Film History: Tommy Lee Kirk

“Tommy Lee Kirk as Travis Coates”, “Savage Sam”, 1963, Walt Disney Productions, Cinematographer Edward Coleman, Director Norman Tokar

Born in Louisville, Kentucky in December of 1941, Tommy Lee Kirk was an American actor best known for his performances in films produced by Walt Disney Studios. His teen idol status became closely associated with the clean, wholesome product that Disney Studios produced during the late 1950s and early 1960s. 

One of four sons, Tommy Kirk moved at the age of fifteen months with his family to California where they settled in Downey, a city in southeast Los Angeles. In 1954 at the age of thirteen, he  accompanied his older brother Joe to an audition at the Pasadena Playhouse for a role in Eugene O’Neill’s “Ah, Wilderness”. Although Joe was not cast in a role, Tommy Kirk had his stage debut with a role consisting of five lines of dialogue. His small role was seen favorably by a representative from the Gertz Agency of Hollywood who signed him to a contract. 

Kirk made his first television appearance in an episode entitled “The Last of the Old Time Shooting Sheriffs” for the anthology drama series “TV Reader’s Digest”. He appeared in two more Pasadena theater plays and was cast in small roles on other television productions, including  “Gunsmoke” and “The Loretta Young Show”. In August of 1956, Kirk was given a long-term contract by Walt Disney Productions and became a member of the 1955 “The Mickey Mouse Club” television series. He next was cast as Joe Hardy for the Mickey Mouse Club series “The Hardy Boys” and performed in two serials alongside actor Tim Considine who played his older brother Frank Hardy. Broadcasted in that October, the show and Kirk’s performance were well received and led to his long association as a ten idol with the Disney Studio.

Tommy Kirk’s career accelerated with his casting as Travis Coates in the 1957 Disney film “Old Yeller”, an adventure tale of a boy and his heroic dog. Due to the success of his lead role in “Old Yeller”, Kirk became the Disney Studio’s first choice for future American teenager roles. In July of 1958, he was cast in “The Shaggy Dog”, a Disney comedy about a boy inventor who is repeatedly transformed into an Old English Sheepdog. This film, the second highest grossing film of 1959, teamed Kirk with Fred MacMurray, Annette Funicello and Kevin Corcoran, his former co-star from “Old Yeller”. 

With his Disney contract completed, Kirk went to Universal Pictures where he did English dubbing for “The Snow Queen”, a Soviet animated feature. As revenues increased from the screening of “The Shaggy Dog”, Disney Studios resigned Kirk to a long-term studio contract and cast him as the middle son, Ernst Robinson, in its 1960 family adventure film “Swiss Family Robinson”. This family film was followed by a second huge hit, “The Absent-Minded Professor”, a fantasy comedy starring Fred MacMurray as the professor and Kirk as Biff Hawk. Kirk was next cast in several films in which he costarred with actors MacMurray and Jame Wyman in the 1962 “Bon Voyage”, Ed Wynn in the 1961 “Babes in Toyland”, and Annette Funicello in the 1962 “Escapade in Florence”.

In 1963, Tommy Kirk appeared in Disney’s “Son of Flubber”, a sequel to “The Absent-Minded Professor” which became his last film with MacMurray. He next reprised his role as Travis Coates in “Savage Sam”, a sequel to “Old Yeller” which was not as popular as the original film. In 1964, Disney Studios cast Kirk as the student inventor in “The Misadventures of Merlin Jones” where he played opposite Funicello. After it became an  unexpected box office sensation, a sequel entitled “The Monkey’s Uncle” was released in July of 1965 which was equally successful.

Kirk knew he was gay from an early age; however, due to the public intolerance at that time towards homosexuality, he felt isolated and believed that the exposure of his sexuality would damage his film career. In 1963 while filming “The Misadventures of Merlin Jones”, Kirk began a relationship with a boy, six years younger, who lived in Burbank. The boy’s mother informed the Disney Studio which fired him from his role in the 1965 John Wayne western “The Sons of Katie Elder”. Out of protection for its interests, the Disney Studios released Kirk from his contract. However due to the financial success of the “Merlin Jones” film, he was allowed to return to make the 1965 sequel “The Monkey’s Uncle”.

The news of Kirk’s termination from Disney Studios was not made public: he joined American International Pictures which needed a leading man to play opposite Annette Funicello in the 1964 “Pajama Party”. From 1964 to 1969, Kirk appeared in several popular teen-oriented films, musical stage productions of “The Music Man” and “West Side Story”, and mediocre sci-fi and beach films. Practically blacklisted by an industry which deemed outed gay actors as box-office poison, Kirk returned to the musical theater in his home state of Kentucky with appearances in such shows as “Hello, Dolly” and “Anything Goes”.

In 1970, Tommy Kirk did two movies that were not Screen Actors Guild productions, “Ride the Hot Wind” and “Blood of Ghastly Horror” which caused him to lose his SAG membership.. While loss of SAG membership does not disqualify someone from acting, most film productions hire only union members, thus limiting the opportunities for an actor to be hired. Depressed and angry, Kirk sought solace in drugs and once nearly died from an overdose. After overcoming his drug addiction, Kirk began a successful carpet-cleaning business in Los Angeles which he ran for twenty years. He continued to act occasionally, appeared in films and documentary interviews for the DVD releases of some of his best known films and TV shows, and occasionally made personal appearances at film festivals and nostalgia convention/memorabilia festivals.

Tommy Kirk came out publicly as gay in a 1973 interview with Marvin Jones that was published in the January 31st edition of Gay Today. He was studying acting at that time with the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute while working in a Los Angeles restaurant. Kirk was inducted as a Disney Legend in October of 2006 alongside his former co-stars Tim Considine and Kevin Corcoran. In 2006, the first of the “Hardy Boys” serials was issued on DVD as part of the Walt Disney Treasures series. Royalties from the sales of the “Hardy Boys” serials provided Kirk an additional income. 

Tommy Lee Kirk died peacefully in his Las Vegas, Nevada, home at the age of seventy-nine on the 28th of September in 2021. His neighbor Beverly Washburn, an “Old Yeller” co-star, notified Kirk’s longtime friend and former Disney actor Paul Peterson, known for his role as the son on “The Donna Reed Show”. Peterson posted notice of Kirk’s death on Facebook mentioning in the message that Kirk’s family had disowned the gay actor.

Top Insert Image: Tommy Kirk, “Old Yeller”, 1957, Film Shot

Second Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Tommy Kirk and Tim Considine”, 1956, “The Hardy Boys” Series

Third Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Annette Funicello and Tommy Kirk”, Studio Publicity Photo Shoot

Fourth Insert Image: hotographer Unknown, “Tommy Kirk, Pajama Party”, 1964, Film Shoot

Bottom Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Tommy Kirk and Dorothy Lamour, Pajama Party”, 1964, Studio Photo Shoot

Ane Brun and Fleshquartet, “The Opening”

Ane Brun and Fleshquartet, “The Opening”, “Wallander”, Season Three Closing Theme, 2012, Vocal Recorded by Conny Wall Gig Studio 

Born Ane Kvien Brunwoll in March of 1976 in Molde, Norway,  Ane Brun is a songwriter, guitarist, and a vocalist of Sami origin, the indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabiting the northern parts of Finland, Norway, Sweden and the Kola Peninsula of northwest Russia.

The daughter of jazz singer and pianist Johanne Brunwoll and lawyer Knut Brunwoll, Ane Brun studied music and law at the University of Bergen, and, during that time, began writing her own music compositions and lyrics. After playing a few minor shows, she recorded her first demos in Bergen in 1999. After settling in Stockholm in 2001, Brun focused all her energies on her musical career. 

Brun’s debut album, entitled “Spending Time with Morgan”, was recorded in 2002 in both Uppsala and Stockholm, Sweden. It was released in 2003 on the DetErMine label, a company founded by Brun and Ellekari Larsson, the pianist and vocalist of the Swedish band “The Tiny”. Following two years of European concert tours, Brun released her second album, entitled “Temporary Dive”, which was produced by Katherina Nuttall and released worldwide between 2005 and 2007. The album was well received with award nominations from all over Europe; and it was awarded the Spellemannpris, the Norwegian equivalent of the Grammies, for Best Female Artist. 

Ane Brun released her album “Duets” in November of 2005. This album contained duet collaborations with, among others, Canadian singer Ron Sexsmith; French musician and composer Teitur Lassen; Syd Matters, the French band of composer Jonathan Morali; and a collaboration with the band Madrugada on the single “Lift Me”, which earned Brun another Spellemannpris award. As of 2020, Brun has released a total of nine albums, of which two are gold albums, one platinum album, and two albums, “Duets” and “It All Starts with One”, which became platinum twice.

Ane Brun continues to tour and has appeared in  multiple stage arrangements from solo acoustic to a full band with string section. She currently lives in Stockholm, Sweden, where she writes, records and manages her own recording label, Balloon Ranger Recordings.

“The Opening” is a haunting and fitting theme song for the main character in the Swedish television series, “Wallander”, which stars actor Krister Henriksson in the title role. Adapted from author Henning Mankeil’s Kurt Wallander novels. the three-season series is set in Ystad, Skåne, near the southern tip of Sweden, The thirty-two episodes follow the life and cases of Detective Wallander, a man with few close friends and tentative relationships with colleagues, who towards the end of his career suffers memory loss and gradually succumbs to Alzhheimer’s disease. 

“The Opening is a song whose lyrics and melody were written by myself with the music and production handled by the Fleshquartet. I got the script for the very last Wallander film, and wrote these lyrics inspired by the main character. It’s about trying to move forward when you find yourself at a standstill. It’s an encouraging song about daring to take a step in any direction when you feel stuck. Sometimes it’s just a small step or a short conversation – or sometimes just a single word – that can set off the necessary process of change.”  —Ane Brun

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 22nd of November,  Solar Year 2018

The Treasure of the Island

November 22, 1932 was the birthdate of actor Robert Vaughn.

Born in New York City, Robert Vaughn studied at the Los Angeles State College of Applied Arts and Sciences, earning a Master’s Degree in theater. He received a Ph. D in communications from the University of Southern California in 1970. He published his dissertation as a book, “Only Victims: A Study of Show Business Blacklisting” in 1972.

Vaughn made his television debut in November of 1955 on the series “Medic”, the first of more than two hundred appearances on the show. He first film appearance was as an uncredited extra playing a golden calf idolater visible behind Yul Brynner in a scene from “The Ten Commandments”. Vaughn’s first credited movie role was playing Bob Ford, the killer of Jesse James, in the 1957 western “Hell’s Crossroads”.

Vaughn’s first film appearance of note was in “The Young Philadelphians”, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor. He next appeared as the gunman Lee in “ The Magnificent Seven” in 1960, the western adaption of Kuorsawa’s epic “ Seven Samurai”.

Robert Vaughn was offered his most memorable role in 1964, starring in his own series as secret agent Napoleon Solo in the television series “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”. His co-star was Scottish actor David McCallum who played fellow agent Illya Kuryakin. This role would make Robert Vaughn a household name even behind the Iron Curtain. This series which ran from 1964 to 1968 created a spin-off show, large amounts of merchandising, overseas theatrical movies, and a sequel.

After the series ended, Vaughn was given the role of playing the ambitious California politician Chalmers, in the critical and box-offise smash film “Bullitt” starring Steve McQueen. Vaughn was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor for this role. He won an Emmy for his portrayal of Frank Flaherty in ABC’s 1977 “Washington: Behind Closed Doors”. Vaughn did acting work in England also, appearing on the BBC drama “Hustle” and the British soap opera “Coronation Street”.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 19th of November,  Solar Year 2018

The Superman Tattoo

November 19, 1959 marks the release date for the television show “Rocky and His Friends”.

“Rocky and His Friends” was a serialized animation show, produce by Jay Ward Productions, that ran from November 1959 to June of 1964. During its history, it appeared under several broadcast titles, most notably “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show”. The series was structured as a variety show, with the main feature being the adventures of Rocky the Flying Squirrel and the moose Bullwinkle. Their main adversaries were the two “Russian” spies Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale. both who worked for the Fearless Leader.

The animation show included three other supporting segments: the old-time melodrama styled “Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties”; “Peabody’s Improbable History”, in which the dog Mr. Peabody takes his boy Sherman to different historical events in time; and “Fractured Fairy Tales”, a new look, albeit slightly askew, at the classic fairy tales.

The idea for “Rocky and His Friends” was from Jay Ward and Alex Anderson, who had both collaborated on “Crusader Rabbit”, the first animated series created specifically for television. Production began in February of 1958 with the hiring of the voice actors: June Foray who voiced Rocky, Natasha, and every female character on the show; Paul Frees who voiced Boris and Inspector Fenwick,; Bill Scott who voiced Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right and Mr. Peabody, and William Conrad who narrated the Rocky and Dudley Do-Right segments..

“Rocky and His Friends” was sponsored by the cereal-manufacturer General Mills, who insisted that the show have an late-afternoon time slot, targeting it toward children. The writers and designers were hired; however, no animators were hired. Instead in a move to save cost, the advertising agency for General Mills outsourced the animation to a Mexican company called Gamma Productions, which caused many productions problems because of its quality of animation and mistakes in the continuity of the animated characters and scenes.

“Rocky and His Friends” abounded with quality writing and wry humor, appealing to adults as well as children. Its segments mixed puns, self-humor, and satire on the existing culture and topics in life. The animation art has an unpolished look with limited action compared to the other animated series produced at that time. Despite this, the series is still held in high esteem by critics, with some viewing it as a well-written radio program with visual images. The series was influential to the development of other animated series and, to date, has aired in one hundred countries.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 6th of November,  Solar Year 2018

Standing on the Edge of the World

November 6, 1914 was the birthdate of character actor Jonathan Harris.

Born in the Bronx section of New York City, Jonathan Harris was the son of a Russian-Jewish family. He attended Fordham University, New York, to study medicine, earning a degree in 1936. Harris transformed himself into the American idea of an Englishman by replacing his Bronx accent with the lightly modulated vocal tone he heard on British films.

After joining the Millpond Playhouse repertory company, on Long Island in 1939, Harris appeared in more than 100 regional theaters, before his debute on Broadway in 1942. He appeared in the 1946 play “A Flag is Born” opposite Quentin Reynolds and Marlon Brando. His first television work came in 1949 with The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre’s “His Name Is Jason”, followed by roles in many other series: “Bonanza”, “The Twilight Zone”, “Zorro” and others.

Jonathan Harris was in a co-star role opposite Michael Rennie, who played Harry Lime, in the television series “The Third Man”, playing sidekick Bradford Webster for seventy-two episodes. From 1963-1965, Harris co-starred in the sitcom “The Bill Dana Show”. He played Mister Phillips, the pompous manager of a posh hotel who is constantly at odds with Bill Dana’s character José Jiménez.

Jonathan Harris was cast over two other actors for the role of Dr. Zachary Smith, the evil and conniving double agent on “Lost in Space”. The series was already in production when Harris joined the cast, and the starring/co-starring billing had already been contractually assigned. Harris successfully negotiated to receive “Special Guest Star” billing on every episode.

The series was successful upon its debut, and midway through the first season, Harris began to rewrite his own dialogue. Due to Harris’s popularity on the show, creator and producer Irwin Allen approved his changes and gave him carte blanche as a writer. Harris subsequently stole the show, mainly via a seemingly never-ended series of alliterative insults directed toward The Robot, which soon worked their way into popular culture.

Jonathan Harris spent much of his later career as a voice actor, heard in television commercials as well as cartoons such as “Darkwing Duck”, “A Bug’s Life”, the series “Buzz Lightyear of Star Command”, and “Toy Story 2”. In 2001, a year prior to his death, he recorded voice work for the animated theatrical short “The bolt Who Screwed Christmas”. This film, Harris’s last work, was released posthumously in 2009.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 4th of November,  Solar Year 2018

The Heat of the Sun

November 4,1896 was the birthdate of American character actor Ian Wolfe.

Born in Illinois, Ian Wolfe worked in theater productions until 1934 when he started his career as a character actor in film and later television. Central to Wolfe’s appeal was the fact that, until he reached actual old age, he always looked considerably older than he actually was. His career lasted until the last years in his life, encompassing almost four hundred roles in television and film, including many classics.

Ian Wolfe appeared in many well known films: Alfred Hitchcock’s “Saboteur” playing Robert in the film noir spy thriller; “Rebel Without a Cause” as Dr. Minton, the astronomy professor; the role of Maggs in the 1935 “Mutiny on the Bounty”; and George Lucas’s “THX 1138”, playing the prisoner PTO.

American at birth, Ian Wolfe, because of his experience in theater, had very precise diction which caused him to be often cast as an Englishman. He appeared in the 1943 film :Sherlock Holmes in Washington” , as an antique shop clerk. He also was in the final film of the Holmes series, the 1946 “Dressed to Kill” as the Commissioner of Scotland Yard. In Billy Wilder’s “Witness for the Prosecution”, Ian Wolfe played Carter, chief clerk to Sir Wilfrid, played by Charles Laughton.

Ian Wolfe guest-starred on many television series over the course of his career. The first season of “The Lone Ranger” had him playing a crooked small town doctor attempting to swindle a man. He  appeared on the episode “The Case of the Midnight Howler” of the 1966 “Perry Mason” series. Star Trek fans will recognize him in two episodes of the original series: the 1968 “Bread and Circuses” as Septinus, and the 1969 “All Our Yesterdays” acting in the role of Mr. Atoz.

Wolfe’s last film role, at the age of 94, was as Munger in the 1990 released “Dick Tracy”, produced and directed by Warren Beatty. Ian Wolfe died a year later at the age of 95 of natural causes in January of 1992.

“Mostly, they know the face, but they don’t know the name. Some people are funny. Some are nice. They don’t try to take up your time. They say, “I see you a lot and I sure enjoy you” and they’re gone. It’s my voice, too, that people recognize. I had no idea that my voice is distinctive in any way. But people will say, “I knew you by your voice”. – Ian Wolfe

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 3rd of November,  Solar Year 2018

The Redness of the World

November 3, 1928 was the birthdate of Japanese manga artist and film producer Osamu Tezuka.

Osamu Tezuka was born in the Osaka Perfecture of Japan. Drawing from a early age, he continued his manga skills throughout his school years, creating his first adept amateur works. In 1945, Tezuka was accepted into Osaka University in the field of medicine. It was during tihis time that he began publishing his first professional works.

After the end of World War II, at the age of seventeen, Osamu Tezuka published his first work, “Diary of Ma-chan”, a collection of four-panel comic strips about a small pre-school boy. After a discussion with fellow manga artist Shichima Sakai, Tezuka completed a manga based loosely on the famous story “Treasure Island”. This manga, entitled “Shin Takarajima (New Treasure Island)”, was published and became an overnight success, starting the golden age of manga, similar to the craze in America for comic books at the time.

With the success of his manga Treasure Island, Tezuka traveled to Tokyo to seek a publisher. The publisher Shinseikaku agreed to purchase “The Strange Voyage of Dr. Tiger” and publisher Domei Shuppansha purchased “The Mysterious Dr. Koronko”. While he was still studying in medical school , Tezuka published his first masterpiece: a science-fiction trilogy called “Lost World”, “Metropolis”, and “Next World”.

In 1951, Tezuka graduated from the Osaka School of Medicine and published ”Ambassador Atom”, the first appearance of the Astro Boy character. The humanoid robot Atom with human emotions became extremely popular with young boys. In February of 1952, “Tetsuwan Atom” became a serial in the  Weekly Shonen Magazine. The character Atom and his adventures became an instant phenomenon in Japan.

Tezuka entered the animation industry in Japan in 1961, founding Mushi Productions. He innovated the industry with the broadcast of the animated version of “Astro Boy” in 1963, the first Japanese animation to be dubbed into English for an American audience. Other series were later translated to animation, including “Jungle Emperor”, the first Japanese animated series produced in full color.

Osamu Tezuka is a descendent of Hattori Hanzō, a famous ninja and samurai who faithfully served the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu during the Sengoku period in Japan. Tokugawa Ieyasu was one of the three unifiers of Japan in the late 1500s.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 29th of September, Solar Year 2018

The Skateboard

September 29, 1907 was the birthdate of Orvon Grover Autry, known to film fans as the American cowboy Gene Autry.

Gene Autry was an American singer, songwriter, actor, musician and rodeo performer who gained fame as a singing cowboy on radio, film and on television.  Born in northern Texas, he worked on his father’s farm while attending school. After high school, Autry worked as a telegrapher for the Saint Louis-San Francisco Railway. He would oftern sing and accompany himself on guitar at local dances.

Autry went to New York in 1928 and auditioned for Victor Records. The company had just hired two similar sounding voices so he did not get a contract; but he did get the advice to sing on radio to gain experience. Autry started singing latter that year on the Tulsa radio station KVOO as “Oklahoma’s Yodeling Cowboy”, eventually recording two duets with singer Jimmie Long for Victor Records.

Gene Autry signed a recording deal with Columbia Records in 1929. His first hit was in 1932 with “That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine”, a duet co-written and sung with Jimmy Long. Autry also recorded the classic Ray Whitley hit “Back in the Saddle Again” , as well as many Christmas holiday songs including “Frosty the Snowman” and “Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer”, which became a big hit.  Autry’s own composition of “Here Comes Santa Claus”, which he wrote after the 1946 Hollywood Christmas Parade, was recorded in 1947 and became an instant hit.

Gene Autry and Pat Burnette, a recently returned Army Air Force veteran, were discovered by producer Nat Levine in 1934. Together, they made their film debut for Mascot Pictures Corporation in the western “In Old Santa Fe” as part of a singing cowboy quartet. Autry was then given the starring role by producer Levine in the 1935 twelve-part film serial “The Phantom Empire”, which combined western, musical and science fiction genres. This was Gene Autry’s first starring role, playing himself as a singing cowboy.

Mascot Pictures was absorbed by the newly formed Republic Pictures Corporation, which continued making films with Gene Autry. He made forty-four more films with the company up to 1940, all ‘B’ Westerns, acting under his own name. Autry rode his horse Champion, had Pat Burnette as his regular sidekick, and had many opportunities to sing in each film. In the Motion Picture Herald’s Top Ten Money-Making Western Stars poll, Gene Autry held first place from 1937 to 1942 and second place, after Roy Rogers, from 1947 to 1954, when the poll ended.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 26th of September, Solar Year 2018

The Cable Knit Sweater

September 26, 1877 was the birthdate of character actor Edmund Gwenn.

In 1901 Edmund Gwenn went to Australia and acted on stage there for three years, not returning to London until 1904. There he took a small part in “In The Hospital”, which led to him receiving a postcard from George Bernard Shaw, offering him a leading role as Srtaker, the chauffeur, in Shaw’s “Man and Superman”. Gwenn accepted and the play was a success. He spent three years in Shaw’s company, performing in “John Bull’s Island”, Major Barbara”, “The Devil’s Disciple” and other plays by Shaw.

Edmund Gwenn made his first appearance on screen in a 1916 British short “The Real Thing at Last”, followed by a silent version of “The Skin Game” in 1920 as the character Hornblower. This role he would reprise in a talking version by Alfred Hitchcock, released in 1931. After these films, Gwenn worked steadily until the end of his life, appearing in English stage pays and films, eventually doing more and more on Broadway and in Hollywood.

In 1940 Edmund Gwenn played a delightful Mr Bennet in “Pride and Perjudice”, then played a completely opposite role as an assassin in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 “Foreign Correspondent”. He later played a comedic role in the 1941 “Charley’s Aunt”, in which he romanced Jack Benny, masquerading as a woman. Gwenn was in the 1945 “Bewitched”, “Of Human Bondage” released in 1946, and the 1947 “Green Dolphin Street”.

Then in 1947, Edmund Gwenn became a super star. Twentieth Century-Fox was planning the film “Miracle on 34th Street”. The studio had offered the role of “Kris Kringle” to Gwenn’s cousin, the well-known character actor Cecil Kellaway, but he had turned it down with the observation that the role was too whimsical. Twentieth Century-Fox then offered it to Edmund Gwenn, who immediately accepted. His performance earned him at the age of 71 an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor and, because it is rerun every Christmas season, Gwenn would become for many their all-time favorite screen Santa.

Though rotund, Edmund Gwenn didn’t feel he was rotund enough to look like the jolly old elf most people expected after having read Clement Moore’s “The Night before Christmas”, in which Santa “had a broad face and a little round belly”. He could of course worn padding, but he resisted that as too artificial. So Gwenn gained almost 30 pounds for the role, a fair amount for a man of his short stature, and added nearly five inches to his waistline.

Gwenn’s final days were spent at the Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills, California. Having endured terrible arthritis for many years, he had suffered a stroke, and then contracted pneumonia, from which he died at age 81 on September 6, 1959. His body was cremated, and his ashes are buried in a vault at The Chapel of the Pines in Los Angeles.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 17th of September, Solar Year 2018

Breakfast of Champions

On September, 17, 1963, the American television series “The Fugitive” premieres on the ABC station.

“The Fugitive” is an American drama series created by novelist Roy Huggins. It was produced by United Artists Television and aired from September 1963 to August 1967. David Janssen, who had starred in the Richard Diamond detective series, played Doctor Richard Kimble, a physician wrongly convicted of his wife’s murder.

“The Fugitive” presented a popular plot device of an innocent man on the run from the police for a murder he did not commit while simultaneously pursuing the real killer. This concept had its antecedents in the Alfred Hitchcock movies “The 39 Steps”, “Saboteur”, and “North by Northwest”. The theme of a doctor in hiding for committing a major crime had also been depicted by James Stewart as the mysterious Buttons the Clown, who never removed his makeup, in the circus drama “The Greatest Show on Earth”.

Casting a doctor as the protagonist also provided the series a wider “range of entry” into local stories for episodes, as Kimble’s medical knowledge would allow him alone to recognize essential elements of the episode such as subtle medical symptoms or an abused medicine, and the commonplace doctor’s ethic of providing aid in emergencies would naturally lead him into dangerous situations.

American jazz composer Pete Rugolo composed the original music for “The Fugitive. Tracking music was common at the time and this was the case with this show. A keen listener could find himself listening to scene cues from “The Outer Limits” or the “Twilight Zone” episodes. All the original music composed by Rugolo and used for the series was prerecorded in London before the series premiered. What little original melody was actually written and recorded was built around a fast-paced tempo representing running music.

Part two of the final episode of “The Fugitive” was the most-watched television series episode up until August of 1967, with more than 78 million people tuning in. According to producer Leonard Goldberg, the network was simply going to end the series with a regular episode without any kind of denouement, as network executives were totally oblivious to the concept that a television audience actually tuned in week after week and cared about the characters of a TV series.

“The Fugitive” was nominated for five Emmy Awards and won the Emmy for Outstanding Dramatic Series in 1966. In TV Guide’s 2013 list “The 60 Nastiest Villains of All Time”. the one-armed man ranked number five. In 1965 Alan Armer, the producer and head writer for the series, received the Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his work.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 26th of August, Solar Year 2018

Fetish

August 26, 1986 marks the passing of American comedic actor Ted Knight.

After World War Two, Ted Knight studied acting in Hartford, Connecticut where he became proficient with puppets and ventriloquism. This led to steady work as a television kiddie-show host at WJAR-TV in Providence, Rhode Island, from 1950 to 1955. In Albany, New York, Knight hosted “The Early Show” for station WROW,  featuring Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movies.

Ted Knight spent most of his early years in Hollywood doing commercial voice-overs and playing minor television and movie roles. He had a small part at the end of Hitchcock’s movie “Psycho” playing the police officer guarding the arrested Norman Bates. Knight guest-starred in the episode “The Defector” of the 1961 season of the syndicated television series “Sea Hunt” which starred  Lloyd Bridges. He appeared frequently in all the popular television shows at that time including “Highway Patrol”, “The Outer Limits”, “The Donna Reed Show’, “Bonanza”, and”McHale’s Navy”, among others.

Probably Ted Knight’s most well-known role was his work on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” which ran from 1970 to 1977.  His role as the WJM newscaster Ted Baxter brought Knight widespread recognition and his greatest success. The Ted Baxter character was the dim-witted, vain, and miserly anchorman of the “Six O’Clock News”. Baxter frequently made mistakes and was oblivious to the actual nature of the topics covered on the show, but considered himself to be the country’s best news journalist. Ted Knight received six Emmy Award nominations for the role, winning the Emmy for “Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Comedy” in 1973 and 1976.

Ted Knight’s distinctive speaking voice brought him work as an announcer, notably as narrator of most of Filmation Studio’s superhero cartoons as well as voice of incidental characters. He was narrator of the first season of the “Super Friends” and other animated television series. Knight’s work included the voices of the opening narrator and team leader Commander Jonathan Kidd in the animated science fiction television series “Fantastic Voyage”.

A few months after the end of the “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in 1977, Ted Knight was diagnosed with cancer for which he received various forms of treatment over several years. In 1985, the cancer returned as colon cancer which, despite rigorous treatment, eventually began to spread. Knight’s condition continued to worsen and he died on August 26, 1986, at the age of 62. He is buried in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. His grave marker bears his birth name Theodore C. Konopka and, at the bottom, the words “Bye Guy”, a reference to his Ted Baxter catchphrase “Hi, guy!”.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 24th of August, Solar Year 2018

Rainy Weather

August 24, 1957 is the birthdate of comedian and actor Stephen John Fry.

Stephen Fry’s television career began with the 1982 broadcast of “The Cellar Tapes”, a revue written by Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, and Tony Slattery. This caught the attention of the ITV Granada television studio which  hired Fry, Laurie, and Thompson for the 1982 sketch comedy show, “There is Nothing to Worry About!”.  A second series, retitles “Alfresco”, helped establish Fry and Laurie’s reputation as a comedy double act.

The BBC in 1986 commissioned a sketch show that became “A Bit of Fry and Laurie”, which ran for 26 episodes and spanned four successful series between 1986 and 1995. During this time period, Fry starred in “Blackadder II” as Lord Melchett, made a guest appearance in “Blackadder the Third”, and then starred in “Blackadder Goes Forth” as General Melchett again. Between 1990 and 1993, Fry starred as Jeeves, alongside Hugh Laurie’s Bertie Wooster character, in “Jeeves and Wooster”, 23 hour-long adaptions of P. G. Wodehouse’s novels.

Stephen Fry has appeared in a number of BBC adaptions of plays and books. He played the lead role and was the executive producer for the legal drama “Kingdom”, which ran for three series. Fry also took up the recurring role of doctor /chief Gordon Wyatt on the popular televison drama “Bones. The 2011 Monty Python film “Holy Flying Circus” saw Stephen Fry in the role of God.

Starting in 2006, Stephen Fry began appearing in documentaries and other fact-based programs. His first was the Emmy Award-winning 2006 “Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive”. The same year, he appeared on the BBC’s genealogy series “Who Do You Think You Are?”.  In 2007, Fry presented a documentary on the subject of HIV and AIDS entitled “HIV and Me”. He followed these up with many nature series, a six-part travel series through each section of the United States, a two-part documentary on people’s attitudes to gay people in different parts of the world, and portrayed Oscar Wilde in the 1997 film “Wilde”, earning a nomination for a Golden Globe Best Actor in a Drama.

Stephen Fry married his partner, comedian Elliott Spencer on January 17, 2015, in the town of Dereham in Norfolk, England. Throughout his life, Fry has been and still is very active in social issues; he was listed number two in 2016 and number twelve in 2017 on the World Pride Power list. In August 2013, Fry published an “Open Letter to David Cameron and the IOC” calling for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, due to concerns over the state-sanctioned persecution of LGBT people in Russia. Along with Gina Carter and Sandi Toksvig, he is a co-owner of Sprout Pictures, an independent film and television company which works across all genres.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 26th of July, Solar Year 2018

The Dock of the Bay

July 26, 1895 was the birthdate of American comedian Gracie Allen.

Gracie Allen, born in San Francisco, made her first appearance on stage at the age of three and was given her first role on the radio by Eddie Cantor. She attended the Star of the Sea Convent School, at which time she became a talented dancer. She soon began performing Irish folk dances with her three sisters, billed as “The Four Colleens”. In 1909, Allen joined her sister as a vaudeville performer.

At a vaudeville performance in 1923 in Union City, New Jersey, Gracie Allen met George Burns, a vaudeville performer who usually did a comedy routine  and a dance with a girl partner. The two immediately launched a new partnership called “Burns and Allen” with Gracie playing the role of the ‘straight man’ and George delivering the punchlines as the comedian. Burns knew something was wrong when the audience ignored his jokes but snickered at Gracie’s questions. Burns cannily flipped the act around.

Gracie Allen’s part was known in vaudeville as a “Dumb Dora” act, named after a very early film of the same name that featured a scatterbrained female protagonist, but her “illogical logic” style was several cuts above the Dumb Dora stereotype. She and George Burns took the act on the road, gradually building a following. The act was so consistently dependable that vaudeville bookers elevated them to the more secure “standard act” status, and finally to the Palace Theater in New York. After three years together, Gracie Allen married Burns in Cleveland, Ohio in January of 1926.

In the fall of 1949, Jack Benny convinced Gracie Allen and George Burns to join him in the move to the CBS network. The “Burns and Allen” radio show, which had run from the early 1930s, became part of the CBS lineup and a year later a television program. They played themselves, as television stars, bewildering the guest stars and their neighbors, Harry and Blanche Morton, with Gracie Allen’s illogical logic. Each show began with a brief monologue by George Burns about Gracie’s activities on that day. Audiences continued to love Allen’s character, who combined the traits of naivete, zaniness, and total innocence.

Gracie Allen retired in 1958 due to her health. She fought a long battle with heart disease, ultimately dying of a heart attack in Hollywood on August 27, 1964, at the age of 69. Her remains are interred in a crypt at the Freedom Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, in Glendale, California.

Gracie Allen Quotes:                                                                                             “I was so surprised at being born that I didn’t speak for a year and a half.”

“I read a book twice as fast as anybody else. First, I read the beginning, and then I read the ending, and then I start in the middle and read toward whatever end I like best.”

“You speak it the same way you speak English, you just use different words.”

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 22nd of July, Solar Year 2018

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright

July 22, 1947 was the birthdate of actor, comedian and producer Albert Brooks.

Albert Brooks led a new generation of self-reflective comics appearing on NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson”. His onstage persona was  that of an egotistical, narcissistic, nervous comic, one who tore himself down before an audience by disassembling his mastery of comedic routine. He once performed a humorless, five-minute stand up comedy routine on “The Tonight Show” in 1962 that didn’t produce a single laugh until the punchline – when he explained to the audience that he had been working as a stand up comic for five years and had run out of material. Johnny Carson swore the hilarity which followed this set-up lasted a full minute.

Brooks appeared in 1976 in his first mainstream movie role as Tom in Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” , where Scorsese allowed him to improvise much of his dialogue. Brooks directed his first feature film, “Real Life”, in 1979, playing the lead role as a man obnoxiously filming a typical suburban family in an attempt to win an Oscar as well as a Nobel Prize. His film, “Lost in America”, released in 1985, was one of his best-received productions. It featured Brooks and Julie Hagerty as a couple of yuppies who drop out and travel in a motor home, meeting obstacles and disappointments in their dream.

Albert Brooks received good reviews for his films in the 1990s, showing his off-beat style and his seamless successions of shots in his filming. His “Defending Your Life” comedy with Meryl Streep portrayed an after-life trial of Brooks to determine his cosmic fate. Brooks received positive reviews for “Mother” in 1996 as a middle-aged writer moving back home to his mother, played by Debbie Reynolds. His 1999 film “The Muse” featured him as a Hollywood screenwriter who lost his edge and finds an authentic muse, played by Sharon Stone, to give him inspiration.

Brooks played an insecure, supremely ethical network television reporter in James L. Brooks’ hit “Broadcast News”. For this role he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He also appeared as the vicious gangster Bernie Rose, the main antagonist in the motion picture “Drive”, a role given much critical praise and positive reviews.

Albert Brooks did voiceover work in the Pixar film “Finding Nemo” in 2003, voicing the character of Marlin, one of the film’s protagonists. He reprised the role of Marlin in the 2016 sequel “Finding Dory”. Brooks also appeared as a guest voice on “The Simpsons” five times during its run, always under the name of A. Brooks, and is particularly known for his role as super-villain Hank Scorpio in the episode “You Only Move Twice”. He later also voiced the character of Russ Cargill, the central antagonist of “The Simpsons Movie”.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 20th of July, Solar Year 2018

A World of Blue Tiles

July 20, 1938 was the birthdate of English actress, Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg in Yorkshire, England.

Diana Rigg’s career in film, television and theater has been wide-ranging. Her professional debut was in the production of “The Caucasian Chalk Circle” at the York Festival in 1957. She made her Broadway debut with the play “Abelard and Heloise” in 1971, earning the first of three Tony Award nominations for Best Actress in a Play. She received her second nomination in 1975 for her role in “The Misanthrope”.

In the 1990s, Diana Riggs had triumphs with roles at the Almeida Theater in Islington, England, including “Medea” in 1992, which moved to Broadway where she received the Tony Award for Best Actress, “Mother Courage” at the National Theater in 1995, and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” at the Almeida Theater in 1997. In 2011 Riggs played Mrs. Higgins in “Pygmalion” at the Garrick Theater in the West End of London; in February of 2018 she returned to Broadway in a non-singing role of Mrs. Higgins in “My Fair Lady”.

Diana Rigg appeared in the British 1960s television series “The Avengers” from 1965 to 1968 opposite Patrick McNee as John Steed, playing the secret agent Emma Peel in 51 episodes. Rigg auditioned for the role on a whim, without ever having seen the program. Although she was hugely successful in the series, she disliked the lack of privacy that it brought. Also, she was not comfortable in her position as a sex symbol, She also did not like the way that she was treated by the Associated British Corporation (ABC).

In 2013, Diana Rigg secured a recurring role in the third season of the HBO series “Game of Thrones”, portraying Lady Olenna Tyrell, a witty and sarcastic political mastermind popularly known as the Queen of Thorns, the grandmother of regular character Margaery Tyrell. Her performance was well received by critics and audiences alike, and earned her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards in 2013.

Diana Rigg reprised her role in season four of “Game of Thrones” and in July 2014 received another Guest Actress Emmy nomination. In 2015 and 2016, she again reprised the role in seasons five and six in an expanded role from the books. The character was finally killed off in the seventh season, with Rigg’s final performance receiving critical acclaim.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 16th of July, Solar Year 2018

Two Birch Trees

July 17, 1889 was the birthdate of American detective writer Erle Stanley Gardner.

Erle Stanley Gardner, as a lawyer, enjoyed litigation and the development of trial strategy but was otherwise bored by legal practice. In his spare time, he began writing for pulp magazines; his first story was published in 1923. Gardner created many series characters for the pulps, including the ingenious Lester Leith, a parody of the “gentleman thief”; and Ken Corning, crusading lawyer, crime sleuth, and archetype for his most successful creation, Perry Mason.

While the Perry Mason novels did not delve into their characters lives very much, the novels were rich in plot detail which was reality-based and drawn from Gardner’s own experience. In his early years writing for the pulp magazine market, Gardner set himself a quota of 1,200,000 words a year. With the success of the Perry Mason book series, which eventually ran to over 80 novels, Gardner gradually reduced his contributions to the pulp magazines until the medium itself died in the 1950s.

Gardner created Perry Mason as a recurring character in a series of Hollywood films of the 1930s, and then for the radio program “Perry Mason”  which ran from 1943 to 1955. In 1954, CBS proposed transforming the radio program into a television soap opera; but Gardner opposed the idea. In 1957, “Perry Mason” became instead a long-running CBS-TV drama series, starring Raymond Burr in the title role. Burr had auditioned for the role of the district attorney Hamilton Burger; but Gardner reportedly declared he was the embodiment of Perry Mason. The series’ last episode was “The Case of the Final Fade-Out” in 1966 with a cameo appearance of Gardner as a judge.

Gardner devoted thousands of hours to “The Court of Last Resort”, in collaboration with his many friends in the forensic, legal, and investigative communities. The project sought to review, and when appropriate, reverse miscarriages of justice against criminal defendants who had been convicted because of poor legal representation, abuse, misinterpretation of forensic evidence, or careless or malicious actions of police or prosecutors. The resulting 1952 book earned Gardner his only Edgar Award, in the Best Fact Crime category, and was later made into a TV series.

Gardner died in March of 1970 at his ranch in Temecula- the best-selling American writer of the 20th century at the time of his death. The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin holds Gardner’s manuscripts, art collection, and personal effects. From 1972 to 2010, the Ransom Center featured a full-scale reproduction of Gardner’s study that displayed original furnishings, personal memorabilia, and artifacts.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 12th of July, Solar Year 2018

The Magic Act

July 12, 1908 was the birthdate of American comedian Milton Berle.

Milton Berle, born Mendel Berlinger, appeared as a child actor in his first silent film “The Perils of Pauline, filmed in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and released in 1914. He continued to play child roles in many other films: “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” with Mary Pickford; “The Mark of Zorro” with Douglas Fairbanks Sr.: and “Tillie’s Punctured Romance” with Charlie Chaplin and Marie Dressler.

By the early 1930s, Milton Berle was a successful stand-up comedian. Berle was hired in 1933 by producer Jack White to star in the short musical theatrical film, “Poppin’ the Cork”, about the repeal of Prohibition. Berle co-wrote the musical score for that film and also the title song for the RKO 1940 “Lil Abner”, starring Buster Keaton. The Philip Morris company sponsored “The Milton Berle Show” which aired on NBC starting March 11, 1947. It teamed up Berle with comedian Arnold Stang, later a familiar face as Berle’s sidekick. This show, which lasted until April 13, 1948, became a major stepping stone for Berle’s television career.

His first television series was “The Texaco Star Theater” on ABC, showcasing Berle’s highly visual style, characterized by vaudeville slapstick and outlandish costumes. After the show moved to NBC, it dominated Tuesday night television for years and won two Emmy Awards the first year. Berle’s autobiography notes that in Detroit, “an investigation took place when the water levels took a drastic drop in the reservoirs on Tuesday nights between 9 and 9:05. It turned out that everyone waited until the end of the Texaco Star Theatre before going to the bathroom.” Television set sales doubled after Texaco Star Theater’s debut.

Like his contemporary Jackie Gleason, Milton Berle proved a solid dramatic actor and was acclaimed for several such performances, most notably his lead role in “Doyle Against the House” on the Dick Powell Show in 1961, a role for which he received an Emmy nomination. He also played the part of a blind survivor of an airplane crash in “Seven in Darkness”, the first in ABC’s popular Movie of the Week series.

During this period, Berle was named to the Guinness Book of World Records for the greatest number of charity performances made by a show-business performer. Unlike the high-profile shows done by Bob Hope to entertain the troops, Berle did more shows, over a period of 50 years, on a lower-profile basis. Berle received an award for entertaining at stateside military bases in World War I as a child performer, in addition to traveling to foreign bases during World War II and the Vietnam War.  The first charity telethon was hosted by Berle in 1949.  A permanent fixture at charity benefits in the Hollywood area, he was instrumental in raising millions for charitable causes.

In 1979, Milton Berle was awarded a special Emmy Award, titled “Mr. Television” He was in the first group of inductees into the Television Hall of Fame in 1984. Milton Berle has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, placed on February 8, 1960, for his work in television and radio.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 11th of July, Solar Year 2018

State of Equilibrium

July 11, 1931 was the birthdate of actor Tab Hunter.

Tab Hunter, born Arthur Kelm in New York City, grew up in California. His fetching handsomeness and trim, athletic body eventually steered him toward the idea of acting. An introduction to talent agent Henry Wilson, specializing in “beef cake” male stars, had Tab Hunter signing a contract and receiving the stage name of Tab Hunter. With no previous experience, Hunter had his first film debut, though a minor one, in the 1950 drama “The Lawless” with only one line in the film (cut upon release of the film). He co-starred two years later in the British-made film “Island of Desire”, set in WWII on a deserted tropical island, playing opposite Linda Darnell.

Signed by Warner Brothers, Tab Hunter achieved stardom with another WWII epic, the 1955 “Battle Cry”, in which he played a boyish soldier sharing torrid scenes with Dorothy Malone, playing an older already married, love=starved Navy wife. He appeared in three more military films, keeping his fans, male and female, satisfied: “The Sea Chase” in 1955; a western army fort drama in 1956 titled “The Burning Hills”; and the 1956 “The Girl He Left Behind” opposite Natalie Wood,

The most notable success in Tab Hunter’s film career was his leading role as baseball fan JoeHhardy in the 1958 classic Faustian musical “Damn Yankees”, playing opposite Gwen Verdon and Ray Walston. Musically Tab Hunter was overshadowed; but he brought with him major star power and the film became a big hit in the theaters. He starred next in the WWI military movie “Lafayette Escadrille”, again playing a wholesome soldier. This was followed in 1959 with an adult comedy-drama “That Kind of Woman” with Sophia Loren.

Tab Hunter eventually left his Warner Brothers contract and appeared in several television series. He starred in 1961 with Debbie Reynolds in the film comedy “The Pleasure of His Company”; however after that, his film roles were in minor “beach films” and other popular light movies. They included “Operation Bikini”, “Ride the Wild Surf”, “City in the Sea” and “Birds Do It”.

In the 1980s, Tab Hunter bounced back- more mature, less wholesome, but still the handsome guy. He gamely spoofed his old clean-cut image in 1981, appearing as the romantic dangling carrot to heavyset Divine in the John Water’s delightfully tasteless “Polyester”, the first mainstream hit for Waters. Hunter went on to team up with Alan Glaser to co-produce and co-star a Waters-like western spoof “Lust in the Dust”, released in 1985.

In 2005, Tab Hunter released his memoir, “Tab Hunter Confidential”.  He had met his partner Alan Glaser in 1983, together producing two movies: “Lust in the Dust” and Hunter’s final film, the 1992 “Dark Horse”, the plot revolving around a horse ranch, a passion of Hunter’s life.  He died on July 8, 2018 at his Santa Barbara residence in California, three days shy of his eighty seventh birthday. Hunter and Glaser were together as a couple for thirty-five years.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 10th of July, Solar Year 2018

Wet Patterns on Tile and Skin

July 10, 1926 was the birthdate of American actor, Fred Gwynne.

New York City born, Fred Gwynne joined the Brattle Theater Repertory company after graduating from Harvard in 1951. He worked as a copywriter for the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson, leaving the company after being cast in a play. Gwynne appeared as a gangster for his first Broadway role in the comedy “Mrs. McThing”, starring Helen Hayes.

In 1954, Fred Gwynne had an uncredited role, playing “Slim” in the Oscar-winning drama “On the Waterfront”. Shortly afterwards, actor Phil Silvers, impressed by Gwynne’s role in “Mr. Mc thing”, sought him out for his television show. Gwynne portrayed Corporal Ed Honnergar in the “Phil Silvers Show”, a military based comedy, gaining him national recognition for his comedic acting.

Writer and producer Nat Hiken from Warner Brothers Studio cast Fred Gwynne in the situation comedy show “Car 54, Where are You?” as Patrolman Francis Muldoon, opposite comic actor Joe  E. Ross. The series which ran for two years was about two New York City police officers based in the fictional 53rd precinct of the Bronx. Car 54 was their squad car. The show was nominated for four Primetime Emmy Awards, and won one. During this series Gwynne met and established a longtime friendship with Al Lewis, a co-star in the near future.

In September of 1964, “The Munsters” started on television. It was a sitcom depicting the home life of a family of benign monsters and starred Fred Gwynn as the Frankenstein-like monster Herman Munster. The costars were Yvonne De Carlo as his wife and old friend Al Lewis as Grandpa, the aged vampire who pines for “the old days”. For his role, Gwynne had to wear forty pounds of makeup, padding, and four-inch asphalt-spreader boots. After this role, because of its popularity, he found himself typecast for two years.

A talented vocalist, Fred Gwynne sang in a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, “The Littlest Angel”, shown on television in 1969. He also appeared on Broadway in a revival of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” playing big Daddy Pollitt. The following years he appeared in the plays: the 1975 “Our Town” at the American Shakespeare Theater in Stratford and “A Texas Trilogy” on Broadway in 1976. In his last film “My Cousin Vinny” Gwynne played Judge Chamberlain Haller, using a Southern accent in his verbal sparring with Joe Pesci’s character, Vincent “Vinny” Gambini.

On July 2, 1996, Fred Gwynn died of complications from pancreatic cancer at his home in Taneytown, Maryland. He is buried at Sandy Mount United Methodist Church Cemeteay in Finksburg, Maryland.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 8th of July, Solar Year 2018

Red Towel and Mirror

July 8, 1934 was the birthdate of British comedian, comedy writer, and actor, Martin Alan “Marty” Feldman.

Marty Feldman was born in the East End of London, the son of Jewish immigrants from Kiev, Ukraine. He suffered in childhood from thyroid disease and developed Graves’ ophthalmopathy, causing his eyes to protrude and become misaligned. By the age of twenty, he had decided to pursue a career as a comedian.

In 1954, Marty Feldman first met Barry Took, a West End revue performer, forming an enduring writing partnership with him which lasted for twenty years. Together they wrote most of the shows of “Bootsie and Snudge”, a situation comedy for the ITV Network, and the BBC radio show “Round the Home” from 1964 to 1967. Feldman became chief write and script editor for the 1966-67 “The Frost Report”, which introduce John Cleese, Ronnie Barker, and Ronnie Corbett to television.

Marty Feldman’s appearance on the sketch comedy series “At Last the 1948 Show” as the fourth cast member of the group raised his profile on television. His character, frequently a harassing pest, interacted with fellow comedians John Cleese, Tim Brook-Taylor, and Graham Chapman. Thirteen series were made during the ten-month run, of which eleven complete shows survive.

On film, Marty Feldman is best known for his portrayal of Igor  (pronounced Eye-Gore) in the now-comedy classic by Mel Brooks “Young Frankenstein”, released in 1974. The screenplay was written by Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder, who had Feldman in mind when he wrote the part. Feldman improvised many of his scenes’ lines during the shooting.

Feldman later in his career, appeared as a guest on “The Dean Martin Show”, ventured into Italian cinema in the sex comedy “Sex with a Smile”, appeared with Gene Wilder in Wilder’s directorial debut “The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother”, played Marty Eggs in Mel Brook’s “Silent Movie”, starred in his own written and directed comedy “The Last Remake of Beau Geste”, and showed up in a cameo role with the Cookie Monster on “The Muppet Show”.

Marty Feldman died from a heart attack in a hotel room in Mexico City on December 2, 1982 at the age of forty-eight, while filming “Yellowbeard”. He is buried in Forest Lawn- Hollywood Cemetery near his idol, Buster Keaton, in the Garden of Heritage.