Friday, February 28, 2014

Sky Liner (1949)

A governmental courier (John McGwire) is set to make a trip. His secretary, Rochelle Hudson, is working with a foreign power and tips them off so that he is knocked out in his office before he can leave. Gaylord Pendleton takes his place on the flight, along with Hudson. Steven Geray has just signed a large contract for mineral rights in his country, and is on the plane. A collection of passengers is introduced to us, along with the reasons why they are on the plane. Richard Travis is a real government agent on the flight, and the movie is the story of how he unravels the case and saves the day. Most of the "action" takes place in the plane.

More HERE about Rochelle Hudson.



Mary Gordon. If you love old movies, you will know her face.

She appeared in over 300 movies from 1925 to 1950, usually in supporting or bit roles as matronly characters. Her Scottish accent was very recognizable.

Possums are ugly

That is all there is to it. Only a mother possum could think a possum beautiful and I sometimes wonder even about that. In fact, I knew one once who looked at her baby and sighed, "Well, at least he has a good heart."

"Fear is cruel padlock."

From Charlie Chan at the Wax Museum. And that is so true. Nothing will so paralyze us as fright.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Milnes and Domingo in "Ci Pel Ciel" - the best duet ever?

I know of no tenor/baritone duet that is more fun to sing or to listen to than Si Pel Ciel, from Otello by Verdi. The link below show a Youtube performance by tenor Placido Domingo and baritone Sherrill Milnes, and I doubt anyone has ever done it any better than these two.

Listen for the last note. Milnes is supposed to go down to a C-sharp, but instead he jumps up to the tenor note with Domingo - a high A. Any of you baritones will be impressed, I am sure.

Milnes really looks like the bad guy, doesn't he?

(By the way, I made a weak effort at singing this with Dr. Shaw on my senior recital. Not quite in the class of these two, of course.)


More HERE about Placido Domingo.

Prokofiev - interesting theme music for a radio show

On the radio show The FBI in Peace and War, the theme music was the March from the opera The Love for Three Oranges by Sergei Prokofiev. A little out of the ordinary. Here is a LINK to a performance of it (not very long).

It's the money, not the thanks

Management generally is very good at giving thanks instead of money. I work for money. I pay bills with money. I can do absolutely nothing with thanks. Management would be glad for us to be motivated by thanks, because thanks costs them nothing.

Henry Aldrich was typical?

On the Henry Aldrich radio show, Henry and his pal, Homer Brown, are presented as typical teenage boys. Now, I will admit that that class of humanity is basically brain-dead and any parent having teenage boys needs to hunker down for the duration, but really, I believe that Henry brought the art form to a new high as far as getting into self-induced messes.

Ezra Stone, who portrayed Henry on radio

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Where there is gambling there will be corruption. Always.


Gambling never improves anything.

Famous noses

Richard Nixon and Bob Hope

Jimmy Durante

W. C. Fields

Basil Rathbone

Milton Berle - a comedian no one wants to miss

They'd like to get him on the first shot.

If you insist on looking like a thug

then do not blame me if I assume you are a thug.

How hard did Rochester work at Jack Benny's house?

He had housemaid's knee clear up to the hip.


What if tokens were worth more than money?

Private "money" is a common thing in American society. Tennessee Ernie Ford sang about owing his soul to the company store, for example, where workers spent credits. What if a private entity issues these tokens, and because of its soundness and the government's continuing monetary decline, the private tokens became worth more than the money they represented?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Western Pacific Agent (1950)

Kent Taylor (of the Boston Blackie TV series fame) is the star of this film. He is a railroad detective. His job is to track down vicious killer Mickey Knox, who even beats up his own father. Knox knifes a drawbridge operator to begin the plot. The sister of the murdered man, Sheila Ryan, cooperates with him in solving the crimes. Taylor works his sources of information through the hobo jungle.Sid Melton provides the comic relief, such as it is, in the movie. He is the one who eventually locates the killer. And, of course, there is the brief romantic angle.



Characters you will never see - only hear

You have seen Lum and Abner in the movies, but the characters in the movies are not the ones from the radio show, because Chet Lauck and Norris played most, if not all, of the regular characters, at least in the earlier years of the program. So you will never see Cedric Wehunt, Squire Skimp, Grandpappy Spears, Grandpa Masters, etc.

A thousand or a hundred dollars

That is the way Lum and Abner always expressed a large unspecified amount of money. It is not clear why they always put the larger amount first.

Charlie ought to know!

"Father who depends on son is happy or foolish, according to son."
(from Charlie Chan at Treasure Island)

He knew something about sons (and daughters).

Chan Family Photo

Monday, February 24, 2014

Sugar Grove, Arkansas - a tough community

Sugar Grove is a small rural community located just south of Magazine, Arkansas, and east of Blue Mountain Lake in southern Logan County. I am not sure just how the school districts fall, but when I was growing up, some of those who attended the Booneville public schools were from the general Sugar Grove area. The economic standard of that area was not very high. One thing you could count on was that they would be tough as nails, and they had the reputation of being willing to fight at the drop of a hat, and they would drop it. In past generations, it was rumored that Sugar Grove was the site of a considerable amount of bootlegging activity. Probably the citizens of the Sugar Grove area got a “bad rap” and were unfairly stereotyped, but that was their reputation at that point in time. Sugar Grove and “tough” were synonyms.
General Store in Sugar Grove, 1929

News on radio station MEOW

in Wistful Vista. Done by Herman Sherman, "the commentator who sees all, knows all, and guesses very badly."

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Southern humor in the midst of battle

Lieutenant Jack Gibson described "a roar like an express train tunnel" as a Japanese shell hit the main battery director's control station. "It came right through it, clipping off the steel stem of the sight-setter's stool and dropping him swearing to the deck. In the half-dark I could see him clawing at the rear of his pants to find out if he was all there." A voice with a Tennessee twang drawled, "That'll teach you not to be settin' when yo' betters are left standin' up."

(from Neptune's Inferno, by James D. Hornfischer)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The detective's ambition

          "Thank you, Mr. Chan," Lofton replied. "You seem an understanding person. I'm inclined to think I underrated you when we met."
          Charlie smiled. "That is customary. I do not let it distress me. My object is to arrange so people are not still underestimating me when we part."

(from Charlie Chan Carries On, by Earl Derr Biggers)

Balm for tired eyes

"There is no vision so restful to weary eyes as that of home."

(from Charlie Chan Carries On, by Earl Derr Biggers)

Tobacco aromas and memories

My maternal grandfather, Robert Murphy Davis, smoked Prince Albert pipe tobacco, and the scent of that particular brand and the distinctive red cans which held it will always be linked with him in my mind. Later, my father's younger brother, Alfred Alexander Green, smoked a mixture of half Prince Albert and half Half and Half, and that smell likewise is unique to him.

Lloyd Bridges and Sea Hunt

Bridges was a very busy actor back in the golden age of movies. But I knew him first from the TV series Sea Hunt, which ran from 1958-1961. We did not have a television back in those days, but we watched at my maternal grandparents' house and were quite taken with it. Later, when we became big fans of old movies, we ran into Bridges in a variety of roles, including parts in The Lone Wolf series of movies.

During World War II, Bridges served in the Coast Guard, and continued in the Reserve afterwards, during which time he made a series of public service announcements for that branch of the service. Later he was appointed an honorary Commodore. His actor sons, Jeff and Beau, both served in the Coast Guard or the Reserve.

More HERE on Lloyd Bridges.

One Dangerous Night (1943)

This is one of the better of the Warren William entries in The Lone Wolf series of movies. As usual, there is Eric Blore adding comedy as William's sticky-fingered butler, Jamison, who cannot quite seem to completely leave behind their old criminal days. The basic plot revolves around Gerald Mohr (of Philip Marlowe radio fame) as a blackmailer who has his claws into three wealthy women - Marguerite Chapman, Mona Barrie and Tala Birell. William gets involved because one of them has had a flat tire and he and Blore give her a lift to Mohr's house. Mohr's butler, Louis Jean Heydt, is doublecrossing him with his associates to get back at Mohr because he doublecrossed one of their old pals. Deep-voiced Thurston Hall is the police officer on the case.

While the three ladies are at Mohr's house, someone turns out the light and shoots him. Whodunit? Now, that would ruin the plot for you, wouldn't it? But I promise the end is a surprise twist in this very enjoyable old detective flick. And a real, honest-to-goodness old detective movie fan should be able to figure it out. As the name suggests, all of the events are packed into one fast-moving evening.

The scene in which Blore feigns being sick at a restaurant is worth the price of admission by itself.



Friday, February 21, 2014

When you get back from a funeral, enjoy it

There is always someone who doesn't.

Dennis James - game show host

James was the host of the comedy radio program Can You Top This? Other programs for which he was the MC were Stop the Music, High Finance, Name That Tune, and several others. My generation probably remembers him best on TV as the host of the nighttime version of The Price Is Right.

Can You Top This? radio show

This was a show dedicated to telling jokes. Listeners would send in jokes, which would be read on the air by a professional jokester and the laughter would be measured by a Laugh Meter. Then the three panelists would tell jokes on the same general topic to see if they can beat the entry.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Manuel Invoice

When I worked for Wolverine Toy in the 1980's, which was the precourser to Today's Kids, one of the young ladies in the Order Entry department typed up the procedures for the group. She misspelled "manual," and we always had a good laugh about that Mexican in our department, Manuel Invoice.

Two famous old cars

You likely will never see these except at an old car rally or in a museum, but they are two of the most famous of the cars of years past.

Stanley Steamer

Apperson Jackrabbit

One fault that my family does have

I have a wonderful family and I love them dearly, but I must admit to one failing of the clan that can be irritating sometimes. It is, perhaps, a hold-over from the Depression mentality that pervades us because my parents are still living and cling so tenatiously to that conservative attitude.

Most folks, when they have a few items left behind after the clan had descended on their last visit, would simply put said items in a box, take them down to the Post Office, and spend three dollars to ship them back home. But oh, no, not my family. That would be a shameful waste of money! They put them in a stack in the corner, to sit there for perhaps four months until someone comes through on a visit from that part of the country, then they say, "Oh, by the way, can you take these fourteen items back with you and give them to (respectively) Herkimer, Aloysius, Farquhar and Billy Joe Bob?" Then, the visitors will load them into their vehicle, which already was packed to the gills with their belongings plus various and sundry unnecessary items, not to mention seven children, several in-laws, two third cousins once removed and a passing bum who happened to get swept up in the packing, to be carried back across the country, overlooked in the unpacking, set in a corner and left there for six months until someone happens to think, "I wonder who that belongs to?"

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Fibber McGee's poetry (generously so-called)

(With apologies to Longfellow)

Under the spreading maple tree
The village blacksmith lies
Nobody has a horse to shoe,
So all he shoos are flies.

I am with Charlie

I am old-fashioned person who feels that choice of words proclaims the gentleman. Or, in the case of which I speak, the lady. My children regard me old fogy on this point.

(from Charlie Chan Carries On, by Earl Derr Biggers)

A meaning I hope this proverb does not have

You probably have heard this old saw: "In order to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs." Its usage is fairly broad, but it has the general meaning that in order to build something of significance, something else has to be destroyed. For instance, to build a house, some trees have to be cut down. It can also mean that in the course of pursuing a worthy goal, there may along the way be a few failures first.

BUT - there is one meaning I certainly hope this proverb does not have. "In order to catch all the skunks, you have to get sprayed a few times."

Malacca walking sticks

In the Earl Derr Biggers novel, Charlie Chan Carries On, a malacca stick plays a material part in the solving of a case of multiple murders committed on an around-the-world cruise. A malacca stick is made of rattan palms, and according to the story, is an almost-obligatory purchase for tourists in Singapore.

That is what detectives do

"A puzzle," Chan answered. "And unless I am much mistaken, the first of many aboard this ship. Why should I worry? Puzzles are my business."

(from Charlie Chan Carries On, by Earl Derr Biggers)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Lone Wolf Strikes (1940)

This is an entry in the Lone Wolf detective series, this one starring Warren William in the title role. A wealthy widower is the object of a scam to steal the jewels he has promised to his daughter (Joan Perry). His lawyer persuades William to get them back. There follows a battle of wits between William and the gang of thieves, with Perry "helping" all the way. Unknown to her, her boyfriend is the inside man for the thieves in the caper.

As in many of the Lone Wolf movies, the inimitable Eric Blore holds forth as Jamison, the butler. Just by himself he makes the movie worth watching. If you are not familiar with this great old series of films, you are missing a real treat.

Warren William with Joan Perry


Dennis Day at the drive-in movie

Jack Benny: Dennis, why weren't you on time?

Dennis: Well, I was out very late last night. I went  to a drive-in movie.

Don Wilson: Oh, a drive-in? What picture did you see, Dennis?

Dennis: I didn't see the picture.

Jack: Ooooh. Ha ha. You went with a girl, eh, kid?

Dennis: No, I parked my car the wrong way.

The smell of the Orient

Speaking of the smell of the East, I know all about it now. The odor of fetid narrow streets, vegetables rotting in the tropic sun, dead fish, copra, mosquito lotions - and of too many people trying to be in one place at one time.

(from Charlie Chan Carries On, by Earl Derr Biggers)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Jack Benny's sales slogan

"Be kind to your spine on the fifty yardline." (He had the concession to sell cushions at the Los Angeles Coliseum.)

Well, they try to sell most anything on eBay

I am wondering if I could sell a dead skunk. I could make the price very attractive. Maybe just one scent.

What if his name is Butler?

You probably have noticed that butlers are called by their surnames. When the mistress of the house calls for him, he is Simpson or Hawkins or whatever. However, on one episode of Fibber McGee and Molly, they encounter Mayor LaTrivia's butler Crevis, and ask him about his unusual name. He informs them that that is not his real name. His name is actually Butler, but that somehow just did not seem to work in his occupation. Faversham the butler sounds just right, but Butler the butler does not make it.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The only good skunk is a dead skunk

Just a fact. Accept it. Some animals are worthy only of loathing.

Grandparents as parents

When, for whatever reason, grandparents are forced into the role of parents of their own grandchildren, that is a sad situation, and one that is very difficult at best. God in His infinite wisdom fitted young people to have children while they have the energy and stamina to do it.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

"Who is this man?!"

Perhaps the most famous line of Major Hochstetter of Hogan's Heroes television fame. Howard Caine played the role.

Howard Caine

Ray "Stump" Asbury

At the Magazine Senior Night game this week, a bearded fellow walked up to me before the game and said, "Do you remember me?" After a moment's reflection it came to me. It was Ray Asbury, a classmate of mine whom I had not seen for years. Ray was probably about 5'5" tall, and weighed 190# - built like a block of granite. He was the fullback on our football team in the Wishbone offensive system that we ran, and was ideal for that scheme. He ran hard, and obviously was very low to the ground and very difficult to tackle. We called him "Stump." After we got thrashed in the rain in the first round of the playoffs by Alma, Marvin Daily, their star player who was signed by the Razorbacks, made a special trip to our locker room. "Where's that fullback?" he asked. "He runs hard." And he certainly did. I remember in the Purple and Gold pre-season game I was playing safety, and on one play the line opened up (seemingly almost by design) and Ray came chugging through without anyone laying a hand on him, headed straight for me. Now, Ray Asbury was not going to run around anything, so I got set for the collision. I tackled him, but my ears were ringing for a while after that.

Dixie - remember what a pretty piece of music it is?

Because of the political connotations, the song "Dixie" is rarely performed today. That is a shame, because when skillfully arranged, it is a gorgeous piece of music.

LINK This particular arrangement does not take advantage of the harmonic possibilities in the number, but it is still pretty.

This has been a long and frustrating winter, SO . . . .

Now as the first signs of pre-spring are beginning to show, and the weather has become less severe and inconvenient, it is especially refreshing. There may be more folks than usual falling in love this year.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Frances Drake - married into noble blood

Add to the list of names of Hollywood actresses who married into noble families that of Frances Drake. She was born Frances Dean. She married Hon. Cecil John Arthur Howard, son of the 19th Earl of Suffolk. One of his ancestors was the Duke of Norfolk, and through him to Henry II, King of England.

We know Drake best for her role in The Lone Wolf in Paris, in which she played Princes Thania of Arvonne opposite Francis Lederer in the title role. She had a sultry, cultivated voice.

Image result for frances drake actress
More HERE on Frances Drake.

Lum and his sweethearts

Lum Edwards was always sparking the latest new woman in town, especially the school teachers. "Miss Fredericks," for example, does not sound like an old woman, and she is supposedly quote attractive. One wonders why she would be attracted to one of the pair who are always described on the show as "the old fellows."

Take care of today's assignment

Don't worry about tomorrow's, for tomorrow may never happen.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sam Spade - "make your hair stand on end"

In the introduction each week, the Sam Spade radio program would begin: "Guaranteed to make your hair stand on end." Given the fact that Spade's dry, tongue-in-cheek narration often has a humorous tone, and hardly any of the episodes were genuinely scary, the line hardly was an accurate description. I suspect it had much more to do with the sponsor, Wildroot Hair Tonic, than it did with the nature of the program.

More HERE about Sam Spade radio