Saturday, April 14, 2018

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.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Olivia's Feud

Most observers seem to agree that the dismissal of Olivia de Havilland's defamation lawsuit against the creators of Feud: Bette and Joan was the correct outcome. As an author who writes about Hollywood history, I'm given to understand that I should be relieved, as a victory for the 101-year-old retired actress would have set a dangerous legal precedent.

But I sympathize nonetheless with Miss de Havilland's comments to a journalist, explaining her objection to the way she was portrayed in the TV miniseries: "The creators of Feud used my identity without my consent and put false words in my mouth." Had I been writing a biography of the actress, would I have attributed quotes to her that were not documented by any reliable source? No, and that's what bothers me about what was done to her. Being a celebrity opens the door for almost anything to be said or written about you. As a legal principle, I understand it. But as a way to treat another human being? Not so much.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Crawford Celebration

Happy birthday (in memoriam) to the unforgettable actress who epitomizes the Golden Age movie star! I wish one of those autographed photos was coming to me.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Morning Merriment

Fans of classic comedy are in for a treat! Decades, the digital broadcast TV network, is giving its viewers plenty of laughs, with a double dose of morning comedy. Two of the best comediennes of the 1950s are brightening Decades' morning lineup, with the revival of I Married Joan (above), starring Joan Davis, and Our Miss Brooks (below), starring Eve Arden.

And if, after admiring their comic gifts, you find yourself wanting to know more about the lives and careers of these two very funny ladies, I have a suggestion or two for you about that.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A New Look at "Margie"

Could we be in for a resurgence of interest in Gale Storm's life and career? The recent release of a two-disc DVD set, My Little Margie: The Complete First Season (Nostalgia Family Video) gives me reason to hope.

In recent years, fans wanting to get their fix of Margie, Vern, and the gang have usually had to make do with less-than-ideal DVD releases, often featuring grainy copies of episodes taped off a TV rerun. This new set, however, offers some of the cleanest, most spruced-up prints I've ever seen. It's available through several major online retailers.

That, along with the forthcoming release of a certain book on the subject, may help longtime fans celebrate Miss Storm all the more, and hopefully win her a few new admirers as well. She deserves nothing less.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Spring's Around the Corner

It's that time again!

My publisher, McFarland, has a catalog of new and forthcoming releases designed to tantalize any pop culture-loving reader. One of them, of course, is my book on Gale Storm, which should be out in about six weeks. (It can be pre-ordered on AmazonBarnes & Noble, or directly from the publisher.)

McFarland books have long been recognized for covering a wide array of pop culture topics. I was amused to see that the new catalog finds Gale sharing a page with none other than the Sex Pistols. How's that for an eclectic double feature?

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Mr. Burger's Best Argument

Let's take a few moments to remember a fine actor, William Talman, born on this date in 1915. The photo above commemorates his signature role. as the singularly unsuccessful (albeit relentless) district attorney on TV's Perry Mason.

Talman's life after TV success was cut tragically short; he contracted lung cancer and died in 1968, only 53 years old. Determined that something good should come from his illness, Talman recorded public service announcements urging others not to smoke. If you've never seen his message, take a look here. It's still a powerful reminder of the devastating impact of cancer.