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The essence of creativity... the true Disney difference
Blog, News and Events, People
Posted on Nov 20 2013 by Greg



To honor the memory of Diane Disney Miller -- and the memory she sought to define and sustain of her father -- please listen to this song about creativity and why you go the extra mile, get passionate about an idea and keep trying, while others don't always understand because they see no concrete gain.

"Why have that extra detail, or clever line, or different way to approach this? Why would you throw so much effort into something with no visible gain?"

Yes, show business is a business and you have to feed, clothe and shelter your "child." It's a reality to be not only faced but understood as necessary. But you also have to love that child. And loving means giving, even for no reason except...

"Because," that's why. This song says it so beautifully.







"Lost" footage of Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner, Rock Hudson, others discovered
Blog, TV, People
Posted on Jul 25 2013 by Greg

Jack Benny is arguably the greatest comedian of all time. Beginning in Vaudeville, he played violin and told jokes as a start. But he accumulated comic ticks and personality quirks, one after another, and incorporated them into his act. He nurtured his writers and his supporting cast.


He was a radio giant through the Depression, WWII and the Korean War. He balanced TV and radio appearances in the mid-50s then moved to the tube full time. His series, "The Jack Benny Program," gave way to occasional specials and an endless procession of guest appearances, along with movies and even a Warner Brothers cartoon ("The Mouse That Jack Built").


Many of his TV episodes, numbering over 200, are still being rerun on cable stations. Some are in the public domain and can be found on budget DVD sets. This new "Jack Benny Show: The
Lost Episodes" collection
from Shout! Factory, is different. It's very big news of course for fans, but also because many of them figure prominently into pop culture, Hollywood legend and American history.


This set is big news, indeed. Perhaps the most astonishing find among the 18 shows is one with then-married Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner, singing, dancing and playing beautifully off Benny. But then most anyone could play well against Benny, even Harry Truman.


Jack Benny's "Truman show" is a rare appearance on an entertainment show by the 33rd President. The episode was shelved after its first broadcast because the sound quality in the Truman sequence is not really broadcast quality. Seeing it now is astonishing.


If you love Jack Benny, this set is a gold mine. While there are not a lot of episodes that follow the "Jack at home" format with Mary Livingston, you'll see Dennis Day, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Don Wilson and Mel Blanc (who does the classic S­ / Sy" routine).


While some might have to be cautioned about political correctness issues in a very few instances within specific shows, it is worth noting that there is also a very sly inversion of incorrectness in one of the selections. When Benny introduces Lux soap as his new sponsor, an Asian announcer comes onstage and begins a very inappropriate, stereotypical pitch. Then it is revealed that he really speaks in the rich tones of an American announcer, and Benny is the butt of the joke, as usual.


In the last episode of Season 10, Jack faces dismissal when the network executives (real CBS suits played by Joseph Kearns (TV"s Dennis the Menace, Disney"s Alice in Wonderland) and Bob Sweeney (actor/director who played Tupper in Disney"s "Toby Tyler). They have discovered that Benny himself doesn't generate laughs. They actually isolate his speaking parts and compare them to those of Dennis Day. It's a wicked jab at network research and corporate pragmatism. Brilliant for its day and for today as well.


Jack Benny also got Hollywood's biggest stars of the day to appear on his show. In addition to Wood and Wagner, there Gary Cooper, Rock Hudson, John Wayne and Tony Curtis. "Lost Horizon" superstar Ronald Colman and his wife Benita Hume make their sole Benny appearance, though they did numerous radio shows in which Benny's character pushed their British courtesy to its limits.

Dick Van Dyke, in the midst of filming his classic TV sitcom and the movie version of "Bye Bye Birdie," appears in a show that, like the others, many of us have never seen before. My personal favorite is the Easter show, because this was the one time we can see Jack walk along the boulevard, greeting members of his oddball troupe. The routine was a radio favorite of mine, so it"s cool to see it unfold on film.

I"m the kind of classic and radio fan who has to constantly invest in compilations to find even one or two that I have not seen or heard. How wonderful to find a brand new collection, filled with material I didn"t know could ever be recovered!

1. Episode 65, Season 7
October 7, 1956
George Burns / Spike Jones Show

2. Episode 66, Season 7
October 21, 1956
George Gobel / Red Skelton Show

3. Episode 67, Season 7
November 4, 1956
Jack Is Invited to the Ronald Colmans

4. Episode 96, Season 9
September 21, 1958
Gary Cooper Show

5. Episode 111, Season 10
October 4, 1959
Jack Switches Sponsors (The Jack Benny Program 30 Years in the Future)

6. Episode 112, Season 10
October 18, 1959
Harry Truman Show

7. Episode 115, Season 10
November 25, 1959
Jack Paar Show


8. Episode 122, Season 10
March 6, 1960
Natalie Wood / Robert Wagner Show


9. Episode 124, Season 10
April 17, 1960
Easter Show


10. Episode 125, Season 10
May 1, 1960
Final Show of the Season


11. Episode 126, Season 11
October 16, 1960
Guests George Burns, Tony Curtis, Robert Wagner & Mike Wallace (Nightbeat Takeoff)


12. Episode 128, Season 11
October 30, 1960
Milton Berle Show    


13. Episode 130, Season 11
November 20, 1960
Guests John Wayne, Frank Fontaine, Jaye P Morgan

         

14. Episode 161, Season 12
December 24, 1961
Christmas Party       

 

15. Episode 189, Season 13
February 18, 1962
Rock Hudson Show 

 

16. Episode 195, Season 13
January 29, 1963
Guest Dick Van Dyke - The Murder of Clayton Worthington 

       

17. Episode 206, Season 14
September 24, 1963
Billy Graham Show   


18. Episode 247, Season 14
December 24, 1964
Guest Gisele MacKenzie      


BONUS FEATURES

€¢ A Conversation with Harry Shearer, Norman Abbott & Dorothy Ohman (42:23)

€¢ Excerpt - Jack Benny's 20th Anniversary Special, Feb 17, 1969 (9:04)

€¢ Excerpt - Jack Benny's New Look, December 3, 1969 (3:48)

€¢ Excerpt - Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Jack Benny But Were Afraid to Ask, March 10, 1971 (3:30)

€¢ Excerpt - Jack Benny's Second Farewell Special, January 24, 1972 (9:48)
€¢ Hearst Newsreel Footage, 1935-1945 (Total 7:19)








Buona notte, mi cara, mi amore...our Annette
Blog, Movies, TV, People, Records
Posted on Apr 08 2013 by Greg
My dad died at age 70 after decades of slowly debilitating illness. Today, so did Annette. She was an icon, seemed like a member of the family -- and yes, she was an extraordinarily talented woman with an appeal that was as undefinable as that of every legend.



Her impact on American culture -- and Disney heritage -- should not be underestimated. The world is a better place for her charming, unassuming presence.

I can only speak from my heart. Annette will still be with us through her films and music, and the memories of where we were when we enjoyed them. I am grateful for being able to have lived during the period in which she flourished, and have felt sorrow at her illness. Now she is free and i know where she is now. If I'm good, maybe I can say hello to her there someday.







Brush with greatness: Pat Carroll
Blog, TV, People
Posted on Apr 07 2013 by Greg


I met the great Pat Carroll at an event that celebrated Disney animation and she was there because she was (and still is in recent projects) the voice of Ursula in Little Mermaid. What a joy she is, not only the talent, the timing, but so lovely to meet.

She signed my Rodgers and Hammerstein Cinderella album. She was the stepsister whose knee creaked. So she signed the album cover, "My knee doesn't creak anymore -- I had it replaced." I'm sure she's signed it that way before, but I treasure it.








And here's to you, Jackie Robinson
Blog, Movies, People
Posted on Apr 03 2013 by Greg
Before you go see the upcoming big screen "42," starring Harrison Ford, Christopher Meloni and Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson, you may want to see this award-winning documentary about the real Robinson. "Jackie Robinson: My Story" tells his life story ithrough rare footage and photographs from real life.


And it gives you an intense performance of Stephen Hill (Dead Man Down). "My Story" is just that. In a locker room setting, Hill as Robinson materializes to discuss his life and times directly to the camera -- to you, to young people.

This is a remarkable story about a towering American icon, not only of baseball, but of political activism, civil rights, the media and the changing times. The account is direct and honest, not only about Robinson's struggle to equality that seemed impossible at the time, but also of his issues with his people, his family and his son.

Hill's performance is understated, straightforward and matter-of-fact, which makes the moment he reflects on the loss of his son all the more effective. It should be noted that some language, particular racial slurs, are heard in this film, vicious things that were said in a less enlightened time.

As a production of limited budget but a lot of heart, "My Story" makes fine use of its source material. Even the music seems to fit the sequences.

The bonus feature, "Jackie Robinson: An American Hero" is a shorter version of the feature, using much of the same sources and a condensed edition of the same script. Perhaps this was created for groups and schools. It contains none of the offensive phrases heard in the other film.

Warren Schaeffer, who was also Director of Photography of "My Story," narrates offscreen. This distances the viewer from the impact of the dramatic story when compared to Hill speaking right to us in "My Story." Schaeffer does an earnest job, but it cannot compare to the effect carried off in the longer film. One wonders why they simply didn't edit "My Story" down, but perhaps the short film was made first.

It's worth mentioning the there was also a 1950 movie called The Jackie Robinson Story with the real Robinson playing himself. Considering his influence on history, it's about time a new movie is being released to theaters. This video makes a nice companion. Either way, this is a story worth telling and remembering.









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