Wednesday, December 27, 2017

"And Agnes Moorehead as ... Marilly?"

Earlier this week, I was excited to see Axel Nissen's new book Agnes Moorehead on Radio, Stage and Television under the Christmas tree. (Granted, I'd dropped a few hints!) Nissen's earlier book The Films of Agnes Moorehead gave us a thorough and knowlegeable overview of the actress' motion picture career. This new volume complements that work by focusing on an area Hollywood biographers often fail to adequately cover -- performances in media other than film.

Although Miss Moorehead's greatest claim to fame with modern viewers is still the role of Endora on Bewitched, Nissen wisely resists the temptation to let that classic characterization overwhelm the rest of his book. Instead, he covers Bewitched (making some interesting and insightful observations) alongside some two dozen other performances by this always-intriguing and versatile actress. I especially appreciated his chapter devoted to Mayor of the Town, a long-running radio series of the 1940s in which Moorehead played the opinionated housekeeper of Lionel Barrymore's lead character. While some of the TV roles he covers here are the expected ones -- a beleagured woman valiantly battling "aliens" on The Twilight Zone, as well as her Emmy-winning turn on The Wild, Wild West -- other chapters shine light on performances you probably haven't seen, ranging from The Revlon Mirror Theater (her television debut) to her "deliciously camp" turn as leader of a band of pirates on Adventures in Paradise. 

Given the ephemeral nature of actors' work in media like the stage and radio, some of Agnes Moorehead's creative output is no longer available for us to experience first-hand. But Nissen's enjoyable and valuable book is, as the saying goes, the next best thing to being there.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

"A Terrific Writer"

I'm honored that Classic Images and reviewer Laura Wagner have named my book on Martha Raye to their "Best Books of the Year" list. Congratulations to the other authors with whom I share this accolade -- Candace Hilligoss, Michael Gregg Michaud, Scott O'Brien, and Tom Weaver. My friend Derek Sculthorpe also received some much-deserved praise for his excellent book on Brian Donlevy.

Here's hoping for more good reading in 2018!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A December Deal

There's still time to take advantage of my publisher's terrific Holiday Sale. Buy two or more books, use the coupon code HOLIDAY17, and get 30% off your order. You can browse the entire catalog here.

I'll even understand if you buy a book by one of my fellow McFarland authors instead of mine. I think...

Friday, December 1, 2017

Paging Mr. Picerni

Born 95 years ago today, actor Paul Picerni (1922-2011) was one of those journeyman actors who was always working. He needed to -- he and wife Marie had eight kids.

Probably best-known for playing Agent Lee Hobson on The Untouchables, Picerni could be found all over the place -- in movies (House of Wax, Marjorie Morningstar), daytime soaps (The Young Marrieds), and practically every prime time series you could name. When I was researching my book on Gale Storm, darned if he didn't turn up on both of her hit sitcoms of the 1950s.

I never had the privilege of meeting Mr. Picerni, but I feel that I got to know him through his interviews with author Tom Weaver. His startling stories about making House of Wax are captured in I Was a Monster Movie Maker, and he reminisces about his Western films in Wild Wild Westerners. He also collaborated with Weaver on a career memoir, Steps to Stardom, which I haven't yet read. I think I'll remedy that oversight.