Friday, December 28, 2012

The Mark of Zorro

Many actors have played Zorro on film from Douglas Fairbanks, Sr to Tyrone Power to Guy Williams to Alain Delon, George Hamilton and Antonio Banderas. One person who SHOULD have been good at it, the actor who played the gothic hero version of Count Dracula onstage and on film, was actor Frank Langella in this seventies TV incarnation. If only the costumers hadn't betrayed him by coming up with the stupid mask seen here that makes him look incredibly wimpy as swashbucklers go.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Fireball XL5/ R.I.P. Gerry Anderson

Gerry Anderson's name was one of the very first I recognized as someone who made TV shows I liked...even though I couldn't read it! At 4 my favorite shows were SUPERCAR and STINGRAY. I still have drawings I made of both between 1964 and 1966. By '65, however, it was FIREBALL XL5 all the way for me! I had the books, the toys and I never missed the series. We never got THUNDERBIRDS in this market so it would be years before I saw that classic program but Steve Zodiac was certainly an early hero to was Gerry Anderson.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

9 to 5

The best thing about this low-rent TV adaptation of the high profile, star-studded comedy of the same name is this introductory ad by MAD founders Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

R.I.P. Jack Klugman

One of the great television ACTORS, Jack Klugman will no doubt be remembered for his gruff characterizations as Oscar Madison and Quincy but when one looks at the whole of his career, it becomes quickly obvious there was so much more to him than that. In his life, too, he served as an inspiration to many who were written off. Rest in Peace, sir, and thanks for all the great memories.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Worst TV Guide Cover Ever? 1970

Here, from an interior photoshoot featuring actress Julie Sommars (THE GOVERNOR AND JJ) with exotic animals is an absolutely stunning shot that the TV star may well have expected to find on the mag's cover the following week. Instead, for some reason, it was decided to use a photo snapped just seconds later. Yikes!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Carpenters at Christmas-1977

Perhaps inevitably, the success of The Carpenters as a recording act led to Richard and Karen headlining several TV specials. Despite the fact that the brother/sister act couldn't read lines at all, their amazing talents and personal charisma made them quite successful. Here, from 1977, is a very musical holiday special with guest stars Harvey Korman and Kukla and Ollie (sans Fran). Settle back and revel in that angelic voice of Karen's.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Frosty the Snowman

The last great Christmas TV special of the sixties, FROSTY THE SNOWMAN was from Rankin and Bass, the folks who had previously brought you RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER and many other great programs. The designs were by the inimitable Paul Coker, Jr whose work was recognizable to many of us from MAD.

The great voice cast included Jimmy Durante, Billy De Wolfe, June Foray and Paul Frees but, as the title character, deadpan comedian Jackie Vernon in the role of his career.

Despite a number of sequels, it's the original that's become a classic.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Bernard and the Genie

In the early 1990's, I first caught BERNARD AND THE GENIE on US cable but it was, in fact, a UK TV film from 1991. I enjoyed it immensely at the time but never saw it again in the ensuing years. I did, however, see its three stars again, two of whom I saw for the very first time in this film.

Alan Cumming plays the normal guy in the film, Bernard. In real life, his astronomically successful career can hardly be described as "normal." Awarded "Best Television Newcomer for BERNARD AND THE GENIE," he went on to alternate between television, stage and International screen roles including an award-winning turn as the emcee in CABARET and Nightcrawler of THE X-MEN.

Lenny Henry, the genie, was already well-known in England both for stand-up and sketch comedy. The same year he did BERNARD..., he flopped at the box office in TRUE IDENTITY, a big-screen US comedy that missed his appeal almost entirely and attempted to remake him over as an American. He went on to do several series of the popular CHEF TV series as well as become a sort of elder statesman of UK comedy.

Rowan Atkinson, the only one I'd seen before, was the villain of the piece, a role he played with relish and gusto, much the way he played the various incarnations of Blackadder and later Mr. Bean, on his way to becoming a UK national treasure whose participation in the recent royal celebrations literally stole the show.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Will Hutchins

An early favorite TV western for me was SUGARFOOT which went off the air when I was only 2 but I remember it! Actor Will Hutchins starred as a cowboy studying to be a lawyer. Will's charismatic personality carried the show and made him a fan favorite. 

A few years later, he tried a funny but unsuccessful sitcom entitled HEY, LANDLORD!, then turned up briefly as a sixties incarnation of Dagwood Bumstead in a revival of BLONDIE. In between, he co-starred twice with Elvis. He says that Elvis was always worried that people were trying to steal scenes from him but knew he didn't have to worry about that with Will. If you look at the two films, though, it's fun to watch Will effortlessly do just that--steal every scene he's in from the King.

A few years ago, I was privileged to work with Will Hutchins in two old time radio re-creations. In one, I was a mob boss and he was my gunsel. In the other, I was a killer out to get his crooked ringleader.