Monday, December 24, 2007

Did you know II

Feel like a vacation from blogging until the New Year, but, I had so much fun with the original Do You Know -- that this one pretty much wrote itself.

So, did you know --

That the voice of the pet Raven on the Munsters was none other than cartoon voice master, Mel Blanc?

That Herman’s boss was, seen only in two episodes, was played by John Carradine?

That the Lily and Herman were the second couple on television ever to share a bed, and you never heard of the first (some comedy from the ‘40s – I forget)?

That Pat Priest was not the original Marilyn, but only started in the 14th episode. I must have seen, but cannot recall, the original “unattractive” Munster (played by Beverley Owen)?

That the Munsters lasted only two years? Hard to believe. So many great Munster memories. For some reason, my favorite Munster moment is when Herman goes to the marriage counselor, who takes one look at him and says something like "My god, man, why didn't you defend yourself?"

That in the pilot for the Munsters, Yvonne Decarlo’s (Lily’s) character was named Phoebe Munster, not Lily? Yvonne’s real name was Margaret Yvonne Middleton, De Carlo being her mom’s maiden name. It is frequently reported that she was named “the most beautiful girl in the world” in the ‘40s, but apparently, this was just the opinion of a producer who was signing her up. She was beautiful though. She actually names over 20 lovers in her autobiography, including Howard Hughes and a number of actors (e.g., Burt Lancaster, Robert Stack, etc.).

That Lily's tv competition, Morticia Addams, played by another beauty, Carolyn Jones, was nominated for an Oscar in 1958 for her supporting role in The Bachelor Party? Her tv husband, John Astin, took a shot at playing Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings, but couldn't make the cut. However, in 1968 he was nominated for an Oscar too for a short subject he produced and directed called Prelude. What are the odds that someone reading this blog would have seen it? John's adopted son, Sean (Patty Duke's biological son), of course, played Sam in The Lord of the Rings, and in my mind, may have been the best actor in that whole wonderful ten plus hour movie.

That unlike Yvonne De Carlo, another great beauty, Grace Kelly, did not kiss and tell? Unfortunately for her, her friends and biographers did after she died. She apparently went "through" (wink, wink) almost all her leading men, including Bing Crosby and Gary Cooper plus the Shah of Iran, Oleg Cassini, Hal Holden, not to mention, while she was married (according to a new biographer) Frank Sinatra and I think one of her own bridesmaids (whoa!). I have to admit, I wish this information was available for all movie stars on some website. Let’s face it, if this wasn’t what we really wanted to know, all those gossip mags wouldn’t be doing so well.

That like so many others, Bert Gervis, Jr. also took his mother’s maiden name for the screen and became Burt Ward a/k/a Robin, Batman’s sidekick? A child prodigy, he was a professional skater in his parents’ ice show at age 2, a high school chess champion, speed reader and athlete before he donned the tights. He grew to hate Adam West on the set of Batman the way many of the Star Trek ensemble grew to hate William Shatner. His frank biography (just read it) is loaded with great stories, like the time he trapped Adam West stark naked in a hotel hallway. Burt appeared at Harvard for a speech with the very valuable Robin costume from the show. One student stood up and, Riddler like, asked, “When is a costume not a costume? When it’s stolen”. Poof, they stole his costume, valued at a half mill. The students were only enjoying themselves and returned it. The reputed ringleader was then editor of the Harvard Lampoon, Conan O’Brien. My apocryphal story radar is up on this last one.

Speaking of Batman, that Madge Blake aka Aunt Harriet, was also offered the role of Aunt Bee on The Andy Griffith Show, but turned it down because of her contract with Leave it to Beaver at the time? She recommended her friend, Frances Bavier, who got the job. They are the same person in my untrained eyes.

That the Skipper, the professor and Mary Ann all had full names on the Gilligan’s Island – Skipper Jonas Grumby, Professor Roy Hinkley, Jr., and Mary Ann Summers. By the way, the answer to Mary Ann or Ginger? has always been Mary Ann for me. According to all reports, including the Professor (Russell Johnson)'s fun autobiography, Tina Louise was most difficult to work with.

That Chief Roaring Chicken from F-Troop, Edward Everett Horton, was also the narrator for Fractured Fairy Tales, a short segment on the Bullwinkle Show (you must remember these)? Deep voiced actor William Conrad, aka Matt Dillon (the original), Cannon, Nero Wolfe and the Fat Man (as in Jake and . . .), was the narrator for the main part of the show.

That Ray Walston (Uncle Martin in My Favorite Martian) later appeared on co-star, Bill Bixby’s show, The Hulk, in an episode entitled My Favorite Magician.

That Oscar winning actor, Ben Kingsley had his first role in the sixties on a BBC show called Orlando, where he sometimes played one of a group of teens who helped out the hero, who was sort of an early British version of MacGuyver? Maybe we never heard of it, but Orlando, and his amphicar (part car, part boat) was a big hit in the land of Shakespeare.

Speaking of Britain, that Hugh Laurie, the star of House, actually has a very thick British accent, and his raspy American accent is just great acting? He was born in Oxford, England, and educated at Cambridge where he was a rowing champ (his father was an Olympic gold medalist in the sport). I first noticed him playing a lowly henchman in the live action version of 101 Dalmatians and liked him enough to remember his name when I saw it on the cover of a book, The Gun Seller, which I bought. It’s a funny and fairly original book which I’ve given to a few people as presents. Try it. I think its coming out as a movie soon, too.

That Burt Reynolds turned down the lead roles in Terms of Endearment (pretty dumb), Die Hard (you idiot!) and Hans Solo (why haven’t you killed yourself)?

That Sally Struthers was the voice of Pebbles on the Flinstones’ shows in the 70s?

That Miyoshi Umeki was already a famous singer in Japan (where, ironically, she was known as Nancy), an Oscar winner for best supporting actress in 1957 (Sayanara) and a Tony nominee in 1958 (Flower Drum Song) before playing the wise and humble Mrs. Livingston on The Courtship of Eddie’s Father? Strangely, after the show ended in 1972 she never acted again before dying this past summer at age 78. Wonder why.

That Rock Hudson and Jim Nabors were not really married (nor even had a marriage ceremony)? It was just a joke by some legendary party throwers on an invitation that went awry. It destroyed their friendship, as they could no longer be seen together. Hudson’s sexual preference was still a secret at the time. Nabors has denied being gay in the past, but has remained silent in recent years about it (for god sakes, he’s in 70s; leave him alone).

That Will Ferrell became the highest paid Saturday Night Live member ever in 2001, the year before he left for the movie world? Before he became a film star in his own right, he had an almost overlooked turn in the Austin Powers movies as Mustafa, a luckless henchman who seems to die remarkably slowly (“I’m alive, only very badly burned” and has to tell the truth if asked a question 3 times). Sounds dumb, but he was hysterical.

That Robert Deniro was not a fledgling actor in Godfather II (1974), however much it boosted his career? Among a few other not-so-forgettable movies before that he played one of Ma Barker’s (Shelley Winters’) sons in Bloody Mama (1970) and a thug in 1973’s Mean Streets. I actually saw both of these when I was a kid and thought they were pretty good, although back then, he was just another actor to me.

Bloody Mama is not to be confused with Big Bad Mama (1974), starring a reasonably young Angie Dickinson (topless, woo hoo) and William Shatner. For some reason I link these two movies in my mind (maybe the word “Mama” in the title?)

To the contrary, that DeNiro’s competition for greatest actor of his generation, Al Pacino, was pretty much invented by the Godfather (I), as he was only in a few nothing productions before that? Within a decade though, he had starred in Serpico, Godfather II, Dog Day Afternoon, And Justice for All, and Author, Author, cementing his legend. My personal favorite, though, was his role as Big Boy, in Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy.

Proving that our civilization is at an end, DeNiro and Pacino are in negotiations to make the 1995 movie, Heat, in which they co-starred, into a video game. A video game! Oh, come on, guys. How much for your dignity?

That Val Kilmer, the third star of Heat, had a signature move in his early movies where he moves a coin or similar object over the back of his knuckles, including in Tombstone, where he played Dr. Holiday with such perfection, they should go back and give him a special Oscar for it?

Tombstone is a wonderful picture, worshipped by a country full of middle aged men. It probably deserves its own post. It was the vision of the original director/writer, Kevin Jarre. There is some interesting Did You Know stuff in it. Jarre, who wrote a very long epic screenplay, reasonably close to the historical record of the gunfight at the OK Corrall, was soon fired and Kurt Russell (who played Wyatt Earp) ended up being the de facto but unnamed director, even after an official new director was brought on lot. Jarre may have been a little nuts, as he made them all wear wool suits in the insane Arizona heat.

Robert Mitchum, was supposed to play the old man Clanton but hurt himself falling off a horse. So, they cut out his role and gave him the narration instead. Believe it or not (especially if you’ve seen this film) Richard Gere was originally slated to play Wyatt Earp and William Dafoe, Doc Holiday. No offense, guys, but no, no, no. Former western star Henry Ford was supposed to have a role, but had to back out too. But, two old timers hung in there. Harry Carey, Jr., who started his career in the 1940s, played the sheriff gunned down by Curley Bill, and Charlton Heston, who played rancher, Henry Hooker. The role of young, sensitive Billy Claiborne was played by an actual distant relative of Earp, who otherwise had almost no acting career. His real name – Wyatt Earp. He actually did a very good job in a small, but interesting part. You get the feeling there was more to his character’s story which was cut from Jarre’s much longer version. Just a guess.

A movie named Tombstone is a great place to end any blog.

Next week, back with some predictions for the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. Like most of the candidates for the nominations, I intend to go down in flames.

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .