Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Fond Farewell: End of the Day

Our planet is going to be glimmering just a bit more dimly from now on without the presence of one of the entertainment world's sunniest stars, Miss Doris Day. While we paid full-on tribute to Day long ago right here, we couldn't let her recent passing go unnoticed by Poseidon's Underworld. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio on April 3rd, 1922 (in the suburb of Evanston, a scant three miles from my house) to parents of German ancestry, her birth name was Doris Kappelhoff. She took an interest in dance which led to the winning of a local contest with a boy partner and the two teens were packed and about to leave for Hollywood when Doris was severely injured in a car/train accident.
The 5'7" youth possessed a freckled face, thick honey-blonde hair and long legs. But those legs would never dance professionally again. While convalescing (which wound up a long, frustrating experience), she found herself singing along with her radio and discovering a talent for vocals. Her idol was Ella Fitzgerald, known for her smooth, clean, distinct notes and phrasing. Before long, the teen landed a job with Les Brown's orchestra - now as Doris Day, married a trombonist and gave birth to a son. But by the time she was eighteen she was a single, unemployed mother. Her own mother, ever supportive and faithful about her daughter's talent, insisted that she try her luck in Hollywood and that she did.
She was immediately signed with Warner Brothers following a screen test arranged by an agent and the unseasoned gal soon landed a starring role in Romance on the High Seas (1948.) She'd been heard singing at a Hollywood party by director Michael Curtiz. Though she was horrified at her own amateurish performances in the daily rushes and wanted acting lessons, Curtiz forbid it, exclaiming his appreciation of her on-screen naturalism.
Over the next four years, Day made thirteen films, many of them colorful, old-fashioned ones like On Moonlight Bay (1951) or By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953) with an occasional change of pace such as 1951's dramatic Storm Warning, opposite Ginger Rogers.
Captivating the public from the start, Day was one of the brightest new musical comedy stars to come along in some time. Though she didn't feel particularly close to Kirk Douglas and Lauren Bacall (who were real life friends) during Young Man with a Horn (1950), she got on well with most of her costars such as Jack Carson and Gordon MacRae.
Soon she was demonstrating that she could play both period romantic parts as well as contemporary musical comedy, always with that sunny, gently raspy, singing voice which gave a lot of people comfort over the years. (In 1945, prior to her film debut, she'd recorded "Sentimental Journey," which was a smash hit and meant a lot to returning WWII servicemen and their loved ones.)
By 1953, she'd proven that she could carry a lighthearted musical romp, but was ready to try something with a little zest to it.

1953's Calamity Jane provided that and more as she broadly portrayed the tomboyish heroine (seen here brandishing a vaguely phallic handgun!) She wore pants for much of the film, set up housekeeping with a frilly female companion and sang about a "Secret Love," giving many Lesbian fans something to celebrate for decades after! It was her own personal favorite film and it was the first take of "Secret Love," a song she adored, that was used.
In 1955, she explored a role with even more meat to it, that of real-life singer Ruth Etting, whose involvement with a gangster (played by James Cagney) led to a certain amount of pain and heartache. The film was Love Me or Leave Me and Day showed off her still-notable dancing skills in it.
In 1956 she was selected by no less than Alfred Hitchcock for one of her best roles, that of the mother of a young kidnapped boy in The Man Who Knew Too Much. She and on-screen husband James Stewart try desperately to not only retrieve their boy, but also foil an assassination attempt. Once again, she was fretful about her acting and sure that the near-silent director wanted her fired until he assured her that he had been saying nothing to her about her acting because she was doing precisely what he desired for the role!
Also in 1956, she starred in the (hyper)dramatic Julie, with Louis Jourdan. This tale of dangerously obsessive love upset Day quite a bit. The untrained actress tended to live out her parts on the screen for real versus manufacturing feelings and expressions for the camera. The whole thing left her feeling depleted.
More in line with her personal tastes was the spirited musical The Pajama Game (1957), which placed her opposite handsome John Raitt. It was a rare chance for him to essay a role he'd done on Broadway while she replaced Janis Paige, who'd been the top-billed lady in Day's debut Romance on the High Seas a decade prior!
Though her career had been significant and mostly steady, it was about to get a HUGE shot in the arm. Glossy producer Ross Hunter was putting together a slick, sophisticated new comedy and wanted to feature Day with a whole new sexy, ultra-glamorous image. She was somewhat resistant to the idea until he informed her that she had "one of the wildest asses in Hollywood" and he thought it was high time she showed it off!
The film Pillow Talk (1959) paired her with Rock Hudson, who was exploring his first real attempt at comedy, and the two made sparks fly. They became immediately close friends, gave each other wacky nicknames, giggled throughout the filming and proceeded to make two more successful comedies together. Their chemistry and prominence in the genre led many fans to think they'd done even more of them. Along for each of the three was Tony Randall, who added immeasurably to the formula. Both Day and Hudson benefited incredibly from this new arc in their respective careers. Day was nominated for an Oscar, which went to Simone Signoret for Room at the Top.
Day returned to dramatic (actually hilariously over-dramatic) films one final time with the scream-fest Midnight Lace (1960.) Decked out in a stunning Irene wardrobe, Day put herself through untold misery enacting a character who was being tormented to the point of total hysteria. She would not do so again.  
Day was one of THE box office draws for several years and one of the few females to top the box office since the glory years of the 1930s and '40s. She was paired with legends like Clark Gable (Teacher's Pet, 1958) and Cary Grant (That Touch of Mink, 1962), as seen here, as well as the aforementioned Kirk Douglas and James Stewart. There had also been Frank Sinatra (Young at Heart, 1954) and would be David Niven (Please Don't Eat the Daisies, 1960) and Jimmy Durante (Billy Rose's Jumbo, 1962.)
When she wasn't entangled with Rock Hudson, there might be James Garner or Rod Taylor, as seen here. Other gents she costarred with included Richard Widmark, Jack Lemmon and Peter Graves.
By the mid-'60s and romps like Caprice (1967), as seen here with Richard Harris, her formula films were beginning to wane a bit. Her husband-manager Marty Melcher was wringing her appeal dry in mid-level movies turned out as if on a conveyor belt.
Always fit Doris wasn't shy about showing off her still-sexy physique, so long as the subject matter wasn't vulgar (as she described one of the roles she turned down, that of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, 1967.) Still, she was becoming tired and audiences' tastes were shifting.
Her final feature, With Six You Get Eggroll (1968) was a family comedy with Brian Keith and elements of Day's self-effacing slapstick. She still looked radiant, but up and comers like Barbara Hershey (who played her daughter) and dozens like her were emerging as the new stars on the block. When Day's husband died suddenly, she received a shock that went well beyond the death of a loved one...
...she was informed that she was deeply in debt, her hard-earned millions gone to bad investments and mismanagement. Not only that, she'd been signed to headline a weekly television series that she knew nothing whatsoever about! To her credit, she honored the commitment, but changed the format time and again to suit her. The Doris Day Show ran five seasons and put her back on her feet. She used as its theme, "Que Sera, Sera," the Oscar-winning song she introduced (and initially disliked) in The Man Who Knew Too Much.
Despite her squeaky clean image, Day did enjoy life (and was married four times in all.) Oscar Levant once quipped, during the height of her "good girl" period, "I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin." A highly attractive, effervescent personality with a terrific body, she attracted many suitors from fellow actors to sports figures.
One regret she had, though it certainly wasn't something she could be blamed for, was that so many of the dazzling fashions she sported in her many romantic romps, were accented with fur. (The black hat in the prior photo was almost surely faux by that point in her career.) For decades, fur coats and clothing signified the pinnacle of luxury and that was something Hollywood expressly espoused. Day developed a deep love for animals and became an advocate for their welfare, so anything made with true fur was anathema to her. 
Once The Doris Day Show ended, she only performed before the cameras on rare occasions. The still-radiant fifty-three year-old did the 1975 TV special Doris Day Today (in which she sang "The Way We Were" as shots of her famous leading men appeared beside her) and then slipped into relative obscurity.
That's not to say she was an inactive recluse. She just settled into Carmel-by-the-Sea, California and spent her time caring for an ever-increasing menagerie of dogs and spending time with her son and his family. She also owned a hotel nearby. She was ultimately awarded a hefty settlement from the man who'd mismanaged all her money and left her strapped for cash.
In 1985, she returned to television to host a celebrity pet show called Doris Day's Best Friends. Seen here is fellow Carmel resident (and onetime mayor) Clint Eastwood. The low-key show became infamous for having as its first guest a terribly ill and bedraggled looking Rock Hudson, kicking off a firestorm of controversy over his battle with AIDS.
Day almost entirely left behind all the stiff, glittering artifice that had marked her prolific time as a highly-popular movie actress (though it must be said that even within those situations, she always attempted to balance it with more natural and down-to-earth moments such as slapstick/humiliation comedy or outdoorsy scenarios.)
Instead, the still-lovely Day lived on her terms, resistant to dwell on her starry past, only giving interviews on the rarest of occasions and happily seeing to her gorgeous grounds and her many furry friends. She did return to Hollywood in 1989 to accept the Cecil B. DeMille award at the Golden Globes and was rapturously welcomed, but managed not to be tempted to work as an actress again.
Behind the sun was a fair share of shadow. She had been abused by her first husband, widowed by her third, had seen her life earnings cast to the wind and later had to bury her only son in 2004. But the plucky, positive Day always kept a bright outlook and remained an effervescent person right up to the end when pneumonia claimed her at ninety-seven. Gone she may be, but fans will never forget the remarkable Doris Day.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Fun Finds: Rona Barrett's Hollywood, September 1976

During the same sojourn to Lexington that gave fruit to a previous Fun Find post, I nabbed this poor tattered gem from a huge stack of magazines. Like the issue of PreVIEW from the same publishing company (and close to the same time), the staples sometimes made scanning difficult, but hopefully you can see what you need to see. This is jam-packed with photos and chatty tidbits. Miss Rona Barrett left the business abruptly years ago, but is still very attractive looking and remains a fascinating person to hear from as demonstrated in the Emmy TV Legends interview. Now here we go with this latest Fun Find!
It's always a treat to get color photos in a mag from this time period since so many tended more towards black & white. It always made me smile that Carol Burnett and Cher were friends back then and would cross over onto one another's variety shows (both costumed by Bob Mackie.) Perry King was devilishly handsome.
Ooh... I'd love to read that book by Irene Sharaff. Probably not tremendously dishy, but she worked with so many stars...
The movie Rona refers to here as "Jill Came Tumbling After" eventually emerged as the dreary Bittersweet Love (1976.) About two years after this, Gig Young killed his young wife and himself! How in the hell did I not know that Tuesday Weld and Dudley Moore were once married and even had a child together!? Moore's Hollywood dry spell ended in 1978 when he practically stole Foul Play from its stars Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn and led to several leading roles thereafter. Levar Burton did in fact shoot to stardom, though it turned a bit dormant until Star Trek: The Next Generation resuscitated him.
Bob Yeager was shot and killed by three young burglars while taking out the trash one night at his home. Senseless indeed...! The punks did a bit of time at the California Youth Authority juvenile prison.
Y'all don't have to wonder about the Helen Reddy spread in PreVIEW because I covered it in living color during a prior Fun Find post!
Hmmmm... We have to assume that Miss Diana Ross already had her gears turning (or else this is where the seed was planted) to play Dorothy in the later film version of The Wiz (1978) when she dropped by to see the production on stage! Victoria Principal really had intended to give up acting until she got ahold of the script for Dallas in 1978 and submitted herself for the lead!
I wouldn't say I'm a tremendous fan of Carol Lawrence, but to read her auto-bio and its account of Robert Goulet during their marriage is to read about a true jerk! But that's her side and the facts usually fall somewhere closer to the middle.
I think I'd have liked some snapshots from that fashion show with Tina Louise, Lee Meriwether and the others!
Ooooh! Fascinating casting info from the dreadful Exorcist II: The Heretic (1978!) Richard Burton wound up with the George Segal role. I don't think I ever knew that Louise Fletcher had taken over for Jon Voight. I think the pic of Raquel and Chevy is from when she guest-hosted SNL during the first season and was a sexy nurse in "One Flew Over the Hornet's Nest." Chase was the Jack Nicholson character while John Belushi was in "Killer Bee" mode.
I always forget that Doris married again after Marty Melcher's death. This romance began to bloom when restaurateur Comden would give meat scraps to Day for her menagerie of dogs at home!
Day and Miss Betty White (not in this picture of White's hubby Allen Ludden) are both still alive and both really into animals still. In fact, Day's marriage ended in 1982 with Comden complaining that she cared more about her four-legged pals than her two-legged husband!
Take a hard look at this picture of Henry Fonda (bottom left) and tell me that it isn't Peter Fonda looking back at you!
You know, when I think of Mae West in the 1970s, I always picture her in a dimly-lit (with pink bulbs) apartment with plenty of lavish drapery and lounging sofas, not visiting a movie set with Kevin Dobson!! But she did attend the premiere of The Hindenberg (1975), so I don't know why I'm surprised to see her here.
Fun to see Kate Jackson on set (and Edward with no shirt on!)
I could swear I read that The Burtons' plan for a Botswana hospital fizzled out at about the same time their remarriage did, by which I mean swiftly! I recall Elvis got a fair share of derisive publicity at this point until his death led to near canonization (albeit replete with all sorts of sordid tale-telling in the wake.) Wow... I never think of Brian Aherne as having been alive past the mid-'60s, but he actually lived until 1986(!) when he died of heart failure at eighty-three.
Nice pics of then-hot Peter Strauss and a good color shot of the Rich Man, Poor Man trio.
Strauss went on to star in several miniseries like Masada (1981) and Kane & Abel (1985), and kept working for decades, but I bet you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone under forty who's even heard of him!
Liz looks pretty good here, though almost appears to have "5 o'clock shadow!" Jennifer Jones and Cher are two names I certainly never put together...! Miltie looks ridiculous in that raincoat, like a deranged flasher.
Check out Angelica Huston here! Quite a far cry from the way we're used to seeing her. Michelle Phillips was quite natural looking versus the peroxide blonde she later favored. How fun that Susan Blakely (in Fred Astaire's leftover tux?), Jones' fellow costar from The Towering Inferno (1974), took part in the fashion show.
It may come as a surprise to know that The Bay City Rollers had come into existence in 1966, almost a decade before they really hit the big time. Ian Mitchell was only with the band seven months, recording one album, before quitting. The group is still together, long after many personnel changes. Longmuir fell ill in July of 2018 while in Mexico with his wife and died at age seventy.
Keitel's replacement Martin Sheen famously suffered a mild heart attack during filming. Strangely enough, both Keitel and Sheen worked together in Eagle's Wing (1979), the same year that the beleaguered Apocalypse Now made it to theaters. 
Those rumors of "The Front Runner" persisted for years and years, but the movie never did get made. If you want to read a really, really out there book, try Sachi Parker's memoir about life with her parents Shirley MacLaine and Steve Parker! Egads...!
Even way back then I thought Susan Flannery was an odd casting choice in this film about a no holds barred car racing rally, but seeing it for the first time about a year or two ago it wasn't quite as crazy an idea as it initially seemed.
There were several movies of this ilk at the time (based on a real event) such as Cannonball (1976) and later Cannonball Run (1981.)
In his day (which was right about the time of this magazine's publication), Paul Michael Glaser was about as hot a celeb as any TV personality could get. After the show Starsky & Hutch ended, however, he gravitated more and more to behind the scenes positions.
Glaser eventually did marry his girlfriend Elizabeth in 1980 and when she was giving birth to their daughter in 1981, she was given a blood transfusion that contained the HIV virus (this at a time before little, if anything, was even known about the disease.) Their daughter died at only age seven from AIDS and Elizabeth perished at age forty-seven of the same. A boy born three years after his sister also was HIV+ but has been able to survive it. You may be familiar with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, which Mrs. Glaser founded prior to her passing. Paul Michael took it over in her stead for several years after and remains involved today.
Glaser was, and still is, inexorably linked to his costar David Soul, the two of them forming one of TV's most popular "bromances" before the term had ever been coined.
As far as I know, Nancy Walker never did land a successful series of her own despite a couple of attempts. She always did better as the zesty comic relief on other shows like Rhoda and McMillan & Wife.
Lee Grant's show Fay (which was something of a forerunner to The Golden Girls) caused Grant to have a bit of a tirade on The Tonight Show over the way the network kept moving it around before cancelling it altogether. Look at Guy Madison still out and about! Kevin Dobson and his wife Sue are one of Tinseltown's rarities. They are still married today after more than half a century...
Oh my gosh... I had forgotten about Mac Davis' wife trading him in for Glen Campbell! How I don't know since my mother used to go on about it frequently for some reason. I recall Carol Burnett once saying that the key to a happy marriage was "separate houses!" Close to one another, next door even, but separate...!
Not only did M*A*S*H not end in 1977, but it ran until 1983! There was even a sequel series (After M*A*S*H) that ran for two more years. Edie Adams never made any further appearances on The Blue Knight. Richard Crenna was married to Penny (his second wife) from 1957 up until his death in 2003. I always thought Chris Stone was a nice looking man.
Did any of you ever take part in this sort of memorabilia exchange? It seems so foreign to me, though I remember pages like this in many magazines.
Oh my God, I was howling over the letter about Tatum O'Neal (who we always called "Tantrum O'Neal!") It's not as good as that Youtube comments diatribe against someone who didn't "love Lucy," but it's still funny.
We just LOVE the conglomeration of a cast found in The Cassandra Crossing (1976) and consider it an underrated, albeit offbeat, disaster flick. I've never seen Swashbuckler (1976), but I think it was an absolute flop!
Well... I don't think I could possibly have recognized Ann-Margret in the photo above-right were it not for the caption! Valerie Perrine has never married... anyone! Not only did Glenda Jackson not win an Oscar for The Incredible Sarah (1976), but she didn't even get a nomination.
Rita Hayworth never stepped before a film camera after 1972, so "Circle" did not come to fruition (with her anyway.) Get a load of bespectacled Cantinflas with Elena Verdugo! Incidentally, the one time I saw Steve Lawrence in person, he was wearing glasses similar to that only thicker and without them was nearly blind!
An entire book could be (and, in fact, was) written about the trials, tribulations and conflicts that went into Rich Man, Poor Man. You can see how much they focused on Peter Strauss around this time. Oh goodness, La Liz's '70s fashion taste was just bad...
The critics just SLAUGHTERED Lipstick (1976) and its new star and in truth it is bad, but we often enjoy bad. You can read more about it, and Margaux, here.
I may very well have exhumed THE worst photograph ever taken of The Brady Bunch's Florence Henderson! LOL
Even though there wasn't "bad blood" per se, Henry Winkler did end up overtaking Ron Howard as the lead on Happy Days. Winkler was with the show for all of its eleven seasons. To his credit, though Howard had by then left for greener pastures behind the camera, he did occasionally return to the show for special episodes, including the final one.
It's been a long while since I viewed RM, PM, but I did read the book for the first time a summer or two ago and enjoyed it a lot. I have the second one Beggar-man, Thief in hardback for the pool this year.
Any interest I ever had in Mr. Travolta was always limited. I think I have only seen maybe one or two episodes of Welcome Back Kotter in my life. Naturally, I was on the Grease (1978) train and while I could recognize that Saturday Night Fever (1977) was good, I enjoyed Staying Alive (1983), in all its infamous awfulness, more. Hairspray (2007) was the last movie I ever saw of his (and, for the record, I thought he was abysmal.)
This color spread was really the reason I picked up this particular magazine! Lots of rare snaps of Miss Bea Arthur and her Maude pals. Even though only a few years separate them, I have so much trouble visually reconciling the Bea of Maude and the Bea of The Golden Girls! Changes in weight, hair color/style and perhaps a nip/tuck?
Bea's sons need to learn how to pose for a picture! LOL Was this the best one?! I loved seeing Jean Stapleton out of Edith drag and cozying up with Bea. And I was flabbergasted to see Bea and frenemy Betty White having fun like this together years before TGG!
Some unusual faces at the premiere of All the President's Men (1976) including Penny Marshall, as glitzy as ever, and Danny Kaye with his wife-collaborator Sylvia Fine. Carol Rossen was Hal Holbrook's second wife, though he is probably better remembered for his marriage to Dixie Carter, who left him a widower after more than twenty-five years together. He is here today at ninety-four and acts occasionally still!
Bette Midler had done a special that aired on HBO and did in fact do one with NBC in 1977 after the ABC plans fell through. I don't think much ever became of Roy Clark's Dieter's Choice...
As a preteen, I thought there could be nothing more grotesque than Tanya Tucker... LOL I used to dread seeing her on TV and in print. By the way, columnist Dianne Bennett later became a regular contributor to The Hollywood Reporter during the 1980s before eventually creating a matchmaking service that paired beautiful women with wealthy men. She definitely loved to get her photo taken with celebs!
I had to admit the placement of Jane Withers' and Michael York's photos made me grin.
Ms. Rona tangles a bit with one of the gays in this column.
I don't know what, if anything, ever became of "Moontrap," though Jack Nicholson didn't direct it. I don't believe he ever portrayed Huey Long either... Kathryn Grayson did not appear on screen between 1958 and 1978, when she did a brief bit on Baretta. Later, she did three installments of Murder, She Wrote.
Had the real deal not been on hand, Marlo Thomas would have been about my fourth or fifth choice for who that wax dummy was intended to be!!  LOL The episode in which John Amos' character dies on Good Times is rather notoriously legendary for a moment when Esther Rolle has held it together for an entire episode and then hurls a punch bowl to the floor hollering, "Damn, damn, DAMN!" Marisa Berenson did indeed wed Jim Randall, but it only lasted from 1976-1978. They had one daughter together.
Perry King was well out of doing King Kong Lives which didn't come to fruition until 1986! By then, the heavily derided film starred Brian Kerwin. And you can see how much it did for him.
The inside back cover has more rare color photography of the stars. Dom DeLuise looks downright slim in that picture (and I wouldn't mind reading that issue of the magazine myself!)
Lastly, we have the back cover, which blessedly contains more chit-chat peppered with color pics. This is probably one of the cattiest pages of the mag in tone and information. I had to roll my eyes at Jean Stapleton's "low-cut" top. Anything would seem low-cut at that angle, but if you look at the earlier photos, it's a scoop-neck with barely any cleavage. Liv Ullman wound up with the Audrey Hepburn part in A Bridge Too Far (1977), not exactly a high point on her resume. Ryan O'Neal did indeed film Oliver's Story, which was released in 1978. The (Filipino) movie referred to as "The Vengeance of Cleopatra Wong" came out in 1978 as simply Cleopatra Wong, later retitled for DVD as "They Call Her Cleopatra Wong." Sounds like several things went Wong along the way...! Ha. Bye for now.