Monday, December 22, 2014

Are you excited yet?

There are only two days until Christmas Eve! (Santa's Helper Ann Miller would like everyone to know that she's happy getting sweaters and other articles of clothing for Christmas.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Santa's helpers are busy...

... making notes and checking them twice. Are you on the one listing the naughty or the one listing the nice?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Mary Ann Mobley dead at 76

Mary Ann Mobley, one of the few Miss Americas to find lasting success as an actress and television personality, passed away on December 9, 2014. She starred opposite Elvis in a couple films and frequently appeared in guest-starring roles during 1960s television shows such as "The Man From UNCLE" and "Perry Mason." She was even originally cast as Batgirl in the "Batman" TV series, but was replaced by Yvonne Craig before filming began. Her acting output slowed as she raised her daughter during the 1970s, but she returned to television acting in the 1980s and became a regular on several 1980s game shows like "Hollywood Squares." She also appeared as a co-host on a talk show hosted by her husband, Gary Collins. She continued appearing in movies and in television through the 2000s.

She was preceded in death by her husband in 2012, and she is survived by her daughter, Clancy.

Here are a couple of pictures of Ms. Mobley, in honor of her memory. The second picture is, by all accounts, a lie, as she earned awards for her humanitarian work.

Monday, December 8, 2014

... in which I pretend to be an artist

Here's the cover image for the soon-to-be-released "ROLF!: Fugue for Johns in D Minur," a Houseboat on the River Styx scenario from NUELOW Games.

The battle scenario sees John Lennon, Johnny Cash, John Bohnam, and John Philip Sousa join forces with John Denver in the afterlife to stop another atrocity on the scale of Justin Bieber!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

'Second Chorus' is an obscure gem

Second Chorus (1940)
Starring: Fred Astaire, Burgess Meredith, Paulette Goddard, Charles Buttersworth, and Artie Shaw
Director: H.C. Potter
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

When a pair of musicians, Danny and Hank (Astaire and Meredith), attempt to dodge Ellen (Goddard), a debt collector, by (literally) charming the pants off her, they end up on the fast track to fame with her as their booking agent. When she is later hired away by the famous band leader Artie Shaw (Shaw, playing himself), the two friends begin to sabotage each other in a bid to earn Ellen's romantic attention.

Fred Astaire described "Second Chorus" as his worst movie. He may not have liked it, but it's a lot of fast-paced fun, and chockful of great musical numbers and strong performances from the entire cast. Goddard is spectacular, as usual, and Meredith's comedic performance here really makes one wonder what sort of super-star he might have become if his career hadn't been detailed by McCarthyism during the 1950s.

The only complaint I have about the film is that the main protagonist, played by Astaire, is a king-sized jerk. I understand that the tricks he plays on his friend Hank to gain the upper-hand romantically and professionally are supposed to be viewed as comedic by the audience, but time and again, he resorts to an almost scorched earth sort of approach with an apparent desire to destroy his supposed best friend just so he can tell himself that we "won." In the process, he ends up sabotaging himself as well--and this karmic justice keeps the character from becoming completely unsympathetic--but his 11th-hour conversion to Nice Guy comes a little too late to win me over as a viewerm even if it does get him the girl. (That's not a spoiler... given that it's Fred Astaire vs. Burgess Meredith, it was a foregone conclusion who Paulette Goddard would end up with. Except, of course, in real life, where Meredith and Goddard ended up as a couple and eventually married.)

Hardcore Fred Astaire fans may be disappointed in the film for the same reason I suspect Astaire rates it as the worst of his efforts: He does very little dancing in it. There's really on one remarkable routine where he takes to the floor with Goddard at roughly the halfway point. But of those who enjoy big band swing music and 1940s comedies, "Second Chorus" is going to be time well spent.

Friday, December 5, 2014