Friday, July 28, 2017

June Foray, 1917-2017, R.I.P.

I'm absolutely sick at the news that the amazing and iconic voice-over actress June Foray died on Wednesday. She was ninety-nine years old and would have turned one hundred if she'd only lived until September 18th.

I'm going to keep this tribute relatively brief and aim it at those who really care about and perhaps know the history of animation (although her work included one hell of a lot more than just cartoon voices). That way I won't fill this page with tons and tons of information.

My first exposure to her work was probably when she was portraying characters on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show like Rocket J. Squirrel, Natasha Fatale, and Nell Fenwick (as well as others). She also did multiple voices on Jay Ward's syndicated silent movie spoof program, Fractured Flickers, and voiced Ursula on another Ward production, George of the Jungle.

It wasn't until years later, as I learned more and more about showbiz history in general, that I became aware that she'd worked for many, many employers in her time, and had done the voices of characters like Cindy Lou Who (in How the Grinch stole Christmas) Granny (owner of Sylvester the Cat and Tweety Bird), Witch Hazel, Woody Woodpecker's nephew and niece Knothead and Splinter, Jokey Smurf, and talking doll Chatty Cathy. (She even did a take-off on Chatty Cathy called "Talky Tina" on a Twilight Zone episode.)

Among hundreds (thousands?) of others, Ms. Foray, whose autobiography was oh-so-appropriately entitled Did You Grow Up With Me, Too? -- The Autobiography of June Foray, had so many credits that it is literally impossible to list more than a small percentage of them... although people have tried. Her Wikipedia entry, for example, lists dozens of credits, but it's only a partial list.

An obituary with some great photos may be found here, and a tribute post by her friend (and one of the two co-authors of her autobiography), Mark Evanier, may be found here.

I was actually surprised that when I did an image search for photos of Ms. Foray, there were so many of the woman herself. I'd really expected more images of the characters she voiced during her career, which began in her adolescence.

With famed cartoon director Chuck Jones -- lousy shot of him -- and the prolific Mel Blanc.

This is obviously not June Foray. It's Talky Tina from the Twilight Zone episode "Living Doll."

With two more industry legends, Daws Butler and Stan Freberg.

June rarely appeared on-camera, but here's one of the few times she did, from 1955's Sabaka!

Animation director Chuck Jones said it best: "June Foray is not the female Mel Blanc. Mel Blanc is the male June Foray." As much as I respect Mel Blanc and his huge body of work, I can't help but agree.

Thanks for your time.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A New "Short Shorts" Post

1. In my tribute post to the late John Heard, I forgot to mention that he had attended Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts in the late 1960s. "Who cares?" you may be thinking. Well, I do, mainly because Clark University is only about a twenty-minute drive from my home.

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2. Sorry to hear about the passing of Barbara Sinatra, widow of Frank Sinatra. Frank was Barbara's third husband. Her second husband, pictured above, was Herbert Marx, better known as "Zeppo." Isn't it amazing how much the Marx Brothers resembled each other when they weren't wearing their famous outfits? Zeppo could almost pass for Groucho if you added a mustache.

Okay, fellow babies, which Marx brother is which?

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3. Several of you readers are die-hard movie buffs, so I'm asking for your help! I have been trying to recall the name of an E.T. ripoff movie I saw several years ago. The film in question is emphatically NOT the notorious 1988 Mac and Me. The one I'm looking for the name of featured an alien (as I recall it, although it could have been Bigfoot, or a stray dog, or...!) and a young girl named Amy. Or perhaps that's "Amie," because the song "Amie" by Pure Prairie League appeared on the soundtrack in a scene where Amy/Amie was shown playing in the snow with the creature.

Nope, NOT this one!

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Th-th-th-that's all, folks!

Thanks for your time.

Monday, July 24, 2017

John Heard, 1945(?)-2017, R.I.P.

Prolific actor John Heard has died from as-yet-unknown causes at the age of either seventy-one or seventy-two, depending on which source you believe. I've seen dozens of articles listing one age or the other. Even Wikipedia lists his birth year as 1946 here, and as 1945 here!

Sometime during the 1980s or 1990s, well after his career had taken off, I saw Mr. Heard in a then-new TV commercial. (I can't remember the product he was advertising, and a half-hour search on the internet, YouTube in particular, didn't tell me. Sorry.) In that commercial, Heard introduced himself in the name of the character he was portraying, a storekeeper, IIRC. But in response to his "I'm [so-and-so]," I sat there thinking "No, you're not! You're John Heard!" To me, he was far too well-known to endorse a product on television as anyone but himself.

Every so often, I would think that it would be nice if I someday met the man, so I could remind him about that commercial, and my amused reaction to it.

(And would it surprise any of my regular readers if I told you that I was thinking that just the other day? And would it surprise you if I told you that only three or four weeks ago, I watched him in 1982's Cat People, in which he played a rare romantic lead? You know what I mean, right?)

Heard was never a huge star, instead being one of those actors who kinda blends into a movie to the point where you see information about the film and say "Oh, that's right, I forgot he was in that!" I had to refer to his IMDb entry just to remind myself about movies I've seen in which he appeared, as I was compiling photos for this post. For example, I had forgotten that he was in 1991's Rambling Rose with Robert Duvall and Laura Dern (the latter of which he had no actual scenes with), in which he played the character of "Buddy" as an adult. I also forgot that he had a small role as Tom the Bartender in 1985's quirky After Hours.

Usually, when a celebrity is discussed in print, mention is made of his or her best-known role, movie, TV show, or other project.  Unfortunately, I keep seeing that John Heard was Peter McAllister in 1990's Home Alone and its 1992 sequel. Out of his entire damned career, he has to be remembered mainly for that?

Well, let me state a few things right here and now. I never saw Home Alone. I never wanted to see Home Alone. I never plan to see Home Alone. I will not include any photos from Home Alone in today's post. And if you leave a comment on this post telling me how much you loved Home Alone, I may leave a nasty reply for you. (Okay, okay, I wouldn't really do that last one...)

Now that that's out of my system...

I will, however, include several photos from just a few of his many, many other movies and television appearances.

Before I throw a bunch of images at you, I just want to add that I don't think I ever saw a John Heard film in the theater! I always got to see them on VHS or DVD, months or even years after their release. But I always enjoyed his work.

With his Cat People co-star, the lovely Natassja Kinski, as well as
David Bowie (who sang the film's theme song), and director Paul Scrader.

With James Gandolfini in The Sopranos. Heard received an Emmy
nomination for his five-episode role as Detective Vin Makazian.

With Geraldine Page in 1985's The Trip to Bountiful, in which Heard played Ludie Watts.
Not pictured is actress Carlin Glynn, who played Ludie's all-out bitch of a wife!

With Mary Beth Hurt and Peter (Animal House) Riegert in Head Over Heels,
re-released a few years later with a different ending as Chilly Scenes of Winter!

Heard had a small but hilarious (and important!) part as Dan Quayle-ish
Vice President Ted Matthews in My Fellow Americans, 1996.

As Jack Kerouac in 1980's Heart Beat, with Sissy Spacek and Nick Nolte. I've yet to see this film,
and definitely want to, but have never come across it nor had the presence of mind to look for it online!

As John Pierce in 1988's Beaches, with Bette Midler -- Nice ears, Ms. Midler! -- and Barbara Hershey.

As Tom the Bartender in Martin Scorsese's After Hours.

Oh, and just for the record? I never saw him in 1988's Big, either! But not because I've avoided that film. Just never saw it!

He was married and divorced three times, including his first marriage to actress Margot Kidder. Their marriage lasted six days!

Heard was somewhat self-deprecating in a 2008 interview in which he stated "I guess I went from being a young leading man to being just kind of a hack actor," and "I think I could have done more with my career than I did, and I sort of got sidetracked. But that's OK, that's all right, that's the way it is. No sour grapes. I mean, I don't have any regrets. Except that I could have played some bigger parts."

Maybe he could have played some bigger parts if he had done some things differently, but as far as being a "hack actor?" Sorry, I don't buy it.

Thanks for your time.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Happy Birthday, Albert Brooks!

A rather long one today...

First of all, don't panic, fellow babies! I realize that when a celebrity's face appears at the top of one of my posts, it usually means that the guy or gal has passed away. But thankfully, not this time!

As I have occasionally (rarely?) done in the past (for example, back in 2011, for Graham Nash), I'm posting to wish a Happy Birthday to one of my long-time favorite entertainers, none other than comedian/actor/director/author Albert Brooks, who turns seventy years old today!

First of all, contrary to what's believed by a very close friend of mine, Albert Brooks is not the son of Mel Brooks! They're not even related. For that matter, Albert Brooks wasn't even born Albert Brooks. (Mel Brooks wasn't born "Brooks" either, for that matter. His birth name was Melvin Kaminsky.)


Albert Brooks' birth name was -- wait for it -- Albert Einstein. Yes, really. Brooks' father was a successful and well-known "dialect comedian" named Harry Einstein, better known as Parkyakarkus ("park your carcass"). Harry had three sons before finally giving into temptation and naming his fourth son Albert.

Harry "Parkyakarkus" Einstein, 1904-1958

In 1958, Harry Einstein delivered a well-received comedy routine at a Friars Roast honoring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Einstein returned to his seat (next to Milton Berle) and soon fell over into Berle's lap. Despite attempts to save him, he died two hours later, victim of a heart attack.

Back to Albert...

Appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in the mid-1960s, the one-and-only Carl Reiner once stated that the two funniest people he knew were Mel Brooks and a high school kid he knew, Albert Einstein.

I first became aware of Brooks through his unique stand-up appearances on The Tonight Show. In one, he played a truly awful ventriloquist. In another, he portrayed a writer of children's songs, doing such insipid numbers as "Brush Your Teeth" and "Eat Those Beans... Please!" (I can still sing both songs from memory. Not that I'm necessarily bragging about that...) He did a skit called "Rewriting the National Anthem" where he showcased several applicants from around the USA who'd written songs that could hopefully replace "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The "Rewriting the National Anthem" routine and several others appeared on Brooks' first album, "Comedy Minus One."

The front cover of "Comedy Minus One."

The back cover of "Comedy Minus One."

A few years later on The Tonight Show, he again did a ventriloquist act of sorts where he used a "dummy" made from a children's toy which played single letters aloud when you pressed the appropriate key on its keyboard. ("I" substituted for "hi," and so forth.) It was (purposely) pretty lame.

I even caught his 1972 appearance on an episode of the short-lived sitcom, The New Dick Van Dyke Show. I saw several of the short films he did for Saturday Night Live in the mid-1970s, and caught him in Taxi Driver (which I admittedly didn't see until a few years after it came out in 1976).

In Taxi Driver with Robert De Niro and (with her back to the camera) Cybill Shepherd.

Although I missed his initial effort at directing, 1979's Real Life -- an eerily prophetic look at what we now call "reality TV" -- I did manage to procure it years later. (It's part of the sizable videotape collection I'm planning on keeping.)

In Real Life, Brooks (playing himself, more or less), decides to "spice up"
his subjects' lives, because he doesn't think his movie is exciting enough!

I have to admit that to this day, I still haven't seen 1980's Private Benjamin, in spite of all the good things that I've heard about it... and in spite of the fact that I've been a fan of Goldie Hawn's since Good Morning, World, a sitcom she appeared in even before she showed up on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In.

With the lovely Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin.

In 1981, Brooks directed, co-wrote, and starred in my own personal favorite out of all his films, Modern Romance. He played a successful but neurotic and insanely jealous Hollywood film editor, Robert Cole, who breaks up with his girlfriend Mary (excellently played by Kathryn Harrold) and immediately regrets it. Their ups and downs as a couple, as well as Cole's personal quirks (explored both on and off the job), make this film an incredible treat for those who like something different.

In Modern Romance with Kathryn Harrold.

In Modern Romance with real-life director James L. Brooks (again,
no relation), who later cast Albert in Broadcast News, and Bruno Kirby.

A terrific Modern Romance scene, set in a sporting goods store. Brooks is shown
here with Bob Einstein, who IS Albert's brother in real life. Bob Einstein is
better known today as "Super Dave Osborne." He also played policeman
"Officer Judy" on the controversial 1960s Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

And now I'm going to let the photos speak for themselves, except where I felt it necessary to supply a detail or two.

With Julie Hagerty in 1985's Lost in America.

With Holly Hunter and William Hurt in Broadcast News, 1987.

With Meryl Streep in 1991's Defending Your Life.

With the incomparable Debbie Reynolds in 1996's Mother.

With Sharon Stone and Andie MacDowell in The Muse, 1999.

Brooks appeared as Randall Harris in the vastly underrated
My First Mister (2001). He's pictured here with co-star Leelee Sobieski.

Brooks also supplied the voice of Marlin in 2003's
Finding Nemo, as well as its sequel, Finding Dory (2016).

In 2005's Looking for Comedy in the Muslim WorldAGAIN doing a ventriloquist's act!

And I've still left out a lot of things that he's done in a career of over fifty years.

So, there you have it: A tribute to someone who's still very much with us! Happy Birthday, Albert Brooks!

And thanks for your time.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

More about Martin (Landau) ~~ A "Comical Wednesday" Post

For many years, there's been a persistent rumor in comics fandom -- debunked in detail here -- that claims that Martin Landau was a comic book illustrator who went by the name of Ken Landau, not long before Mr. L. became an actor. Not so. Martin Landau did, however, work as an illustrator/cartoonist for The Daily News and later assisted artist Gus Edson on the comic strip The Gumps when he was a very young man in the mid-to-late 1940s.

So, he worked on comic strips, not comic books. There is a difference, don'tcha know!

And by the way, although he eventually became an actor, Landau never stopped drawing. He painted, he drew caricatures... He just didn't draw professionally.  

And here's another (unrelated) little tidbit for you. Years before playing the role of Bela Lugosi (the actor best known for playing Count Dracula, of course), Martin Landau also played the famous count in a 1985 stage production of Dracula. A photo of him in that role ends this post!

Thanks for your time.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Martin Landau, 1928-2017, R.I.P.

Oscar-winning actor Martin Landau has died at the age of eighty-nine.

Landau's long career as an actor began in the mid-1950s. He had a notable supporting role in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest. He went on to play master of disguise Rollin Hand in TV's Mission: Impossible in the late 1960s, and following that, he and then-wife Barbara Bain co-starred in Space: 1999. He deservedly won an Academy Award for his remarkable performance as Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood. And obviously, I've left out a lot!

Now I'll (mostly) shut up and fill the rest of this tribute with photos!

His Oscar-winning role as Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's Ed Wood, 1994.

With James Mason in Alfred Hitchcock's 1959 classic, North by Northwest.

In Space: 1999, a show that, believe it or not, I never watched!

With Peter Graves and then-wife Barbara Bain in Mission: Impossible.

With Jeff Bridges and Lloyd Bridges in 1988's Tucker: The Man and His Dream. Landau
played the part of Abe Karatz, and received his first Oscar nomination for this movie.

 With Woody Allen in 1989's Crimes and Misdemeanors. Landau
won his second Oscar nomination for his role as Judah Rosenthal.

In Ed Wood, where Landau appeared with George "The Animal" Steele,
Juliet Landau (Yes, that's Martin Landau's daughter!), and Johnny Depp.

With buddy James Dean.

With Steven Hill in the first season of Mission: Impossible.

As Geppetto in The Adventures of Pinocchio, 1996.

With most of the cast of Ed Wood.

Thanks for your time.

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