Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sunny Fall Days Bring Idaho Memories

I am having fall recollections.  Lake Pend Oreille (pond oray) in Northern Idaho about this time of year was when I went water skiing  with my high school buddy Roger Springer.  It was sunny but the water was cold because Pend Oreille is a huge lake.  I didn’t embarrass myself on the skis because I wanted to impress Roger and his folks.  In our little group, Roger was the only one with a car of his own --a ‘50 Chevy coupe and he would take us to the drive-ins (Rutherford XXX) and Moran Prairie where we would watch the DJ spin records at KNEW.   Jack Malone in recent years told me that Roger played honky tonk piano and I still am a fan of that music with an LP that I have from The Crescent by Thumbs Tubby.
About 10 years later in about mid-October, also at an Idaho lake, I went  fishing with my new landlords, the Martins, at Lucky Peak Reservoir where it was cold and we didn’t catch any fish.  A month later the Martins decided to get out of the boarding house business and I moved down the street with Mrs. Cook & Co.
Also, in late fall in Idaho I went hunting with the Statesman Outdoor Editor Ken Burrows.  Ken was a gentleman hunter and with a loaded gun he made me nervous.  We ventured into the wild in his 60s Rambler Classic.

Monday, September 24, 2012

"The President's Daughter" Details '20s Scandal

Before the Gov. Terminator-maid scandal, there was the equally infamous and Republican senator/president Warren G. Harding and the secretary/poet Nan Britton, a small town girl who soon learned the ways of men during a six-year affair. 
Not a pretty story it is either as documented in her 1927 book, “The President’s Daughter” with photos of their love child Elizabeth Ann who was born in 1919 to Britton who assumed the name “Mrs. Edmund Christian,” although the whereabouts of the fictitious Mr. Christian were unknown.  What follows is Ms. Britton’s account of events, which the Harding family claimed were hard to prove:
Their affair was awash in sloppy endearments where the Prez was called “sweetheart” and Nan was “dearie” which I find amusing.
Harding floated several schemes to distance himself from ensuing events including his suggestion of an abortion, shuffling the little bundle of joy off to the Catholic Home and finally a palatable solution, providing about $400 a month to Nan’s sister and brother in law enabling  them to adopt little Elizabeth.  Nan was not without her resources and hired an attorney to make sure that the adoption papers named her as the child’s legal guardian.
The book is poorly organized so there is no summary of exactly what Nan got financially out of her sweetheart but apparently she faired well.  An unknown man delivered $800 in cash to her and on another occasion she received three $500 bills which wasn’t chump change in the early 1900s.  Nevertheless, she was strapped for cash.
Harding got Nan jobs as a secretary at U.S. Steel, the GOP during the convention where he was nominated president and at a university where she later enrolled as a student.  Also, she  traveled to Europe in the 1920s and it’s safe to assume that Harding gave her money for that because he feared exposure although he said he was in debt $50,000 at the time.  Harding told Nan that after Mrs. Harding, who was sickly,  died he would adopt little Elizabeth although he never said anything about marrying Nan.
Britton also makes reference to gossip circulating about Harding’s affair with Mrs. Arnold and readers would be well advised to get “Florence Harding” by Carl S. Anthony to learn more about the amorous president’s further adventures.  Ms. Britton wasn’t the only one left with a love child by Harding.
Nan was advised and helped by Tim Slade who was Secret Service and driver to the President, so obviously he could substantiate her story.  After Harding’s passing from a “broken heart,” Slade suggested that Nan petition the Harding family to establish a $50,000 trust fund for Elizabeth Ann but she was denied any claims to the Harding estate.
In her closing remarks, Britton quotes from Harding’s book, “Our Common Country”:  “It will not be the America we love that neglects the American mother and the American child.”   Harding did his bit to promote motherhood.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

"The Candidate," politically relevant film

Politically progressive and handsome is the challenger for the Senate seat that Robert Redford portrays in the award winning 1972 movie “The Candidate,” which is relevant today as it was 40 years ago.  His thoughts on poverty, unemployment, housing and health care will resonate with many progressive voters today.  How this slipped buy me all these years is puzzling.  The Redford character is sucked into the spinning vortex of contemporary politics putting him at odds with his campaign managers and his wife who do not share his vision or values.  Depression and disorientation result as the movie unravels.  Father and son enjoy Hamm’s beer, from St. Paul, land of sky blue waters, in one scene.  Don Porter, last seen as Ann Southern’s boss in “Private Secretary” and as Sally Fields dad in “Gidget,” is his challenger.  This is the most riveting two hours of entertainment you are likely to find from Netflix who send plastic disks in the mail in paper wrappers to be chewed up in the Post Office equipment.  Go Netflix!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fifties Sci-fi Movie Relevant Today

A space alien turns out the lights worldwide to get the attention of politicians to stop nuclear madness and not blow up the universe.  I love the message in this ‘50s sci-fi classic “The Day the Earth Stood Still” with Michael Rennie, Billy Gray and Patricia Neal form  TCF.  Like “The Man from Planet X,” aliens are abused, counter productive to our Minnesota Tourism Office’s fine efforts. Heroic efforts of the owner of the Heights Theater resulted in the showing last night of a 35 mm print of this film which is remarkable in the move to digital only.  The Heights will be showing the William Castle horror movie “The Tingler” which may not be available elsewhere.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Johnny Downs Featured in Two Films

In a scathing commentary on Hollywood, the Asian actor Philip Ahn confesses that he can make more money as a valet rather than an actor if he speaks pidgin rather than English.  This is part of a 1937 musical, “Something to Sing About,”  from poverty row studio Grand National featuring James Cagney who was involved in a stink with Warner Bros. at the time. The attempts of the major studios to use and abuse the talent is center stage in this provocative gem.  Go to www.cheezymovies.blogspot.com for more.

In another outrageous Hollywood stereotype, Franklin Pangborn is an over the top pansy who is mimicked by a radio studio employee in “High Hat” from Imperial Pictures.  Pangborn portrays a fussy opera singer in this ‘30s musical.

One of the better PRC horror movies from the 40s is “Mad Monster” with George Zucco as at the disgruntled college professor seeing revenge on his colleagues by creating a wolfman monster played by Glenn Strange.  Johnny Downs is the handsome hero newspaper reporter who saves the damsel in distress Anne Nagel in the last reel.  Lots of fun for your Halloween viewing.

Martha Tilton headlines PRC’s 1944 musical “Swing Hostess” where she plays the equivalent of a disk jockey.  Tlilton, a band singer of the ‘40s, did a live show at NBC in Burbank in the 60s with singer Morton Downey while I worked at KNBC/NBC news in ‘1963-64 as an editorial assist ant.

Johnny Downs is hilarious in drag as a college boy in “All American Co-ed” from Hal Roach United Artists in 1941.  It’s a brisk, well written yarn that must have inspired Billy Wilder’s “Some Like It Hot” years lat

Friday, September 07, 2012

"Claudia" Movie Features Dorothy McGuire

Many young married woman including my mom during the war probably identified with the free spirit Claudia featured in books, movies and a play.  The 1943 Fox movie of the same name recently became available for the first time on DVD and may never have been seen on TV before.

Dorothy McGuire is outstanding as the vivacious, rambunctious Claudia.  Women’s movies seemed a lot more enticing in the 40s then they are now with characters that you knew.  “Claudia,” the movie, is much better than the book, thanks to McGuire and proceeds like a 40s radio soap opera from one event to the next.  There is an annoying bit about David misplacing his pipe cleaner and I can picture that little tool in my head because my dad had one.

Robert Young of “Father Knows Best” is David and not really the attractive character that Rose Franken wrote about in the book.  Cary Grant was the studio's first choice for David but was otherwise engaged.  Reginald Gardner is miscast as the visiting writer who steals a kiss from Claudia.  Alfred Newman’s background music is a bit overpowering in spots.  Otherwise, this is worth a view from Fox Archives.

A more contemporary telling of a similar story is the 60s “Barefoot in the Park” with Jane Fonda in a very “Claudia” kind of role.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

"Look In Any Window" Features Paul Anka

“Look in Any Window” is a slow moving 1961 Allied Artists movie about suburban morality featuring teen idol Paul Anka, Ruth Roman, Jack Cassidy and Gigi Perreau.  The 40 minute interview on the DVD with a the director, a giggling, mumbling William Alland, is worthwhile. 

Alland was the producer of successful scifi horror movies at Universal-International in the 50s including “It Came From Outer Space.”  Before that he was a behind the scenes guy for Orson Welles on “Citizen Kane” at RKO and radio dramas.

Anka’s agent didn’t want him to make “Look in Any Window” but it went ahead and was completed in seven days.  Anka sings the title song.

The DVD includes an interview with Alland’s second wife Helen about his role as a “friendly” witness for the House Un-American Activities Committee.  In fact, Helen maintains that Alland was too friendly of a witness resulting in the end of their marriage and the family was shunned by the community.

Not much money was spent on wardrobe for “Look” with Anka and Roman in swim suits through much of the movie.   The Anka character jumps from rooftops in a mask which one suspects involved a stunt double.   The irony of Alland's career is that he started with “Citizen Kane” and ended with a  teen drive-in drama.  Anka recnetly appeared in the remake of "Shake Rattle and Rock," which originally was an American-International drive-in effort.