Thursday, January 26, 2023

"Square"-ing Off! - Volume 1

As of late, my treadmill time has been wiled away watching vintage episodes of Hollywood Squares, the venerable game show that had contestants playing tic tac toe with nine celebrities housed within a large game board. Toothy, trendily-dressed host Peter Marshall would ask a question (True or false, multiple choice or otherwise) and the celebrities would give an answer that the contestants would either agree or disagree with in order to win an X or an O. But generally, the celebrity would pop off with a "zinger" - a deliberately wrong answer than had a comic slant to it. There have been collections of zingers on YouTube and in the 1970s there was even a record album of them released for sale! Most of the best ones came courtesy of Paul Lynde. (Well, from the show's writers, but delivered by Lynde.) In an unusual twist, which made the remarks spontaneous - or sometimes cracked up the celeb before they could say it because it finally made sense to them - the zingers were told to the stars before they ever heard the questions! Below are a small collection of zingers that are, perhaps, not as famous as the ones that have made the rounds again and again. These are all from the late-1960s to the mid-1970s. Hopefully, they bring a smile to your face as they did mine.

PETER: "Vertical lift, suspension and truss... are all kinds. Kinds of what?"
PAUL LYNDE: "Shorts..." (underwear)
(real answer: bridges)

PETER: "According to Raquel Welch, can you be flat-chested and sexy?"
ROSE MARIE: "Well, it works for Paul Newman..."
(real answer: Yes)

PETER: "Does Hank Aaron say that anything ever gave him a bigger thrill than breaking Babe Ruth's home run record?"
MILTON BERLE: "Yeah... He broke Lola Falana's record."
(real answer: Yes; hitting his last home run before leaving the Atlanta Braves)

PETER: "In Little Bo Beep, what did the famous sheep leave behind them?"
PAUL LYNDE: "Well, Simple Simon thought they were breadcrumbs...."
(real answer: their tails)

PETER: "What is the major reason that birds fly south for the winter?"
MARTY ALLEN: "It's easier to hit people when they're lying on the beach..."
(real answer: lack of food)

PETER: "Richard Burton always has a long, curved crease pressed into his pants to draw attention away from something... What?"
DEBBIE REYNOLDS: "I'd have to talk to Tom Jones..."
(real answer: his bowed legs)

PETER: "Your husband Edgar has been talking in his sleep. According to Ann Landers, should you be upset if he talks about his secretary?"
JOAN RIVERS: "And how... His secretary is a guy!"
(real answer: no)

PETER: "It's popular nickname is The Playground of Europe. Where is it?"
MALTER MATTHAU: "Zsa Zsa Gabor's living room."
(real answer: Switzerland)

PETER: "In the dairy business, what does a farmer call a cow who won't give milk?"
CHARLIE WEAVER: "Every name in the book!"
(real answer: a dry cow)

PETER: "How many men on a hockey team...?"
PAUL LYNDE: "About half!" (followed by probably the longest sustained laughter ever from the others there.)
(real answer: six)

PETER: "Is Billy Graham considered to be a good dresser?"
PAUL LYNDE: "No, but he's a terrific end table!"
(real answer: yes)

PETER: "If someone is trying to inculcate you, what would they be trying to do?"
EVA GABOR: "You're sure it's the night-time show...? We can say it?"
(real answer: teach you something.)

PETER: "True or false? Studies at the University of Wisconsin show that you will live longer if you love only one man or woman at a time...?
PAUL LYNDE: "But it is all right to alternate...?"
(real answer: true)

PETER: "True or false; your teeth are about the same size and shape as a pig's..."
PAUL LYNDE: "Look who's talking, beaver face!"
(real answer: true)

PETER: "Howard Cosell's mother confides that little Howard began doing something at the age of 9 months that he's still known to do quite a bit of today. What is it"
BOB NEWHART: "Washed his hair in Woolite"
(real answer: talk)

PETER: "According to the San Francisco Examiner, what land animal has the biggest eyes of all?"
RICH LITTLE: "That's Carol Channing."
(real answer: horse)

PETER: "As dinner host, the first person to be served wine is the one on your _____. Your what?"
DOM DeLUISE: "On your lap!"
(real answer: right)

PETER: "Statistically, what's the world's favorite fruit?"
JOHN AMOS: "Are we referring to Hollywood?"
(real answer: banana)

Amos' expressions did more than his answers, actually. I couldn't resist a second one from the same ep.

PETER: "According to a report in Medical Times Magazine, what was listed as the best exercise in terms of health benefits?"
JOHN AMOS: "Which magazine...??"
PETER: "Medical Times:
JOHN AMOS: "Oh..."
(real answer: jogging)

And lastly came this hooty one. I'll be back again in the future with others as we move into the late-70s...

PETER: "According to Playboy, what is the minimum number of sets of underwear a man should have in his wardrobe? 8, 12 or 16?"
MICHAEL LANDON: "I wish Pa [on Bonanza] would let us have underwear just to start out with... Sets? Oh, 'cause I don't even wear 'em one pair at a time."
(real answer: 12)

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Reunited: 20th Century Foxes

I guess I just tended to be a rather dense kid (and still a sort of thick-headed adult!), but I constantly misunderstood the names of various people that I would overhear my grandparents discussing. There were Ellafitz Gerald, Yvonda Carlo and some gal named Donna Meechee. Only, they were actually referring to (as I would blushingly realize later), Ella Fitzgerald, Yvonne De Carlo and one Don Ameche!  I'm sure there were others, too. But today we're taking a brief look at Ameche, a 20th Century Fox contract player, and the way he was reunited with one of his fellow performers across the decades.

To some readers, Ameche may only be familiar for his Oscar-winning role in 1985's Cocoon (or perhaps in a latter-day guest role on The Golden Girls, in which he played the long-lost father of Rose Nylund.)

You wouldn't be too off-base if you figured this post concerns Ameche and his costar in half a dozen films, Alice Faye. She is the one who first springs to mind as a romantic co-lead with him. However, it's another gal who we'll be looking at, one who has a more longstanding - if less heralded - association with him.

In 1941, Ameche was cast in what was to be a Fritz Lang film, co-written by Samuel Fuller. Confirm or Deny was based upon the real bombing of Associated Press offices in London during WWII. Ameche was a correspondent who falls for a teletype operator played by Joan Bennett. This was the first pairing of these stars. Released on December 12th, mere days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, it ought to have been a smash, but perhaps it was "too soon." Today the movie is barely-remembered (though fondly so) by only tried and true fans of classic movies.

Ameche was given some rapid-fire Sam Fuller dialogue to spout in his pursuit of the pretty Bennett.

Bennett had surely been involved in the film though her association with Lang, the initial director, as her husband and she had formed a production company with him and did Man Hunt earlier that year. But he took a hike after about a week when the studio imposed changes to the tone and the story line of the movie. She did work for him three more times, however, in The Woman in the Window (1944), Scarlet Street (1945) and Secret Beyond the Door... (1947.)

Raven-tressed Bennett was a switch for Ameche from the more familiar light-blonde Faye. Ironically, Bennett was a natural blonde and had been working for years as one until Trade Winds (1938) when director Tay Garnett convinced her to go dark. She kept it brunette virtually all the time thereafter.

In 1942, Ameche and Bennett were teamed again, this time in a mistaken identity comedy called Girl Trouble. She played a rich girl whose funds are tied up in England, thanks to the war, and must rent her upscale apartment to Venezuelan rubber magnate Ameche. He mistakes her for the maid and she allows it, staying on in her own home as a result.

The farcical bit of wartime escapism wound up annoying about as many audience members as it entertained and it, too, sank out of most moviegoers' memories as time marched on. This might have been the end of Ameche and Bennett's association, but there was more to come after all.

In 1957, the two were paired once again as the parents of young Carol Lynley in an episode of The Dupont Show of the Month. Junior Miss had been a series of stories in The New Yorker, then collected into book form, then a Broadway play, then a 1945 film starring Peggy Ann Garner and now a TV musical, broadcast in color! Burton Lane and Dorothy Field penned six songs for the show, one of which ("Let's Make It Christmas All Year 'Round") was sung by the two stars and their TV daughters, Lynley and Jill St. John.

The 1950s for Ameche and Bennett were a far cry from their earlier big screen successes. Ameche only made one minor film appearance the entire decade and had turned to the stage for employment. Bennett's career had been derailed by a 1951 scandal when her husband shot her agent, thinking them to be involved in a love affair. She only managed a handful of films after that. But 1958 found them seated side-by-side as panelists on To Tell the Truth.

Among the guests they were impelled to sort out was Theodor Geisel, better known to millions of readers as Dr. Seuss. (Neither one of them selected the actual Geisel.) At the time of this show, Ameche was 45 while Bennett was 43. Seventeen years after their initial movie together, this, too, might have served as the end of their professional association. But it still was not.

You can certainly be forgiven if you don't recognize this person or project...! Monie Ellis, a briefly employed starlet of the 1970s, was selected to essay the title role in Gidget Gets Married (1972.) Sandra Dee had first played the part in 1959's Gidget while Deborah Walley took over for Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961) and Cindy Carol did Gidget Goes to Rome (1963.) Sally Field played the part in a 1965 sitcom and then Karen Valentine inherited it for the TV-movie Gidget Grows Up in 1969. (Caryn Richman took over the oft-played part in 1985's Gidget's Summer Reunion and even though the role had never been played by the same gal twice, she did so in 1986's ludicrously-titled The New Gidget! Please. There was ALWAYS a new Gidget....!) The very latest incarnation (and I am not making this up) is from a transsexual porn performer named Julie Bond who performed (and how, I'm sure!) in 1990's Gidget Goes Bi!

Anyway.... In this rendition of the old warhorse, Gidget finally marries Moondoggie, played by Michael Burns. Imagine my delight when watching the ceremony and seeing Poseidon's Underworld's favorite extra, leoda Richards, as a featured guest. She's even in the receiving line in-between the father of the bride and the groom (but she's not Gidget's mother.)

He's fresh out of the service and takes a job in a new town. The owner of his company lives in an elegantly-appointed mansion. The newlyweds pay a call on the big cheese and await his arrival in the wood-paneled study.

The CEO is played by Don Ameche, and as his wife we find Joan Bennett! At this point it had been 30 years since their initial movie together.

Now 64 and 62 in real life, they are depicted here as the parents of a preteen son! Ameche had six kids in real life, but was 39 by the time of the last one. Oddly enough, Bennett, who had first wed at 16 and had a child at 17 was a grandmother at 39! She proceeded to have three other children, the last one when she was 38, making her fourth child and her grandchild only about one year apart.

The chief crux of conflict in this feather-weight (and often feather-brained) TV-movie/potential pilot (?) is the fact that the town where Gidget lives is divided into three separate "classes" and Ameche prefers that they don't mix! She unwittingly hosts a no-no dinner party with a variety of people and he gets miffed... Notice Elinor Donahue in the red dress. She's one of many guests stars who appear in the movie, along with Bob Cummings, Macdonald Carey and Paul Lynde. Gidget's initial home is the Father Knows Best house, a series in which Donahue starred as a youth!

Bitter and practically alone, Ameche has some decisions to make about his employees and the village built around his company.

This marks the final collaboration between Ameche and Bennett. He enjoyed a comeback with Trading Places (1983) - despite the director having been told prior to casting that the actor was dead! - and continued to work right up until his true demise in 1993 from prostate cancer. He was 85. Bennett, who by this time had already enjoyed renewed fame from Dark Shadows, worked several more times up through the early-1980s. She died in 1990 of a heart attack at age 80.

And with that, this edition of Reunited is a wrap! Till next time.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Poseidon Quickies: A Bit of a "Turn On!"

We occasionally look into serious cinema yet continue to more often find comfort these days in mindless, non-think fare, especially that which includes certain favorite things. The First Turn On! (1983) was the fourth in a series of cheap, puerile, tawdry sex comedies by the low-budget Troma Entertainment. (The following year they produced a massive financial success, The Toxic Avenger, and then enjoyed another hit with The Class of Nuke 'Em High, 1986.) Aimed at a young male audience, Turn On! is chock full of T&A, utterly tasteless humor, aggressive stupidity, howling overacting (and underacting), "first take" scenes and a script that seems aimed to offend practically anyone outside that aforementioned target demographic. However, it does have moments of nice photography amid outdoor settings. And I'm someone who almost never gets offended by the things that seem to consume the general populace today. I save my rage for what I consider to be significant injustices. Beyond any of that, though, the movie was filmed in what was "my" time (or perhaps slightly before - I would have been about 15.) Thus, it includes a number of elements I tend to be fixated on such as hairy chests, tan lines, Speedos and bulges. Should you wish to subject yourself to the film, it can be seen on Tubi here, free with the occasional ad. Otherwise, here are a few of the highlights (or, as the case may be, lowlights!)

You've seen it many times... the bunk room of a rowdy summer camp, often populated with "teens" played by people nearing or into adulthood. In a break from the norm, I'm not going to refer to any of the participants in this movie with their real names, only the characters they play. Most of them didn't exactly become household names. However, one exception is the guy in the top-left corner. He did become famous and I'll address him later!

Things get off to a raucous start when an older, pretentious camp counselor takes some of her charges on a nature hike and finds two young people forming the monster with two backs deep in the woods!

For a saucy teen sex comedy, there is plenty of beefcake to go around along the way, thank you Jesus.

The primary thrust of the story line, such as it is, concerns flighty counselor Miss Farmer and a small band of campers, Danny, Mitch, Annie and Henry, winding up separated from a larger group and trapped within a cramped cavern.

If I tell you that the landslide that traps the quintet inside the cave is caused when pudgy food-a-holic Henry toots after being told to stay quiet, you then know the level of extraordinary class that permeates the movie! Anyhoo... to pass the time until they are rescued, the folks begin telling one another about their first times; the circumstances in which they lost their virginity.

Mitch goes first. His tale involves him being tossed out of a convertible containing his girlfriend after a bout of PE.

That is one razor-sharp (and pretty high!) tan line. Humiliated, he begins to hoof it back home and encounters a prostitute with whom he makes an appointment to meet up later and seal the deal for real.

Generally inexperienced and afraid of how to go about his business, he invites his pal Jeff to tag along. It was JEFF who really got my attention.

The high-class hooker is beyond stunned with Mitch shows up with the fast-talking, over-eager Jeff, who immediately takes charge with a bunch of lunatic gobbledygook regarding sex. Still, a job is a job, so she reluctantly invites him into her bedroom to go first.

Soon enough, it's clear that he has no idea on Earth what he's doing either and is mostly all talk. He has a list of "Do's" written on his hand which he keeps referring to in order to make the big moment work out, but it keeps backfiring. Finally, he trots into the bathroom to continue his preparation. 

Yes! This is my kind of body type. Love his chest (we can work on the unibrow later - LOL!) and those skimpy li'l briefs!

Things still aren't looking up for the young man. One of the items on his checklist is to make sure the woman gets wet...

So the nitwit douses her with a bucket of water!

By this time Mitch has had it and comes bursting in. He ousts Jeff from the premises by shoving the said bucket over his head and kicking him out onto the street!

We were sad to say goodbye to this cutie, but at least he got the movie off to a rollicking start (although his intense overacting was a lot to bear!)

No, this is not a personal photo of me during the Covid-19 lock-down. It's Henry during his recollection. I'm not going to dwell on it besides to say that he heads to a Halloween party as a ghost, but somehow resembles a Klansman instead (!) and winds up tangling with a passel of gay black dudes. (I told you this wasn't Ernest Hemingway...)

It all culminates in him meeting a girl whose life he has saved and with the two of them getting it on next to a staggering buffet of baked goods at her mansion.

Next, Annie tells her tale of living on a farm and being attacked by a drifter (with a butter knife!) who wants some food. He gets more than that by the end of the tale.

It's fun for a while, but ultimately he drifts asleep. She keeps the butter knife as a souvenir.

The fourth story, and another one with some eye-candy, is Danny's. He's at the far left. Danny is enjoying a day at the beach with his studly brother (in the Speedo.)

The brother Ted perfectly captures that preppie look that was so hot back in the day.

All through the scenes on the beach, as demonstrated here, the background is dotted with extras in sometimes abbreviated or clingy swimwear.

Ted's girlfriend can't keep her hands off of him, but eventually leaves in order to prepare for their date later.

Once she's gone, Ted explains that he's going to help arrange for Danny to lose his virginity that night.

One of his tips to make a big impression is to stuff his pants, though I think Ted seems to be doing all right in his swimwear without it!

Anyway, it all heads south for Ted, but Danny winds up with not only the date of his dreams, but with Ted's girlfriend to boot...!

In the fifth and final story, Miss Farmer recalls playing doctor with her boyfriend Dwayne. This was pretty hard to swallow as Dwayne is coated down in some seriously troublesome acne.

Like, everywhere!

Somehow she remains devoted to him, but at the prom he leaves her for another woman!

All is not lost, though, because she spies a new man across a crowded room.

He seems just as interested in her as she is in him... doubly interested, in fact.

He's a twin! They ask her if she wants to go bowling...

...but it turns out to be balling!

Double your pleasure, double your fun!

If the five stories that I've related to you seem far-fetched, ::::SPOILER ALERT::::, it's because they aren't true. It turns out that the five trapped campers are actually all still virgins and have just made up all these tall tales in order to impress one-another. Now, believing that the end is near, with oxygen in short supply...

...they wind up taking care of things right there on the spot!

While, granted, the ensuing copulation is heterosexual, it was sort of surprising that the ratio of male to female was 3 to 2 when more typically it might have been the reverse (or perhaps even 2 males to 4 females.) Everyone gets a turn and there's no more fretting over crossing into adulthood.

What's more, all the moaning and "action" has led to another shift in the rocks and they are no free to pursue their exploits on the outside. hey, I never said this was Masterpiece Theatre.

So. Back to that one camper I mentioned at the start. He's seen here in a sequence that takes place while the others are lost. He's in the black undies. (But do notice the revealing one in pink. This transparency would be so unlikely to occur today.) Anyone know our tall soon-to-be star?

As a sleepyheaded stoner (he rarely opens his eyes in the film) with a scar on his forehead, we are looking at 23 year-old Method actor...

Vincent D'Onofrio! This was the very first screen appearance of the actor who would soon be on Broadway and within four years be working for Stanley Kubrick in Full Metal Jacket (1987!) Ya gotta start somewhere folks...! He proceeded to many more films and television appearances, but is most likely known best as a star of Law and Order: Criminal Intent.

Slim at the time of this movie, he was cast to be a skinny redneck in Full Metal Jacket, but Kubrick suddenly thought the role would work better if the character was out of shape. D'Onofrio packed on 70 lbs in order to portray the part, which is still a record in the industry. 

D'Onofrio got a lot of attention for his portrayal of a disturbed recruit.

He appeared in more than 140 episodes of Law and Order: Criminal Intent.

And that pretty much brings us to the end!

Gotta run! Till next time...