Monday, November 30, 2015

DVD Spotlight on "The Bold Ones: The Lawyers"

Good news for classic TV fans! On December 1st, Timeless Media continues its DVD releases of the social dramas that aired under the umbrella TV series The Bold Ones (1968-73). The Lawyers stars Burl Ives as a crafty attorney working with two junior associates played by Joseph Campanella and James Farentino. The DVD boxed set includes two made-for-TV movies and 27 episodes that aired in a one-hour time slot. Earlier this year, Timeless Media offered boxed sets of two other Bold Ones TV series: The Senator (with Hal Holbrook) and The Protectors (starring Leslie Nielsen and Hari Rhodes).

Guy Stockwell and James Farentino.
The highlight of The Lawyers DVD collection may be the 1968 TV-movie The Sound of Anger. Often listed as a pilot, it's actually a "one off" telefilm starring Lynda Day George and David Macklin as young lovers accused of murdering George's wealthy father. Macklin's sister enlists brothers Brad and Nick Darrell (Guy Stockwell and Farentino) as defense attorneys. Ives plays sly local lawyer Walter Nichols, who agrees to defend Lynda Day George. Initially, there is a lack of trust among the attorneys...until the brothers learn to value Nichols' understanding of Citrus County politics.

Allegedly based on a true Orange County murder case, the script was co-written by Roy Huggins, the man behind such TV classics as Maverick and The Fugitive. Huggins and co-writer Dick Nelson pull off not one, but two two nifty and very satisfying twists. Director Michael Ritchie edits the film flashily, which is occasionally distracting and sometimes very clever. Ritchie went on to become a successful big screen director, helming critically acclaimed films (Downhill Racer, Smile) and mainstream hits (The Bad News Bears).

Lynda Day George,
Although the three male leads all acquit themselves nicely, the revelation here is Lynda Day George's performance. The former model, and widow of actor Christopher George, was a busy television actress in the 1960s and 1970s. She eventually joined the cast of Mission: Impossible as a regular in 1971. The Sound of Anger features what may be her finest performance as a defendant who may be a loving innocent daughter--or a cold-blooded, manipulating killer.

Hal Halbrook prior to The Senator.
The DVD set's second telefilm, The Whole World Is Watching (1969), clearly serves as the pilot film for The Lawyers TV series. Joseph Campanella replaces Guy Stockwell as Farentino's brother (now called Brian Darrell). Walter Nichols (who almost seems to be a different character) and the Darrell brothers have started a practice together in San Francisco. The plot centers around a student protester who allows himself to be arrested for murder in order to "teach the Establishment a lesson." Hal Holbrook has a small but key role as a university chancellor-- a performance that earned him an Emmy nomination (and also no doubt led to his casting in the pilot for The Senator). Although not as gripping as The Sound of Anger, this series pilot focuses on the kind of legal and social issues that would serve the resulting TV series well.

Joseph Campanella.
The one-hour episodes of The Lawyers sometimes eschewed the courtroom, as in "A Game of Chance," which finds Brian Darrell going undercover to clear his brother of drug charges. The best episodes, though, are those that focus on the ethics of the legal profession. For example, in "The People Against Ortega," Brian faces potential disbarment at the episode's conclusion for misleading the judge in his efforts to win acquittal for his client.

The Lawyers debuted as one of The Bold Ones rotating series in September 1969. Originally, it aired alongside The New Doctors and The Protectors. In 1970, The Protectors was replaced by The Senator, which only lasted one year despite much critical acclaim. For its third season, The Bold Ones consisted of The Lawyers and The New Doctors. That proved to be the closing argument for The Lawyers, which was cancelled after 27 episodes over three seasons. (The New Doctors continued for a short fourth season.) During its run, The Lawyers won Emmys for direction (Alexander Singer) and music (Pete Rugolo).

Burl Ives as Walter Nichols.
Following The Lawyers, James Farentino immediately started another rotating TV series, Cool Million, which was part of the short-lived NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie. Joseph Campanella carved out a highly successful career guest-starring in television series such as One Day at a Time, The Colbys, and Beauty and the Beast. Burl Ives made several appearances on another Roy Huggins TV series, Alias Smith and Jones, but reduced his roles before retiring from film and TV in 1988.

Timeless Media's The Bold Ones: The Lawyers boxed set contains eight discs. There are no bonus features, but visual quality is good for a 1970s television show. One can only hope that a release of The Bold Ones: The New Doctors is in the wings.

Timeless Media provided a copy of this DVD set for review.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Holiday Gift Ideas for the Classic Film and TV Fan (2015 Edition)

For the past six years, the Cafe's staff has provided a list of recommended gifts for your favorite classic film and/or TV fan. It's one of our most popular features. This year's choices run the gamut from classic musicals to Bogey as Marlowe to a sci fi TV series with marionettes.

Best of Warner Bros. 20 Films Collection: Musicals. I usually steer clear of the mega boxed sets because DVD quality is often sacrificed for quantity. However, this set was released by a major studio and each disc contains only one movie. Warners has done a great job in compiling classic musicals from its early days (The Jazz Singer) through the Busby Berkeley years (42nd Street) and the colorful 1950s (Singin' in the Rain, Seven Brides) and 1960s (The Music Man). Even the choices from the 1980s are engaging, tune-filled romps like Victor/Victoria and Little Shop of Horrors. While the list price is $99, you can find this mammoth set at discounts of 60%--that $2 a movie and that ain't bad.

The puppet "star" was inspired
by James Garner.
Stingray: The Complete Series - 50th Anniversary Collection. The young and the young-at-heart will enjoy Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's fanciful 1964-65 British sci fi series about a futuristic submarine called Stingray. The characters are all "played" by marionettes, with the action taking place on some of the most incredible miniature sets you will ever see. Plus, for adults, there's even a love triangle between the sub commander (Troy Tempest), his boss's daughter (Atlanta Shore), and a mute young woman from an undersea civilization (Marina). The five-DVD boxed set includes all 39 half-hour episodes, plus an interview with Gerry Anderson, a making-of featurette, and audio commentaries on several episodes.

TCM Greatest Classic Films: Murder Mysteries. The TCM Greatest Classic Films and Greatest Classic Legends are value-priced DVD sets that typically contain four movies featuring a common theme or star. The movies in this particular set have a pretty weak connection--they're all murder mysteries! However, this collection contains three legitimate classics and one underrated feature by a great director. The iconic films are: The Maltese FalconThe Postman Always Rings Twice, and The Big Sleep. The fourth feature, Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder may not be in the same class, but every time I watch it, I always seem to end up pleasantly surprised.

Dorothy L. Sayers Mysteries: Harriet Vane Collection. The title of this three-DVD set is a little misleading, as it's actually comprised of a trio of Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. Made in 1987, this series starred Edward Petherbridge as Ms. Sayers' British gentleman detective and Harriet Walter as his love interest Harriet Vane. Being a big fan of Ian Carmichael's earlier Lord Peter Wimsey TV series, I approached this one with trepidation. However, Petherbridge is an excellent Lord Peter and he and Harriet Walter generate plenty of romantic sparks when they're not solving murders (or proving her innocence).

Abbott and Costello Meet the Monsters Collection. This four-movie set include one bona fide classic--Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein--and three funny follow-ups in which Bud & Lou confront the Invisible Man, the Mummy, and Mr. Hyde. Even the weakest film in the set, A&C Meet the Mummy, features a hilarious routine in which Bud and Lou try to slip one another a dangerous medallion...and Lou winds up eating it in his hamburger.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Rocky: The Underdog That Won an Oscar

Sylvester Stallone in the original Rocky.
The Rocky saga continues on November 25th with the release of Creed. This latest installment in Sylvester Stallone's long-running series about a blue-collar boxer is a reboot. This time, Rocky Balboa takes a backseat in a story that focuses on Apollo Creed's son Adonis.

Creed is the first film in the series since Rocky Balboa in 2006. That year, I watched all six of the Rocky pics and was struck by the enduring popularity of the character. The credit belongs to Sylvester Stallone, whose talents as a filmmaker and actor have certainly been questioned. For every good movie he’s made (e.g., Cliffhanger), there are two or three humdrum ones (e.g., The Specialist, Judge Dredd, and Oscar). Heck, maybe the good-to-bad ratio is even higher. But Stallone’s poor career choices don’t negate the fact that the original Rocky is a remarkably entertaining and—yes—even inspirational tale of an underdog that beats all odds.

The deceptively simple plot has Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), a flamboyant heavyweight boxing champion whose popularity is waning, generating publicity by giving an unknown fighter a shot at the title. Stallone, who wrote a draft of the Rocky script in three days, derived his premise from the real-life boxing bout between heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali and unknown challenger Chuck Wepner. Expected to suffer a quick defeat, Wepner went 15 rounds with Ali before losing in a technical knockout.

Adrian looked more glamorous in
later Rocky films.
In Stallone’s script, the champ Creed picks Rocky Balboa, a local Philadelphia fighter nicknamed The Italian Stallion. A has-been with a mediocre won-loss record, Rocky makes ends meet by collecting money for a loan shark. But from the moment that he accepts the challenge, Rocky’s life—and the lives of those around him—begins to change. He finds love with Adrian (Talia Shire, a wonderfully nuanced performance), the shy girl who works at the neighborhood pet store. He convinces Mickey (Burgess Meredith), the grizzled owner of a second-rate gym, that maybe they can both make something of their lives. He lifts the spirits of an entire neighborhood, as they watch him running through the streets daily as he trains for the big fight.

Rocky’s transition from “nobody” (how he defined himself) to “somebody” becomes complete at the climax of the now-famous training montage. It starts with an out-of-breath Rocky struggling to run up the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. But by the time it’s complete, a jubilant Rocky races up the steps to the strains of Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now” and, upon reaching the top, raises his arms in triumph. It’s certainly one of the most indelible images in 1970s cinema.

Still, despite the film’s strong performances (Stallone, Shire, Meredith, and Burt Young all received Oscar nominations), Rocky was considered a long shot for the Academy Award in 1976. Amazingly, despite stiff competition from the likes of Taxi Driver and Network, Rocky beat the odds and stunned everyone with its Oscar win—thus cementing its place in film history.

Meredith has one of the best scenes.
The rest of the story is a familiar one: Rocky propelled Stallone to superstar status and inspired five direct sequels. In Rocky II (1979), we get the Creed-Balboa rematch while Adrian gives birth to their son. Rocky III (1982), the best of the sequels, finds Rocky becoming complacent while a new ruthless challenger (Mr. T as Clubber Lang) fights his way into contention. Rocky IV (1985), the weakest series entry, pits Rocky against a Russian steroid-enhanced fighting machine. Rocky’s climatic speech, a ridiculous slice of glasnost, has to be heard to be believed. Still, the film was a bona fide hit whereas Rocky V (1990) tanked at the boxoffice.

Despite many flaws, the fifth installment at least tried for something different—it ends with a brawl in the street, not the ring. That brings us to Rocky Balboa, which was intended at the time to be the last film in the series. Perhaps, it tries too hard to tie up all the loose ends and provide a fitting bookend to the first Rocky. And yet, this quiet film manages to capture the grittiness and heart of the original. It’s a fitting tribute to a character that endured for over three decades and brought joy to millions of movie-goers.

It will be interesting to see whether Creed can reignite interest in Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed. I just hope that Stallone doesn't regret not ending his film series on a high note--as he did with Rocky Balboa.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Seven Things to Know About Sydney Greenstreet

1. Sydney Greenstreet did not appear in a movie until he was 62. His film debut was pretty memorable, though—he played Kasper Gutman in The Maltese Falcon.

2. Despite a number of popular supporting performances (e.g., Casablanca, Christmas in Connecticut, Devotion), etc., he received only one Oscar nomination. That was for The Maltese Falcon and he lost in the Best Supporting Actor category in 1941 to Donald Crisp (How Green Was My Valley). It was a strong field that year, with the other nominees being James Gleason (Here Comes Mr. Jordan), Walter Brennan (Sergeant York), and Charles Coburn (The Devil and Miss Jones).

3. Greenstreet’s screen career consisted of just 23 films made between 1941 and 1949. Warner Bros. paired him with his Maltese Falcon co-star Peter Lorre nine times.

With Peter Lorre in Three Strangers.
4. Peter Lorre said of Sydney Greenstreet: “He was not only one of the nicest men and gentlemen I’ve ever known, I think he was one of the truly great, great actors of our time.” According to the biography The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre by Stephen Youngkin, Lorre referred to Greenstreet as “the old man,” while Greenstreet called Lorre “Puck.”

5. Tennessee Williams dedicated his 1946 one-act play The Last of the Solid Gold Watches to Sydney Greenstreet. Williams conceived the role of an “old-time traveling salesman” with Greenstreet in mind for the lead (Vincent Price played the part in 1947 at a small theatre in Los Angeles.)

6. Greenstreet provided the voice of Rex Stout’s portly sleuth Nero Wolfe in a half-hour 1950-51 NBC radio program (you can easily find episodes on the Internet). Fans of Stout’s books often criticize the series for taking too many liberties (e.g., Wolfe rarely mentions his orchids and, though reclusive, he's willing to leave his beloved brownstone on occasion).

Sydney Greenstreet and Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca.
7. Sydney Greenstreet, who battled kidney disease and diabetes, died in 1954 at age 74. Despite a brief acting career, he created a pantheon of memorable characters. My favorite may still be Kasper Gutman, so I leave you with this quote from The Maltese Falcon (imagine it delivered by Mr. Greenstreet—as only he could): “I couldn't be fonder of you if you were my own son. But, well, if you lose a son, it's possible to get another. There's only one Maltese Falcon.”

This post is part of the What a Character! blogathon co-hosted by Once Upon a Screen. It was delayed from last week and now technically starts on November 21st. Click here for the full schedule.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Eve Plumb Guest Stars on a Poignant "Family Affair" Christmas Episode

It's easy to forget that Family Affair was one of the most successful series on American television in the 1960s. During its five-year run that started in 1966, it finished in the Top 5 in the Nielsen ratings for three consecutive seasons. It was nominated for an Emmy twice as Outstanding Comedy Series, with stars Brian Keith and Sebastian Cabot also receiving Emmy nominations. Although best described as a family-oriented sitcom, Family Affair occasionally tackled serious themes--and that brings us to the fondly-remembered season 3 episode "Christmas Came a Little Early."

Eve Plumb as Buffy's friend Eve.
The episode guest stars Eve Plumb as a sickly young girl who participates in Buffy and Jody's school class via a telephone speaker (Buffy describes Eve as "just a funny electric box to us..and a voice"). Buffy's teacher asks her to deliver a book to Eve, who lives just around the corner from Uncle Bill's apartment. The two young girls hit off immediately and quickly become good friends. When Buffy learns that Eve can barely leave her bed, she confides to her new friend that Uncle Bill can fix anything.

Bill calls a physician friend and sets up (and pays for) a battery of tests to determine the extent of Eve's illness. The result is that he and Eve's parents learn that the girl will likely die within months. With the parents' blessing, Bill comes up with an excuse to celebrate Christmas early with Eve's family.

Anissa Jones as Buffy.
In researching this episode, I was surprised to learn of its impact on young viewers who watched it when it aired for the first time. These viewers, now adults, describe it as a "water cooler" episode that they discussed as kids with their classmates the next day. Why? Because it was the first TV series they saw in which a child died. (Actually, Eve doesn't die in the episode, but it's clear that she will and the closing scene shows Uncle Bill comforting a crying Buffy.)

The episode focuses on Buffy and Uncle Bill, with Cissy, Jody, and Mr. French limited to just a handful of short scenes. That works well, since Brian Keith (Bill) and Anissa Jones (Buffy) seem to bring out the best in each other. When Buffy asks her uncle to help Eve get well, it's touching to see the look of worry on Brian Keith's face. He skilfully conveys the feeling experienced by many parents who fear that day when their children realize parents are just normal people.

Uncle Bill and Buffy.
It's interesting to note, though, that Uncle Bill tells two significant lies during the episode. First, he tells Eve's parents that a foundation is paying for their daughter's medical tests (the parents figure out it was Bill). Later, he tells Buffy, Jody, and Cissy that he may have to work in Venezuela over Christmas--hence the reason to celebrate it early. Yes, his intentions are good in both cases, but, hey, it caused to me to question Uncle Bill as a role model!

As the terminally-ill Eve, ten-year-old Eve Plumb gives a natural, restrained performance. She had already made guest star appearances in shows like The Big Valley, It Takes a Thief, and The Virginian. The year after her Family Affair appearance, she would snag the role that made her famous--Jan Brady in The Brady Bunch.

To learn more about Family Affair, check out our exclusive July 2015 interview with one of its stars: Kathy Garver (shown on right).

MeTV is airing "Christmas Came a Little Early" tonight (Monday, Nov. 16th). This post is part of  A Very Merry MeTV Blogathon hosted by the Classic TV Blog Association. Click here to view the entire blogathon schedule.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Very Merry MeTV Blogathon of Holiday Favorites

The Classic TV Blog Association and MeTV are collaborating on a another classic TV blogathon--this time with a holiday theme!

Starting on Monday, November 16th and continuing through Christmas night, MeTV will air holiday episodes of classic television series every weeknight from 9:00 to 10:00 pm ET/PT. Concurrently, members of the Classic TV Blog Association will write about their favorite episodes. The Cafe's staff will be writing about Christmas-themed episodes of Family Affair and The Love Boat (and maybe more). Click here to check out the complete blogathon schedule.

If you want to participate, you need to be a member of the Classic TV Blog Association. That's not hard...and you'll meet some great TV bloggers, too. Just send an e-mail to:

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Cary Grant Occupation Quiz

Each occupation below was performed by Cary Grant in one of his movies. Your mission is to identify the movie! No references are must use your own brain! As always, please don't answer more than three questions per day, so others can play, too.

1. A businessman in Japan.

2. Mill worker.

3. Plantation owner.

4. Angel.

5. Governmental agent (by occupation...not happenstance).

6. "Retired" jewel thief.

7. Brain surgeon.

8. Songwriter.

9. Artist.

10. Advertising executive (who's married).

11. Research chemist.

12. Airplane pilot.

13. Royal Navy captain.

14. Advertising executive (who's unmarried).

15. Paleontologist.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Cult Movie Theatre: I Bury the Living

This review is by guest blogger ClassicBecky from ClassicBecky's Brain Food.

Richard Boone in IBTL.
Have you ever been digging through a big barrel full of DVDs at Walmart and thought you found a gem...and the gem turns out to be cheap glass? A few years ago, I found a collection of DVDs with 85 science fiction movies. Frankly, I had forgotten my glasses that day, so I couldn’t read the tiny type required to list all 85 titles on the back of the DVD set. I figured, what could go wrong? Surely there would be a bunch of good ones in the group. That’s how I found the 1958 film I Bury The Living (IBTL), starring Richard Boone. It was one of three movies that even seemed like they might be good, the others being White Zombie, which I do like, and The Crawling Eye, which I thought sounded fun. The rest had names like Hercules vs. the Amazon Women and Clowns on Mars.  Pretty sad.

I really like Richard Boone, having suffered a huge crush on him when he played Paladin, the gentlemanly, very moral gunman on Have Gun--Will Travel on TV. That black and silver ensemble – what girl child could resist it? It was strange to see him in ordinary street clothes in IBTL, and he didn’t seem as tall without his black cowboy hat. However, he was still masculine, appealing, and a good actor. The movie also starred Theodore Bikel, a well-respected actor, and Robert Anderson,  a well-known character actor and Dad to Dennis the Menace.

Boone plays Robert Kraft, a businessman who has to take his turn amongst the big boys in town to run Immortal Hills, the town cemetery.  Bikel is Andy McKee, a Scottish cemetery groundsman who has 40 years in the business and is creepily attached to his graveyard. Anderson is Jess Jessup (his parents must have had no imagination), the town newspaperman who must be frantically looking for some kind of story…he is always at the cemetery.  Other members of the cast include recognizable character actors and a woman who plays Boone’s love interest. She is actress Peggy Maurer, whose only other claim to fame is the two-minute part of grown-up Wendy in 1960’s Peter Pan.

The real star of the show is The Map. I capitalize The Map because it is the centerpiece of the movie.  isual effects man Edward Vorkapich (who never did anything much else in the movie biz) designed The Map, and it is fairly creepy. It’s really big, and shows the topography of the cemetery. Big black lines, which are never explained as far as what they represent, are scrawled across the map, and look like weird Picasso-ish eyes. Throughout the movie, the map changes perspective, becomes brighter and the black lines bolder. It does so as Kraft goes quietly crazy. 

Bikel and Boone in front of The Map.
In his capacity as manager of the cemetery, it is Kraft’s job to keep track of the dead who are already buried there, and the pre-planners who are yet to come. Black pins are used to mark the already-present dead, and white pins to mark customers who have not yet arrived. The tension begins when Kraft, who apparently can’t tell black from white, keeps using black pins to mark the living. When he accidentally does this, the people die, like right away, pretty much dropping in their tracks from auto accidents, heart attacks and the like. Kraft begins to believe that he is causing the deaths. He becomes hyper-aware of McKee’s annoying singing and the sound of the chisel chipping away at the gravestones McKee is making. McKee, in the meantime, is of little help to Kraft’s mental state, and is just generally strange. The story, which has holes like swiss cheese, finally wraps up with a barely believable ending.

IBTL is directed by Albert Band, known for extremely B movies (my favorite title of his is Dracula’s Dog). The music, which is OK but not particularly good, was done by music editor Eve Newman, also known for her work on Roger Corman’s Poe movies. She also composed the score for TV’s Sky King, one of my favorites when I was a kid (“Out of the blue of the western sky comes … Sky King!”)  According to IMDb, most of the people involved in IBTL appear to be best known for this movie, which apparently wasn’t much of an asset to their curriculum vitae.

Turner Classic Movies did show IBTL on its underground movie schedule in 2007. Otherwise, I don’t know where you would find it except in the big barrel at Walmart. By the way, it didn’t really have 85 movies–just 30. Still, three good movies out of 30 is not a good bargain!

The poster is great, but whoever designed it must not have actually seen the movie.  A great “cry”?  Maybe from the audience who paid money to see it.  Otherwise, I didn’t hear a thing.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Second Sight: A Love Story

When Bewitched ended its successful run, Elizabeth Montgomery opted to concentrate on made-for-TV films instead of another television series. It was a smart decision that allowed her to flex her dramatic talents. She also became one of the form's most popular stars, appearing in highly-rated TV movies (The Legend of Lizzie Borden) as well as socially relevant ones (the then-groundbreaking A Case of Rape).

One of my personal favorites is Second Sight: A Love Story (1984). Montgomery plays Alax McKay, a fiercely independent woman who lost her sight at age 16 as a result of congenital cataracts. She briskly brushes aside any attempts to assist her, though she confides to her brother: "There isn't a moment in my life when I feel completely safe."

Two separate events turn Alax's life upside down. First, she meets a man that cuts through her self-defenses and pursues her romantically. As if coping with the challenge of a new relationship wasn't hard enough, she discovers a burglar in her apartment. Her confidence shaken, she makes a life-altering decision to get a seeing-eye dog.

Second Sight is a compelling movie, especially when it focuses on Alax's daily experiences with Emma, her yellow Labrador Retriever. She spends four weeks living at the International Guiding Eyes school, learning that humans need just as much as training as their assistance dogs--maybe more. Her trust in Emma grows, especially after the Labrador proves her mettle by keeping Alax from colliding with a bicycle rider.

Second Sight eventually evolves into a more conventional drama when the story shifts to Alax's romantic relationship. It's done well enough and the normally intense Barry Newman seems almost subdued as Alax's encouraging boyfriend. However, I kept wishing the film would get back to the story of Alax and Emma.

The real Emma.
That is the focus of Emma and I, Sheila Hocken's 1978 autobiography which served as the basis for Second Sight. In real life, Emma was a chocolate Lab and Hocken's story took place in England in the 1960s. The book's ending is also different from the film's closing scene (no spoilers here!). Emma and I was the first of four books that Hocken wrote about her beloved canine companion. A fifth book, After Emma, is about Hocken's six other dogs (most of which are Labs!).

Second Sight: A Love Story was a personal project for Elizabeth Montgomery, who wanted to show Alax's flaws. She gives a heartfelt performance and--like Alax--the film succeeds despite its flaws in the second half. During the shoot, Elizabeth Montgomery and Emma became so attached that the actress adopted the dog in real life.

Monday, November 2, 2015

DVD Spotlight: Danny Kaye - Legends (six episodes from The Danny Kaye Show)

With TV variety series near the peak of their popularity in 1963, CBS offered a new show to one of Hollywood's most versatile performers: Danny Kaye. The comedian-singer-dancer had already hosted several successful television specials, so he was an obvious choice. The Danny Kaye Show ran for four years and 120 episodes, earning an Emmy for Outstanding Variety Series in 1966. MVD Entertainment Group recently released a two-disc DVD set called Danny Kaye - Legends, which contains the following six episodes of The Danny Kaye Show.

November 4, 1964 (S2 E7): Lucille Ball and John Gary,

December 9, 1964 (S2 E12): Tony Bennett, Imogene Coca, and the Clinger Sisters (there were four of them).

September 25, 1965 (S3, E3): Shirley Jones and the Righteous Brothers.

January 4, 1967 (S4, E16): Louis Armstrong and the Kessler Twins (singer-dancers Alice and Ellen).

January 11, 1967 (S4, E17): Liberace and Vikki Carr.

March 1, 1967 (S4, E24): George Burns and French singer Mirelle Mathieu.

The first two episodes are in B&W, but the other four show off the colorful costumes and sets. As indicated above, Kaye mixed well-known guest stars with promising young talent, such as Mirelle Mathieu. The French songstress was just 18 when she sang on the show--in her native language, no less. (Although she never gained fame in the U.S., she forged a long, successful career in France.)

George Burns and Danny Kaye.
Series regulars included Harvey Korman, Joyce Van Patten, orchestra leader Paul Weston, and youngster Victoria Meyerink (a semi-regular starting in 1965). Predictably, Korman shines in the numerous comedy skits, but he also proves to be a capable singer. Weston was already an acclaimed composer and arranger, who had worked with some of the biggest names in music (e.g., Johnny Mercer, Bing Crosby, Dinah Shore, etc.).

Satchmo on his trumpet.
The format of The Danny Kaye Show adhered to the standard variety series formula. Kaye usually opened with a musical number, sometimes being joined by a guest star. Comedy sketches followed, featuring Kaye and his guests or perhaps just the star by himself. There would be two or three songs performed by that week's musical headliner. Kaye typically closed the show by talking with the audience, sometimes inviting one of his fans to join him on stage. (Interestingly, though he was still a fluid dancer, Kaye didn't dance all that much.)

Lucy and Danny as the Scottish butler.
My favorite episodes among the ones included on Danny Kaye - Legends feature Lucille Ball and Shirley Jones. Lucy's episode ends with a brilliant sketch in which the two actors play six parts in a stage production called "Love Has Nine Lives." These marvelous comedians seem to be having as much as the audience as they enter and exit scenes portraying different characters (at various times in the play, each of them plays the same character).

Kaye and the lovely Ms. Jones.
Shirley Jones' episode is a delight from start to finish as she displays her first-rate singing and comedic talents. The Righteous Brothers are also on hand to sing their #1 hit "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling." The show ends with an extravagant "man vs. woman" trial--performed totally in song--with Harvey Korman as the judge, the Righteous Brothers as the attorneys, and Danny and Shirley as their clients.

The DVDs are packaged nicely, but there are no extras. There is a series of separate menus that conveniently list all the song performances separately. Visual quality is fine for a 50-year-old television series.

Classic television fans, and especially Danny Kaye admirers, will enjoy this two-disk set. The only downside is that Danny Kaye - Legends will leave you wishing there was a larger set featuring other guests such as Gene Kelly, Mary Tyler Moore, Glynnis Johns, Nat King Cole, Dick Van Dyke, and Harry Belafonte.

Danny Kaye - Legends is available from the MVD Entertainment Group and retail outlets. Jonas PR provided a copy of this DVD set for this review.