Thursday, April 28, 2016

Remembering Carolyn Jones

Sometimes an actress plays a single role so well that it becomes a defining point in her career, bringing her a new level of fame but also making it difficult to move on to new characterizations. For Carolyn Jones, born April 28, 1930, it was her two-year stint as Morticia on TV's The Addams Family that tended to overshadow much of what came before and after. An Oscar nominee for her supporting role in The Bachelor Party (1957), Miss Jones also appeared in classic films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. But the slinky, sensuous perfection of her TV alter ego was too distinctive to be quickly forgotten.

She died young, of cancer, in 1983, her illness forcing her to relinquish a juicy villainous role in the daytime soap opera, Capitol, which she'd begun the previous year. The role of Myrna Clegg might have been a mid-life game changer for the talented actress. Instead, sadly, it became her final bow.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Lucy a la Carte

Why you should never sit near Lucy in a busy restaurant, especially if you're a male celebrity:
While William Holden (above), in his classic 1955 episode of I Love Lucy, has always been the best-known example of this phenomenon, there are others. Consider the case of Danny Kaye, in a 1964 Lucy Show appearance:
Poor Milton Berle, a few years later, didn't even have to leave home to run afoul of Lucy and her food fumbles:
Celebrities, as the captain on Hill Street Blues used to say, "Let's be careful out there!"

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Agnes and Mabel

As all fans of Eve Arden know, "The Mothers-in-Law" was the classic 1960s sitcom in which she and Kaye Ballard played the lead roles. But just imagine if, instead, that title had been given to a spinoff of "Bewitched" starring Agnes Moorehead and Mabel Albertson (above)?

It's probably just as well that, back then, studios and network executives weren't quite so enamored as they would later become of pulling favorite supporting characters from hit series and starring them in their own shows. But this one's fun to think about, isn't it?

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Hailing Mr. Jenkins

Born April 9, 1900, actor Allen Jenkins enjoyed a long and busy career playing variations on a theme. His instantly recognizable face can be seen in everything from Destry Rides Again (1939) to Pillow Talk (1959). When television came along, he adapted neatly to the new medium, appearing on popular shows like I Love Lucy, Ben Casey, Batman, and quite a few more. He continued to work until shortly before his death in 1974.

If the roles he was offered tended to follow a particular pattern, Jenkins took it in stride. He said, "Typecasting has been my bread and butter since I got started in this business ... I've played nothing but mugs -- a few sympathetic sorts, but always mugs ... I've been enough different taxi drivers in movies and on TV to man a whole New York cab fleet."

Jeannie Carson and Allen Jenkins in Hey, Jeannie!
One of those rough-hewn yet likable cab drivers was Al Murray, his featured role in the CBS comedy series Hey, Jeannie! (CBS, 1956-57). Supporting musical comedy performer Jeannie Carson, Jenkins teamed with Jane Dulo as a brother-sister pair who took in a young immigrant newly arrived in the U.S. You can read more about that often overlooked show in Lost Laughs of '50s and '60s Television.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Remembering Patty Duke (1946-2016)

Mr. and Mrs. Pearce.
Like so many of her fans, I was shocked and saddened by the unexpected news of Patty Duke's death earlier this week. Ordinarily, I don't have a strong reaction when I learn that a celebrity has passed away, even if it's someone whose work I admire. It just isn't quite the same for me as losing someone I know personally.

But among the most noteworthy qualities of Anna Marie Pearce, as she preferred to be known in her private life, was her ability to communicate with others -- whether it was in one of her performances as "Patty Duke," the Oscar- and Emmy-winning actress, or her compulsion to share her life experiences with others. After being diagnosed as mentally ill nearly 35 years ago, she spent much of her time not only making her own life better and healthier, but striving to help others do the same. That she succeeded on both counts is amply demonstrated in a touching interview given this week by her husband of 30 years, Michael Pearce. I found it well worth watching, and I think you will, too.

She won't be forgotten.