Sunday, January 29, 2017

Remembering Barbara

It's been a tough week for classic TV and movie fans, with the losses of beloved performers Mary Tyler Moore, Mike Connors, and now Barbara Hale, who passed away at the age of 94.

Barbara's iconic role as the loyal, smart, and beautiful secretary Della Street on CBS' Perry Mason (1957-66) sometimes threatened to overshadow her many other career accomplishments. Before that show came along, she graced the casts of some top-notch films, including The Window (1949) and A Lion Is In The Streets (1953). But if Della proved to be her chief claim to fame, she apparently didn't mind. She enjoyed a warm friendship with series star Raymond Burr, and successfully juggled a career with a rich and satisfying personal life as wife and mother.

Rest in peace, Miss Hale, and congratulations on a life well-lived.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Working Woman

Happy birthday (in memoriam) to gorgeously talented Ann Sothern (1909-2001), one of the Women Who Made Television Funny commemorated in my first book. Was there much of anything she couldn't do? An actress equally at home in comedy or drama, as well as a fine singer, she had a long and varied career that encompassed film, radio, television, and the stage. Off-camera, she was an astute businesswoman who knew how to get things done, and was often the driving force behind her professional success.

By nature, she confessed in a late 1950s interview, she was "the laziest gal in town." But somehow work always called, and Ann Sothern always responded. Aren't we glad she did?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Reader Alert!

It's that time again. My publisher, McFarland, has released its semi-annual catalog of new titles. And while you won't find my name in it, there are plenty of intriguing-sounding books on performing arts and other topics. Here's the one I may be most anxious to read:

On the other hand, Richard Irvin's Film Stars' Television Projects sounds interesting, too. And then there's...

Oh, go ahead. Have fun doing your own shopping. Go here to browse the full catalog.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

"Celia Rubenstein Loved All Mankind..."

Happy birthday (in memoriam) to the great character actress Amzie Strickland (1919-2006), who appeared in practically every classic show you could shake a stick at. Even when she didn't have a recurring character to play, most shows liked her work enough to call her back multiple times.

Here's one of my favorite Strickland moments, from The Golden Girls, playing an unexpected mourner at the funeral of a woman no one liked.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Life of Brian

Author Derek Sculthorpe, who last year gave us a fine book about Van Heflin, makes it two-for-two with Brian Donlevy, the Good Bad Guy (McFarland). It's a thoroughly readable and comprehensive look at the life and career of an oft-underappreciated actor who lent his name and talent to some genuine Hollywood classics (Destry Rides Again, The Great McGinty, Kiss of Death) in the course of a long and productive career.

Sculthorpe's book is subtitled "A Bio-Filmography," which aptly describes the author's skillful melding of the personal and the professional in one compact volume. As a writer, Sculthorpe has the gift of brevity -- he gives the reader a strong sense of who Donlevy was, and what was distinctive about his performances, without wasting words, repeating himself, or gushing. We get a thoughtful look at the women Donlevy married, including one who wanted to give him a makeover, and one who made him an ideal companion in his later years. Attention is also paid to the star's beginnings on Broadway, as well as his collaboration with the great Preston Sturges. Arresting film stills grace the text throughout.

Sculthorpe has quickly established himself as a compelling new voice in the world of film studies. I, for one, hope he has many more books in him.

NOTE: I was furnished a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.