Add to My Yahoo! Add to Google


How would Russell Crowe's whistle-blower survive today?
Blog, Movies, People
Posted on Mar 01 2013 by Greg
Much of the Oscar buzz 14 years ago was about Michael Mann's The Insider, an intense, stylized dramatization about Jeffrey Wigand, the former Brown & Williamson tobacco executive who went public with history-making revelations on the iconic CBS newsmagazine show, 60 Minutes.

Ironically, to my teenage daughter, who has grown up in a world in which cigarettes are not the norm in most public places and seemingly always known to be harmful, it's hard to conceive of the magnitude of Wigand's revelations, aside from the chemical additives. Why would the "seven dwarfs" need to lie in court when everyone know smoking isn't good for you? There was a time when it wasn't completely acknowledged and an industry would do anything to keep it that way.

What my daughter did see, however, is one of the reasons that Russell Crowe earned his stature as an A-list actor, beyond just being that guy in Les Miz who wasn't singing as well as the others. His Oscar-nominated performance in The Insider (also nominated for director Mann and the film istelf) is worthy of the highest praise, as is that of Al Pacino, Christopher Plummer and a fine supporting cast that includes Michael "Gandalf" Gambon, Colm Feore and even WKRP in Cincinnati star Gary Sandy (scowling in the shadows as a sinister lawyer).

Speaking of shadows, there are a lot of them in The Insider, along with lots of long, pensive passages punctuated with moody music, odd shots that lingering on extraneous areas of the set or people, close ups on patterns and shapes and pretty much everything that was very much in vogue after Mann's pop culture sensation, Miami Vice -- and its MTV-influence use of color, camera movement and editing -- set the tone for film and TV. Even TV shows of today rely on moody montages set to a contemporary or classic tune to button up an episode.

But when you've got Pacino, Crowe, Plummer and the rest, why jiggle the camera around as if my sister was videotaping a birthday party? Often the style actually gets in the way of the drama, vies for the viewer's attention and only adds to the film's length rather than adding to the mood.

It's the equivalent of a late '60s musical in which things are just beginning to roll along when a character sits down and sings. In a musical, songs say what dialogue cannot, and it's an art to know where to put them. The same is true for signature filmmaking style.

When not done to excess, these creative touches can be impressive, and the Blu-ray shows them off to their best advantage. This is especially evident in scenes painted with color, like the driving range sequence in which Crowe is drenched in a green tint that rivals Margaret Hamilton. Many of the sets are truly striking. Even a simple hotel hallway takes on its own personality.

This is an interesting time in history to watch The Insider again -- or for the first time -- knowing what you know about the events that happened since, particularly in big business and mass entertainment. Al Pacino's character cannot defiantly run his version of the report on YouTube in this era. CBS isn't the conglomerate that it and its rival networks are today. Could an exposť like Wigand's interview even be considered for network TV now -- or would it break on the internet first?

And what of Wigand's fate? On the one hand, big business is bigger than ever and the reach is longer. On the other, there are things like the Whistleblower Protection Act and other efforts to keep these individuals from retaliation.

The Insider a riveting story that takes on a new dimension in light of where we are now, and where we need to go. You just have to be patient with the shaking camera and the other distracting affectations.

One of TV's all-time greatest anthologies in the biggest DVD set ever...
Blog, TV, People
Posted on Feb 22 2013 by Greg
Loretta Young was one of Hollywood's biggest stars and one of the first to transition to television. Her much-imitated (and parodied) trademark was to come sweeping through a door in a designer outfit. But there was much more to the show that a grand entrance.

Young was to early dramatic TV what Lucille Ball was to comedy. She and her husband, Tom Lewis, partnered in this "Lewislor Productions," much as Lucy and Desi Arnaz did with Desilu. Ironically, The Loretta Young Show was filmed, at least in the early stages, at "D-P-I," which was Desilu, with many of the same crew members as I Love Lucy. Like the Arnazes, both the business and personal partnerships did not end happily, with the respective actresses, both strong, skilled and assertive, took over the reins of their shows.

Anthology shows were common in early television, but most were live, not filmed. The Loretta Young Show was filmed on a fairly tight budget, relative to its ambitious attempt to use different characters in different setting every week. While many of the episodes are dramatic, some are light romances, some family stories and a few are out-and-out comedies. There are even some creepy ones, like The Mirror, co-starring the voice of Cruella DeVille, Betty Lou Gerson.

Each episode (a few are two-parters) is like a little movies, making up for their limits in scope with vivid characters studies and the indomitable presence of Ms. Young, who seldom played a submissive woman, whether in the role of a mother, executive, sheriff's wife, performer or political activist. Even when the story called for a woman in a position of being dominated (such as "The Bronte Story," in which she was oppressed by an unmoving father), it's seldom a permanent situation. For this series, Young won a Best Actress Emmy award three times.

One of the reasons Young chose the anthology form was to be able to play more than just the saintly characters she played in the movies. Her characters run the gamut of psychologically disturbed to bitter and insolent. By and large, though, she plays lots of good, hearty people, including a hospital nun named Sister Ann in several shows (based on a real-life friend) and a Swedish farm lady reminiscent of her Oscar-winning character in The Farmer's Daughter.

For baby boomers, film fans and TV enthusiasts, The Loretta Young Show is a treasure trove of familiar, beloved character actors (Jeanette Nolan, Kathleen Freeman, William Frawley, and iconic performers who were either well-known at the time (Hugh O'Brien, Jock Mahoney, Eddie Albert, George Nader, Beverly Washburn) or became so when they got their own series a few years later:  Hugh Beaumont and Eric Osmond (Leave it to Beaver), Alan Hale, Jr. and Natalie Schaefer (Gilligan's Island), Craig Stevens (Peter Gunn), Sandra Gould (Bewitched), Shelley Fabares (The Donna Reed Show), Frances Bavier (Tbe Andy Griffith Show) and many, many more -- playing roles sometimes very unlike the ones that they later became identified. Even Sally Field's actress mother, Margaret Field, appears in at least one episode.

The series ran from 1953 to 1961, producing 257 half-hour episodes. This new collection,
100th Birthday Edition: The Best of the Complete Series, is the most comprehensive collection ever released, with a total of 144 episodes on 17 discs. Some were omitted because Young fell seriously ill and several superstar Hollywood star friends stepped in to host the show -- but they didn't enter through "the door." Perhaps someday it will be economically feasible to include those shows in a future set, if they exist in good enough condition.

The estate tracked down as many classic episodes as possible in the best condition available (a few have short bouts of missing audio). Many episodes appear for the first time on this collection, including The Accused, which was entered into the Congressional Record.

Loretta Young had a complicated personal life but sincerely held to strong beliefs. The shows definitely convey positive messages and are largely family-friendly. Young once even lost a sponsor because it didn't want to advertise on her extra-length, extra-budget episode, The Road, about an agnostic woman with cancer who visits Lourdes. The sponsor balked, Young wouldn't back down and the episode was produced and aired with other sponsors.

The new collection contains all the episodes of previous DVD releases, without just a few of the bonus features, but you still get lots of rare home movie footage, interviews and more.

What you don't get is a booklet with a complete episode guide -- and the episodes are not all in consecutive order. The 17 discs are packed in two plastic cases in a slipcase. Here is the entire list of shows as they appear on the set:



1. Trial Run (Season 1, Episode 1, September 20, 1953)

2. A Family Out of Us (Season 1, Episode 21, February 7, 1954)

3. Prisoner at One O'Clock (Season 1, Episode 3, October 4, 1953)

4. Girl on a Flagpole (Season 1, Episode 4, October 11, 1953)

5. The Turn of the Card (Season 1, Episode 5, October 18, 1953)

6. Earthquake (Season 1, Episode 6, October 25, 1953)

7. The One That Got Away (Season 1, Episode 7, November 1, 1953)

8. Kid Stuff (Season 1, Episode 8, November 8, 1953)

9. The Bronte Story (Season 1, Episode 9, November 15, 1953)

10. Laughing Boy (Season 1, Episode 12, December 6, 1953


1. Love Story (Season 1, Episode 12, November 29, 1953)

2. Thanksgiving in Beaver Run (Season 1, Episode 10, November 21, 1953)

3. The Faith of Chata (Season 1, Episode 13, December 13, 1953)

4. The Night My Father Came Home (Season 1, Episode 14, December 20, 1953)

5. Hotel Irritant (Season 1, Episode 15, December 29, 1953)

6. Inga #1 (Season 1, Episode 16, January 3, 1954)

7. Lady Killer (Season 1, Episode 17, January 10, 1954)

8. Secret Answer (Season 1, Episode 18, January 17, 1954)

9. "The Mirror" (Season 1, Episode 2, September 27, 1953) 

10. The Hollywood Story (Season 1, Episode 20, January 31, 1954)


1. Act of Faith (Season 1, Episode 22, February 14, 1954)

2. Big Little Lie (Season 1, Episode 19, January 24, 1954)

3. The New York Story (Season 1, Episode 23, February 28, 1954)

4. Man's Estate (Season 1, Episode 29, April 11, 1954)

5. Nobody's Boy (Season 1, Episode 24, March 7, 1954)

6. The Count of Ten (Season 1, Episode 25, March 14, 1954)

7. The Clara Schumann Story (Season 1, Episode 26, March 21, 1954)

8. Son, This is Your Father (Season 1, Episode 27, March 28, 1954

9. First Man to Ask Her (Season 1, Episode 28, April 4, 1954)

10. Forest Ranger (Season 1, Episode 30, April 18, 1954)



  1. Dr. Juliet (Season 2, Episode 2, August 29, 1954)
  1. Double Trouble (Season 2, Episode 3, September 12, 1954)
  1. The Lamp (Season 2, Episode 4, September 19, 1954)
  1. You're Driving Me Crazy (Season 2, Episode 5, September 26, 1954)
  1. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (Season 2, Episode 6, October 3, 1954)
  1. On Your Honor, Your Honor (Season 2, Episode 8, October 17, 1954)
  1. The Girl Scout Story (Season 2, Episode 9, October 31, 1954)
  1. No Help Wanted (Season 2, Episode 10, November 7, 1954)
  1. Something About Love (Season 2, Episode 12, November 21, 1954) 
  1. Our Sacred Honor (Season 2, Episode 13, November 28, 1954)


  1. Feeling No Pain (Season 2, Episode 33, April 17, 1955)
  1. Three Minutes Too Late (Season 2, Episode 17, December 26, 1954)
  1. Evil for Evil (Season 2, Episode 15, December 12, 1954)
  1. The Girl Who Knew (Season 2, Episode 18, January 2, 1955)
  1. The Flood (Season 2, Episode 19, January 9, 1955)
  1. The Refinement of 'Ab' (Season 2, Episode 21, January 23, 1955) 
  1. Decision (Season 2, Episode 20, January 16, 1955)
  1. 600 Seconds (Season 2, Episode 22, January 30, 1955)
  1. The Case of Mrs. Bannister (Season 2, Episode 23, February 6, 1955)
  1. Dickie (Season 2, Episode 24, February 13, 1955)


  1. Option On a Wife (Season 2, Episode 25, February 20, 1955)
  1. Tale of the Cayuse (Season 2, Episode 26, February 27, 1955)
  1. Case Book (Season 2, Episode 27, March 6, 1955) 
  1. Inga #2 (Season 2, Episode 29, March 20, 1955)
  1. Dateline Korea (Season 2, Episode 28, March 13, 1955) 
  1. Mink Coat (Season 2, Episode 30, March 27, 1955)
  1. Let Columbus Discover You (Season 2, Episode 31, April 3, 1955)
  1. He Always Comes Home (Season 2, Episode 32, April 10, 1955) 
  1. The Little Teacher (Season 2, Episode 34, April 24, 1955)
  1. I Remember the Rani (Season 2, Episode 35, May 5, 1955)



  1. Christmas Stopover (Season 3, Episode 17, December 25, 1955)
  1. Inga #3 (Season 3, Episode 17, January 19, 1956)
  1. The Secret (Season 3, Episode 22, January 29, 1956)
  1. The Pearl (Season 3, Episode 23, February 12, 1956)
  1. Gesundheit (Season 3, Episode 25, February 26, 1956)
  1. His Inheritance (Season 3, Episode 27, March 18, 1956)
  1. But for God's Grace (Season 3, Episode 29, April 1, 1956)


  1. Double Partners (Season 4, Episode 1, August 26, 1956)
  1. The Question (Season 4, Episode 2, September 2, 1956)
  1. Little League (Season 4, Episode 4, September 16, 1956)


  1. Now a Brief Word (Season 4, Episode 6, September 2, 1956)
  1. The Years Between (Season 4, Episode 7, October 7, 1956)
  1. Goodbye, Goodbye (Season 4, Episode 9, October 21, 1956)
  1. The Great Divide (Season 4, Episode 10, October 28, 1956)
  1. The End of the Week (Season 4, Episode 12, November 11, 1956)
  1. Inga #4 (Season 4, Episode 13, November 18, 1956)
  1. Somebody Else's Dream (Season 4, Episode 15, December 9, 1956)
  1. Three and Two, Please (Season 4, Episode 15, December 16, 1956)
  1. Imperfect Balance (Season 4, Episode 17, December 30, 1956)
  1. Queen Nefertiti (Season 4, Episode 18, January 6, 1957)


  1. My Favorite Monster (Season 4, Episode 19, January 13, 1957)
  1. Miss Ashley's Demon (Season 4, Episode 20, January 27, 1957)
  1. Tension (Season 4, Episode 22, February 17, 1957)
  1. Wedding Day (Season 4, Episode 21, February 3, 1957)
  1. The Room Next Door (Season 4, Episode 26, March 31, 1957)
  1. So Bright a Light (Season 4, Episode 27, April 7, 1957)
  1. The Legacy Light (Season 4, Episode 29, April 21, 1957)
  1. The Countess Light (Season 4, Episode 31, May 5, 1957)
  1. A Mind of Their Own (Season 4, Episode 32, May 12, 1957)
  1. Royal Parners, Part 1 (Season 4, Episode 33, May 19, 1957)
  1. Royal Partners, Part 2 (Season 4, Episode 34, May 26, 1957)




  1. A Dollar's Worth (Season 4, Episode 1, October 7, 1957)
  1. Innocent Conspiracy (Season 4, Episode 3, November 3, 1957)
  1. The Little Witness (Season 4, Episode 5, November 24, 1957)
  1. Friends at a Distance (Season 4, Episode 7, December 8, 1957)
  1. The Demon and Mrs. Devon (Season 4, Episode 8, December 15, 1957)
  1. The Accused (Season 6, Episode 29, April 26, 1959) **FROM SEASON SIX
  1. Dear Mr. Milkman (Season 5, Episode 29, February 9, 1958)


  1. A Greater Strength (Season 5, Episode 17, February 23, 1958)
  1. The Oriental Mind (Season 5, Episode 19, March 9, 1958)
  1. Time of Decision (Season 5, Episode 21, March 23, 1958)
  1. To Open a Door (Season 5, Episode 23, April 6, 1958)
  1. Dangerous Verdict (Season 5, Episode 25, April 20, 1958)
  1. South American Uncle (Season 5, Episode 27, May 4, 1958)
  1. A Strange Adventure (Season 5, Episode 28, May 11, 1958)


  1. A Day of Rest (Season 5, Episode 29, May 18, 1958)


  1. The Near Unknown (Season 6, Episode 2, October 12, 1958)
  1. A Visit to San Paulo (Season 6, Episode 4, October 26, 1958)
  1. The 20 Cent Tip (Season 6, Episode 6, November 9, 1958)
  1. In the Good Old Summertime (Season 6, Episode 3, October 19, 1958)
  1. The Woman Between (Season 6, Episode 8, November 23, 1958)
  1. Black Lace Valentine (Season 6, Episode 19, February 8, 1959)


  1. The Happy Widow (Season 6, Episode 10, December 7, 1958) 
  1. Sister Ann (Season 6, Episode 15, January 11, 1959) 
  1. Incident in India (Season 6, Episode 17, January 25, 1959)
  1. The Portrait (Season 6, Episode 21, February 22, 1959)
  1. Mr. Wilson's Wife #1 (Season 6, Episode 26, April 5, 1959)
  1. The Prettiest Girl in Town (Season 6, Episode 23, March 8, 1959) 
  1. The Tenderizer (Season 6, Episode 24, March 21, 1959)


  1. Mr. Wilson's Wife #2 (Season 6, Episode 27, April 12, 1959)


  1. The Road (Season 7, Episode 1, September 20, 1959)
  1. One Beautful Moment (Season 7, Episode 2, September 27, 1959)
  1. Mask of Evidence (Season 7, Episode 4, October 11, 1959)
  1. A New Step (Season 7, Episode 7, November 8, 1959)
  1. Lady in a Fish Bowl (Season 7, Episode 9, November 22, 1959)
  1. Alien Love (Season 7, Episode 12, December 13, 1959)


  1. Little Monster, Tell Tales (Little Miss Tell Tales) (Season 7, Episode 15, January 10, 1960)
  1. Mrs. Minton (Season 7, Episode 17, January 24, 1960) 
  1. Second Spring (Season 7, Episode 20, February 21, 1960)
  1. The Trouble with Laury's Men (Season 7, Episode 22, March 13, 1960)
  1. Faith, Hope and Mr. Flaherty (Season 7, Episode 27, May 8, 1960)
  1. The Eternal Now, Part 1 (Season 7, Episode 28, May 15, 1960)
  1. The Eternal Now, Part 2 (Season 7, Episode 29, May 22, 1960)



  1. Long Night (Season 8, Episode 1, September 18, 1960)
  1. Fair Exchange (Season 8, Episode 3, October 2, 1960)
  1. Love Between the Acts (Season 8, Episode 6, October 23, 1960)
  1. The Seducer (Season 8, Episode 8, November 6, 1960)
  1. Conditional Surrender (Season 8, Episode 10, November 20, 1960)
  1. These Few Years (Season 8, Episode 12, November 11, 1960)

Bonus Features: "In her Own Words," Movie Trailers


  1. Quiet Desperation (Season 8, Episode 17, February 5, 1961)
  1. Subtle Danger (Season 8, Episode 17, February 5, 1961)
  1. Doesn't Everybody? (Season 8, Episode 15, January 15, 1961)
  1. Emergency in 114 (Season 8, Episode 26, April 23, 1961)
  1. The Forbidden Guests (Season 8, Episode 30, May 28, 1961)
  1. Not in Our Stars (Season 8, Episode 31, June 4, 1961)

Bonus Features: Loretta Young's Home Movies; Beverly Washburn Interview

"...Well, goodnight. See you next week?"

Blog, TV, People, Music, Records
Posted on Sep 29 2012 by Greg
There was a time when legends like Danny Kaye, Alfred Hitchcock, Soupy Sales and Shari Lewis sang songs and shared stories on vinyl records. Often Mitch Miller directed the orchestra. This was the decades-long era of Golden Records--and now it's returning on CD and download in the form of classic original recordings as well as new versions featuring with celebrities like Ed Asner, Susan Sarandon, Cheryl Hines, Alicia Silverstone and many more.

Golden Records started as 6" yellow 78 RPM records some of us played with steel needles on acoustic kiddie players. Along came 45 RPM and LP records from the Golden label in New York under the supervision of Arthur Shimkin, who would also lead the Columbia and Sesame Street children's labels.

The original Golden Records themselves may have been small in size, but their influence in the industry was huge. The first records for Mickey Mouse Club Records, Howdy Doody, Roy Rogers, you name it, they recorded or were distributed by Golden.

By early '60s, the Golden sound became more mellow under the baton of Jim Timmens. A light jazz style was the usual sound of late 60s/70s producer Ralph Stein, while at the same time Producer Howard Scott brought original musicals, folk songs and rich London-based styles to the label.

In the late 70s, Golden Records became Wonderland Records, having added titles from the Riverside Wonderland catalog and some classic Capitol albums into the fold. By the 80s, two-time Grammy winning composer/producer Dennis Scott provided some of his earliest work before moving to Sesame Street.

Then there was nothing.

The label fell into a morass of legal issues and virtually vanished. Several companies made valiant attempts to reissue the records but the issues persisted until Shout! Factory released a handful of successful albums and compilations a few years back.

Now Verse Music Group has stepped up to reboot Golden Records as a brand, as you can see on their website or Facebook page, and created a two-tiered series that satisfies those of us who love the classic recordings and introduces them to today's parents and kids in a fresh new way with current showbiz names.

The first album in this "Celebrity Series" offers the distinctive musical style many of us cherish, but remastered to crystal clarity, with the stories read by the above actors, plus songs sung by Didi Conn (Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure, Shining Time Station).

Two albums of remastered and restored original Golden Records are being released in the "Timeless Series" and are budget priced, along with Halloween and Christmas collections in the celebrity series. Even if you and your young children have never heard Golden Records, there nothing else that sounds like them. For the price alone, you'd be much better off sharing these songs with your kids in this manner than hearing thin, synth versions often on current budget kids' CDs.

This is a very ambitious project indeed, with many albums coming soon in both series. If you fondly† remember the classic sound of these discs--which sold in the multi-millions in their day--hearing it remastered in such a spectacular way is like striking gold.

Blog, TV, People, Music, Records
Posted on Jun 29 2012 by Greg
Some folks who remember Don Grady as Robbie Douglas, the teen-turned young husband on the long running TV sitcom My Three Sons, may not also know that he was one of the original Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeers, joining the series later in its run under his real name, Don Agrati.

With his untimely passing this week, he not only leaves behind two iconic TV personas, but also an extraordinary music career that in sheer volume and scope, eclipses his onscreen work.

Don Grady was part of Yellow Balloon, a feel-good late '60s pop group at the same time as he was still performing on My Three Sons. He has written numerous scores for stage, TV and video (including a lot of Disney video bonus materials and games) and an acclaimed Las Vegas show called EFX.

The items most overlooked in his various obits are some Disney albums that literally millions of families have listened to for years: Disney Princess Tea Party and, ever more notably, Disney's Princess Christmas Album.

Both albums feature the magnificent voices of such greats as Lea Salonga, Paige O'Hara, Judy Kuhn and Jodi Benson -- plus arrangements, production and original compositions by Don Grady. These albums will never really become dated and will surely be reissued in one form or another for untold generations. We can never know how many scores of children will be delighted by this fine work.

That's a mighty impressive legacy.

Blog, News and Events, People
Posted on Dec 28 2011 by Greg

This week on BBC Radio, you can stream a free one-hour special honoring the legendary entertainer Tommy Steele, who among many other triumphs starred in the London, Broadway (with John Cleese) and movie versions of Half a Sixpence; Walt Disney's last film, The Happiest Millionaire, and Francis Ford Coppola's only musical, Finian's Rainbow with Fred Astaire and Petula Clark.

You can listen to the program here for the next five days.

Tommy Steele (far right) with Gladys Cooper, Lesley Ann Warren, Fred MacMurray, Geraldine Page, John Davidson and Walt Disney on the set of The Happiest Millionaire.

Also this week on BBC Radio:

The Night the Animals Talked (2 days left to listen)

Jack and the Genetically Modified Beanstalk (2 days left to listen)

The White Christmas Story
Martin Sheen narrates a one-hour documentary about Irving Berlin's beloved song (2 days left to listen).

The Pied Piper of Hamelin (4 days left to listen)

The Beatles' Christmas (5 days left to listen)

Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be: The Lionel Bart Story
Five-part bio of the composer/lyricist of "Oliver!"

Christopher Lee's Fireside Tales
Five 15-minute stories.

Aesop's Fables
Adapted from the stage production by Michael Morpurgo (War Horse) (7 days left to listen).

Yeti's Finger
What does Jimmy Stewart have to do with the abominable snowman?

The Adventures of Tintin (2 episodes left)

PLEASE NOTE: Some BBC Radio programming contains material intended for mature audiences.

<< Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Next >>
















Home | About Us | Contact Us | Book Purchase | News & Events | Blog Tracks | Greg's Picks | Links

Mouse Tracks - The Story of Walt Disney Records