Thursday, June 21, 2018

Mistress of Mean: Cathy Lewis of "Hazel"

Cathy Lewis as Hazel's best nemesis.
As many actors and actresses learned over Shirley Booth's long career, it wasn't easy to hold your own in scenes with the star of Broadway, film, and the hit TV comedy Hazel (1961-66). One clearly up to the task was Cathy Lewis (1916-1968), the recurring guest player who created the memorably haughty character of Deirdre Thompson, George Baxter's sister. Deirdre was not a very likable lady; she looked down her nose at Hazel for being a domestic, coldly snubbed any attempt at familiarity, and told her sister-in-law Dorothy, "Why you and George persist in keeping that woman, I'll never understand!"
Cathy (left) and Marie Wilson in My Friend Irma.

Before coming to Hazel, Cathy Lewis was one of radio's most highly respected and versatile actresses. As she told an interviewer in 1952, "It isn't an easy medium, either. It takes less time, perhaps, than television, but don't let anyone fool you that you just read words off a page of script. Projecting a strong characterization into [a] microphone with the voice alone is hard work all the way." Her biggest claim to fame was the role of Jane Stacy on My Friend Irma, the level-headed, somewhat sardonic pal of the harebrained lead character played by Marie Wilson. That job helped her transition into television in the 1950s, where her other roles included the female lead in an unsuccessful video adaptation of radio's Fibber McGee and Molly.

Sadly, Cathy's life was cut short not long after Hazel came to an end, when she died of cancer in 1968, only 51 years old. Like Shirley Booth, she was quite a trouper. Mean as Deirdre was to poor Hazel, it's a safe bet Miss Booth knew full well what a valuable contribution this fine actress made to her classic television series. You can read more about Hazel and its cast in my book Shirley Booth: A Biography and Career Record.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Gale at a TVparty!

I'm thrilled by TVparty's review of Gale Storm: A Biography and Career Record, which calls the book "a real page-turner," adding, "Tucker specializes in the kind of exhaustive research that results in compelling storytelling."

Go here to read the full review, then here or here to get your own copy.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Gale on Sale

Aaand ... my new book on Gale Storm is finally ready for purchase, either at Amazon, or directly from the publisher. (Other sites, including Barnes & Noble, should follow shortly). It's also available from various eBook vendors.

So put down whatever you've been reading, and learn everything you always wanted to know about one of America's most beloved actress-singers. She's worth your attention.
Who needs a secret code when there's a new book about Gale Storm?

Monday, May 21, 2018

Book Review: Meet Mr. Greenstreet

Author and researcher Derek Sculthorpe is becoming the film noir fan's best friend. In short order, he produced fine books on Brian Donlevy, Van Heflin, and Claire Trevor. Now he's given us The Life and Times of Sydney Greenstreet (BearManor Media).

Tackling this actor's life and career would have scared off a lesser writer. Not only has Greenstreet been dead for more than sixty years, but much of his work was in the inherently transitory world of live theater. Covering only his relatively short film career (where he made his debut after the age of sixty) would have provided an incomplete portrait of the man. But Sculthorpe's painstaking research reveals the actor's rich life on stage, acting alongside giants such as Lunt and Fontanne, before plunging into the late-in-life triumphs of The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca. 

Sculthorpe's book gets a substantial boost from the participation of the late actor's granddaughter. In addition to granting an interview, she also provided dozens of fascinating photos. Many of the pictures illustrate the actor's career, which covered virtually the entire first half of the 20th century, but there are also one-of-a-kind family photos showing Greenstreet, his wife and his son. The somewhat sad story of Greenstreet's marriage, to a woman ultimately consumed by mental illness, is covered honestly but with respect and taste.

Might as well be frank -- if you love the film classics of the 1940s, you'll want to meet the gentleman whose life is contained between these covers.

NOTE: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Big Sale!

Boy, am I late posting this, so hop to it if you'd like to save 25% on any of McFarland's myriad assortment of Pop Culture books! Use the discount code PopCulture25 when ordering print editions from the publisher's website.

Yes, I see you there in the back row with your hand raised. Why, yes, as a matter of fact you could pre-order my new Gale Storm book during this sale. But don't dawdle -- sale ends Friday, May 11th.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Finis!

Having spent many hours in recent days indexing, proofreading, and just generally worrying over details, I think I can safely say that Gale Storm: A Biography and Career Record is DONE. The final product should be out soon. Having seen the page proofs, I know it will be a beautiful book; my publishers did their usual bang-up job.

At the moment, I am giving myself a couple of days off to recharge and regroup. Maybe I can even relax and enjoy reading someone else's book. On the other hand, there are also naps...

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Book Review: A Final Chat with Patty Duke

As I've noted on these pages before, the late Patty Duke had the rare ability to connect deeply with audiences, not only in her award-winning performances but also by speaking openly and candidly about her own life and experiences. Her many fans who are still saddened by her death in 2016 will welcome this new book of reminiscences.

Although she published an autobiography some 30 years ago, her longtime fan and friend William J. Jankowski urged her to capture on the printed page her memories of the many storied co-stars and other colleagues with whom she worked over her lengthy career. The result makes for fascinating reading, as she shares previously untold stories about experiences both uplifting and unhappy, with an emphasis on the former. Some she has written about before, and it's intriguing to see how her accumulated maturity and life experience allowed her to change her perspective on people like Lucille Ball, and her second husband Michael Tell, who was ultimately revealed by DNA testing to be the biological father of her son Sean.

In his preface, her co-author writes that he and Duke "would like readers to feel like they are having a private, intimate conversation with her." That's a goal they accomplish beautifully here. This is a lovely book.