comedy

TV Tuesday: Take A Good Look 1959

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Ernie Kovacs Image One
Image Credit: forcesofgeek.com

Sixty years ago, today, the game show Take a Good Look debuted on ABC. Created by Ernie Kovacs, it ran for two seasons with 53 episodes. Designed as a parody of Goodson-Todman panel games, celebrities were to guess the secret of the person brought before them. The clues provided were short video clips or skits and were extremely vague. The people brought on stage were regular folks that had an interesting area of expertise, had experienced extraordinary events in their lives or had been in the news.

Ernie Kovacs Image Two
Photo Credit: Bottom Shelf Movies

Regular panelists were Edie Adams (Kovacs’ wife), Cesar Romero, Hans Conried, Ben Alexander and Carl Reiner (second season). Other panelists to participate were Zsa Zsa Gabor, Jane Wyatt, Mort Sahl, Jack Carson, Tony Randall, Janet Leigh and Jim Backus.

Kovacs was a guest panelist on What’s My Line? (10 appearances) and a mystery guest (two appearances). This is probably where the idea for his show came from.

Movie Monday: One-Thing-At-A-Time O’Day 1919

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O'Day Image
Image Credit: wikipedia.org & Metro Pictures Corp.

There weren’t any movies released on today’s date. So, I will use yesterday’s date. One-hundred years, ago, yesterday, One-Thing-At-A-Time O’Day was released. Based on a short story by William Pelley, it was directed by John Ince with the adaptation written by George Baker. A lost, silent comedy film, it starred Bert Lytell, Joseph Kilgour, Eileen Percy, Stanton Heck, William Carroll and Bull Montana.

Synopsis:

A serious-minded boob named Stradivarious O’Day, because his music-loving mother says he “fiddles his time away”, acquires his nickname because of his motto of “one thing at a time and that done well.” Falling in love when he first sees circus bareback rider Prairie-Flower Marie, O’Day, living off his inheritance, follows the circus until the pestered manager gives him a job cleaning his Ford. With the help of a manual, O’Day learns to drive and secures employment with the circus as a chauffeur. After strong man Gorilla Lawson, who also loves Marie, beats him up, O’Day contacts his friend, boxer Roughneck M’Dool, to teach him to fight. Lawson, frightened by O’Day’s daily development, steals the circus receipts, and the Ford, on the day of their scheduled fight but, O’Day overtakes and whips him. After O’Day weds Marie, he unwittingly goes against his motto when he becomes the father of twins.

[Source]

Movie Monday: The Brash Drummer & The Nectarine 1914

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The Brash Drummer Image One
Image Credit: imdb.com

One-hundred, five years ago, today, The Brash Drummer and The Nectarine was released. A short, silent, black & white comedy, it was written and directed by George Ade, a popular American humorist for his time and a follower of Mark Twain. Starring Wallace Beery and Bevery Bayne, this piece was one of Ade’s Fables in Slang.

Summary:

Gabby Gus made the town regularly every month. He was a swell guy and thought he could cop most any Jane that he took a liking to. Clara Louise Willoughby, a farmer’s daughter with a pretty face and figure, took the salesman’s eye. He looked the old gent up in Dunn and Bradstreet and, discovered that the old boy was worth some coin. Then, he set his traps for the daughter. Dad, however, sent her away to boarding school and when she returned, she was the swellest peach in the orchard. They all fell for her. Gus hastened to her home where he discovered she was some lemon when it came to the country stuff and that she was a real ‘highfalutin’ society butterfly now. […] her aspirations were higher than a poor hick drummer. She made him feel awfully small. [Source]

I can’t find a video clip of this film but, I did find Ade’s Fables in Slang in audio book form. It has 26 stories and was published in 1899. [Disclaimer: It is nearly two hours long.] ~Vic

Throwback Thursday: Hour Glass 1946

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Hour Glass Image One
Photo Credit: eyesofageneration.com

Seventy-three years, ago, today, the long forgotten variety show Hour Glass debuted on NBC. It was the first hour-long musical/skit/comedy in television history. Co-hosts were Helen Parrish and Eddie Mayehoff. Edgar Bergen appeared on November 14 performing his ventriloquism, a rare thing for radio personalities. He later became host of the program.

From Wikipedia

Hour Glass was sponsored by Standard Brands, promoting Chase and Sanborn Coffee and, Tenderleaf Tea. The program included comedians, musicians, entertaining films (such as a film of dance in South America) and a long, live commercial for the sponsor’s products. Such famous names as Doodles Weaver, Bert Lahr, Dennis Day, Jerry Colonna, Peggy Lee and Joe Besser appeared on the program.

The Columbia History of American Television attributed the program’s short life to its cost, saying, “Standard Brands invested $200,000 in this series over its ten-month tenure at a time when that level of investment just couldn’t be supported and sustained, leading to the Hour Glass’s abbreviated run.” Another factor was that James Petrillo, president of the American Federation of Musicians, forbade musicians from performing on television without an agreement between the AFM and the networks, thus, limiting directors, and performers, to use of recorded music.

Hour Glass Image Two
Photo Credit: eyesofageneration.com

From the Television Academy Foundation:

It is historically important, however, in that it exemplified the issues faced by networks, sponsors and advertising agencies in television’s formative years. The program was produced by the J. Walter Thompson agency […]. The lines of responsibility were not completely defined in those early years and the nine-month run of Hour Glass was punctuated by frequent squabbling among the principals. Each show was assembled by seven Thompson employees working in two teams, each putting together a show over two weeks in a frenzy of production. It must have been the curiosity factor that prompted some stars to appear on the show because they certainly were not paid much money. Hour Glass had a talent budget of only $350 a week, hardly more than scale for a handful of performers. Still, Standard Brands put an estimated $200,000 into the program’s nine-month run, by far the largest amount ever devoted to a sponsored show at that time. In February 1947, Standard Brands canceled Hour Glass. They were pleased with the show’s performance in terms of beverage sales and its overall quality, yet, were leery about continuing to pour money into a program that did not reach a large number of households (it is unclear if the show was broadcast anywhere other than NBC’s interconnected stations in New York and Philadelphia). The strain between NBC and Thompson played a role as well. Still, Hour Glass did provide Thompson with a valuable blueprint for the agency’s celebrated and long-running production, Kraft Television Theatre.

More information from Eyes of a Generation

Movie Monday: The Other Woman 2014

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The Other Woman Image One
Photo Credit: imdb.com

Five years ago, today, the #1 movie at the box office was The Other Woman, a comedy starring Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Don Johnson, Kate Upton, Taylor Kinney and Nicki Minaj. Released April 25, it was directed by Nick Cassavetes (the son of John Cassavetes & Gena Rowlands). Melissa Stack was hired to write a screenplay that was based on the 1996 movie The First Wives Club.

IMDB Summary:

After discovering her boyfriend is married, Carly Whitten tries to get her ruined life back on track. But, when she accidentally meets the wife he’s been cheating on, she realizes they have much in common and her sworn enemy becomes her greatest friend. When yet another affair is discovered, all three women team up to plot mutual revenge on their cheating, lying, three-timing SOB.

Quotes
From Justin Chang (Variety):

[…] an ungainly, often flat-footed yet weirdly compelling romantic dramedy about two gals who become unlikely best friends when they realize they’re being screwed (literally) by the same man. Like a watered-down “Diabolique” or a younger-skewing “First Wives Club,” this latest mainstream rebound from director Nick Cassavetes taps into the pleasures of sisterly solidarity and righteous revenge. Beneath the wobbly pratfalls and the scatological set pieces, there’s no denying the film’s mean-spirited kick, or its more-than-passing interest in what makes its women tick.

The Other Woman Image Two
Image Credit: imdb.com

From Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter):

A female solidarity adultery comedy that’s three parts embarrassing farce to one part genuinely comic discharge.

From Christy Lemire (Roger Ebert):

Trouble is, Cassavetes, working from a script by Melissa K. Stack, veers wildly between cautionary tale, revenge comedy, scatological raunchfest and female empowerment drama. In theory, the joy of watching this kind of movie comes from seeing such a smooth operator squirm as his schemes are revealed and destroyed. […] plot contrivances abound […], along with not one but, two instances of characters, um, graphically relieving themselves at inopportune moments. The joke isn’t funny the first time and this kind of gross-out strain of comedy clangs uncomfortably with the feel-good message […]. Any semblance of intelligent humor or insight into female aging that may have existed gets tossed out the window of Carly’s high-rise office by the end […]

[There are, literally, NO good trivia bits for this movie. ~Vic]

Awards & Nominations

Movie Monday: 17 Again 2009

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17 Again Image One
Photo Credit: imdb.com

Ten years ago, today, the #1 movie at the box office was 17 Again, a comedy starring Zac Efron, Matthew Perry, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon, Michelle Trachtenberg, Jim Gaffigan, Margaret Cho & Melora Hardin. Released April 17, it was directed by Burr Steers (Gore Vidal‘s nephew).

17 Again Image Two
Image Credit: itunes.apple.com

IMDB Summary:

At 17 Mike O’Donnell is on top of the world: he’s the star of his high school basketball team, is a shoo-in for a college scholarship, and is dating his soul-mate, Scarlet. But, at what’s supposed to be his big game where a college scout is checking him out, Scarlet reveals that she’s pregnant. Mike decides to leave the game and asks Scarlet to marry him, which she does. During their marriage, Mike can only whine about the life he lost because he married her so, she throws him out. When he also loses his job, he returns to the only place he’s happy at, his old high school. While looking at his high school photo, a janitor asks him if he wishes he could be 17 again and he says yes. One night while driving he sees the janitor on a bridge ready to jump and goes after him. When he returns to his friend Ned’s house, where he has been staying, he sees that he is 17 again. He decides to take this opportunity to get the life he lost.

Trivia Bits:
♦ Visual effects were not used when Zac Efron does the basketball tricks during the cafeteria scene. He really did accomplish them on his own.
♦ This is a remake of the 1986 Disney TV movie “Young Again” starring a very young Keanu Reeves in one of his earliest roles.
♦ In one scene, Mike wakes up and begins describing his “dream” of being in high school again only to find his daughter, Maggie, caring for him. This is an homage to the counterpart scene in Back to the Future (1985), in which Marty McFly wakes up and finds his teen-aged mother caring for him.

Awards & Nominations

Movie Monday: The Wrecking Crew 1969

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The Wrecking Crew Image One
Image Credit: imdb.com

Fifty years ago, today, the most popular film at the box office was The Wrecking Crew, a comedy Spy-Fi starring Dean Martin, Elke Sommer, Sharon Tate (Polanski), Nancy Kwan, Nigel Green, Tina Louise and Chuck Norris, making his film début. Opening in the U.S. (NYC) on February 5, it was directed by Phil Karlson, produced by Irving Allen, written by (screenplay) William P. McGivern with music by Hugo Montenegro and Dean Martin serving as Executive Producer, uncredited. Bruce Lee was listed as the ‘Karate Advisor’, choreographing the fight scenes.

The movie was based on Donald Hamilton’s novel of the same name, his second spy thriller about Matt Helm, a fictional U.S. Agent & assassin. Martin played Helm in three previous films and this movie was the last of the series despite the announcement at the end of the film of a fifth installment. Hamilton has written 27 Helm novels spanning 1960 to 1993 with #28 still unpublished, though, finished in the late 1990s.

This was the second to the last movie Sharon Tate (Polanski) made before her murder on August 9, 1969 and the last one released before her death. The Thirteen Chairs was released two months afterwards.

Sharon Tate Polanski Image Two
Photo Credit: imdb.com

Summary from Rotten Tomatoes:

Secret agent Matt Helm is called on to stop a plan to steal over one billion dollars in gold. With the help of the fumbling female [British] agent Freya, the two race against time to stop the devious plan of Count Contini and his henchmen. The Count is aided by a bevy of beauties who attempt to throw the world economy into chaos with the heist. Helm is constantly interrupted just before his amorous adventures can be set in motion by the overzealous […] Freya.

Trivia Bits:
♦ The working title of the film was House of 7 Joys.
♦ Dean Martin was so distraught over the murder of his co-star and friend, Sharon Tate, that he abandoned the next, already announced, “Matt Helm” motion picture series installment (to be titled “The Ravagers”) and, never played the character again. This is contrary to the post that the series ended due to poor ratings.
♦ Bruce Lee was the martial arts adviser for this film. He also was brought in to train and teach Sharon Tate with her martial arts scenes.
♦ Karate champion Mike Stone was Dean Martin’s fight double. Stone was Priscilla Presley’s boyfriend after she left Elvis.

I can’t find an actual trailer for this movie but, I did find some snippets.


 


 

Movie Monday: Design For Living 1934

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Design For Living Photo
Photo Credit: criterion.com

Eighty-five years ago, today, the #1 film at the box office was the menage a trois comedy Design For Living. Released on December 29, 1933, it starred Fredric March, Gary Cooper and Miriam Hopkins. It was based, loosely on a play written by Noël Coward in 1932. It was very risqué for its time and, was a pre-code movie produced and released before strict enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code, the censorship guidelines demanded by American Roman Catholics. Interestingly, the critical response to the film was more about its gutting of the original material than of its questionable morality.

IMDB Summary:

Two Americans sharing a flat in Paris, playwright Tom Chambers and painter George Curtis, fall for free-spirited Gilda Farrell. When she can’t make up her mind which one of them she prefers, she proposes a “gentleman’s agreement”: She will move in with them as a friend and critic of their work but, they will never have sex. When Tom goes to London to supervise a production of one of his plays, leaving Gilda alone with George, how long will their gentleman’s agreement last?

Trivia Bits:
♦ Gary Cooper spoke fluent French and was able to use it for the first time in this film.
♦ Lubitsch [then] asked Douglas Fairbanks Jr. to play George, and he accepted but, he contracted pneumonia just before filming was to start and he was replaced by Gary Cooper.
♦ Writer Ben Hecht and producer-director Ernst Lubitsch retained only one line from the original play by Noël Coward: “For the good of our immortal souls!”
♦ Considerable censorship difficulties arose because of sexual discussions and innuendos, although the Hays Office eventually approved the film for release. However, it was banned by the Legion of Decency and was refused a certificate by the PCA for re-release in 1934, when the production code was more rigorously enforced.

Nominations:
American Film Institute (AFI) 100 Years…100 Passions
American Film Institute (AFI) 10 Top 10: Romantic Comedy