Saturday, January 27, 2018


I suppose that everyone, even if they don't consciously think about such trivia, has a favorite celebrity couple. I would guess that the most ubiquitous/popular would be Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who turned their marriage(s) into a jet-setting adventure, better than any movie that they ever made together.

Frankly, I don't think about such trivia either but when I read of the passing of Bradford Dillman at age 87 on Tuesday, January 16th, I immediately thought of how handsomely he paired with Suzy Parker, his wife of 40 years.

Belatedly, I come to reminisce about a couple who even had names that seemed to sparkle with style.

Ah, style.

Bradford and Suzy met in 1960 when they starred together in Twentieth Century-Fox's "Circle of Deception." They married in 1963 and remained together for 40 years - until Parker's death in 2003. She was 70.

Suzy was arguably the definitive fashion model of her time before she ventured into acting, most memorably opposite Gary Cooper, Diane Varsi and Geraldine Fitzgerald in Philip Dunne's very fine 1958 film version of John O'Hara's "Ten North Frederick" and especially as the glamorously doomed Gregg Adams in Jean Negulesco's compulsively watchable 1959 film version of Rona Jaffe's seminal novel, "The Best of Everything."

Bradford, meanwhile, made his Broadway debut in 1956 in Eugene O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey into Night," in the role of the author's alter ego, Edmund Tyrone, and starred with Dean Stockwell, Orson Welles and Diane Varsi (again) in 1959's "Compulsion," Richard Fleischer's excellent take on the notorious Leopold-Loeb case. (Stockwell, coincidentally, played Edmund Tyrone in Sidney Lumet's 1962 film version of "Journey.")

He had an urbane presence that matched his name. Bradford personified breeding and bearing. Yes, that vague, not easily acquired quality - bearing. Suzy had it, too. And they had style - real style.

I confess. All sorts of fancy words would come to mind whenever I would see photographs of them together (or alone) - chic, cosmopolitan, metropolitan, voguish, elegant, sophisticated, cultured, dressy, stylish, chichi, bearing - words that hardly apply to the self-described, rather vulgar "power couples" desperately seeking attention today.

Kim and Kanye?

Get real.

Donald and Melania?

No, I'm afraid that "style" is dead, stone cold dead. And so is the notion of  bearing. Especially bearing. (Would anyone today even know what that word means?)

And neither will be coming back any time soon.

Regarding Comments: All comments are enthusiastically appreciated but are moderated before publication. Replies signed "unknown" or "anonymous" are not encouraged. Please sign any response with a name (real or fabricated) or initials.  Be advised that a "name" will be assigned to any accepted post signed "unknown" or "anonymous." Thank you.
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(from top)

~Suzy Parker and Bradford Dillman at a '60s Hollywood event

~Bradford Dillman, relaxing with a script
 ~photography: Suzy Parker Dillman 1963©

~Suzy Parker and Bradford Dillman in a scene from "Circle of Deception"
~Photography: 20th Century-Fox 1960©

 ~Suzy Parker, taking a photograph with her Leica
~photography: Peter Stackpole 1953©

~Suzy Parker and Bradford Dillman on a 20th Century -Fox backlot when he was there making "In Love and War" and she was filming "The Best of Everything"
~Photography: 20th Century-Fox 1959©

Monday, January 22, 2018

uncommon women: "the young and the restless"

I've been procrastinating, so apologies to the crew behind of one of CBS's crown jewels, "The Young and the Restless," particularly its talented cast.

Even though this site is devoted largely to theatrical films - misunderstood and neglected movies, to be specific - I've indulged myself occasionally by commenting on television and even commercials. They're all relatives of sorts, linked by the camera's eye, and "The Young and the Restless" is one of the best shows on television, daytime or prime time. Period. So, Bravo!

Full disclosure: My wife and I began watching daytime dramas - or "soaps" - when we started dating, binge-watching the three ABC dramas, all 15 hours of them, via Beta tapings on lost weekends in the 1980s. We were definitely ahead of our time. And, frankly, I found the shows often more stimulating than what I critiqued as a working movie reviewer at the time.

I confessed this once - rather sheepishly - to the critic Pauline Kael, who immediately shared that she had no problem skipping an evening screening when it conflicted with a telecast of "Rich Man, Poor Man."

When the ABC soaps, one by one, became unwatchable, we switched to "The Young and the Restless" and could not believe what we had been missing. The only difference between "The Young and the Restless" and, say, "Mad Men" or "Breaking Bad" or "Scandal," is the difference between a daytime slot and a prime time slot. They're all "soaps" - or "continuing dramas," if that makes you feel more secure about your viewing habits.

And so was Kael's "Rich Man, Poor Man."

"The Young and the Restless" has been on CBS's daytime slate since 1973, so we discovered it rather late in the game. It's a given that the show has experienced its artistic ups and downs during the several decades it's been airing, and we lived through a slump when refugees from ABC's "General Hospital" came on board, making dubious decisions. (Veterans of daytime - producers, directors, writers, performers - tend to play "musical soaps," hopping back and forth among the few that survived the culture wars.)

For the past couple years, the show has been guided by executive producer-head writer Mal Young and, except for some jaw-dropping twists and turns of late (more about that later), he has done a bang-up job, especially in the area of providing a troupe of terrific actresses with deliciously meaty material. While it's undeniable that the actors on "The Young and the Restless" are first-class - especially the unparalleled Eric Braeden, Peter Bergman (who always seems to be having a high old time in his role) and reliable Doug Davidson - it's the women who soar here:

~Sharon Case. For my money, Case is the one reason to watch "The Young and the Restless." She plays a character named ... Sharon and she fully inhabits the role. No matter what the writers toss at her (and a character's motivation can change on a soap from day to day, sometimes irrationally so), Case handles it. But most impressive is the chemistry she has with whoever is opposite her in a scene. She's had memorable acting duets with just about every cast member. Chemistry between actors is a necessity, but especially on a soap where there are dozens of characters.

~Eileen Davidson. No one plays a strong woman as well as Davidson and she does it in an impressively atypical way - with a certain reserve and style. She fairly drips with style. Davidson never pushes, which makes her character, Ashley, all the more commanding but never intimidating.

~Mishael Morgan. Morgan is not only hugely charismatic but patient. For more than a year, her character, Hillary, seemed to flail, as the writers figured out what to do with her. But as the soap's relentless, unapologetic provocateur/opportunist, Morgan tears into her role with all the bravura of Faye Dunaway in "Network." She's a hoot to watch, hands-down.

~Melissa Claire Egan. Egan has a naturalness that makes all of her scenes flow by smoothly, seamlessly and with apparently little effort. She makes acting look easy - which isn't easy. And like Case, her Chelsea has incredible chemistry with her co-players, especially her leading men. Whether it's Michael Muhney, Justin Hartley or (currently) Joshua Morrow, she seems absolutely crazy about the guy - an actor's dream partner.

~Amelia Heinle. Heinle has the most psychologically complex woman's role on "The Young and the Restless," playing a character riddled with insecurities (thanks to daddy issues) and only half cognizant of her talent and worth. Her Victoria often fumbles at game-playing and can be self-sabotaging but it's what makes her sympathetic. And Heinle nails it every time, making it possible for us to root for the spoiled, clueless rich girl.

~Gina Tognoni. Unlike Victoria, Tognoni's Phyllis is definitely a player and this wildly talented actress - who refuses to age - plays the game with a transparent male aggressiveness which she never tries to excuse but rather makes attractive. Tognoni has shrewdly updated the kind of women played by Rosalind Russell and Katharine Hepburn. That's a good thing.

~Marla Adams. Arguably, the greatest female performance this year on daytime (or nighttime, for that matter), was turned in by the irresistible Adams, who played a Grand Dame of business with such cultured casualness that one could smell her wealth. And what a fabulously monied voice. I had fantasies about having lunch with her. Unfortunately, she is now off the canvas, seemingly permanently, and is much missed.

~Beth Maitland. Maitland plays Tracy, a recurring character on the show - sister of the aforementioned Ashley - but it's always a treat when she shows up. The actress exudes a warmth that never feels affected or fake and her winning smile perfectly complements the no-nonsense advice she tries to impart to the show's drama queens. She's utterly indespensible.

~Melody Thomas Scott. Scott works wonders with the requisite role of the show's First Lady - married to the richest, meanest man in town. Her matriarch, of course, comes with a past (she was a stripper in another life!) and she hasn't quite let go of her maverick ways. Scott excels at playing her character with a girlish fillip. "The Young and the Restless," like all the soaps, never gets into politics but I'm willing to bet the rent money that while her awful husband is a conservative, Scott's Nicki is a liberal. They keep getting married but there's a reason the unions never work.

~Camryn Grimes. It must be a rare acting treat for Case and Morrow to have Grimes back on the show, as she played their daughter more than a decade ago and now plays that deceased character's long-lost twin, all grown up. (Hey, this is a soap, remember.) I never saw Grimes as a child actress but I appreciate that she came on the show as a fully-formed, albeit messed-up adult. She acts opposite Case and Morrow on equal terms. Like Mishael Morgan, the writers played around with her character, trying to match her up with other players, and while their attempts never really worked, Grimes always came through. She found her footing via her character's much-appreciated, well-put sarcasm, a feature underlined by her long, flowing, often wild red hair. She is currently involved in a lesbian subplot - well, sort of - which any experienced soap viewer knows will inevitably be abandoned. The core fan base of soaps, see, doesn't seem to approve of gays, interracial love (at least not when the man in the couple is of color) or Jewish characters. It would be great if the powers behind soaps ignored these dated biases because, frankly, soap fans aren't exactly going anywhere; they'll continue to watch, no matter what.

~Melissa Ordway. It's always a privilege to watch a performer grow in stature and hone their talent in ways that are totally unexpected and exciting. Ordway who, about five years ago, was a charming ingenue as Abby, is currently at the top of her game. She's subtle and nuanced, her line readings are flawless and, better yet, she says all there is to say with her gorgeous, penetrating eyes. And when she's on screen, the viewer's eyes can't help but go directly to her. She's a Movie Star in the making.

~Jess Walton. Again, a recurring character, but every time she's off-canvas, I miss her whiskey-soaked voice. Walton is a terrific actress who has been amazing playing the same basic scenes over and over and over and over again. She needs - and deserves - a change, a challenge.

~Christel Khalil. Khalil is such a fan favorite that even if she was off the show for six months, the fans would still vote for her as a favored daytime actress. She has comedic talents that are rarely tapped; the funniest moments on "The Young and the Restless" have involved her Lily bitching about the awfulness of Hillary. The show needs more of her spark. Instead her character is involved in the drawn-out reconciliation with her smacked-ass husband (something to appease the aforementioned fan base). It would be great to see Lily leave and go absolutely wild as a divorcee.

~Tracey E. Bregman. She and Christian Le Blanc play the soap's power couple - he's an attorney and she's a successful entrepreneur - but they tend to have problems which makes it easy not to envy them. Bregman brings a nice mix of savvy and neuroticism to her character, Lauren. She's never a pushover, she's never unsure of herself and, when she miscalculates a situation, she claims ownership of it. But it doesn't help that the show dressses this "power" woman like a cocktail waitress. It undermines the empowerment that's essential to her character. 

~Judith Chapman. Her name is Gloria, a great name for a dame, and Chapman is never less than a delight as a seemingly frivolous, flirty woman whose street smarts are always being underestimated by the show's entitled denizens who judge and look down on her. Gloria rocks!

These actresses, all 15 of them, make for great company.

Now about those unfortunate recent twists and turns that I referenced earlier, none of which make any narrative sense.

Here goes...

All of a sudden, Chelsea is involved in some kind of vague skullduggery involving her designer business. Huh?  Why? And all of a sudden, Nicki is apparently hooking up with a much younger man, a rough-hewn contractor. Huh?  Why?  And all of a sudden, Ashley has suddenly turned into another character altogether, bent on tormenting Victoria. Huh? Why? And the show is intent on reuniting Lily with that cheating husband. Huh?  Why? And what happened to Ravi?

Weren't he and Ashley almost an item, the operative word being "almost"?

In addition to the fublous Dina, two other characters seemed to have been axed - Scott (no great loss here) and Graham (who was truly fascinating to watch) - and I fear that Ravi may also be on his way out as well.

Noah may be also be gone, given that the character has been matched up with innumerable women in the last few years, always with dispiriting results. Talk about chemistry or, in this case, lack thereof.

Initially, there were signs that Graham would be revealed as Ashley's brother, adding another member to her clan. Then, he was revealed not be a blood relative at all, which would have qualified him as a love interest for Ashley. But now the character is stone cold dead. Too bad. I liked Graham. As for Ravi, I believe that the fan base is none-too-friendly towards interracial relationships. So, he's doomed. Too bad. I like Ravi.

And I think we can expect that lesbian subplot to soon be history.

Early on, I said that there is no difference between a daytime soap and a prime time soap. Well, that's not entirely true. Either the viewers of nighttime soaps are more open-minded or the shows' makers care more about the quality of the show than what the fans expect. Daytime, on the other hand, listens to the fans. A little too attentively, in my opinion.

To reiterate, these fans aren't going anywhere. They'll always tune in. So there's no reason to force poor Lily to reunite with that lying husband.

Regarding Comments: All comments are enthusiastically appreciated but are moderated before publication. Replies signed "unknown" or "anonymous" are not encouraged. Please sign any response with a name (real or fabricated) or initials.  Be advised that a "name" will be assigned to any accepted post signed "unknown" or "anonymous." Thank you.
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 (from top)

~The logo for "The Young and the Restless"
~CBS 2018©

~ Sharon Case, Mishael Morgan, Amelia Heinle, Marla Adams, Melissa Ordway and Judith Chapman

Friday, January 19, 2018

connections: eddie hodges → ronny howard ronny howard ← paul ford → eddie hodges

As difficult as it is to believe, the brain-tease game, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, is nearly 25 years old, its source dating back to a Premiere magazine article published about Bacon in 1994. But the game is actually much older than that. Movie buffs have been playing variations of it for decades, the only difference is that it originally had nothing to do with Kevin Bacon. The challenge could utilize the name of any movie star.

Personally, I've always referred to the game as Connections and, at one point in time, invented my own (rather demented) contortion of it, in which the thread connects two actors who have never performed together in a film. Case in point: Eddie Hodges and Ron (formerly Ronny) Howard.

Their only relation is that both are redheads and both played the role of Winthrop Paroo in Meredith Willson's "The Music Man" - Hodges, at age ten, in the original 1957 Broadway production and Howard, at age eight, in the 1962 Warner Bros. film, both versions directed by Morton Da Costa.

And I'm also throwing the wonderful Paul Ford into my bizarre mix. Here goes...

~"The Music Man," starring Robert Preston and Barbara Cook, opened on Broadway on December 19th, 1957 at the Majestic Theater. Meredith Willson had been working on the show for years and discovered Eddie Hodges when he was watching the "Name That Tune" TV show in 1953.

~Ronny Howard made his film debut at age five in 1959 in Anatol Litvak's "The Journey," which was also the film debut of Jason Robards, Jr., who decades later Howard - now Ron - would directed in two films, "Parenthood" (1989) and "The Paper" (1994). Oddly enough, Howard never directed Andy Griffith with whom he appeared on the TV series, "The Andy Griffith Show" (aka, "Mayberry RFD), from 1960 to 1966, or Shirley Jones, with whom he appeared in two back-to-back films -"The Music Man" and Vincente Minnelli's "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" (1963). Curious.

~Hodges was the darling of Broadway when "The Music Man" opened and, in no time flat, he made his movie debut in 1959 as Frank Sinatra's son in Frank Capra's "A Hole in the Head," where he sang "High Hopes" - live on screen - with Sinatra.

A year later, in 1960, Hodges had the title role in Michael Curtiz's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," with a supporting cast of some terrific character actors, headed by Tony Randall and with Archie Moore as Jim. It was an MGM release and, decades earlier, Hodges would have fit quite comfortably into the Metro family as a contract player.

~During the Broadway season of that same year, Hodges appeared as Henry Fonda's son in Ira Levin's 1960 comedy, "Critic's Choice," directed by Otto Preminger. It opened December 14th of that year at the Ethel Barrymore Theater and, although it was not a critical success and played for only 189 performances, Warner Bros. purchased the screen rights and filmed it in 1963 with Bob Hope (in the Fonda role) and Lucille Ball. Another child actor, Ricky Kelman, played the role originated by Hodges.

 ~Another play opened during the 1960 Broadway season, "Advise and Consent," based on the 1959 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Allen Drury. Loring Mandel did the adaptation, which was directed by Franklin J. Schaffner (who helmed the films "The Best Man" and "Patton," among others). The cast of largely character actors included Chester Morris, Ed Begley, Kevin McCarthy, Henry Jones, Barnard Hughes and Richard Kiley. It opened November 17th, 1960 at the Cort Theater, where it played for 212 performances. Again, not a runaway hit, but Otto Preminger in New York at the time (as noted above) saw it and snapped up the film rights.

In 1962, "Advise and Consent" was one of two aforementioned Broadway productions that were released as films. (It opened in New York on June 6th at the Criterion Theater.) Preminger produced his version of "Advise and Consent," but Wendell Mayes' adaptation is based on the Drury book, not the play. (The rights to the two were irrevocably intertwined.) Henry Fonda, Preminger's star of "Critic's Choice" in New York, was cast as the liberal Robert Leffingwell, the President's nominee for Secretary of State  - a character in the book who is only referenced in the Mandel play - and Hodges plays his son. The film's terrific cast also includes Charles Laughton (in the role played on stage by Henry Jones), Don Murray (Richard Kiley on stage), George Grizzard (Kevin McCarthy), Walter Pidgeon (Chester Morris), Edward Andrews (Ed Begley) and Malcolm Atterbury (Barnard Hughes). Pater Lawford and Burgess Meredith (excellent) also starred in the film version, and Betty White made her movie debut here at a Senator named Bessie Adams.

And Paul Ford played Senator Stanley Donata, a role performed on stage by Clarence Kavanaugh.

~And Ford appeared in the other 1962 adaptation, playing Mayor George Shinn in Da Costa's film of "The Music Man" (which opened in New York on June 19th at the Radio City Music Hall). But Eddie Hodges, Ford's co-star in "Advise and Consent," wasn't cast as Winthrop, the role he had played on Broadway. Hodges was 15 now and decidedly too old for the role.

Ronny Howard was cast.

Paul Ford is the slender thread, the connection, between Eddie Hodges and Ronny Howard, between "Advise and Consent" and "The Music Man."

~Howard, as we all know by now, would go on to become an Oscar-winning filmmaker, and Hodges, after starring in a pair of Disney musicals ("Summer Magic" and "The Happiest Millionaire"), left show business to become a mental health counselor, according IMDb.

Paul Ford, still adored for his role on "The Phil Silvers Show" (aka, "Sergeant Bilko"), was one of film's most reliable character actors for more than 30 years, with 55 credits, including Stanley Kramer's 1963 Cinerama comedy extravaganze, "It's a Mad, Mad Mad, Mad World," but he finally - at long last - got to play his first lead in Sumner Arthur Long's stage comedy, "Never Too Late," opposite Maureen O'Sullivan, in 1962. Yes, 1962, the same year as the films of "Advise and Consent" and "The Music Man." something of a banner year for Paul Ford.

~"Never Too Late" opened at the Playhouse Theater on November 27th, 1962. The play was directed by no less than George Abbott and ran for a total of 1,007 performances, a decided hit. After it closed on April 24th, 1965, Ford immediately went into film the Bud Yorkin movie version which Warner Bros. released in November of that year. A year later, Ford appeared in Norman Jewison's "The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming" and Fielder Cook's "A Big Hand for the Little Lady," his last major films. He died six years later in 1972 of heart failure. He was 74.

I still miss him. 

Regarding Comments: All comments are enthusiastically appreciated but are moderated before publication. Replies signed "unknown" or "anonymous" are not encouraged. Please sign any response with a name (real or fabricated) or initials.  Be advised that a "name" will be assigned to any accepted post signed "unknown" or "anonymous." Thank you.

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(from top)

~Eddie Hodges, circa 1957

~Ronny Howard in a scene from the film of "The Music Man"
~Photography: Warner Bros. 1962©

~Poster art for the original Broadway production of "The Music Man"
 ~Sid Perkes 1957©

 ~The Playbill for the Broadway staging of "Advise and Consent"
~pictured from left: Ed Begley, Richard Kiley, Chester Morris, Henry Jones and Kevin McCarthy 
~photography: Friedman-Ables 1960©
~Poster art for the Columbia film of "Advise and Consent"
~Saul Bass 1962©

~Poster art for the Warner Bros. film of "The Music Man"
~Warner Bros.  1962©

~Publicity still of Paul Ford in "The Music Man"
~Photography: Warner Bros. 1962©