Friday, May 31, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mel Blanc!

Yesterday was the anniversary of the birth of one of cartoon's greatest talents, Mr. Mel Blanc. He was born on May 30, 1908 and broke into radio after doing vaudeville and other circuit acts in the Twenties and Thirties. He became famous as part of Jack Benny's troupe of talented performers on radio, and then later, television.

His first work for Warner Bros was in 1937. Eventually he voiced all the major Looney Tunes characters. Famously, he would chew on carrots while voicing Bugs Bunny, but then spit them out instead of swallowing them because he hated them! 

After his exclusive contract with Warner Bros expired he worked some for Hanna-Barbera. Most famously, he was the original voice of Barney Rubble on The Flintstones.

He passed away on July 10, 1989.
Happy Birthday, Mel Blanc!
 art commissioned by Warner Bros when Mel Blanc died in 1989
art by Hector Martinez (signed by Noel Blanc)

Check out his head-stone. You *know* he had a sense of humor....!
Mel Blanc telling his career story on David Letterman
Here's a classic "Si....Sy....Sue" routine with Jack Benny.
Notice how the audience recognizes the character
as soon as Mel raises his head? Also notice how Jack
can't keep a straight face during the sketch!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mike W. Barr!

Tomorrow May 30 is Mike W. Barr's 61st birthday. Barr is well-known in the comic industry for writing the first "Maxi-Series," CAMELOT 3000, as well as being one of the creators of BATMAN & THE OUTSIDERS (with Jim Aparo). I have never met the man, but he seems to be from the Akron, OH area so maybe some day I will get the chance to tell him how much I like his work.

Happy Birthday, Mike W. Barr!

the series that put artist Brian Bolland on the map
a rarity, an actual murder mystery super-hero story
featuring two of his (and my!) favorite characters

Batman quit the JLA to lead these characters, two established (Metamorpho &
Black Lightning) and three brand-new (GeoForce, Halo, and Katana)

Barr brought artist Alan Davis to everyone's attention, in a FUN
series of adventures before Batman went dark


So, what did you think? As I mentioned in the  FORWARD, this is one of my favorite issues. In fact, it's probably in my Top Five, which is outrageous since it, in theory,  has so much going against it! 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Happy Birthday, Christa Miller!

You might be thinking, Who is Christa Miller? If you have any sense of television comedy over the last ten years, you'll know her face if not her name.
Recognize her?
After appearing in two episodes of Seinfeld she got her big break on The Drew Carey Show, which ran from 1995 to 2004. She played Drew's friend and on-off girlfriend Kate, for seven years. She left in 2002.

At about this time she appeared in two episodes of Scrubs as Dr. Cox's ex-wife, Jordan Sullivan. One reason she was cast, besides her great comedic talent, is that one of her good friends was one of the writers on Scrubs. Her husband, Bill Lawrence, was the show creator and executive producer. Originally conceived as a one-and-done story arc character, she proved so popular that she became a recurring character for the rest of the series. I can't verify it, but I'm pretty sure somebody on the DVD or someplace talked about the fact that her son on the series, Jack, was played by her and Bill Lawrence's actual son.
That's Bill Lawrence on the far left, next to her, with most of the rest of the cast.

When Scrubs ended (sort of) in 2009, she moved to the ABC-TBS comedy series, Cougar Town. This series stars Courtney Cox and was also created by her husband.
Happy Birthday, Christa Miller!
with Craig Ferguson on The Drew Carey Show

Christa Miller talks about how she got the Scrubs job
with Brendan Fraser as Justin's brother, Ben on Scrubs
Cougartown out-takes from season three

Monday, May 27, 2013

Happy Birthday, Chris Colfer!

Today is GLEE break-out star Chris Colfer's 23rd birthday. Yep, this kid was born on May 27, 1990.

Besides being a great actor and a hell of a singer, he's also a writer! He's published two novels for children, AND he just directed his first film. Chris has already won an Emmy for GLEE; I'm betting he'll win a Tony, a Grammy, and/or an Oscar before he's done.

Happy Birthday, Chris Colfer! 

Because today is Music Monday here on Friends of Justice, let's have Mr. Colfer serenade us with one of my favorite songs he did on GLEE...a love song his character did for his father while the father was in the hospital after a heart attack, "I Want To Hold Your Hand" by Lennon-McCartney. (with Spanish lyrics, haha!)

Memorial Day 2013

Happy Memorial Day, everyone.
While you're out and about STOP and think about what Memorial Day is supposed to be all about.
 We would not be here today if not for all the men and women who were willing to give their *lives* to secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity....
It's not about a sale at Wal-Mart.
All gave some,
Some gave all....

Friday, May 24, 2013

Happy Birthday, Gary Burghoff!

The actor from MASH who had the first relationship with his character is Gary Burghoff as "Radar."  This is because he is the only actor to have appeared in the 1970 Robert Altman MASH film and then go onto join the cast of the TV series, too. Character actor Roger Bowen portrayed Col. Henry Blake in the movie; McLean Stevenson portrayed him on TV. Rene' Auberjonais portrayed Father Mulcahy in the movie: William Christopher portrayed him on TV (in every appearance except for the pilot.) The list goes on and on. However, Gary was Radar in the movie, and then two years later when Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds adapted the movie for television, Gary was cast as Radar again. He stayed with the TV series for seven years.

Today is Gary's birthday, so for all his Emmy Award-winning TV work but also especially for his film work (because today is Film Friday) we wish Gary a very happy day!

Happy Birthday, Gary Burghoff!

Burghoff with Roger Bowen as Lt. Col Henry Blake
John Schuck as "Painless Pole" (left), unknown,
Burghoff, and Bowen as Henry
Rene Auberjonais as Father Mulcahy, Bowen as Henry, Burghoff  
The TV Series Cast from the First Season
(The character of Klinger was NOT in the movie)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Happy Birthday Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!

[Portrait of ACD]
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born on May 22, 1859 in Edinburgh, Scotland. His greatest literary creation was, of course, Sherlock Holmes, but he also wrote The Lost World (made into a movie in 1925, again in 1960 by Irwin Allen, and again in 1994).

He trained to be a doctor.

His first short story was published in 1879 when he was only 20 years old.

Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce
His doctorate was on Syphilitic Myelopathy, which is the slow degeneration of the sensory neurons to the brain due to syphilis.

He went to sea as a doctor, then moved to London and opened his first practice in 1882. He had almost no patients, so had plenty of time to write.

His first Sherlock Holmes story was A Study In Scarlet, published in 1887. In total he wrote four novels and 56 short stories about Holmes and his companion, Dr. John Watson.

In 1893 Holmes "died" in "The Final Problem." He and Professor Moriarty fall to their deaths at the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. Conan Doyle was tired of his creation and wanted to spend more time writing his favorite stories, historical fiction.

Holmes "came back" in 1901 in an "untold" story set before "The Final Problem." The novel The Hounds of the Baskervilles is one of the most popular and well-known Holmes stories. He came back "for real" in 1903 in "Adventure of the Empty House."

He was knighted by King Edward VII in 1902.
statue of Conan Doyle in East Sussex, England

In 1918 after his wife, son, brother, and two brothers-in-law had died, Doyle began to believe in spiritualism. He had been good friends with American performer Harry Houdini, but they had a public falling out about their different beliefs. Doyle was decidedly NOT logical or intelligent about it.

Doyle also believed in fairies. In July 1917 he went public in his belief that a series of photographs of Frances Griffith playing with fairies were real.

Because today is Comic Wednesday here at Friends of Justice, let's look specifically at some of Holmes' comic-book appearances....!
Happy Birthday,
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!
a one-shot from DC Comics in1975
cover by Walter Simonson

Sherlock Holmes goes after The Joker in 1976
art by Ernie Chan (left) and Irv Novick (right)

an advertisement for DETECTIVE COMICS #572 in 1988
art by Alan Davis and Paul Neary 

The 50th Anniversary of the First Appearance of Batman
Cover by Mike Kaluta
 Batman finally meets Sherlock Holmes,
mysteriously still alive and kicking 100 years after *his* first appearance!
Batman writer Mike W. Barr was a huge Holmes fan.
Art by Alan Davis and Paul Neary

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

RIP Bruce Geller

You may not know who Bruce Geller was.

Have you ever heard of the TV show, MANNIX?

How about the pop culture classic called MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE?

The genius behind both of these shows was a man named Bruce Geller. Unfortunately, on May 21, 1978 Bruce was in a Cessna airplane accident near Santa Monica and died. He was only 47 years old.

Geller got his start writing. He began on varied shows such as "The Dick Powell Show", "Have Gun Will Travel," "The Rifleman," and "The June Allyson Show." He and his writing partner, Bernie Kowalski, produced the TV western, "Rawhide," starring Clint Eastwood, in 1964-65.

Geller created MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE in 1966. He thought of the idea for the show after seeing the movie Topkapi, wherein a group of art thieves plot a complex break-in at a museum. He re-considered these as the good guys and came up with MISSION. During the first year he won an Emmy as Producer and another for writing the pilot/premiere.

From 1968 he helped create MANNIX, starring Mike Connors and Gail Fisher. This private detective series ran until 1975. It is notable for being one of the first TV dramas to feature an African-American actress in a recurring role.
RIP Bruce Geller


Monday, May 20, 2013

Happy Birthday, Cher!

Cher has had four solo Number One hits and one Number One with her then-husband, Sonny.

She has the longest chart span between Number One songs: there were 33 years 7 months 3 weeks between "I Got You Babe" (August 14, 1965) and "Believe" (March 13, 1999).

When I visited a gay dance club in Japan the only song I heard that I knew was "Believe," by Cher.
(It's true, I thought, she IS a gay icon!)

Cher won the 1987 Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Moonstruck.

Cher's birth name is Cherilyn Sakisian LaPierre.

Today is Cher's birthday. She is 67 years old and still looks great!

Happy Birthday, Cher!


Sonny Bono joins Cher on The David Letterman Show in 1987.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Wings (1st Best Picture, 1927-28)

I'm not sure why I wanted to see the movie Wings in the first place. Usually I have a definite "stream of consciousness" reason for watching something; for example, I had been watching episodes of "The Carol Burnett Show" and Maggie Smith guest-starred on a recent show. I wondered what she had been doing at about that time in the mid-Seventies and keyed into the Columbus Library. I found California Suite, another "Grand Hotel-type film" ala Dinner At Eight and Grand Hotel. I also noted that Maggie Smith won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for that film, so I decided to borrow it from the library. (I didn't like it.)
It wasn't quite as logical with Wings. I guess I had always known of it as the very first Academy Award winning "Best Picture." And I know I had never seen it. So I must have typed it in as a lark, and when I saw that it was actually available I decided to reserve it.
This was a lot of words to explain to you how I watched a silent movie and that I really enjoyed it.
Wings was the third silent movie I have ever seen. The version I saw on restored DVD was the colorized version; night scenes had a blue hue, indoor scenes had an orange tint, and day scenes had a yellow glow. Once you got past that, though, it was a fun movie to watch. Oh, and the fact that nobody ever *said* anything! Actually, I need to amend that comment: everybody talked, but I just couldn't hear them. I wonder if audiences in the Twenties were better at lip reading? Or maybe they used their imaginations more? In one scene the heroine of the film, played by Clara Bow, is talking to her unrequited love, played by Buddy Rogers. I could tell that she was saying something about going off to war, but the last part I couldn't "catch." I had to wait until the title cards to read exactly what she had said. Also, sometimes actors would face away from the camera while speaking, and yet their dialogue would not always be provided! I thought that was very strange. Or even more odd for me, sometimes the actors would speak for several seconds, obviously saying all sorts of things, and then the title card would provide a simple, "Okay!" or something. You're kidding me, right? I had to actually *watch* the entire movie; there were no chances for me to grab a snack in the kitchen because I couldn't "hear" the dialogue during my dash. This is the first time in a long time that I sat riveted to the screen, hitting the "pause" button if I needed to move. 
The story involves Jack and David, rivals for the affection of a girl. David is played Richard Arlen.  They both sign up for the Air Force (although that is not what it is called at the time) at the onset of the US involvement in World War I and are rivals there, too. Finally they have a fist fight, and in true male bonding fashion once they duke it out they become best friends. The rest of the movie is their experiences training to fly and then actually flying. Clara Bow is the star in name only; she joins up as an ambulance driver and tries to meet up with Jack in Paris, but the vast majority of screen time is devoted to Jack and David.
Paramount Pictures received the support of the US Army during the making of this motion picture. They filmed on five acres outside of Fort Sam Houston in Texas, with a cast of thousands of extras, many of them Army personnel. While I was watching the film I thought I was watching some actual newsreel footage, then realized that that would have been impossible. It was *that* realistically filmed.
The aerial "dog fights" are wonderfully staged and filmed, too. While I was watching them I thought perhaps some of them were faked, but it they were they were so well edited that it was impossible for me to tell.
The first silent movie I ever saw was Birth of A Nation in high school; the second silent movie I ever saw was Mel Brooks' Silent Movie. Wings is head and shoulders above both in quality. 

Wings (1927)
*Academy Award Best Picture 1927-28*
Produced by Adolph Zukor
Directed by William Wellman
Screenplay by Louis Lighton & Hope Loring

fan-made trailer for WINGS

a trailer for the remastered edition  

Also Nominated:
(in alphabetical order)
The Racket
Seventh Heaven
I've never heard of either of these. I guess the honor of being the (first) Academy Award winning film has made Wings absolutely immortal, setting it above all of its contemporaries. If it had lost to one of these other films, I guess we would be discussing that one and not Wings. Something to think about.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

My Newest Topic-Theme

After I recently completed my self-induced challenge to profile every US State here on my blog (LINK) I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and, oddly enough, a keen sense of loss. After one full year of effort, one of my blog topics was now completely finished! After less than a month I found that I missed the confines (if that is the correct term) of having a set deadline. Sure, sometimes I regretted the strict discipline required for the assignment; after all, if you missed a day there was no way to go back and "do it over." I'm proud to say that I was only late once out of fifty articles, and that was by one day. On the other hand, for most of my life I have been given assignments and I enjoy the challenge of meeting deadlines. With that in mind, I went looking for a new theme or topic that I could challenge myself with.

I initially added various sub-genre topics to already established themes, such as the specific "Beatles" and "Mission: Impossible" icons in "Music" and "TV," respectively. However, I quickly realized that that would only help me organize my themes without actually adding anything new to them. Then I thought about and seriously considered doing a profile of an entire run of a television series, such as "Scrubs." I watched two episodes and made copious notes on both of them. However, I abandoned that idea not only because it seemed like a lot of work, but because it took a lot of the "fun" out of actually watching the episodes! And lastly, I don't have any graphic software that allows me to capture nice-looking screen shots from DVDs. So although I *may* end up doing something like this in the future, I gave it up for now.

This is where serendipity comes in. Totally coincidentally I had recently watched Grand Hotel and Wings. Although they had nothing to do with each other, they both happen to be two very early Academy Award-winning films. I wrote blog "reviews" on both of them for Film Friday. Then I happened to look at my Event Calendar for May and saw that the very first Academy Awards ceremony was held on May 16, 1929. Suddenly I had an epiphany: I would write blog reviews on ALL of the Academy Award Best Pictures! Like I said, I had already seen two of them, haha! So I began my research, printing out a list of all of the 85 winners, reading books about the films, actors, actresses, directors, and ceremonies, and reserving at the library the earliest winners. Now, if I profile one Best Picture every month, this assignment will last more than 8 years! More likely I will start to get a pace going where I review two or even more per month; we'll see. I promise to do at least one review every month for the foreseeable future,  anyway. Right now I as I write this I am watching a new film every night, trying desperately to set a schedule and get ahead of it! After all, I can't review the films if I haven't seen them, right?

I have high hopes for this series. I hope it turns into a fun read for all of you in the Peanut Gallery, because at the very least I'm going to enjoy watching 85 plus movies!

So join me here again tomorrow as I start my new series with the very first Academy Awards Best Picture, a little film called Wings.

As for the first Academy Awards ceremony itself, according to the book The Academy Awards The Complete Unofficial History by Jim Piazza and Gail Kinn, "The winners had been named three months before, which eliminated any suspense during the five minute presentation ceremony. Douglas Fairbanks called out their names, they came forward to collect either statuettes or honorary scrolls, and sat at the head table. Producer Darryl F. Zanuck gave the only speech after picking up a Special Award for the first talkie, The Jazz Singer."

1929 Academy Awards Banquet
a photo supposedly of the 1929 Academy Awards Banquet
No one knows for sure why the statuette came to be called "Oscar," but everyone agrees that the design of the statue has not changed in more than 80 years. The 14 inch high, 7 pound statuette of a man standing on a reel of film holding a sword was designed by MGM Art Director Cedric Gibbons.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Happy Birthday, L. Frank Baum!

an adorable biography of Baum
by Kathleen Krull & Kevin Hawkes
Happy Birthday, L. Frank Baum!
Lyman Frank Baum was born on May 15, 1856 in a town outside Syracuse, New York. Before he became a writer and eventually create the book that would grant him literary immortality he tried his hand at being a salesman, a newspaperman, a merchant, and a sales clerk. He had written several unsuccessful books before The Wonderful Wizard of OZ was published in 1900. Accustomed to failure, the success of this storybook took him by surprise. He was 44 years old.

For nearly ten years he fought against his OZ brand, writing only five sequels between 1900 and 1910. The Emerald City of OZ (1910) was meant to be the last in the series; it features Dorothy, Aunt Em, and Uncle Henry all moving permanently to OZ before the magical land is cut off from the "real world" forever.

However, legions of fans inundated the publisher with requests for more. Simultaneously, Baum's fortunes were made and lost through various risky endeavors. He needed the money, and children wanted the stories. So from 1913 there would be a new OZ book by Baum every year until his death. Afterwards, other writers took over the storytelling chores. Eventually there were 40 books recognized as "official canon" by the publisher and Baum estate. Stories such as "Wicked" are not recognized as canon. Nor is Disney's recent "OZ The Great and Powerful," which follows the 1939 MGM musical more than it does the actual books.

When I was kid I had Random House trade paperback reprints of each of the fourteen original Baum stories except one: The Lost Princess of OZ. I have no idea why I couldn't find that one, but I never saw it at any bookstore. I don't think I've ever actually read it, even today!

The first book was illustrated by W.W. Denslow. After it was a success he and Baum had a falling out. All of the remaining Baum books and many more after his death were illustrated by John R. Neill.

L. Frank Baum died on May 6, 1991.

This being Wednesday Comics day, I thought I would point out that OZ has made it to comics a few different times. Most famously, DC and Marvel collaborated on a Giant Treasury book The Wonderful Wizard of OZ in 1975 by Roy Thomas, John Buscema, Tony DeZuniga, and John Romita. Its sequel, The Land of OZ was done by Roy Thomas, Alfredo Alcala, and John Romita, also in 1975. The last page of this story is a "Coming Oz-tractions" that promises an adaptation of Ozma of Oz to go on sale February 3, 1976. It never appeared.
Because the characters created by Baum are now in public domain, they can be used (and abused) without having to pay anyone for their use. However, the likenesses of Judy Garland as Dorothy or Margaret Hamilton as The  Witch are trade-marked images belonging to MGM (now Turner Broadcasting) and have to be paid for. That is why if you see OZ characters in adaptations they are more likely to resemble the book versions and not the movie versions.

Case in point: one of my favorites, The OZ-Wonderland War (starring Captain Carrot & the Amazing Zoo Crew) and the most recent adaptation, Marvel Comics' The Wonderful Wizard of OZ from 2006: