Eighty-five years ago, today, the black & white short comedy Why Pay Rent? was released. Directed by Lloyd French and, co-written by Dolph Singer & Jack Henley, it starred Roscoe Ates, Shemp Howard, Billie Leonard, Ethel Sykes and Ron Le May.
Elmer (Roscoe Ates) fixes up a room for his just-married, freeloading brother-in-law and wife. When the newlyweds show up, Henry (Shemp Howard) brings a surprise in the form of stepson Junior. The apartment is now too small so, Henry decides that they’ll buy a lot and build a do-it-yourself home, a disaster in the making when Junior switches the house’s part numbers. It doesn’t help matters that Elmer, Henry and the wives are all incompetent.
In the 1930s, the Vitaphone division of Warner Brothers made a bunch of very uninspired and, often, unfunny comedy shorts. One of them, Why Pay Rent? is a bit like One Week (with Buster Keaton) but, only if the folks building the house were dumber than a pile of bricks. In many ways, this might have worked better as a Three Stooges short, which is interesting because Shemp Howard stars in this one, as well as Roscoe Ates, an incredibly unfunny comedian whose shtick was stuttering…which was annoying rather and cruel.
Forty years ago, today, the very first American Movie Awards was televised on NBC. Filmed at the Wilshire Theatre, the ceremony honored film, actors, directors, screenwriters, music, favorites and a special recognition. Co-hosts were David Frost (also Executive Producer) and Dudley Moore with Angie Dickinson as Co-Hostess. Susan Anton was a performer. Judging by what few images I could find, the trophy was designed to resemble the Empire State Building.
♦ Best Film: Rocky II
♦ Best Actor: Alan Alda (The Seduction of Joe Tynan)
♦ Best Actress: Sally Field (Norma Rae)
♦ Best Supporting Actor: Robert Duvall (Apocalypse Now)
♦ Best Supporting Actress: Meryl Streep (The Deer Hunter)
♦ Best Director: Michael Cimino (The Deer Hunter)
♦ Best Screenplay: The China Syndrome
♦ Best Original Song: Every Which Way But Loose (Every Which Way But Loose)
♦ Favorite Film Star-Female: Jane Fonda
♦ Favorite Film Star-Male: Burt Reynolds
♦ Special Marquee: Clint Eastwood (Distinguished and Continuing Career)
There was another ceremony in March 1982 at a different location and a relaunch in 2013 with ceremonies in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 focusing mainly on Independent Film. I doubt there will be anymore ceremonies as the website was taken down last year. There are no videos of the event on YouTube, either.
Twenty-five years ago, today, according to most accounts, Kurt Cobain committed suicide. His body was discovered on April 8 by Gary Smith, an electrician that was there to install a security system. Seeing Cobain lying inside, Smith initially thought the singer was asleep until he saw blood oozing from his ear. He also found a suicide note with a pen stuck through it inside a flower-pot. A shotgun purchased for Cobain by his friend Dylan Carlson was found resting on Cobain’s chest. Cobain’s death certificate stated that he died as a result of a “contact perforating shotgun wound to the head” and concluded that his death was a suicide.
While it is true that Cobain suffered from stomach pains, drug addiction, clinical depression and bi-polar disorder, there are disputes to the official ruling. Courtney Love‘s own estranged father wrote a book and suggested that his daughter had her husband murdered.
Cobain was described as a “Generation X icon” and “the last real rock star“. He was only 27.
Twenty-seven appears to be a striking number. From The History Channel:
The untimely deaths of famous musicians at age 27 may be coincidence but, it is [a] tragic coincidence. The mythology of the 27 Club gained prominence with the death of Kurt Cobain in 1994 since he died at the same age as iconic rock musicians, including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, when they died in the 1970s. The premature death of Amy Winehouse at age 27 in 2011, again, renewed interest in the age’s apparent curse. This is a list of some of the artists and musicians who died at the far too young age of 27.
Robert Johnson…Blues singer-songwriter-musician (May 8, 1911 – August 16, 1938)
Brian Jones…The Rolling Stones founder (February 28, 1942 – July 3, 1969)
Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson…Canned Heat co-founder (July 4, 1943 – September 3, 1970)
Jimi Hendrix…Rock singer-songwriter-guitarist (November 27, 1942 – September 18, 1970)
Janis Joplin…Rock-soul-blues singer-songwriter (January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970)
Jim Morrison…The Doors co-founder (December 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971)
Ron “Pigpen” McKernan…Grateful Dead founding member (September 8, 1945 – March 8, 1973)
Kurt Cobain (February 20, 1967 – April 5, 1994)
Amy Winehouse…Singer-songwriter (September 14, 1983 – July 23, 2011)
OH, the music we have lost. ~Vic