Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Poseidon Quickies: "Kid"-ing Around

Lord knows that over the past several years now I have watched countless things on TV, always attempting to dig up something different or interesting or otherwise captivating. Often, I come up short and move on. Other times, I discover something totally unexpected, such as with the 1955 British film A Kid for Two Farthings, directed by Carol Reed. It's a gentle tale of city life as seen through the eyes of a sweet-hearted young boy (who believes that his one-horned baby goat - the kid of the title - is a unicorn that can bring people luck!) And while I can recommend it as a bit of warm and charming entertainment on that score alone, there was an unexpected benefit that came from viewing it. 

The boy (Jonathan Ashmore) lives with his mother above a tailor's shop where she works. Also on hand is a stitcher played by Joe Robinson who spends much of his free time bodybuilding and dreams of becoming a professional wrestler.

Robinson (a real-life wrestler-turned-actor) is idolized by the young boy.

He doesn't exactly escape the notice of nearby shopgirls either!

He's about to catch a break in the wrestling ring and a photographer shows up (with a tacky backdrop) to capture some promotional pictures.

And there's more to come as he's shucked down to some leopard-print briefs over at the training ring.

Robinson has also caught the eye of voluptuous Diana Dors, who dreams of living as his wife in a newly-furnished home and who doesn't want to see him beaten up.

While this post concerns Robinson and his physique, it must be said that Dors is also always worth watching and is another benefit that comes from watching the film. This was one of her early roles that revealed she could be more than a frothy Marilyn Monroe type.

She and Robinson make an appealing couple to root for.

The day of the big wrestling match arrives and so we're treated to even more 1950s beefcake.

It's not exactly and easy day on the job!

At one point he's hurled all the way out into the crowd.

The camera gets up close and personal at times.

As do the wrestlers.

I wasn't expecting to see so much burly bicep and so on when I turned on this vintage movie. It certainly helped to perk up the proceedings, charming as they were. Robinson was busy, but only acted for about 15 years or so, ultimately appearing in several foreign adventure flicks (including an unauthorized rendition of Tarzan called Taur, il re della forza bruta, 1963.)

Looks like a lot more desert than jungle in this approach to the part.

His final role came when he fought Sean Connery in an elevator in Diamonds Are Forever (1971.)

Robinson did generate a latter-day headline in 1998 when the 70 year-old was attacked by eight thugs after exiting a bus in Cape Town, South Africa. Though they were armed with knives and bats, he beat the shit out of half of them while the other half fled...! Mr. Robinson passed away in 2017 at age 90 from undisclosed causes, leaving behind four grown children.

The End!

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Iconic Passings

The ladies depicted above were both gals who made a name for themselves through the display of their remarkable physiques, yet proved in time that they were far, far more than that after one scratched the surface. We recently suffered the loss of both Stella Stevens and Raquel Welch. Not only were these ladies beloved stars of the 1960s, '70s and beyond, but they were key components of films from my childhood which, for better or worse, helped form the person I am and became indelible parts of my psyche. A cursory glance at this site would reflect how important The Poseidon Adventure (1972) is to me and there was no greater influence on my childhood than The Three Musketeers (1973) and its sequel The Four Musketeers. Some of you may not have dug that far back, but did you know that the third post here (out of the 924 which make up this site) was devoted to my obsession with Musketeers? The twelfth post of mine described the impact of Poseidon and how I came to use that moniker online. There have been individual tributes to both Stella and Raquel here, but their recent passings demand that I mention one more time how much their iconic roles meant to me.

As the gentle, yet hopelessly clumsy, Constance de Bonacieux, Welch continued the trend of utilizing what nature gave her. Yet she infused the part with a relatable amiability and reality amid all the farce. And for her trouble she was granted a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Comedy. It was really the only notable acting award she ever received, though she proved time and again after that that she possessed true performing ability.

As the hard-as-nails ex-prostitute Linda Rogo, Stella was a brash, foul-mouthed, bossy virago. Yet, unlike the one-dimensional bitch in the book (which Irwin Allen forbid her to read), she infused the role with a degree of pluckiness and caring for her husband along with a general willingness to support the other survivors (so long as they weren't overweight!) Stevens (who won a Golden Globe as Best Newcomer in 1960) was never given her due as an actress when it came to bestowers of awards. But she was a busy working actress, a fan favorite and even did some directing.

Constance was willing to go to the mat in order to do what was right. Raquel's tussle with Faye Dunaway in Musketeers gave me a lifelong affection for catfights, which reached their zenith on Dynasty.

Linda was more prone to bellyaching, though she could prove resourceful such as when she helped the Reverend kick his way out of a tunnel and when she shared her makeshift rescue strap with Mr. Martin as water began to overtake them.

When Welch joined the cast of The Three Musketeers, she was rounding out a stellar ensemble of skilled performers who vividly and memorably brought the famous novel to life on screen.

When Stevens joined the cast of The Poseidon Adventure, she was nestled among multiple Oscar-winning performers and craftsmen who unforgettably brought the popular novel to life on screen.

Constance (although in this rendition already married to an elderly spouse!) was devoted to the dashing D'Artagnan (Michael York) who came to her (and the Queen's) aid.

Though not above the occasional screaming match, Linda dearly loved her police detective husband Mike (Ernest Borgnine.)

Constance faced serious peril when enemies of D'Artagnan and the Queen kidnapped her and when the vengeful Milady de Winter (Dunaway) wanted to do away with her.

Linda faced significant peril when the ocean liner she was on capsized and she had to try to claw her way out of it from the bottom top up.

We hoped against hope that Constance would survive.

Likewise, we clenched our teeth in fear that something might prevent Linda from escaping. We ought to have read the books first...!

They tried their best to make it.

And we were rooting them on.

But art, and life, had other plans.

This is the way Raquel Welch looked when I first laid eyes on her in 1973 as a wide-eyed 6 year-old moviegoer. I later saw other countless examples of her work, but she will always be Constance in my mind and heart. Miss Welch passed away on February 15th, 2023 at age 82 following a brief, undisclosed illness.

My first exposure to Stella Stevens came during the initial television broadcast of The Poseidon Adventure in October of 1974 when I was 7. (The event earned a rating of 39, which was massive.) I later saw her in countless other projects, but she will always be Linda in my mind and heart. Miss Stevens passed away on February 17th, 2023 at age 84 from complications of Alzheimer's disease.

Undeniably beauties both, but so much more... We announce a Disastrous Demise and bid a Fond Farewell to these lifelong favorites.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Guest Who: Fit for a "Queen"

Ever since my mother dragged my tender 7 year-old frame to see Murder on the Orient Express (1974), which I watched with terror through semi-closed fingers (thanks to the creepy opening sequence and, later, a murder victim riddled with knife wounds), I've had a thing for mysteries, especially ones with all-star casts. I was a little too young when Columbo first aired to fully grasp its concept (the killer being revealed right away and the mystery being how they would be caught), though I learned to appreciate it later on. Needless to say, I never got to see Burke's Law in its mid-1960s hey-day. I recall loving a short-lived 1978 show called The Eddie Capra Mysteries, but it was gone before it started. Prior to that was a show that only lived as a glimmer in my memory. I must have only seen little bits of it, or perhaps only commercials for it. Based on a series of popular books and a prior radio version, it was called Ellery Queen.

The TV version of Ellery Queen was conceived by Richard Levinson and William Link, who had already brought the hit show Columbo to the airwaves. Queen only ran for one season, despite offering up some fine entertainment and a plethora of familiar faces. Today, we'll be checking out some famous gals who graced the show.

The atmospheric credits sequence featured a chess board and a variety of clues and pertinent props. The character of Ellery Queen was a mystery writer who helped to solve murders. Busy writers Levinson and Link would later bring the world a similar type of show, one that was a smash hit.

As a mystery writer who solves murders (most often peppered with a gallery of known Hollywood names as suspects), Angela Lansbury scored a stunning late-career success on Murder, She Wrote.

Jim Hutton, of movies such as Where the Boys Are (1960), Period of Adjustment (1962), The Hallelujah Trail (1965) and Walk Don't Run (1966), played the title character. Hutton, at 6'4-3/4", was a gangling, yet deeply committed, solver of the mysteries at hand. Close to the end of each episode, he'd break the first wall and announce that he'd figured it all out and would ask the viewer if they'd done the same. The father of Oscar-winning actor Timothy Hutton, he'd be dead of liver cancer just three years after Queen, at only age 45.

Costarring as Ellery's father, Inspector Richard Queen, was veteran actor David Wayne. Wayne as a member of the police force worked hand-in-hand with his son to solve the show's crimes. Wayne had a son named Timothy as well who, sadly, disappeared in a canoe accident in 1970 and was presumed dead. A two-time Tony Award winner, Wayne enjoyed a long career on TV and in movies like How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), The Tender Trap (1955) and The Three Faces of Eve (1957) before retiring in 1987. Lung cancer claimed him in 1995 at age 81. Now, on to the reason for this post. A glimpse of some of the famous ladies who popped up on the show, set in late-1945 and soon thereafter!

The 90-minute pilot for the show featured Oscar-winner Kim Hunter, who had enjoyed success (beneath prosthetic makeup!) in Planet of the Apes (1968) and its sequels.

The victim in the pilot was a very non-period looking Nancy Kovack, who I couldn't get a decent shot of, but here are a couple more looks of the always-excellent Hunter.

Also on hand here was Gail Strickland. (By the way, I will offer no spoilers here about the victims or suspects. There were never any doubts about the victims anyway because each episode began with a shot of the person who was going to be murdered that week!)

Recognize this "beaut?" It's none other than Barbara Rush, deliberately downplaying her dewy beauty to play a dowdy secretary. This first regular episode was set on New Year's Eve of 1946.

Some much-needed glitz was provided by our lifelong favorite, Miss Joan Collins.

The ever-glamorous Collins was engaged in the episode to Charles Robinson (shown in the prior photo), but was also seen with one of her old costars, Farley Granger from The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (1955!)

The next installment featured more old-style Hollywood sparkle as Ida Lupino was cast as a wealthy, fretful socialite.

Lupino was one of several guest stars on the series who'd been successful working actors in the actual 1940s or before.

Playing Lupino's stepdaughter was Susan Strasberg.

Strasberg was one of several guest stars who got the chance to go the turban route when depicting the period setting.

Rounding out this ep was wide-eyed Anne Francis.

It's sort of fun to wonder which old-style looks the stars might be aping in their appearances here. Even more fun, though I wasn't able to do so, would be discovering that some of the costume pieces had seen the light of day in 1940s Hollywood movies!

No '70s series would be complete without a visit from Lynda Day George.

Likewise, we have here Miss Dina Merrill, a longtime Underworld fave.

Merrill very rarely veered from her signature hairstyle, so it was fun to see her reworking it into a more appropriate 'do for her appearance here.

It suits her well, I think, and added a lot of period flavor to her look.

Another episode gave us Miss Eve Arden, aptly cast as a radio star (Arden had successfully starred in the radio series "Our Miss Brooks" back in the day!)

Arden wasn't one to miss out on giving good face to the camera!

An unexpected treat, though, was getting to see her interact with another wondrous comedienne...

I certainly hadn't counted on seeing the legendary Miss Betty White on this show!

She also got to sport a turban. It was a nice, and rare, opportunity to see her in a fairly dramatic show versus the sitcoms she came to be most known for.

It isn't hard to guess who Nina Van Pallandt was trying to channel in this outing. That hair is reminiscent of one Veronica Lake.

Flame-haired Rhonda Fleming turned up in an episode as well.

This green getup was one that I felt sure had been seen in some vintage Hollywood product. I had to chuckle at the fall that someone attached to her here, though. Somehow it just seemed like a banana clip with hair attached to it to me!

Speaking of falls, check out this one which was placed on the head of Miss June Lockhart.

Having starred on Lost in Space and then Petticoat Junction, we were by now used to her having shorter, bouffant hair.

Another sitcom veteran popping up was Green Acres' Eva Gabor.

One wasn't about to get any Barbara Rush-style dowdiness experiments out of her!

Somehow the turban thing just did no favors for the usually fetching Joanna Barnes. She's too washed out and that color was not hers.

Another Oscar-winner landed on the show in the form of Miss Dorothy Malone.

Malone was outfitted with a pretty elaborate 'do as well!

Rare was any show from the 1960s & '70s that didn't feature a guest appearance from Diana Muldaur.

I find that many ladies suit up-swept hair like this, something that's not in fashion to any degree now, but maybe someday...

Wholly unrecognizable from her prior guest role on the show, Barbara Rush returned as a different person in a later ep!

She was given a fun hat to wear for one of her scenes.

Another one of our faves, Miss Vera Miles, turned up in an installment of the show.

She's wearing a fall, too, though generally the stylists did a pretty decent job of at least matching the colors fairly well.

Polly Bergen got to do a sort of dry run for her later role in the highly successful 1983 miniseries The Winds of War (and its sequel War and Remembrance.)

Wasn't it Betty Grable who wore her hair in a style similar to this?

Here we find the lovely (and still active) Juliet Mills.

I really don't know what about Carolyn Jones' wig is meant to suggest the 1940s. It looks more like something from The Toni Tennille Collection to me....

Or maybe it's Bette Davis' (who she seems to resemble) from Burnt Offerings (1976!) I've learned the hard way that, apart from her Morticia Addams wig, Jones generally could not be trusted to select an appealing hairstyle for many of her TV appearances.

Our last lady is Miss Dana Wynter, playing a sculptress.

She was the final gal on the show to sport a turban on her head. The ladies I've pointed out today are not the only ones to show up on Ellery Queen, but they are generally the most famous ones. I will provide a link right here to some beautifully rendered examples from the show. Among the male guests to be found are people as diverse as Ray Milland, Bob Crane, Edward Albert, Stuart Whitman, Tab Hunter, Troy Donahue, Sal Mineo and Vincent Price, among many others!

~~~~ Bonus Pics ~~~~

Here is a publicity shot of the aforementioned Farley Granger and Joan Collins being reunited for their appearance on Ellery Queen. Also seen are Guy Lombardo (it was, after all, New Year's Eve!), Ray Walston, David Doyle and Thayer David.

One thing sorely lacking on the show was beefcake. But I couldn't resist sharing this little sequence set in a steam room between Paul Shenar and recurring cast member John Hillerman.

And that's a wrap! Till next time.