Saturday, November 20, 2004

The Norths on Radio

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear : Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

If you don't read the comments, you missed the link above to the excellent discussion of Pam and Jerry North on radio. Well worth your time.

500 Greatest Songs News - 500 Greatest Songs

Okay, it's hard to argue with most of these choices, but only one Elvis song in the Top 20? Let's face it: "Jailhouse Rock" is about ten times better than "Yesterday."

Friday, November 19, 2004

For those of you unfortunate enough not to own a copy of the Mr. & Mrs. North DVD (Volume 2), this is the photo of Barbara Britton to which James Reasoner alludes in his comment. I didn't want you to feel deprived. Posted by Hello

Mr. & Mrs. North Posted by Hello

Mr. & Mrs. North

Mr. & Mrs. North, the TV series, like the radio show before it, was based on the books by Frances and Richard Lockridge. It ran on CBS from October 1952 until July 1954. I picked up three episodes on one dollar DVD not long ago, and last night I watched "These Latins," first telecast on October 31, 1952.

I had fond memories of Mr. & Mrs. North from both radio and TV. One of the reasons I liked the TV version is that I thought Barbara Britton, who played Pam North, was a doll. After watching "These Latins," I still do. The show also starred Richard Denning as Jerry North. I like his work, too, but for me Pam was the big attraction.

"These Latins" has a couple of good guest stars: Katy Jurado and Hans Conried. Katy is the flirtatious "author" of a book Jerry is about to publish, and Hans is an Argentine poet who's madly in love with her. He overacts with zest, loving every line he speaks in his e-Spanish accen', don' joo know. Best line in the show is Katy's, when she tells Hans how well her book is going to do, and Hans says that he wrote it. "I wrote it," the offended Katy says. "You just wrote down the lines." Katy is the murder victim, sad to say, and the solution to the crime is rather perfunctory. Pam, who is not as ditsy as she appears to be, solves it, much to everyone's surprise.

I've read a couple of the Lockridge novels, and Pam reminded me a little of Gracie Allen. However, Barbara Britton does a pretty good job of capturing the essence of Pam for the TV show. No wonder I thought she was cute. And still do.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Early '60s

My profuse thanks to Jaime over at Something Old, Nothing New for linking this article in the Wilson Quarterly. The early 1960s were great years for me. The author of the article says that "Today, the early 1960s seem remote: . . . ." But to me, those days are as close as yesterday. Maybe closer. I can see them in my mind's eye as clearly as I see the computer screen in front of me. They were they years in which I attended college, got my undergraduate degree, turned twenty-one, started my teaching career, got married. Here are a few of what were for me the defining moments of the time:

I attended the funeral of the last surviving veteran of the Civil War in Franklin, Texas.

On the Monday after the Beatles' first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, a student in one of my English classes at Corsicana High School showed up with a completely new hair style. He'd washed his hair and dried it and then let it fall as it would.

I was talking that same class when the school secretary called me to the door to tell me that John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. (I had seen Kennedy in person a couple of years earlier when he spoke on the steps of the Texas capitol building in Austin and had inadvertently become a part of his motorcade afterward. But that's another story.)

Here's something else the author of the article says, and I couldn't agree more:
"[T]he respectably middlebrow common culture of the early 1960s is only a memory, as is the pipe dream of an America enchanted by serious literature and classical music; instead we have American mass culture, a worldwide economic powerhouse that transforms almost everything it touches. And though that mass culture is, admittedly, large and diverse—and fragmented—enough to include many bright spots, it also has staggering depths of vulgarity, is aimed (largely) at 12-year-olds, and has little regard for intelligence, seriousness, or wit. The early 1960s’ naiveté may be gone, but philistinism and ignorance thrive unashamed. In a time when many Americans appear far more eager to be coarsened than to be edified, the early 1960s look very attractive indeed."

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Toy Hall of Fame

Here's a link via to the Toy Hall of Fame. Check it out to see if anything's missing (What? No Lincoln Logs?) and send in your nomination.

A Bill S. Ballinger Double Shot. Posted by Hello

Bill S. Ballinger

There's been some discussion over at Ed Gorman's blog of Bill S. Ballinger, a sadly neglected writer whose books are worth rediscovery. One of them, The Tooth and the Nail, really knocked me for a loop when I first read it, more than 40 years ago. Ed isn't as taken with that one as I was, but he really likes Portrait in Smoke, which I also think is excellent. For that matter, what about The Wife of the Red-Haired Man and The Longest Second? Both thoroughly entertaining books.

Ballinger's technique was to tell two different stories, one in first person and one in third person, in alternating chapters. Eventually the stories come together, sometimes in surprising ways and sometimes in sadly inevitable ways. (And if you think that's an easy trick to pull of, just try it.)

Ballinger went on to do a number of paperback originals for Signet Books (and at least one each for Gold Medal and Pyramid). In the '60s he did a series of spy novels (again for Signet) featuring a character named Joaquin Hawks, and all of these are fun to read.

There are several of Ballinger's originals that I haven't read yet, including one called The Source of Fear, which supposedly has a lost city in it. I can't resist lost cities, so I gotta get to that one soon.

In 1993, Harper reprinted two of Ballinger's best in one paperback volume, pictured above. A real bargain if you can find it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

A Screen Legend, indeed! Posted by Hello

A Shameful Admission

Many years ago when the world was dewy fresh and damsels in dirndls danced on the greensward, I saw a movie called Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla. I was young and innocent and didn't realize at the time just how awful the movie was, but later I saw it again and was amazed at the gloriousness of its awfulness. Besides Bela Lugosi, it stars (if that's the right word) Duke Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo, who are playing Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Duke's a pretty weak Dino, but Sammy is uncannily like Jerry. In fact, later on, Lewis sued Petrillo to keep him from acting so much like Jerry. But I digress. You have to see this movie for yourself to comprehend how wonderfully bad it is. Just the opening scene, where Duke and Sammy are found lying unconscious after having fallen from an airplane (and they've been lying there a long, long time -- long enough to grow beards), is amazing. The native costumes are astounding. The native chatter, which seems to be a combination of Spanish and nonsense syllables, is something to give a linguist nightmares. And then Sammy wakes up and goes into his Jerry Lewis act. Talk about your nightmares!

All right, already, you're saying. Enough of that. Get to the shameful admission. Okay, fine. Here it is. The other day I was in Wal-Mart, and I saw boxes full of dollar DVDs. I'm a sucker for a DVD for a buck, so I looked them over. And there it was, beckoning seductively: a brand new DVD of Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla for only a dollar. "A Film Festival Favorite Re-Presented for the Digital Generation!"

But it's a terrible movie, I told myself. You don't need it. Not even for a buck. And so I hardened my heart and passed it by. Went on about my business. Forgot all about it.

Okay, that last part's a lie. I couldn't forget it. It preyed on my mind. It called out to me in the nighttime.

And here's the shameful admission. I went back a couple of days ago, and I bought it. Yes! And even worse, I've watched it! (Well, not all of it. Nobody can watch all of it at one sitting and live to tell the tale.)

Boy, I'm glad I got that off my chest. I feel much better now.

Monday, November 15, 2004

No Wonder they Call him Dick!

See it here.

No further comment.

I-69. How about you?

Hostettler mounting campaign to change the name of Interstate 69: "John Hostettler, the Congressman representing the 8th district of Indiana, has been convinced by local religious groups to introduce legislation in the House that would change the name of an Interstate 69 extension to a more moral sounding number."

You can't make this stuff up. No disrespect for the current adminstration intended, in case you're reading this Mr. Ashcroft, but it's just plain nutty. And I'm afraid we'll be seeing more and more of it as time goes by (to coin a phrase). I keep telling myself that it's joke, but I'm afraid it's not.

UPDATE: As it turns out, this is indeed a hoax. Whew. I'm glad to know it for sure.

Save Houston's Rock101 KLOL

Save Houston's Rock101 KLOL

Some fans are trying to save Rock 101 KLOL. Fat chance. Still, it's nice to know that they're getting some signatures on their petition.