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A Christmas Story

In memoriam: Bob Clark
It is with the utmost sadness that I have read that Bob Clark, the director who turned this little-film-that-could into a minor cult classic and annual television Christmas tradition, was killed in an automobile crash, along with his 22-year old son. The crash happened because the driver of the other automobile was under the influence of alcohol.

It is my hope that if a 25th anniversary edition DVD is released in 2008, it will contain a fitting tribute to the life and career of Mr. Clark.


Please, please DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE.

Cyber Seduction: His Secret Life

Another movie that HAD to be made
Having seen this movie on Lifetime, I would like to say this: All adults, parents and teachers, but in particular, parents have a GUT responsibility to talk to their children about the dynamics of sex BEFORE the children attain adolescence. The younger brother's encounter with pornographic material seems to back up what I opine.

As for the movie itself, like several other movies, whether for the big screen or little screen, this movie HAD to be made in order to educate the public about the consequences of addiction to pornography and the responsibilities of parents to monitor their children's Internet activity. (I believe parents should monitor their own Internet activity, thereby setting a proper example).

Here's hoping this wonderful television movie will be released to DVD soon.

The Accident: A Moment of Truth Movie

Time for a collection of 'Moment of Truth' DVDs
'Playing to Win', 'Champion's Fight (a/k/a 'Shattered Hearts'), and 'The Accident' -- all gripping movies under the popular 'Moment of Truth' franchise. (Oh, let us not forget 'Secret Between Friends'). If ever there is a collection of movies that belongs on DVD, the 'Moment of Truth' franchise is the one.

'The Accident' deals with the dynamics of drinking and driving in a tactful and educational way and should send a strong message to adults AND children (future adolescents) -- DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE, and if you believe you have a drinking problem, or if anyone you know has a drinking problem, GET SOME HELP! For your sake and the sake of those around you.


In memoriam: Brian Kelly, 1931-2005
It is with sadness that, while surfing through this database, I read that Brian Kelly, the handsome actor who played patriarch Porter Ricks on the television version of Flipper, passed away in February 2005, just short of his 74th birthday. I believe that the news of Mr. Kelly's passing was quite under-reported.

Brian Kelly played a father who was intelligent, understanding, and when warranted, firm. His character of Porter Ricks raised his two sons, Bud and Sandy, with keen senses of the difference between right and wrong, values that are quite under-portrayed in an age of extreme dynamics surrounding sex, drugs, and violence.

After Flipper went off the air and into syndication, Mr. Kelly appeared in a handful of films and episodic television programs. Around 1970 or 1971, his acting career came to a tragic end following a freak motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed and with speech and health problems. Nevertheless, he continued in the entertainment industry as a motion picture producer. One such production effort is the 1980's action film 'Blade Runner'.

Brian Kelly will be missed, and may he rest in peace.


In Loving Memory of Dana Elcar: 1927-2005
It is with great sadness that I have learned that Dana Elcar, who played Pete Thornton on MacGyver and whose real-life battle with glaucoma was incorporated into the program, has passed away at age 77.

Mr. Elcar distinguished himself as a well-known character actor, appearing in a multitude of television programs and about a dozen or so movies.

Mr. Elcar went public with his glaucoma battle during the course of the program, and it was decided that his character, Pete Thornton, would fight a similar battle. Eventually, the glaucoma left Mr. Elcar totally blind, requiring him to use special computerized equipment for script readings.

He will be greatly missed.


Happy 25th anniversary, Fame!
As a graduate of the High School of Music & Art(Performing Arts' sister school), I can readily relate to this movie after 25 years. This film excites me every time I watch it on a cable channel or on DVD.

Here's hoping a special public screening will be held to mark the 25th anniversary of Fame's original release.

Since the movie's 1980 release, a number of events have taken place: the High School of Music & Art and High School of Performing Arts have merged and become the Fiorello LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. Also, one of the players in this movie pursued a career in fashion design today. His name: Isaac Mizrahi.

Blackboard Jungle

The movie that launched a few careers
After nearly 50 years, this memorable movie about a New York City high school remains a standard by which so-called 'high school' movies are judged, made and measured. Without Blackboard Jungle, there might not have been a Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Pretty in Pink, or Breakfast Club.

Before Sidney Poitier 'came to dinner', before Vic Morrow went into 'Combat', before Richard Kiley 'dreamed the impossible dream', and, yes, even before Jamie Farr (ne Jameel Farah), donned a dress, they were all part of The Blackboard Jungle. This movie launched quite a few notable careers.


God bless those Warner Brothers television shows
Thanks to the folks at my cable provider, I am able, once again, to see a few of the shows that emanated from the Warner Brothers Television 'boilerplate', namely, 77 Sunset Strip, Hawaiian Eye, Maverick, and, Sugarfoot. Watching them was a fond memory for me, and THIS is the type of television that I will always remember. An attractive ensemble cast for each program, and the songs by Mack David and Jerry Livingston (the former-named is the brother of Hal David of that 'other' songwriting ampersand), and the opening and closing artwork (the opening was in lowercase letters, the closing had initial capital letters, at which time the respective theme songs were sung by a fine group of studio singers).

What a pleasure to see these shows again. Let's get THESE on DVD.

A Child Is Waiting

'Dorothy' is Not in Kansas Anymore
A Child Is Waiting is definitely a breakthrough movie, not only to showcase the unique gift for straight acting of Miss Judy Garland, but also to dramatize the dynamics and ramifications of working with people who are today called 'mentally challenged'.

Much has changed since the release of this movie. And while mentally challenged individuals are living more productive lives and being partially, if not fully, assimilated into general society, there is still quite a ways to go in preparing them for a productive life in society.

I am grateful that A Child Is Waiting was made, if only to educate the moviegoing public about mental challenges.

I think this movie is worthy of a remake.

The Private War of Major Benson

A memorable "springboard" movie
Before Charlton Heston became a Biblical era plaything, before Milburn Stone tended to the sick as Doc Adams in Gunsmoke, before Tim Considine became a fixture in the productions of Walter Elias Disney, and most of all, before Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher told us to Leave it to Beaver and later meet The Munsters, they all participated in this unforgettable gem of a movie set at a Catholic military school. Oh yes, let us not forget some other significant players, William Demarest, who later played Uncle Charlie on My Three Sons, David Janssen, who later played Richard Diamond and then The Fugitive, and that unforgettable teen idol, Sal Mineo, who starred in Rebel Without a Cause.

Have I mentioned all of the springboard players?

Moving right along, one will never really know the star potential of child performer Tim Hovey. I understand that Mr. Hovey took his own life in later years.

Anyway, The Private War of Major Benson is a charming vehicle that should never be forgotten nearly 50 years after its initial release.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Improves with age
Like fine wine, A Charlie Brown Christmas improves with age. It has become the standard not only for the other Charlie Brown specials but also for the animated Christmas specials that have followed it over the decades. Thanks to innovations like video and DVD, Peanuts devotees the world over can enjoy their favorite Charlie Brown specials any time of the year (read Christmas in July). Charlie Brown, the Van Pelt siblings and, of course, Snoopy, are heaven-sent and will be in the hearts of future generations long after us earthlings are no more.

God bless Charlie Brown and the Van Pelts. God bless Charles M. Schultz for creating such legendary icons.

St. Elsewhere

Generic music? Ugh!
When I saw certain episodes of St. Elsewhere on Bravo, I distinctly heard that generic music, especially in the episode Time Heals, centering on the 50th anniversary of the founding of St. Eligius. I saw the episode at its first run, and the music used on that and a few other episodes was FAR SUPERIOR to this generic music. Either the music licensing fees were too icy-pricey for syndication or the licensers simply had some kind of freeze on the music.

Here's hoping that if and when a great show like St. Elsewhere makes it to DVD, consideration will be given to release the episodes with the original music and not the generic music. That generic music is for the buzzards.

Problem Child 3: Junior in Love

Not the same without John Ritter
Let me guess, John Ritter was not available or did not want to do the part anymore, so someone searched for another actor to play Ben Healey and William Katt was as close as it got. Sorry, but without John Ritter, the film, albeit a television film, is simply NOT the same. Also, Michael Oliver was at the point of growing up (let's see, by calculations, he was about 11 or 12 when this installment was released) and the television biggies had to hire someone close to Master Oliver's character and presence). William Katt played Ben Healey, John Ritter WAS Ben Healey. Problem Child 3 does not have much in the way of substance.

While I cannot sing the praises of the first two installments, Problem Child and Problem Child 2 will be another great way to remember Mr. Ritter's great art of comedic timing.

I miss you, Mr. Ritter. You left this world too soon.

The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin

Happy 50th Anniversary on TV to Rinty
This year marks the 50th anniversary of two great family programs -- Lassie (q.v.) and the subject of this comment, Rin Tin Tin. I remember that the show was sponsored by the National Biscuit Company, Nabisco to you, and that the stars, like stars of other programs of the time advertised certain products. Needless to say, Rinty and Rusty sold a great deal of Shreaded Wheat, to say nothing of Oreo cookies.

The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin was part of my growing up years and the call 'Yoooooooo, Rinty' echoes in my ears to this day.

'Lassie' and 'The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin' are proof positive that the dog is man's (and woman's) best friend.

Happy 50th television anniversary, Rinty.

The Mickey Mouse Club

Countdown to the 50th anniversary
Next year this children's show of children's shows marks its 50th anniversary, and I am steamed that The Disney Channel does not air the retreads anymore. In fact, The Disney Channel hardly airs anything Disney anymore. Therefore, I don't watch The Disney Channel anymore.

It would be a great tribute to a classic if the following happened:

1) The Disney Channel would start airing the shows and airing them WITHOUT those cuts.

2) Disney Studios would put together either a 'season' or 'best of' set on DVD.

(At least, Disney should consider putting the Club serials on DVD, you know, Spin and Marty, The Hardy Boys, Corky and White Shadow, Annette).

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Happy 50th Anniversary, SB4SB
After 50 years, this movie musical still warms the heart and the senses.

It has been alluded to, revived somehow, often imitated but never duplicated.

The songs, the scenery, the dances are the frosting on the cake.

Although by today's standards SB4SB is dated, it nevertheless remains an industry and studio standard.

A great way to chart the early appearances of Ruta Lee and Julie Newmar, who at the time were using their original respective surnames of Kilmonis and Newmeyer. Don't blink or you'll miss Sheila James, who later went on to appear in The Trouble With Father and, of course, Dobie Gillis. Last, but not least, there's Amber Tamblyn's father, Russ, in his famous hatchet dance (Don't try this at home).

Again, happy 50th anniversary to a cool classic.

8 Simple Rules... for Dating My Teenage Daughter

John will live forever
It has been nearly five months since the passing of John Ritter and my eyes still mist at the reality that the viewing public will never again by brought to laughter or even tears by this gifted actor.

I would also like to add that in my opinion, the overall quality of situation comedies on the ABC Network has declined to a level of near-mediocrity, save maybe for shows with George Lopez, Bonnie Hunt, or Jim Belushi. But it seemed that Jonathan Southworth Ritter was the anchor, the ringleader of situation comedies on ABC.

The Jeffersons

The Norman Lear Touch
A year short of its 30th (pearl) anniversary, The Jeffersons will be remembered for continuing the tradition of groundbreaking that was started by the show that started it all , All in the Family, from which, lest you forget, The Jeffersons is a spin-off.

Yes, George Jefferson is somewhat like Archie Bunker, opinionated to the point of sometimes being rude but never at a loss for words.

Chances are the characters of the Willises were inspired by the All in the Family episode 'Lionel Steps Out', in which he did so with Archie Bunker's visiting niece -- I had the experience of seeing that episode and then and there sensed that change was in the wind.

It is noted that Ja'Net DuBois sang theme, but few people mention that she actually CO-WROTE the theme. Just goes to show you that show business is a thinking person's business.

Happy 30th anniversary to the Jeffersons, albeit one year early!!


25 years minus one and counting
From the time I first saw this movie in the theaters (back when people knew just HOW to make movies), I could not help but guffaw and double over in laughter over those sight-gags and puns.

A year short of its silver anniversary, this film surely evokes fond memories for me (and I won't call you Shirley).

Here's hoping a 25th anniversary edition will be released next year.


What did they do with the musical score?
To those who comment that this would have made a great musical, it WAS a musical on Broadway with a score of music and lyrics by one Harold Rome (one of the few non-ampersands). Starring in the lead role of Fanny was the one and only Florence Henderson, one and the same who will forever be remembered as Carol Brady.

When I saw this in 1961 (don't dare figure out my age, now), I learned the shocking lesson that this had been a Broadway musical, but some Hollywood biggie decided for reasons that mystify me to this day, NOT, I repeat, NOT to have any singing in this picture, and use the score as an orchestral backdrop. I listened to the orignal Broadway cast album of the musical and head what may be deemed as moderate 'showstoppers' such as 'Welcome Home', 'Be Kind To Your Parents', 'I Have To Tell You', and of course, 'Fanny'.

Incidentally, this practice of using the musical score for an orchestral backdrop was repeated with Irma LaDouce a few years later. (Warren Beatty's big sister was in that one).


After over 60 years, Oklahoma! is OK
I emphasize 60 because the musical debuted on Broadway in 1943, even though the film version was released 12 years later.

An unforgettable score. Perfect singer-actors. Tantalizing cinematography. It does not seem to get much better than this.

The main thing I admire about Oklahoma is that like the Rodgers and Hammerstein adaptations that would follow it (Carousel, South Pacific, Flower Drum Song, and, of course, The Sound of Music), the movie was fronted by legitimate musical talent, unlike in My Fair Lady and West Side Story. Further, it was a movie that did not rely on major stars, Rod Steiger notwithstanding, to make it an enjoyable picture. (Lest you forget this movie 'introduced' Shirley Jones as Laurey. Lest you would also like to know, the stage musical Oklahoma debuted on March 31, 1943, which coincidentally was a birthday of Miss Jones (I won't say which one). Prophetic? Maybe.


Leave this on the STAGE
To those who have issues with Keel and Grayson in this film -- I think it might have worked splendidly. They were great in Showboat (1951) and Kiss Me, Kate (1953, I think).

Also, a musical like Brigadoon CALLS for legitimate singers to render the demanding showstoppers. Emphasizing the dance in this musical was, in my opinion, a big mistake. True, dancing was and is an important part of this musical, but the showstoppers give the musical its luster, its sheen, its charisma.

The number 'Almost Like Being in Love' is NOTHING without both the baritone and soprano singing the part.

And what's this bit with changing the surnames from MacLaren to Campbell?

In my opinion, most stage musicals should be left on the stage, where they belong, NOT adapted into movies with less than legitimate musical performers (read 'West Side Story').

Room 222

A classic somewhat ahead of its time
This year marks the 35th anniversary of some influential 'bubble gum' shows. One such show marking the anniversary is 'The Brady Bunch'. Another is this underrated chestnut, Room 222.

It was in an integrated setting trying to show the viewing public that with effort and communication, people of all races, religions and nationalities could get along peacefully.

Here, in my opinion, is a classic that merits release of DVD with a group of other underrated classics.

If not for Room 222, there would be no Boston Public.

Sing Along with Mitch

Follow the bouncing ball
Before Karaoke, before MTV and music videos, there was Sing Along with Mitch and his bouncing ball. (The bouncing ball was also used in the cartoon sing-alongs).

Mitch Miller was (and still is) a gifted musician and great human being. He was ahead of his time in giving artists equal opportunity. For example, the south had threatened to pull the show off the air if Leslie Uggams was not removed from the show. Yet Mitch Miller adamantly said, 'no Leslie, no show.'

How unfortunate that there are no variety shows on television anymore.

Oh, yes. This one's got DVD potential.

Family Affair

A great but almost-forgotten classic
There was and still is an endearing quality about this show. You had an engineer who was suddenly thrust into the role of a bachelor father, supported by his gentleman's gentleman.

Note: When Sebastian Cabot was written off the show for a few episodes, John Williams stepped in and did an equally credible job of playing Mr. French's brother.

Note 2: It should be noted that two up-and-coming child performers made appearances on this show, Erin Moran and Eve Plumb, and nothing more need be said on the latter.

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