Posts Tagged ‘Comedy Greats’

Best Casting EVER!

June 10, 2020

Today I sing the praises of a rarely-honored class of working person: The Casting Director. Matching the right performer to a given part takes luck and insight and, often enough, inspiration. Throughout Show Biz history we have seen marvelous, CLASSIC work by casting directors:

Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce

Barbra Streisand as Fanny Brice

Hattie McDaniel as Mammy in Gone With The Wind

Speaking of GWTW… This is Brilliant Casting

Then there is the unexpected: Taking A Chance On a “Cutsie” Television SitCom Actress…

So many more examples flood into my mind: Robert Preston in The Music Man… Putting Laurel with Hardy… Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday… All prime examples of casting work.

But for me, the winner of the all-time best piece of casting goes to either the unnamed genius of a Casting Director of, or Stanley Kramer, the producer of, 1963’s all-star comedy extravaganza: It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Why? No mere photograph will suffice. First a foreshadowing:

OUCH! Not only do my ears ache, but every bone in my body aches just to know the name of the unsung genius who listened to Ethel Merman singing and posed the question, “Can you imagine THAT coming out of… your MOTHER-IN-LAW?”

IMAGINE NO MORE! Here we go!…

In one fell swoop, whomever ’twas who cast Merman in this rôle nailed exactly how billions of married men feel. Listen to that husband! When brutalized by the World’s Worst Backseat Driver, he feebly mutters, “You’re right. You’re right.” Sigh…

Years later La Merman took a crack at killing Disco:

But for me, because of MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD, Merman is always and forever the quintessential termagant, shrew, harridan, virago, harpy… unrepentant battle-axe. Filled with certitude concerning the ineptitude of the man her daughter brought home and married.
This is the one performance that made men all over the world heave a sigh of relief and say, about their life, “Things could be worse.”
And once again, cinema communicates around the world…

While original “Road Show” release of this film ran three and a half hours, the film underwent ruthless cutting by theater managers, all to get in more showings. The standard theatrical version ran two hours forty minutes. Home video releases added some footage over the years. Not long ago CRITERION put together the most complete version extant clocking in at three hours and seventeen minutes – including some recreations with location stills accompanied by the original audio.

Is it a wacky comedy? Or is it a scathing look at American capitalism? Who cares! I just love that horrid Mother-In-Law!

If you can’t handle over three hours of visual and verbal abuse at one shot, try one of the trailers:

LIKE OLD MOVIES? Get A Load Of THIS!

Some More Inspired Casting!
Know Who They Are and The Rôles?

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Vintage Sex Humor

March 19, 2019

Recently, while looking at a string of YOU BET YOUR LIFE shows, I stumbled upon this product:

grouchobox Transparent small

During the course of a show, Groucho took a few minutes to offer what we now call “a shameless plug.” Naturally he did it in a very funny way. I have no idea if the product scored a hit in its day. Back in 1954, these napkins sold for $1, which comes to $9.40 now – still not an extravagant price for some laughs. They go for about $25 when offered today on sites such as Ebay.

Take a look at a contemporary ad aimed at retailers. Note the oh-so-subtle influence of the then-current panic Americans felt concerning Russia. Good thing those paranoiac days are gone forever…

Naturally, such scintillating advertising aroused my interest. So faster than a Millennial can cry “Trigger Warning,” I decided to hit the interwebs and scour out out as many of these “Funny As Thermonuclear War,” “Sure-Fire Sales Dynamite” napkins as I could locate. While I fell short of locating them all, here are a few:

Stewardesses small

By A Nose small

Groucho Balloon small

Nuclear Kiss small

Looking over these vintage funnies, all I can say is: thank the gods that we here in the 21st Century have grown so enlightened and so woke that sex is no longer a laughing matter! What on earth WERE we thinking back when sex was considered… enjoyable?

More BevNaps Banner

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UPDATE: I wonder how people today would react to THIS once-popular book from 1960…

Featured Among the ribald doggerel:

I met a girl the other night
What a time
What fun
No sorrow.
I’ll not forget the other night
The case comes up tomorrow.

And this charming toast:

Here’s to the breezes
Which blow through the treeses
That lift little girls’ skirts
Above their kneeses
Little boy seeses
Does as he pleases
Gets social diseases
How ’bout that

Ah, what sophisticated charming humor!

And it even appealed to the illiterate!

Comedian Jackie Kannon – he of New York City’s RAT FINK CLUB – saw his career take off with his ribald compilations of old but risqué wheezes. In fact, “blue” doggerel and jokes became something of a cottage industry for Kannon:

For The John copyWell, it’s a living…
As an actor/comic Kannon appeared on one of the most revered comedy albums of its day – one that is still in print on CD: You Don’t Have To Be Jewish.
On this hilarious slice of ethnic humor Kannon, the son of a Rabbi, holds his own with some of the top comedic talent of the 1960s.

You Don't Have To Be Jewish

That’s Jackie Kannon up front in the Napoleon get-up – looking for all the world like Lenny Bruce auditioning for the lead in Désirée.
Alas, Kannon died in 1974 at the age of 52. His career merited a meaty obituary in the New York Times (which listed his age at death as 48), with a photo yet!

Kannon Obit copy

From the Times obit: Mr. Kannon was once described by John S. Wilson, a music critic of The New York Times, as “a slender, wiry man with the cocky bearing of a James Cagney, a vast store of quips that fall close to both sides of the borderline of propriety and enough of a singing voice to intersperse his comments with song.” Mr. Wilson noted “the startling conjunction when ‘Give My Regards to Broadway’ is sung to the tune of ‘Mack the Knife.’”

Clearly a man of many parts… Yet Jackie Kannon’s magnum opus remains Poems for The John which still sells briskly at Ebay. Songs for the John rarely turns up – making this LP a collectors’ item.
While Kannon was far from the only comedian whose career went into the toilet, he’s probably the only one who profited from it…

Songs for the John

Medicine KILLED Robin Williams

November 13, 2014

Robin_Williams_Canada

It is the leading cause of death.
And now it reportedly killed Robin Williams.

From the official report on Mr. Williams’ death: “The condition [Lewy Body Dementia], coupled with his Parksinon’s and the medication he was taking to combat it, causes hallucinations.”

The key words here are AND THE MEDICATION HE WAS TAKING.

Further, the report says, “Lewy Body Dementia is… exacerbated by Parkinson’s medication.” Exacerbated is a $10 word for “made worse.” People taking the medication experience hallucinations such as “phantom objects, people or animals. The patients often try to converse with the illusions.”

OFTEN… often… This is not only common, it happens OFTEN

And yet the drug is administered and meant to be taken for life. Allopathic medicine, which is the dominant form of treatment currently, tries to match a particular drug for a given disease – no matter who is suffering.  This system is less than a century old.  Yet now, death by medicine and medical treatment is THE LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH IN AMERICA. A conservative estimate puts the annual American deaths by medicine at 783,936. By way of comparison, in 2001 699,697 died of heart disease. 553,251 succumbed to cancer. This puts death by medicine way in the lead.

Now, according to the official report, we can add the beloved actor and comedian Robin Williams to the list of those who suffered an iatrogenic death (iatrogenic – adjective: of or relating to illness caused by medical examination or treatment).

I am not saying avoid western allopathic medicine. Just educate yourself and question the doctors at every single step of the process. And always remember that medical treatment is now the leading cause of death in our culture. History shows that once the pharmaceutical industry got hold of, and invested in, medical schools early in the 20th Century, the treatment paradigm shifted from curing disease to keeping people on medication for life and using one method of treatment, one drug, for everyone.  What happened to identifying an illness and curing the patient?  What happened to healing?  Now, to the delight of drug companies, doctors identify an illness, announce that you will suffer for life and need to take pills that can cost hundreds – even thousands – of dollars a month. Drugs are now more expensive than ever before in history, and medicine no longer concentrates on cures and healing, focusing instead on making life-long customers for drug companies. Why did it happen? That is easy to answer: Money. There’s tons of money in keeping people on costly drugs for life, especially when the price of the drug always goes up.  As a middle-aged man myself, just a few years younger than Mr. Williams was at the time of his death, it still shocks medical professionals when they see that I am on no medications. They simply do not understand it. To them, aging is something that in and of itself requires treatment. Chronic treatment. Costly treatment. Permanent treatment. I know people younger than I am who take over eight medications a day. The chances of a bad interaction when taking that many drugs is… 100%.  And forget about “side-effects.”  Any honest medical practitioner will tell you that there is no such thing as a side-effect. That expression is a term of art, a euphemism, to describe anything that a drug does that doctors don’t want it to do. 

KILLER DRUGS APPROVED THEN WITHDRAWN

Think of all the wonder drugs, peddled relentlessly on TV and in magazines, that end up killing people by the thousands. All were first approved by the FDA – which does absolutely no testing, relying on the drug companies for that. Then, when the bodies pile up, the FDA pulls the drug and people say with a note of triumph, “The system works.”
The list of drugs approved then withdrawn from the market when proven to be deadly, is staggering. Sometimes, deadly drugs are yanked from American markets yet still sold over-seas. What is that if not deliberate homicide?
CLICK HERE for another list of 35 drugs horrendous approved then yanked…

The western medical system is fine, a far as I am concerned, for acute issues. A broken leg. Kidney stones. Heart by-pass surgery. You know… plumbing. But the idea that we should all BEWARE of “restless leg syndrome” and then get drugged for life is just bilking people. That is why you see so many drugs advertised on TV. I have talked with doctors who now regularly have to educate patients who come to them demanding a certain drug. One urologist I spoke to said he spent time explaining to a woman who came to see him that she did not in any way, shape, or form need a prescription drug for prostate problems. The woman was his mother-on-law. It may sound like a funny story, but this is what to expect when drugs are marketed directly to people like business markets candy bars. Mass media exists to create a need and they succeed alarmingly well.

WHERE DO THE NEW DISEASES COME FROM?

Many years ago the brilliant comedian Victor Borge joked about his uncle who went bankrupt because “he invented a cure for which there was no disease.” Today, that is no longer a gag. Pharma invents diseases and syndromes that they then claim can be treated by drugs that are, just by coincidence, losing their patent protection. Coming up with a new use for a drug extends the patent and thus its exclusive income stream. Recently the industry suffered a huge loss when India revised its patent system to allow for generics. Is it any wonder then that here, in America, generic prices are now soaring (see link above)?

Most important, as that woman in the urology office shows, when you encounter western medicine these days, you need to do your homework. This happened to me: I have a perfectly nice doctor. He and I talk things over and I command his time, refusing to be seen in just 10 minutes, as the office managers mandate. With my body, I take my time. And his. In spite of this care, even he prescribed a medication for me that, it turned out, is FATAL for people who have a particular digestive problem. I have that digestive problem, and he knew it. But his books said that people who formulate kidney stones should take this drug so he prescribed it. I looked at the information put out by the drug company itself and found the danger. Right there in print. Not from some hysterical “new age” website, but from the drug makes themselves. 
My doctor could have killed me.
And mine would have been yet another iatrogenic death.
Last year, after “routine surgery,” I picked up what is call an “HAI” (Hospital Acquired Infection) that landed me in the hospital, in ever-weakinging condition, for over a week. This is so common that now, under the Affordable Care Act, hospitals are no longer allowed to charge patients for such treatment in an effort to cut down on such infections.
This makes twice, in a single year, that I almost died as a result of medical care. TWICE. In one year.
As I mentioned above, the current allopathic system of medicine is barely a century old – yet systems used successfully for centuries, such as Ayurvedic medicine, are trivialized as “alternative.” Don’t you believe it. There is more to healing than a lifetime of drug taking.

For a look at disease and medicine from another, older perspective, here is a book that dates back to the dawn of the modern pharmaceutical-dominated system.

Click This Image To Read About HEALING FORCES

Click This Image To Read About HEALING FORCES

Putney Swope, Revisited – Sort Of

June 27, 2011

This may seem a tad late, but I finally got to see the 1969 movie Putney Swope by Robert Downey (no, not that one. His father.) I did see it about a year after it first came out, but I didn’t really see it. It was like this: everyone I knew said Eliot, you have GOT to see Putney Swope. It is exactly the kind of movie you would like. So I hightailed it uptown to the Thalia, that venerable revival house on upper Broadway, and caught a showing. I do not recall what the second feature was that afternoon, but what did that matter? I wanted to see the film that was exactly the kind of movie that I would like. So I settled into one of the many empty seats and waited. I don’t know if it is still like this in the renovated and snazzy Leonard Nimoy Thalia, but back then in an apparent fit of pique the designer had arranged the seats so that they sloped UP toward the screen, not the other way around like everyplace else on the planet. I always wondered about that when I attended the Thalia… My reverie was cut short as the film began. Putney Swope. Exactly the kind of film I would like. It may come as no surprise that I was unable to concentrate on the film. As it unspooled, my mind kept repeating What DO these people think of me?? What DO these people think of me?? So I never did get to see the thing until yesterday, well into the 21st Century. What did they think of me, anyway?

Ain’t It The Truth

August 3, 2009

Thanks, Jess, for showing me this…

DOWN WITH FLU

May 31, 2009

Temporarily out of action with this horrific flu making the rounds.  Good time to check on my past brilliant words of wisdom (Hmm, the flu went to my head. It appears to be rather, shall we say, swollen). To this end I have listed this non-post post under all my headings. So take a look at all of it and let me knwo what you have to say…

back by week’s end…

On Boring Movies…

February 12, 2009
Oh, God! How friggin' DULL!

Oh, God! How friggin’ DULL!

Oh Lord…

How your world never ceases to astound me. Today I discovered something that will undoubtedly prove itself one of the greatest boons to humanity – nay! – civilization itself in the last hundred years. Give or take 20 or 30…

Today I saw Reefer Madness for the first time again. If that confuses you, welcome to the club.  I know that I saw it years ago on one of those bargain video tapes that populated the aisles of the now defunct Woolworth’s. I had the tape so I must have seen it. Someone had opened it, and that likely someone must certainly have watched it for the person had not bothered t rewind it.  As for that someone’s ID… all signs correctly point to me. But today I saw it again and had virtually no memory of it! For example, I must have cleanly and neatly excised from my memory the fact that this film practically puts one to sleep instantly, hence it receiving my vote as the greatest invention in the world. What a great thing to cure insomnia and other sleep disorders. The hell with the fancy sleep clinics! Just have the sleep deprived look at this dog. I assert in the strongest way I know how, that Reefer Madness stands alone as the only known film that gets totally boring during the opening titles!

Yes, I know other boring films exist. But there’s something to recommend them. Like Arthur Penn’s snooze-fest The Missouri Breaks. There’s a few nice touches, but, well let’s be honest and say that it takes a heap of cinematic – oops I mean: movie – skill to get a boring film out of Brando and Nicholson. They should have pepped things up by having the two superstars do something really creative. Yeah, Brando has a phony accent and wears a dress now and then and Nicholson gives a stunningly impressive imitation of that guy who starred in Chinatown. You know who I mean. He starred in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and he was the loony guy in The Shining. You have to know who I mean. The young comic actor who showed such flair in the original Little Shop of Horrors.

Mantan Moreland Frequently Got Very High Billing in Movies

Mantan Moreland Frequently Got Very High Billing in Movies

Now folks, let us not confuse boring with dull. A dull film could be dull on purpose. Like Dragnet (minus the Dan Ackroyd spoof) and 2001: A Space Odyssey. They were made to show the dullness of routine. I mean boring like put out the light, honey.  In the old days studios spiffed up what they knew were boring films with additional scenes featuring their strongest comedic talent. Like MGM did in the snoozer The Rogue Song by slipping Laurel & Hardy into the operetta. Or almost any one of probably hundreds of films with the sadly underrated comic genius Mantan Moreland. Catch his brilliant comic/dramatic appearance in the Melvin VanPeebles film Watermelon Man. Moreland was so funny and so adept with both verbal and physical schtick that Moe Howard considered signing Moreland to become a member of The Three Stooges after Shemp Howard died. Now that’s some gigantic comedy shoes to fill!  Funny isn’t it that Moreland, a clear comic genius, was for a long time reviled for representing Black people in a “denigrating” way while The Three Stooges never got kicked out of show business for denigrating Jewish people and they played the stupidest people ever put on film.  Moreland languished during the late 40’s and 50’s until he was at last appreciated again in the 1960’s. From there Morland worked steadily in film, TV and commercials until his death at age 71..    Ah, well.

2019 UPDATE

Reefer Madness… IN COLOR!

Yes, someone not only colorized this film but did so with wit and imagination. Dig that crazy smoke!