make. Yes there are 14 steps in the recipe but I'm a technical writer so I have to make sure the process is completely and explicitly explained. A normal chef would write this recipe in five steps. (Rolled oats are gluten free unless processed in a facility which also processes glutenous grains like wheat so be sure to check the packaging on your oats if you want to be sure this cookie is gluten free.)

  • 1 cup dates, packed
  • 1 mushed up banana
  • 2 Tbsp all natural almond butter or peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup nut meal (ground from raw nuts: almonds, pecans, etc.)
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • Add-ins: dried fruit, dairy-free chocolate chips, flaxseed, seeds, coconut, nut pieces

  1. Soak the dates for about an hour in a bowl of warm water.
  2. Drain the dates.
  3. Chop the dates, drop them in a bowl and mush them up.
    When finished, they should almost (but not quite) be the consistency of a mushed up banana.
  4. Speaking of a mushed up banana, add it and the almond butter to the dates and mix until combined.
  5. Add the nut meal and rolled oats.
    I grind the nuts in a dedicated coffee bean grinder I use for nuts, flax seeds and the like.
  6. Mix the mush until a loose dough is formed.
    It should be wet and sticky. If it feels too wet to form into cookies, add more almond meal and/or oats.
  7. Add 1/4 cup of your chosen add-in: dairy-free dark chocolate chips, raisins or nuts.
    I've also added a handful of blueberries or a chopped up pear and neither made the dough any less sticky.
  8. Chill the dough for 10 minutes while preheating the oven to 375 degrees F.
  9. At 10 minutes, mix the dough and chill it for another 10 minutes.
  10. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  11. Scoop out 1 Tbsp amounts of the cookie dough and form into loose discs on the baking sheet.
    They won’t expand so you can pack them close together (but not touching).
  12. Bake for 20-35 minutes or until golden brown and somewhat firm to the touch.
    The amount of time is dependent on how thick your cookie scoops are. The thicker they are, the more time in the oven.
  13. Remove and let set for a few minutes on the pan, then carefully transfer to a plate or cooling rack to cool. Serve immediately.
  14. Store leftovers in an airtight container for several days, or move to the fridge or freezer for longer term storage.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Hazel: The Maid With The Most

Miss Hazel Burke is a single white female who lives with, and works for, George and Dorothy Baxter and their young son, Harold. As chief cook and bottle washer she makes between $75 and $100 per week (including raises) and lives rent-free in a small room off the kitchen of the Baxter residence at 123 Marshall Road in Hydsberg, New York. She is a gregarious busybody with a penchant for telling old jokes and socializing with the other maids in the neighborhood in a collective known as The Sunshine Girls. Hazel's Social Security number is 111-07-7619 which tells us her card was issued somewhere between 1936 and 1950.

Despite having a Social Security number*, Hazel is not a real person but a cartoon from Ted Key, who created the single panel series in 1943 from a dream he had. The print Hazel, published in The Saturday Evening Post, was a huge success and Key was approached to adapt the cartoon for television. The television Hazel debuted in the fall of 1961 and was also a huge hit, ending its first year as the fourth most popular television program in the United States. Its run ended in 1966 after 154 episodes aired on two different networks. Since watching the luminous Shirley Booth in the decidedly charming and criminally underrated film About Mrs. Leslie, and remembering her heartbreaking, Tony and Oscar-winning performance in Come Back Little Sheba, I decided to revisit the actress's most famous role in a binge of the series - available on Shout Factory DVDs.

Hazel is a well-written, nicely-paced, emotionally satisfying piece of television history. The characters are appealing, intelligent and funny and the situations are somewhat atypical for a series from the early 1960s. Some of the themes the series addresses include civic pride, immigration, diet/health, women's rights, divorce, commercialism, class, politics, and racial equality. Although the story templates can be somewhat derivative, each episode ties itself up nicely with some of the story lines even crossing over.

Hazel theme with lyrics by Sammy Cahn, music by James Van Heusen, sung by the Modernaires
only used in the closing credits of the first two episodes of season one

The first four seasons (which ran Thursday nights on NBC at 9:30 PM) follow the proud Miss as she corrects those who deem to call her Mrs., cooks exemplary food, cleans the house (next door to Samantha and Darren Stephens of Bewitched), runs to answer the telephone, causes (and resolves) havoc for Mr. B (her loving but exasperated employer), helps Missy raise the tow-headed Sport (as she helped Missy's mother before her), bowls an almost perfect game, pals around with her compatriot in cleanliness Rosie, sings with the Sunshine Girls Quartet, increases her vocabulary, helps the dotty Johnson neighbors, infuriates Deirdre (Mr. B’s uppity sister), feeds the blustery Mr. Griffin, dates some eligible gentlemen, rejects a few marriage proposals, turns down successful business ventures to stay with the Baxters, and generally runs the city in which everyone just calls me Hazel.

Although William D. Russell directed every episode of seasons 1 to 4, several more in season 5 and deserves infinite kudos for keeping a consistent tone, it is Shirley Booth who is the heart and soul of the show. Ms. Booth can make you laugh, cry and jump for joy with one line of dialog. Her Hazel is proud and charitable, defiant and warm, nosy and helpful; one can't help but become involved in the shenanigans she causes for family, friends and town folk. Shirley summed up her feelings about Hazel in The Saturday Evening Post. Judging from her words Hazel predates Seinfeld as a show about nothing by thirty years.
Good situation comedy makes the audience feel that the things that happen in their daily lives are important. By dramatizing these things -- actions as commonplace, perhaps, as cleaning out a closet or washing the dishes -- a show can make their lives more interesting.

Hazel also subtly addressed women's rights. Dorothy Baxter is a mother with her own interior decorating business; this allows her to be home and to work. She was often found working in her studio or hosting guest star clients. Over its five seasons, Hazel had numerous guest stars who went on to, or were plucked from, established acting careers. Many of the following played recurring characters.
  • Diane Ladd (original Flo in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore) plays one of Mr. B’s many cousins, Sharlene.
  • Harold Gould (Rhoda, The Golden Girls) appears in several seasons
  • Robby the Robot (Forbidden Planet) appears as a maid in Hazel’s nightmare.
  • Maidie Norman (The Well, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, Airport ’77) is approached by Hazel to sign a petition to keep industry from razing a city park - if she is registered to vote. Ms. Norman, an African American woman, is registered. (I also spotted an African-American mailman and county employee in episodes of season 5.)

  • Harvey Korman (The Carol Burnett Show, Blazing Saddles)
  • James Stacy (Cagney and Lacey)
  • Philip Ober (Vivian Vance's husband, I Love Lucy)
  • Doris Singleton (Carolyn Appleby in I Love Lucy)
  • Lurene Tuttle (Julia, vaudeville, radio)
  • Ellen Corby (The Waltons)
  • Jamie Farr (MASH)
  • Alan Hale, Jr. (Gilligan's Island)
  • Barbara Shelley (Village Of The Damned)
  • Mabel Albertson (Jack Albertson's sister, What's Up Doc)
  • William Schallert (The Patty Duke Show)
  • Ken Berry (Mayberry RFD, Mama's Family)
  • Dabney Coleman (9 to 5, Buffalo Bill)
  • Leif Erickson (westerns among other gigs)
  • Frank Gifford (football) plays himself looking to buy a bowling alley
  • Claude Akins (Movin’ On, BJ and the Bear)
  • Lee Meriweather (Miss America, Batman)
  • Jack Dodson (The Andy Griffith Show, Mayberry R.F.D.)
  • Bonnie Franklin has an uncredited walk-on in season five. Ironically ten years later she would star in One Day At A Time, the CBS situation comedy created and written by Whitney Blake. Blake herself was nixed for the part as being too old, much to her consternation.
  • Don Kirshner (Rock Concert) is credited as a music consultant

This pilot episode features Edward Andrews as Mr. B
the part played in the series by Don DeFore

The regular members of the cast are also uniformly excellent (especially Don DeFore and Cathy Lewis holding their own against the powerhouse Booth) and deserve mention.
  • George Mr. B Baxter (1961-1965) ... Don DeFore (wonderfully plays an endearing foil to Hazel)
  • Dorothy Missy Baxter (1961-1965) ... Whitney Blake (a stunningly beautiful woman whose graciousness and love for Hazel shines)
  • Harold Sport Baxter ... Bobby Buntrock (a charming child actor who died in a car accident at the age of 22, eight years after the series end)
  • Rosie ... Maudie Prickett (Prickett plays kind-of prickly)
  • Harvey Griffin ... Howard Smith (one of Mr. B's many clients and Hazel's many suitors)
  • Deirdre Thompson (1961-1965) ... Cathy Lewis (played to the hilt by the underrated Lewis, Mr. B's snooty sister can never quite one up Hazel - not for lack of trying)
  • Harriet Johnson (1961-1965) ... Norma Varden (wonderfully dotty)
  • Herbert Johnson (1961-1965) ... Donald Foster (wonderfully dotty too)
  • Harry Thompson (1961-1965) ... Robert P. Lieb
  • Steve Baxter (1965-1966) ... Ray Fulmer
  • Barbara Baxter (1965-1966) ... Lynn Borden
  • Susie Baxter (1965-1966) ... Julia Benjamin
  • Millie Ballard (1965-1966) ... Ann Jillian (It's A Living, Mae West)
  • Mona Williams (1965-1966) ... Mala Powers
  • Fred Williams (1965-1966) ... Charles Bateman
  • Jeff Williams (1965-1966) ... Pat Cardi
  • Smiley the dog (Harold's pet)
  • Black cat (Susie's pet)
Special kudos to William D. Russell who directed 136 of 154 episodes: all of seasons 1 through 4 and 11 of 29 in season 5.

The ratings dropped from #4 in season one to Top 30 in season four when NBC cancelled it. Shirley Booth purchased the rights and worked out a deal with CBS for another season. Season five was to follow The Andy Griffith Show on Monday nights at 9:30 PM. After looking at the payroll, Booth and the other producers decided not to renew the contracts of DeFore and Blake. CBS was also looking for younger demographics so George and Dorothy were sent overseas and younger actors were hired for the roles of Steve and Barbara Baxter, George's brother and wife, who became Harold's caretakers. Bobby Buntrock didn't make a lot of money so dropping him wouldn't have balanced the budget and keeping him preserved continuity.

The context of the season five episodes stayed the same: Hazel works for a blustery (albeit younger) man of the house and his pretty blonde wife. The role of George and Steve Baxter's snooty sister Deirdre was even usurped by Barbara Baxter's friend Mona Williams who, with her husband Fred and son Jeff, lived next door and appeared in a number of episodes. (Thankfully, Cathy Lewis makes several season 5 appearances as well.) Most surprisingly, Hazel gets out of her uniform quite a bit to sell houses for the younger Baxter's real estate office - even dressing as a beatnik in My Son, The Sheepdog, the series' ode to rock and roll. Ultimately though, season five ratings were worse than season four and Hazel was cancelled for a second time.

From baking cookies to driving the Baxters to paying a toll Hazel
filmed a myriad of opening credits. Here is a mashup of five seasons worth.

Most recently, the story of how Hazel found her way to the Baxters has been revamped as a musical with music by Ron Abel, lyrics by Chuck Steffan and book by Lissa Levin. (In the 1950s, Key adapted his cartoon into a play which Booth read; reportedly, she liked the character but didn't think the play held up for two hours.) Hazel, A Musical Maid in America was showcased for producers (with direction by situation comedy and theatre veteran Lucie Arnaz) in October, 2014. The latest news brings it to Broadway sometime in 2015. Only time will tell if the Maid With The Most can match the success of her print and television runs with a live action run on the boards.


Season Four of the Hazel DVD set released by Shout Factory contains digital ephemera in the form of a Screen Gems promotional booklet for potential advertisers of the television series. It contains text about the show and the characters, some Ted Key illustrations and a preface by Peter Key, the cartoonist's son. I probably shouldn't have done this (since it's not technically public domain) but I've put this booklet to PDF. Email me for a download link.

*Hazel's Social Security number is revealed when she takes a part time job in Masterson's Department Store (season 1, episode 12).

See my Pinterest page for more pictures of Shirley Booth and the cast of Hazel.

Follow Michael,'s board Hazel, the Maid with the Most on Pinterest.

See Peggy J. Shumate's Pinterest page for even more pictures of Shirley Booth and Hazel.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Download Free Music From Your Library

Do you have a library card?

li·brary kard noun \ˈlī-ˌbrer-ē kard, -ˌbre-rē kard; British usually & US sometimes : identification that permits someone to temporarily take home literary, musical, artistic, or reference materials (as books, manuscripts, recordings, or films) that are kept in a building and are for use but not for sale
I have a library card with the New York Public Library system. On my first perusal of the library system's web site one year ago this week, I found a link that lead me to Free Music! allows anyone with a current library card to download three songs a week for free. These songs are 256 kbps, in the MP3 format and contain no DRM encoding. In my recent searches I have seen some music that is currently out-of-print but still downloadable from the library system - which must have some ragged old compact disc in a dusty branch somewhere. What a treat!
Freegal also allows logged in users to stream three hours of music a day. FREE!
To find out if you can download and stream using Freegal Music, you'll have to search the web site of your local library to see if they partner with Freegal. You can connect to the web site from the New York Public Library site using this link and check out the music selection ... but cannot log in (or download) without a valid library card. Recently I've downloaded:

  • Carrie Underwood
  • Mark Ronson
  • Hozier
  • Michael Jackson
  • Bob Dylan
  • Kaye Ballard
  • Barbra Streisand
  • Foo Fighters
  • Beyonce
  • Elvis Presley
  • Pink Floyd
  • Miley Cyrus
  • Daft Punk
  • Pitbull
  • Miles Davis
  • Meghan Trainor

There's also an app for it! The Freegal App allows you to search and browse the Freegal Music collection of your library, and to download, store and play your Freegal MP3 files on your smartphone. OverDrive is another service. It is a virtual check out/return catalog of digital books and music. Good for Kindle/eBook/audiobook users. Not sure how the return actually works but I have no doubt that it does.

This information was originally published when I saw this sign, splashed with a picture of Leona Lewis, that I found in the Rose Garden branch of the San Jose Public Library when I lived on the left coast.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

How Colleen Moore Broke Into The Movies

Portrait from How I Broke Into The Movies

With the recent discovery, restoration, and availability on Warner Archive disc of Why Be Good? and Synthetic Sin, I thought this an opportune time to post the second world internet premiere from the book How I Broke Into The Movies. How I Broke Into The Movies was published in 1930 and contains articles on the title theme written by movie stars of the day like Joan Crawford, Buster Keaton, Mary Pickford, Clara Bow, Al Jolson, Greta Garbo, and 53 other notable actors. The first article from the book was published in my posting on Marion Davies. This second article was written by the inimitable flapper with the black helmet who starred in the discovered films previously mentioned, and might possibly be the first time (although not the last time) that Colleen Moore took pen to paper as a published writer.

This article continues after the WORLD INTERNET PREMIERE break.

How I Broke Into The Movies by Colleen Moore
Right click to open the image in a new tab.

Why Be Good? and Synthetic Sin are the last silent films Colleen made - although technically they are sound synchronized. In the time following Al Jolson's history-making You ain't heard nothin' yet, studios were transitioning to sound by releasing silent films with timed music and sound effects recorded to shellac discs. The disc was started when the movie began and thus movie and sound were synchronized. Why Be Good? and Synthetic Sin were both discovered in an Italian archive almost ten years ago; fortunately, the Vitaphone discs for Why Be Good? were complete and available but only the final disc of Synthetic Sin was found. For the theatrical showings and on disc, Why Be Good? is sound synchronized while Synthetic Sin has a piano score until the last reel when the disc is used.*

These pictures of domestic goddess Moore were published
in the January 1922 issue of Pantomime magazine.

Colleen's career started in 1917 with an appearance in The Bad Boy. She, like many other actresses of the time, wore her hair in long curls to emulate the most successful and highest paid actress of the time, Mary Pickford. It wasn't until 1923 when Colleen was begging First National Studio for the starring role in their film of the best-selling novel Flaming Youth that her mother offered this sage advice: Why don't we cut your hair and then make [the studio] give you a test for the part? Out came the scissors, Colleen got the part and Flaming Youth became her biggest film hit to date. The film made Colleen Moore a huge star (and for a time the highest paid actress in Hollywood). Girls everywhere cut their hair into a Dutch bob and copied her style of dress. Before Clara Bow, Louise Brooks and Joan Crawford, Colleen was the quintessential flapper.

This clip is all that remains of Flaming Youth the
film that put Colleen Moore, and flapperdom, on the map.

Several other films with Colleen are available online including the WORLD INTERNET PREMIERE of the (public domain) silent film Ella Cinders which I've (personally) scored using (public domain) jazz tunes from the 1920s courtesy of Ella Cinders was a huge hit for Colleen in 1926. Based on the popular comic strip of the time (and the tale of Cinderella), Ella Cinders enters her hometown beauty contest to win a chance to make movies in Hollywood. Of course, there's a mean stepmother and two ugly stepsisters as well as a ball and a handsome prince, and Colleen excels as the put-upon Ella. At this point, her skill as an actress had been honed for almost ten years and her comic mug as she learns to act from a book (similar to the scene of Marion Davies' acting mug in Show People) is classic. Colleen is poignant, pretty and priceless.


I've uploaded Colleen Moore's Ella Cinders with a custom score
using jazz tunes from the 1920s to both and YouTube.
A list of the songs and artists is below.*

The Scarlet Letter is Colleen's last film, a 1934 talking version of the Nathaniel Hawthorne novel. It's a mashup of a movie, starting with humor and then veering down the dramatic path with the classic story of adultery. Colleen is fine in her performance but the movie is a little too mundane to be engrossing, coming down to a curio best viewed by fans of Colleen Moore.

The Power And The Glory was the first screenplay written by Preston Sturges to be made into a movie, and won the 1933 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The film is often cited as a precursor in narrative style and theme to Citizen Kane. Colleen herself has called it out as her best and she is wonderful in an understated performance (aging from her 20s to her 60s) playing off her equally skilled co-star Spencer Tracey. The version available on YouTube looks to be from television with hard-coded Spanish subtitles (the credits are not original) and can be seen in six parts.

Colleen Moore was a smart woman and realized the historical significance of the motion picture business and her involvement in it. In 1944, she donated fifteen of her movies to the Museum of Modern Art where she felt they would be stored and protected. Unfortunately, MOMA did no such thing and the films were left to rot when they were finally discovered again in the 1970s. Thus, many of Colleen's films, if available, are incomplete and in poor condition. This is why the discovery and restoration of Why Be Good? and Synthetic Sin has been celebrated.

Colleen left acting after The Scarlet Letter and turned her talents to a hobby that she had since childhood: dollhouses. Her love for dollhouses started when she was four years of age and her father made her one out of cigar boxes. Over time, he made three more and Colleen began collecting miniatures for the houses. Kathleen's Collection (as it was called) continued into adulthood and bade her father to ask one day in 1928 Why don't we build a fairy castle to house your collection? The set designers and construction people of First National Studio became the architects of what was referred to as Colleen's Folly. The interior has running water and electricity, solid gold chandeliers (studded with diamonds and emeralds), scores copied in tiny notes by composers such as Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Irving Berlin and George Gershwin and leather-bound miniature books written in small-scale handwriting by Noel Coward, Sinclair Lewis, Thornton Wilder, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edna Ferber and John Steinbeck (among others). You will also see glass slippers small enough to fit a 5-inch tall Cinderella, a pistol so small enough to fire tiny silver bullets, a floating spiral staircase, unsupported and a carved ivory floor. Now referred to as Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle, it has a scale of one inch to one foot and has been on display at the Museum of Science and Technology in Chicago since 1949.

In 1968, Colleen published her autobiography called Silent Star. Although it certainly dealt with her films and marriages (three to the point at which it was published), she also recounts many stories of other actors that she lived through first hand or heard from others. She recounts among other infamous tales, the Fatty Arbuckle trials, the William Desmond Taylor murder, Wallace Reid's drug addiction and death, Mack Sennett and Mabel Normand, D.W. Griffith's fall from Hollywood grace, and the marriage of Jean Harlow and Paul Bern. It's a fascinating and charming look at the early days of Hollywood and the writing reflects Colleen's effervescence.

Having spent her post-Hollywood years earning a living in real estate and finance, the publisher of Silent Star asked her to pen a second book and in 1969, she published How Women Can Make Money in the Stock Market. In 1986 a third book was published in which Colleen played a major role. In 1967 King Vidor (a lifelong friend who also directed Colleen in The Sky Pilot in 1921) started researching the unsolved murder of William Desmond Taylor for a movie that financial whiz Colleen would produce. The film never came to fruition but Vidor's boxes of research were found after his death and became the nucleus for the best-selling book A Cast Of Killers by Sidney D. Kirkpatrick.

Colleen had no children of her own but was mother to the children of Homer Hargrave, her third husband who died in 1965; they had been married since 1936. In 1982, she married for a fourth time. She died six years later of stomach cancer, leaving behind a legacy of laughter, wonder and imagination.

This interview was published in a 1929 book by Lee Shippey called
Personal Glimpses of Famous Folks and Other Selections from the Lee Side o' L.A..

This interview was published in the March 1922 issue
of Pantomime magazine, an early Hollywood fan magazine.

See my Pinterest page for a slew of
pictures of Colleen from throughout her life and career.

*For more information on sound synchronized films, see the Vitaphone Project. Other Colleen Moore web sites include The Silent Collection featuring Colleen Moore and The Colleen Moore Project.

*Listing of songs used in Ella Cinders:

Friday, December 12, 2014

What is Art ... Amnesty?

Courtyard at MOMA PS1

As I warmed in the dinette with a cup of tea at MOMA PS1, the Long Island City adjunct to the Museum of Modern Art, the smell of hot lunch permeated the once-upon-a-time school building and the lining of my stomach, the latter causing some quiet growling. My friend arrived and we traversed the galleries finding ourselves fascinated by (the exhibits) Zero Tolerance, Samara Golden's The Flat Side of the Knife, Francesco Vezzoli's Teatro Romano and The Little Things Could Be Dearer. Nothing caused more discussion and consternation though than Bob and Roberta Smith's Art Amnesty. Art Amnesty begins in the museum courtyard with four dumpsters marked THROW YOUR ART AWAY. Somewhat perplexing but when we walked into the Art Amnesty gallery, I put two and two together, came up with four, and found a fascinating concept. According to the guidelines @BobandRoberta:
... are offering an opportunity for artists to dispose of their artwork at MoMA PS1, and to retire from making art. Beginning October 2, artists are invited to deposit their art in dumpsters located in the museum’s courtyard, which will be emptied as needed throughout the period of the Art Amnesty. Those who wish to exhibit their work one final time before it is destroyed may bring their art to the 2nd Floor Main Galleries, where museum staff will install it for public view. The museum will accept work under the Art Amnesty during regular hours, subject to certain restrictions outlined in the submission guidelines. The exhibition reprises and expands upon their Art Amnesty originally presented at Pierogi Gallery in 2002.

from Art Amnesty

The Art Amnesty gallery displays a lot of art; some of the larger pieces are actually very good, a scattered few wouldn't be out of place on their mother's refrigerator and much is very bad but all of it will be disposed of when the exhibit closes on March 8, 2015. There is some real garbage including a Merrel brand shoe marked as Champs that someone removed in the museum and a banana peel enclosed in an empty plantain chips bags. The exhibit seeks to answer the questions:
Why are some people artists while others are not? Was Joseph Beuys an idiot when he said everyone is an artist? Do artists think they are a cut above the rest of us? Are the arts a good in themselves, or is it much, much, more complicated than that?

from Art Amnesty

As I walked around the gallery I wanted to contribute. I surmised that the use of the word amnesty gives anyone the right to offer up art. At the very least I would've brought in a tshirt I designed for my crew d'tees line just to hang it in a nationally recognized museum - adjunct. But alas, all I could do was leave the gallery and visit the bathroom. I was still hungry so I ate a banana I had while listening to my friend urinate. When he had zipped up, I said that I should bring my banana peel into Art Amnesty. He was somewhat aghast but I countered that the point of the exhibit is amnesty, defined as a forgetting or overlooking of any past offense; in this case the offense being whatever the artist deems to be art. After some discussion, my friend pulled an empty bag of plantain chips out of his jacket pocket and said I might as well use this garbage too. When I realized that bananas and plantains were of the same fruit family but used (primarily) in different cultures I realized that by putting the banana peel into the plantain chip bag I was illustrating global assimilation. Much to my friend's consternation my art had turned into a collaborative piece.

Global Assimil- ation in Art Amnesty

I walked into the gallery and started explaining my thought process to the docent before asking if he really wanted to hear my thought process. He replied in the affirmative so I told him everything and he was perfectly fine with it - even smiling. Then I asked if he had some paper I could tape the bag to. He handed me a sheet and a stapler. Then I asked for a pen so I could title it. He directed me to a table with colored pencils and crayons and said I could use whatever was there. (Much of the art work in the gallery had obviously been done at this table.) So I wrote three lines on my paper:
  • GLOBAL in yellow signifying the sun
  • ASSIMIL- in blue signifying the sky
  • ATION in brown signifying the earth
I handed my art to the docent, filled out my I NEVER WANT TO SEE THIS WORK OF ART AGAIN pledge, signed the I WILL ENCOURAGE CHILDREN TO BE ALL THAT THEY CAN BE. CHOOSE ART AT SCHOOL. pledge (which is to be mailed to Jeb Bush), and my art was hung up (fittingly) next to the art work that I had deemed my favorite when I first walked through the gallery.

from Art Amnesty

As we walked home, my friend was resolute in his disgust. He said what I hung up was garbage, plain and simple. (What about the shoe? The Shoe!) No matter how much verbal diarrhea I explicated, my friend could not grasp the concept of Art Amnesty: that using the word amnesty in the exhibit's name allows anyone and everyone to contribute art, precluding judgment on said art and allowing anyone and everyone to proudly proclaim I am an artist. I might even go back with one of my crew d'tees tshirts!

PS: The day after my validation as an artist at MOMA PS1 I went grocery shopping and was asked to sign my credit card slip. When I handed the signed slip back to the cashier she told me I had the signature of an artist. That's two validations as an artist in one week!

Teatro Romano

Mirrors as The Flat Side of the Knife

from Zero Tolerance

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Fast & Easy & Spicy (Oh My) Pumpkin Seeds

  • 2 cups raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt (crushed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (crushed)

  1. Preheat oven to 250°
  2. Crush the salt and red pepper flakes using your mortar and pestle
  3. Combine all spices in a small bowl
  4. Toss raw pumpkin seeds in oil/hot sauce mixture
  5. Add spice mixture to seeds, tossing all as you pour
  6. Bake seeds on foil covered cookie sheet for 50 minutes, tossing the seeds with a spatula every ten minutes or so
  7. Refrigerate water with ice cubes for medicinal purposes

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Brief History of Plastic Surgery in Hollywood


In 1927, Hal Roach releases Anything Once a Mabel Normand short in which Nora Hayden plays the rich Mrs. De Puyster who has a face lift in anticipation of presenting herself at the costume cotillion. Ms. Normand plays the dry cleaner's assistant saddled with the task of bringing the cleaned costume to Mrs. De Puyster's home. Knowing how Mabel can be, hijinks ensue.

See Mabel Normand in the two reeler on


In 1973, Elizabeth Taylor has a face lift in the hopes of saving her marriage (to Henry Fonda in a small, yet pivotal role). The film was considered quite controversial back in the day for its interpolation of graphic footage of a face lift procedure.

See Elizabeth Taylor in Ash Wednesday on YouTube
or email me for a link to download a VHS rip.


In 2014, Renée Zellweger walks the red carpet after years out of the spotlight.

Bonus: Totie Fields Talks Plastic Surgery

In what looks to be the late 1960s Merv Griffin had discussions with plastic surgeon Dr. Kurt Wagner on his eponymously titled talk show. Guests included Victor Borge and Totie Fields. Totie Fields is a big supporter of plastic surgery. Interestingly many believe that it was the plastic surgery she had on her eyes which initiated the health issues that lead to her death. For more information on the life and career of comedian Totie Fields, see Totie Fields: A Blography.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

How Marion Davies Broke Into The Movies

Portrait from How I Broke Into The Movies

The best silent film actors allow the viewer to hear their voices despite the silence (and the piano); this talent makes Marion Davies one of the loudest of the era. Watching her lampoon her own image in King Vidor's superlative 1928 comedy Show People is a revelation. As Peggy Pepper she conveys naiveté, passion, humor, poignance and arrogance without uttering a sound. This becomes even more fascinating when you read her 1975 (transcribed from tape) autobiography The Times We Had. When she speaks of her time as a performer - which started on the stage at 13 years young - she remembers only how bad she was.

Even before meeting William Randolph Hearst, the man who became her benefactor, mentor, and life-long lover, Marion's career was in gear. She had always wanted to be a performer and followed in the footsteps of her older sister as a pony girl (small dancer of any age), a chorine and a Ziegfeld showgirl in the New York theatre. By 1917, she had written a photoplay called Runaway Romany; the script was directed by her brother-in-law and gave Marion her first (starring) role in pictures.

The article continues after this WORLD INTERNET PREMIERE

This is an article written by Ms. Davies for a book published in 1930 called
How I Broke Into The Movies. It contains similarly written articles by Joan
Crawford, Buster Keaton, Mary Pickford, Clara Bow, Al Jolson, Greta Garbo
and 53 other notable actors. Right click to open the image in a new tab.

Marion's affair with the married William Randolph Hearst was fodder for gossip columnists throughout her life. Initially it was their relationship alone and the 25 years age difference. In the early 20s came the death of Thomas Ince aboard the Hearst yacht (fictionalized in the 1997 play The Cat's Meow) and the financial success of her (Hearst produced) Cosmopolitan Pictures dramatic vehicles such as When Knighthood Was In Flower and Little Old New York. In the later 20s, Hearst and Davies were building the Santa Monica Beach House in Southern California and Hearst Castle at San Simeon in Northern California while Marion's career rose to even greater heights, financially and critically, with breakout comedy roles in Quality Street, The Patsy and the aforementioned Show People.

The full movie is on

When films started to speak, Marion was worried about her transition. She had always fought a childhood stutter - way into adulthood - and didn't think she could speak lines without it getting in the way. But she did! Although none of her sound pictures reached the classic heights of her silents, she co-starred with some of the (soon to be) biggest stars in Hollywood: Bing Crosby in Going Hollywood (1933), Gary Cooper in Operator 13 (1934), Clark Gable in Polly Of The Circus (1932), Dick Powell in the Napoleonic era semi-musical Hearts Divided (1936), Cain and Mabel (1936) and Robert Montgomery in Ever Since Eve, her last film made in 1937. (Davies is also credited as producer on many of her films, both silent and talkers.)

This clip from the 1930 musical The Florodora Girl
not only shows her comic expertise and musical
background but proves Marion was game for anything.

In 1941, a film was released that cemented a skewed image of Marion in the minds of the public for decades to follow. Orson Welles' Citizen Kane concerned the titular newspaper magnate and his no-talent wife Susan Alexander. Because it was commonly agreed that Kane was a thinly veiled version of Hearst, it came to be that Alexander must be a thinly veiled version of Davies. With a poor self-image, Marion herself undoubtedly believed the gossip.

Fortunately, Welles himself set the record straight in the foreword he wrote to Marion's autobiography. And in 1992 This is Orson Welles, a book by Welles and Peter Bogdanovich (director of the 2001 film version of The Cat's Meow) confirmed that Samuel Insull's building of the Chicago Opera House, and business tycoon Harold Fowler McCormick's lavish promotion of the opera career of his second wife, were direct influences on the Citizen Kane screenplay. Welles called Marion an extraordinary woman.

After leaving her career, Marion spent the rest of her life caring for the elderly Hearst (who died in 1951) and doing charity work. Davies had always been a very astute business woman, investing in California real estate rather than the stock market; this simple decision left her very well off and she even gave $1 million to Hearst himself at a time during the 1930s depression era when his fortunes were turning to bankruptcy.

Marion married 11 weeks after Hearst's death. It is said that Horace Brown encouraged her drinking - which was always somewhat out of control. (Hearst was a teetotaler.) Although she filed for divorce twice it was never finalized before Marion died of stomach cancer on September 22, 1961.

An odd postscript to the Hearst/Davies love story became a newspaper headline on October 3, 1993 when Marion's niece Patricia Lake died of lung cancer. Part of the decades of gossip concerned Ms. Lake who is the daughter of Marion's sister Rose. Right before her death she proclaimed that she was indeed the daughter of Davies and Hearst; Marion had told her this when she was a young girl of 11 and Hearst confirmed it on her wedding day when the couple gave her away. Although published in her obituary, the claim could never be verified and has never been commented on by the Hearst family.


The relationship of Davies and Hearst was fictionalized in the 1985 television movie
The Hearst and Davies Affair starring Robert Mitchum and Virginia Madsen.
The movie is not great but tries hard. If you're a fan of Marion it is very watchable
with Virginia Madsen turning in a charming performance. It has never been released
digitally but if you'd like a rip of the VHS tape, leave a comment with your email.
I also have downloads of the out-of-print (and unavailable elsewhere) When
Knighthood Was In Flower
, Quality Street, Marianne and several others.

More Marion Davies digital ephemera including a documentary on her life

The Brat starring Marion Davies and Joel McCrea aired
as an episode of the Lux Radio Theater on July 13, 1936.

See my Pinterest page for a slew of
pictures of Marion from throughout her life and career.

Finally, Captured on Film: The True Story of Marion Davies was produced in 2001
and narrated by Charlize Theron. Out of print, the DVD goes for hundreds of dollars but
the documentary is available for viewing on MySpace. Watch it now before it's removed!