Saturday, August 27, 2016

Happy Birthday, Martha!

Remembering a great lady, born 100 years ago today. There will never be another like her.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Unsung Mr. Litel

You can only watch classic films and TV for so long before you encounter busy character actor John Litel (1892-1972). The Internet Movie Database credits him with more than 200 roles, in a list that's almost certainly incomplete. Producers and casting directors knew Litel was the man to call if you needed a stern courtroom judge, a fearless military leader, or a stuffy career politician. He was also a great choice to play a firm but loving dad, as he did in the 1930s Nancy Drew movie series, and in Paramount's Henry Aldrich pictures of the 1940s.

Although Litel appeared in some genuine classics -- Jezebel, Dust Be My Destiny -- he also has a resume knee-deep in low budget and B movies. I'm not denigrating his work by pointing that out. In fact, I'm inclined to be impressed by anyone who can deliver such smoothly competent performances as he did, even under the most trying of circumstances. To me, John Litel represents the consummate professional. Judging from the sheer length of his credits list, I'm far from the only one who thought so.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

A Raye Review

Thank you, "LA," for this Amazon customer review of Martha Raye: Film and Television Clown:

I wasn’t a Martha Raye fan before I read MARTHA RAYE: FILM AND TELEVISION CLOWN, but I come away with sympathy and admiration—AND a desire to explore her films, videos, and recordings. This is a credit to David C. Tucker’s thorough, even-handed biography [which also] includes a ... filmography, and TV episode guide. The biography is an entertaining read that describes Raye’s long entertainment career including vaudeville, film, television, and numerous USO tours. It also includes information on her up and down personal life ... The filmography and TV episode guide are thoroughly researched and meticulously detailed ... Also included are many black-and-white photos depicting all stages of Raye’s life and career. All in all, it adds up to an impressive, enjoyable book that expertly sums up the life and career of Martha Raye.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Help Wanted: Werewolf

A few days ago, I finally caught up with Bela Lugosi's 1943 feature The Return of the Vampire. Since Columbia Pictures didn't have the rights to make a Dracula film, the vamp in question is a gentleman named Armand Tesla, who may nonetheless remind you of Lugosi's most famous screen character. But if there's a certain familiarity to the film's basic story, our screenwriters do offer a few twists we haven't seen before. One of them is the vampire's werewolf assistant, Andreas (played by Matt Willis, above left). I guess when you're a bloodthirsty monster who only works nights, good help is hard to find. But you have to give Andreas credit -- he's a pretty snappy dresser, don't you think? Personally, I wear a tie as seldom as possible, and at the moment I don't even own a good suit like he's sporting. On the other hand, if you'd prefer an employee who's a bit more clean-shaven than Tesla's sidekick, let me know and I'll send you my resume.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Joe and Martha

Comic co-stars in $1,000 a Touchdown.
Happy birthday (in memoriam) to comedian Joe E. Brown (1891-1973), born July 28. He was Martha Raye's co-star in two films, but before they even met, they were compared to one another. One similarity was immediately apparent -- both were "big mouths," finding comedy fodder in their plus-sized kissers and mobile faces. Off-screen, both would devote considerable effort to supporting America's military men and women during wartime.

In 1939, they teamed up for $1,000 a Touchdown. Produced on a modest budget, the sports-accented comedy wasn't the top-notch production they deserved, but Joe and Martha made it fun nonetheless. Five years later, they joined forces to provide comic support to Betty Grable in Pin-Up Girl.

A couple of years ago, I had a mini-film festival of Joe E. Brown comedies, inspired by my reading of film historian Wes D. Gehring's Joe E. Brown: Film Comedian and Baseball Buffoon. That book not only gave me a better appreciation of Brown's comedic skills, but also paid tribute to someone who seems to have been a fine, admirable human being off-camera.

Happy birthday, Mr. Brown. You're remembered with fondness and admiration.

Friday, July 22, 2016

New Fall Catalog

My publisher's fall catalog has just been issued, full of enticing books due out in the next several months. Go here to have a look. I see several I want to read!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

E-Martha


And here comes the eBook version of Martha Raye: Film and Television Clown! Props to Barnes & Noble for being first out of the gate, with the Nook edition now on the market; Amazon and other providers surely won't be far behind.

Power on, and happy reading!