new york city

Flashback Friday: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 1924

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Macys Parade Clowns ABC News Image
Photo Credit: ABC News

Ninety-six years ago, today, the very first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was held.

From History Channel:

As the United States prospered during the Roaring Twenties, so did New York City’s iconic department store, Macy’s. After going public in 1922, R. H. Macy & Co. started to acquire competitors and open regional locations. Macy’s flagship store in Manhattan’s Herald Square did such a brisk business that it expanded in 1924 to cover an entire city block, stretching from Broadway to Seventh Avenue along 34th Street.

To showcase the opening of the “World’s Largest Store” and its one million square feet of retail space at the start of the busy holiday shopping season, Macy’s decided to throw New York a parade on Thanksgiving morning. In spite of its timing, the parade was not actually about Thanksgiving at all but the next major holiday on the calendar…Christmas. Macy’s hoped its “Christmas Parade” would whet the appetites of consumers for a holiday shopping feast.

[Previously], the only Thanksgiving parade that had previously passed through the city’s streets was its peculiar, and to many annoying, tradition of children painting their faces and donning tattered clothes to masquerade as “ragamuffins” who asked “Anything for Thanksgiving?” as they begged door-to-door for pennies, apples and pieces of candy.

At [9:00am EST], on the sunlit morning of November 27, 1924, Macy’s gave the children of New York a particularly special Thanksgiving treat as a police escort led the start of the parade from the intersection of 145th Street and Convent Avenue. Macy’s had promised parade-goers “a marathon of mirth” in its full-page newspaper advertisements. While the parade route may not have extended over 26 miles, its 6-mile length certainly made for a long hike for those marching from Harlem to Herald Square.

Although the parade garnered only two sentences the following day in the New York Herald, […] it proved such a smash that Macy’s announced in a newspaper advertisement the following morning that it would stage the parade, again, the following Thanksgiving. “We did not dare dream its success would be so great.”

Macy’s History (NYC Tourist)

TV Tuesday: Trapped 1950

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John Carradine Image One
John Carradine
Photo Credit: A Drifting Cowboy Blog

Seventy years ago, today, the television anthology series Trapped debuted on WOR-TV in New York. Also known as Trapped: Tales of the Supernatural, the host was John Carradine and some guest actors were Charles Korvin, Elizabeth Morgan, Helen Baron, Rita Gam, Fran Malis, George L. Smith, Stanley Tackney and Harry Townes. There were 57 episodes that were 30 minutes long.

There are no pictures or video of this program and very little has been written about it. I did manage to find an article on Light’s Out host Frank Gallop that referenced Trapped:

In accordance with Gallop, other hosts who aimed to set a mood of terror at the time included Andy Christopher […] (Mr. Black), James Monks (Tales of the Black Cat […]) and Lee Bowman (Eye Witness […]). Similarly, Jack La Rue (Lights Out), Boris Karloff (The Boris Karloff Mystery Playhouse) and John Carradine (Trapped: Tales of the Supernatural […]) offered external examples of film stars hired for TV hosting roles in which an emphasis was placed on their associations with the horror genre [with] typecasting as villainous and/or monstrous characters as part of their respective series façade. Due to a lack of surviving/missing material associated with some live series pre-1955, in the cases of some hosts, it is not always possible to definitively discern to what extent horror elements were adopted as part of a series persona.

Frank Gallop: The Ghoulish Host of Lights Out
Thomas Wilson
Taylor & Francis Online
Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
March 20, 2020

Additional Reading:
Trapped (1950-1952) (Classic TV Archive)

Movie Monday: The Sporting Venus 1925

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The Sporting Venus Image One
Image Credit: Mike Cline’s Then Playing Blog

Ninety-five years ago, today, the silent, black & white romance film The Sporting Venus was released by MGM. Directed by Marshall Neilan, story by Gerald Beaumont and screenplay by Thomas J. Geraghty, it was filmed at Cortachy Castle in Angus, Scotland and, MGM Studios. It starred Blanche Sweet (Neilan’s wife), Ronald Coleman, Lew Cody, Josephine Crowell and Edward Martindel. This was the first of two movies paring Sweet with Coleman.

Synopsis:

Lady Gwen, the last of the sporting Grayles, falls in love with Donald MacAllan, a bright young medical student far below her station. Gwen’s father, who opposes the match, introduces her to Prince Carlos, who wishes to marry her in order to pay off his creditors.

The Sporting Venus Image One
Photo Credit: imdb.com & amazon.com

Donald enlists during the World War and Carlos continues his courtship. When Donald returns from the fighting, Carlos tells him that he is engaged to Gwen and Donald, therefore, makes no attempt to see her. Gwen mistakes Donald’s seeming indifference for contempt and seeks to forget him by living riotously in several European capitals. Having exhausted her fortune, and ruined her health, Gwen returns to Scotland and goes to live in the same cottage where Donald used to study. She becomes ill and, in delirium, calls for Donald. Her old nurse goes to fetch him at the Grayle estate, which, having become wealthy, he has just bought. Donald rescues Gwen, who has wandered out in a storm, and nurses her back to health.

The Screen Review:

A Hollywood conception of Scotsmen who wear the kilt but, whose complexions betray nary a sign of the ruddy ruggedness due to Highland rain and wind, is to be seen at the Capitol this week in a picture called “The Sporting Venus” […]. [There] is a question [of] whether the Wallaces, the Bruces, the Watts and the McTavishes will smile with any satisfaction upon it. Not that they are intentionally maligned in this story but, that the men from the land of the heather are portrayed with studio-blanched complexions and, in one or two instances, wearing brocaded silk dressing gowns.

Ronald Coleman Image Two
Photo Credit: Ronald Coleman Gallery

Marshall Neilan, the director of this celluloid effusion, in his desire to depict Lady Grayle (Blanche Sweet) as a plucky person at the eleventh hour of a fast life, shows her ladyship smoking a cigarette before she breathes her last. Ronald Colman is undoubtedly a bonnie actor but, you just know that he never was born to wear a kilt, [though], he does for a few scenes. He impersonates Donald McAllen, frequently alluded to as a commoner.

Donald and the capricious lassie, Lady Gwendolyn, are happy in Scotland until the coming of Prince Carlos […]. This Prince, played by Lew Cody, is a man of many debts and a faithful valet. His creditors see only one way to get back their money and that is to have the oily gentleman marry a wealthy wife. Donald goes to France to fight, and when he returns on leave, [believes] the Prince’s story […] that [he], more or less, is to wed Lady Gwendolyn.

Lady Gwendolyn […] becomes […] a flighty young woman who gambles in millions. The young hero goes back to France, and as a surgeon, makes a great name for himself. He purchases Grayloch, the great estate of the Grayles.

With the background of Scotland, Mr. Neilan ought to have been able to make a production far stronger than this effort, which, at best, is only a mediocre diversion. It is true that it has some beautiful scenery and the settings are quite pleasing.

Mordaunt Hall
The New York Times
May 11, 1925

This film survived but, I can’t find any clips of it. Silent Era states that a premiere took place on May 10, 1925, at the Capitol Theatre in New York City and was released May 17, 1925. AFI disagrees. ~Vic

Sources:
The Sporting Venus (American Film Institute)
The Sporting Venus (IMDB)
Gentleman of the Cinema (Ronald Coleman Website)
The Screen (The New York Times)
The Sporting Venus (Wikipedia)

TV Tuesday: The Wright Verdicts 1995

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The Wright Verdicts Image One
Photo Credit: YouTube

Twenty-five years ago, today, the television series The Wright Verdicts debuted on CBS. Created and executive-produced by Dick Wolf, it starred Tom Conti, Margaret Colin and Aida Turturro as the main cast (Variety also lists John Glover but, IMDB does not.). Notable guest stars were Candy Clark, Peter Facinelli, Allison Janney and Leslie Mann.

There were only six episodes that aired between March 31 and June 11 with a seventh episode intended for a May slot, never airing. It’s first episode was on a Friday, the second episode aired the following Wednesday, the third episode went back to Friday, the following week and the fourth episode showed up on a Sunday, the next week. The last two aired episodes were on Sundays in June. [No wonder it failed. ~Vic]

IMDB Summary:

Legal drama with Charles Wright, an Englishman, working as a lawyer in New York City. Sandy Hamar is an ex-NYPD detective who serves as the mandatory private eye and Lydia is the super efficient secretary.

 

Tom Conti Image Two
Photo Credit: pinterest.com

Variety Review:

The Wright Verdicts is mature in the best sense. [I]t’s smart, has no false innocence and has the right amount of fun. Criminal lawyer Charles Wright (Tom Conti) will win juries over like clockwork and the series should likewise charm viewers. The character’s chief skill is blarney or, as his investigator puts it, shucking and jiving. Charles is bumbling and self-deprecating one minute, erudite and mischievous the next. Conti brings off Wright’s sense of humor and his status as a ladies’ man. The dynamic between Conti and his two female employees […] needs some work. [T]here’s so much flirtation that the relationships in this office triangle seem headed in only one direction.

The hour has a surplus of spectacular aerial shots of Manhattan.

Picks and Pans from People:

With crimes revolving around designer drugs and cellular phones, the show poses itself as a Perry Mason for the ’90s. It’s about as conventional and formulaic as that old warhorse. The parlor-game plotting is more than passable but, the writing is undistinguished. Only Conti’s malty voice and trilling accent are enough to elevate the program’s mark a little.

Entertainment Weekly:

Executive producer Dick Wolf has cannily combined two genres…Murder, She Wrote’s warm coziness and his own Law & Order’s cold, complex cases…and come up with a lukewarm show that’s nonetheless pretty irresistible.

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TV Tuesday: Half Nelson 1985

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Half Nelson Image One
Image Credit: imdb.com & amazon.com

Thirty-five years ago, today, the television series Half Nelson debuted on NBC with a two hour pilot TV movie. Created & written by Glen A. Larson and Lou Shaw, it starred Joe Pesci, Fred Williamson and Victoria Jackson with Dean Martin (as himself) in the movie pilot, adding Bubba Smith, Dick Butkus and Gary Grubbs as main cast in the series. Notable guest stars were Morgan Brittany, George Kennedy, Gary Lockwood, John Saxon and a dog listed as Spuds MacKenzie but, credited as Tony in the TV show. Curiously, the image reflects actors Tony Curtis and John Matuszak as guest stars but, they aren’t on IMDB and Television Obscurities states that Rod Taylor was in the pilot but, his name was also not listed on IMDB.

Movie Summary:

Rocky Nelson is a New York City cop who, after making a major bust and selling the rights of his story to Hollywood, decides to try his luck out as an actor. However, when he gets there, the directors think that he is too short to be an actor. He is, then, approached by someone who offers him a job at a Hollywood security agency because he would fit in there being an ex-cop and, while working there, he could come in contact with some Hollywood heavyweights who could give him the break he needs. [At] the same time, he gets to live in Dean Martin’s guest house.

Half Nelson Image Two
Image Credit: imdb.com & amazon.com

Series Summary:

Rocky Nelson is a former New York cop who is trying to make it as an actor in Hollywood. However, like most actor wannabees, he is still looking for his big break and his lack of stature doesn’t endear him to the directors. So, he is currently working for Beverly Hills Patrol, a private security agency that caters to the needs of the Hollywood elite and, who also try to keep things quiet for their clients. [Every] now and then, Rocky comes across a case which requires him to slip into his old mold of cop, which doesn’t make his boss or the police lieutenant that he encounters, happy.

Trivia Bits:
♦ This was Dean Martin’s final acting role.
♦ Martin, playing himself, is the owner of Beverly Hills Patrol and Joe Pesci’s Rocky provides him security.
♦ The series replaced the low rated V TV series.
♦ After the pilot movie, only six episodes aired before being cancelled and replaced with Misfits of Science in the new season.

Additional Reading:
Episode List (IMDB)
TV Obscurities (Website)

Opening & Rod Taylor’s Scenes

Movie Monday: Cripple Creek Bar Room Scene 1899

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Cripple Creek Bar Image One
Black Maria Studio Still
Photo Credit: pinterest.com

One-hundred, twenty years ago, in May, Edison’s Black Maria Studio, considered to be the first movie studio in America, produced the short, non-actuality film Cripple Creek Bar-Room Scene.

An IMDB Summary:

A vignette of a bar-room/liquor-store in the West [with] no plot, per se. However, this short is usually regarded as the first “Western” in the sense that it depicts a western scene.

The film lasted one minute, had no action and the role of a barmaid was played by a man.

Summary From The Library of Congress:

Shows tap room of the “Miners Arms”, stout lady at the bar and three men playing stud horse. Old toper with a silk hat asleep by the stove. Rough miner enters, bar maid serves him with Red Eye Whiskey and he proceeds to clean out the place. Barmaid takes a hand with a siphon of vichy and, bounces the intruder with the help of the card players, who line up before the bar and take copious drinks on the house.

Cripple Creek Bar Image Two
An actual Cripple Creek, Colorado, bar.
Photo Credit: silentology.wordpress.com & pinterest.com

From Silentology:

So the film’s supposed to be set in one of the rough mining towns that were part of the Wild West. Also, it was definitely named “Cripple Creek” for a reason. Cripple Creek, Colorado, was a real-life ranch town that experienced a major gold rush in the late 19th century. In 1890, Robert Miller Womack struck gold and, six years later, the town had swelled from a mere 500 souls to well over 30,000 gold-fevered prospectors. All in all, something in the range of a half-billion dollars worth of gold would be extracted from the area.

The Black Maria was completed in early 1893 in West Orange, NJ and, when Edison built a new, rooftop movie studio in New York City, it ceased operation in January 1901. It was torn down in 1903.

Tune Tuesday: Eddie Fisher 1954

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Eddie Fisher Image One
Image Credit: 7digital.com

Sixty-five years ago, today, the #1 song on Billboard (pre-hot 100 era) was Oh! My Pa-Pa (O Mein Papa) performed by Eddie Fisher. A lamentation, sung by a young woman grieving the loss of her clown-father, the song was written by Swiss composer Paul Burkhard in 1939 for the musical Der schwarze Hecht (The Black Pike). Reproduced and re-issued in 1950 as Das Feuerwerk (The Firework), the musical was made into a German film, Fireworks, in 1954 starring Lilli Palmer.

Translated, and adapted, into English by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons, Fisher and Hugo Winterhalter’s orchestra recorded the song in December 1953 at Webster Hall in New York City.

Eddie Fisher Image Two
Image Credit: 45cat.com

Trumpeter Eddie Calvert had a #1 with an instrumental version of the song in the UK at the very same time Fisher’s version was the #1 in the US.

On March 8, 1967, television audiences were treated to a version of the song by Jim Nabors, in character as Gomer Pyle, in the Season 3 episode (#85) “Sing a Song of Papa”. On October 24, 1991, Krusty the Clown sang the song as O mein Papa on The Simpsons in the Season 3 episode Like Father, Like Clown, a twist on the young woman’s sorrow over her father.

This song has been covered by many other artists, including The Everly Brothers, Connie Francis, Ray Anthony (last surviving member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra), The Bobbettes, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Björk (as “Pabbi minn”).

Calvert’s Version

Nabor’s Version

Krusty’s Version