Friday, January 30, 2015

ATM Remembers "The King of Nostalgia": Joe Franklin (1926-2015)

Joe Franklin, circa 1949.
At The Matinee remembers the legendary (and pioneering) television talk show host, known as the "king of nostalgia."   That iconic host was Joe Franklin, who died on January 25th at the age of 88.

Born Joseph Fortgang on March 9, 1926 in the Bronx, the young Fortgang became interested in nostalgic entertainment after meeting celebrated songwriter and composer George M. Cohan at the age of 13 (who was famous for Yankee Doodle Dandy).  He got an early start in radio, picking records for Martin Ball's Make Believe Ballroom, on New York's adult standards station, WNEW 1130 AM.

At the age of 20, Franklin would  have several radio programs on WNEW and WMCA, showcasing his passion for vintage vaudeville, jazz, and big band recordings.

Franklin would make the jump to television in 1950, hosting a show for ABC's New York television flagship, which would become WABC-TV.  Beginning in 1962, he would move his show to the independent station owned by RKO General, WOR-TV (which would be known as WWOR-TV after the station was sold by RKO General to MCA in 1987).  Franklin's show was originally titled Joe Franklin's Memory Lane, but would later be renamed The Joe Franklin Show.  His show had a signature opening theme song- a fast-paced piano rendition of Euday L. Bowman's Twelfth Street Rag (which was replaced by an upbeat-jazzy theme from composer Michael Karp in the show's final years).

Throughout his New York television career, Franklin interviewed over 300,000+ guests on his program, ranging from celebrities, musicians, artists, politicians, and average people- which set it apart from other talk shows.

Some of Franklin's memorable guests were Buster Keaton, Debbie Reynolds, Richard Pryor, Tony Curtis, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Al Pacino, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, The Ramones, Spinal Tap, Salvador Dali, and Leonard Maltin,

In the late 1970's, WOR-TV was one of many independent TV stations that were being distributed to cable television subscribers (through an agreement between RKO General and Eastern Microwave)- making the New York independent a "superstation."  This would give Franklin national exposure to cable television audiences (through cable providers that carried WOR/WWOR).   Franklin was famously parodied by actor/comedian Billy Crystal, during his stint on NBC's Saturday Night Live.

Near the end of his television talk show in August 1993, Franklin was inducted into the Guinness Book of Records as the longest-running continuous talk show host.  He would continue to do a radio series on WOR Radio, where he played vintage songs.  Most recently, Franklin did short segments for Bloomberg Radio (which took over the old WNEW-AM 1130 frequency in 1992), reminiscing about vintage moments in entertainment history.  He also licensed surviving elements of his old WOR/WWOR-TV show to Historic Films (unfortunately, most episodes of his show were either erased or re-used for other programs, since videotape was expensive then).

In addition to his radio and talk show career, Franklin was an avid collector of all things yesterday- rare (and out-of-print) music recordings on every physical format imaginable, vintage sheet music, rare movie posters and scripts.

Franklin had an early interest in film preservation, helping to preserve rare silent films in the late 1940's.  He wrote a book on classic silents, titled Classics of the Silver Screen in 1959.

At The Matinee remembers one of the greats- Joe Franklin.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Special Edition: Happy Birthday to the founder of "At The Matinee"

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE FOUNDER (AND WRITER) OF ATMThough this may be different than the usual posts on this blog site, today is an important day.  Happy Birthday to the founder (and author) of At The Matinee, Chris Hamby!  

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

ATM Remembers Three Greats in Film

At The Matinee remembers three greats in the motion picture industry.

Photograph of Rod Taylor (left) in a
publicity advertisement for the
1960-61 TV drama, Hong Kong.
On January 7th, actor Rod Taylor passed away at the age of 84.  Born in Sydney, Australia in 1930, Taylor became interested in acting after seeing a touring stage production of William Shakespeare's Richard III, featuring Lawrence Olivier.  In the early 1950's, Taylor set his sights for Hollywood, when the plane landed in Los Angeles (the original destination was for London, England- part of a prize that Taylor won in his native Australia, according to The Los Angeles Times).

Though he was relegated to playing supporting roles throughout his career in film and television, Taylor was best known in George Pal's popular 1960 film adaptation of H.G. Wells' science fiction novel, The Time Machine.  He would also appear in Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 suspense masterpiece, The Birds (opposite Tippi Hedren).

Taylor's last screen role was his portrayal of Winston Churchill in Quentin Tarantino's World War II film, Inglorious Basterds (2009, which was inspired from Italian director Enzo G. Castellari's war film).

Taylor was survived by his wife of 35 years, Carol Taylor, and his daughter Felicia Taylor, former CNN corespondent.

Turner Classic Movies will have a tribute to Rod Taylor on January 29th at 8:00 PM EST, showcasing Taylor's most memorable roles in film.  The films that will be featured will be The Time Machine (1960), The Birds (1963), Sunday In New York (1964, opposite Jane Fonda), Young Cassidy (1965, opposite Flora Robson and Maggie Smith), and The Glass-Bottom Boat (1966, opposite Doris Day).

On  January 9th, Samuel Goldwyn Jr. passed away at the age of 88.  The son of acclaimed mogul and producer Samuel Goldwyn (1879-1974), the junior Goldwyn was born in Los Angeles, California in 1926.  

The young Goldwyn became interested in film after working in film editing during his summer vacations.  After serving in the Army, Goldwyn Jr. worked with British film mogul J. Arthur Rank, where he worked as an associate producer on the 1948 British crime thriller film, Good-Time Girl (where he received his first screen credit.  He would work with noted CBS News journalist Edward R. Murrow on a documentary film series for CBS television, Adventure.

Goldwyn Jr. would turn to independent film production in the mid-1950's, using his father's studio lot for his Formosa Productions company (named after the street corner near his father's studio complex).  Some of Goldwyn Jr.'s independent features included Man With the Gun (1955, featuring Robert Mitchum), The Sharkfighters (1956, featuring Victor Mature), The Proud Rebel (which was released by Walt Disney's Buena Vista subsidiary in 1958, featuring Alan Ladd and Olivia De Havilland), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960, featuring Eddie Hodges and Tony Randall), The Young Lovers (1964, featuring Peter Fonda), and Cotton Comes To Harlem (1970, featuring Godfrey Cambridge, directed by Ossie Davis).

After the death of his father in 1974, Goldwyn Jr. would acquire the rights to the senior Goldwyn's classic feature films (through his father's estate).  Five years later, Goldwyn Jr. set up The Samuel Goldwyn Company, not only to manage re-release screenings and television syndication of his father's films, but to distribute art-house and independent productions as well.  Goldwyn Jr.'s firm was responsible for distributing the independent productions of Jim Jarmusch, David Lynch, Kenneth Branagh, and Ang Lee- just to name a few.  The Samuel Goldwyn Company became one of the most prominent independent film distributors throughout the 1980's and 1990's, until the company was sold to media investor John Kluge (of Metromedia fame) in 1996.  Kluge sold Goldwyn's company (along with Orion Pictures, which was also acquired by Kluge) to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer about a year later.

Goldwyn Jr. sued MGM for using the "Goldwyn" name when it changed the name of The Samuel Goldwyn Company to Goldwyn Films.  The case would be settled, and Goldwyn Jr. would restart another film distribution and production firm in honor of his father- Samuel Goldwyn Films.  Goldwyn Jr.'s last work was on a remake of his father's 1947 adaptation of James Thurber's novel, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013, in conjunction with Twentieth Century Fox, and featuring Ben Stiller in the title role).

Recently, Goldwyn Jr. (through his family trust) made an agreement with Warner Bros. to distribute his father's classic films on DVD, Blu-Ray, and streaming services (it should be noted that the classic Samuel Goldwyn features were distributed in the 1990's on video through Warners' corporate sibling, HBO, until the early days of the DVD format.  That was when distribution shifted from HBO to MGM, as part of that studio's acquisition of The Samuel Goldwyn Company).

Goldwyn Jr. is survived by his current wife, Patricia Strawn, along with his children- actor Tony Goldwyn (who now co-runs Samuel Goldwyn Films), producer John, actors Francis and Peter (who also serves as vice-president of Samuel Goldwyn Films), Catherine and Elizabeth.

Publicity advertisement for
Back From Eternity (1956,
featuring Anita Ekberg).
On January 11th, actress Anita Ekberg passed away in Rome at the age of 83.  After losing the Miss Universe pageant, she was spotted by a Universal Studios talent scout, which led the young Swedish beauty queen to her first role in Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953).  Other roles included the Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis comedy Hollywood or Bust (1956), and the Bob Hope comedy Paris Holiday (1958).

Tired of being typecast in Hollywood films, Ekberg wanted to work with noted Italian director Federico Fellini (1920-1993).  She appeared in Fellini's greatest screen triumph, La Dolce Vita in 1960.

This is where Ekberg would be best known for during her screen career, during the landmark Trevi fountain scene- in where she takes a dip in the fountain.

It was reported that the iconic scene of the film had to be filmed for seven nights, due to the harsh winter conditions in Rome.  The rest is cinematic history.

At The Matinee remembers three film greats- Rod Taylor, Samuel Goldwyn, Jr., and Anita Ekberg.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

January 11th: First Anniversary of "At The Matinee"

Advertisement for Chris Hamby Presents "At The Matinee", featured on this flyer
that was posted on the Hood College Library bulletin board during the
Fall 2014 semester.

FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF CHRIS HAMBY PRESENTS "AT THE MATINEE": I can't believe that it's been a year since I created this classic film blog, dedicated to the field of classic/contemporary/cult cinema, television, and technology.  Special thanks to all fellow friends, readers, and film enthusiasts for reading At The Matinee.  I look forward to writing more posts on ATM for years to come.  Here's to many more!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year from "At The Matinee" (and an update on Woodsboro's Cinema House)

The author of At The Matinee wishes every reader a happy, healthful, and prosperous 2015!  

When I started this blog on January 11, 2014- not only was At The Matinee inspired by my interest in classic film and film preservation, it was inspired from an article that I wrote for the The Woodsboro-Walkersville Times (originally known as The Woodsboro Times when my article was published last year).  The other inspiration for this blog was Mr. John McElwee's famous classic film blog, Greenbriar Picture Shows.

The Woodsboro Bank Building in Woodsboro, Maryland-
originally taken for my article (in The Woodsboro Times)
on the movie theater that operated in the building from 1915 to 1953.
Originally taken in December 2013 (for the
January 2014 edition of the publication).
MORE TIDBITS ON THE WOODSBORO OPERA HOUSE: The article was about the town's movie theater that operated in the Woodsboro Bank building for nearly forty years.  My article received praise from friends, peers, and various classic film enthusiasts.  A year after that article was published, I came across several more tidbits on the movie palace inside the bank building (and a film that was shown there).

According to further research from The Lantern Media History Archivethe theater was featured in a trade advertisement in the October 1918 edition of Reel and Slide Magazine .  It was for Universal Studios' release of Over The Roads To War, an industrial short produced by the studio for the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company about America's preparedness into the First World War.  

My estimation is that that Over The Roads To War might be considered a "lost film", since many industrial silents (produced by major studios including Universal) may have been junked, or lost due to decomposing nitrate film stock.  No other account of any other studio feature films at the theater (until its demise in 1953) were found, not even in the exclusive online historical database of The Frederick News-Post at Hood College.

Another part that I found on Woodsboro's cinema house was in a 1991 historical survey on the Woodsboro Bank building, prepared by the Maryland Historic Trust (an agency of the State of Maryland).  According to the report, it was mentioned that the ticket booth on the second floor of the Woodsboro Bank building was used for the movie theater, including some details on the "auditorium" section of the building.  

It was interesting to find out about one film being shown at Woodsboro's theater complex in 1918, yet I'm still curious about what other films were shown there (in addition to Vaudeville performers that performed there, what sound system was used during the "dawn of sound pictures", and the theater's use as a community gathering center). 

I hope all readers of At The Matinee had a wonderful holiday season.  Be on the lookout for more exciting posts throughout 2015!