Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Yes, we remember the guy from the Portland Beavers who played Benjamin Pontipee

 Sometimes Julie fans ask "Who was THAT guy?" 


JEFF RICHARDS. 

He passed away on July 28, 1989. For some who watched "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" on small square TV sets in the 60's and 70's, he was the guy you didn't always see. 

He was matched with Julie because of his height, but somebody forgot to note that while he had been an amateur baseball player (for the Portland Beavers) he was not much of a dancer. So...in the widescreen scenes, he and partner Julie were usually placed at the far end, with the better dancing couples in the middle. When "fitted for your screen," he (and Julie) disappeared entirely. 

One of the more "authentic" brothers in the film, Richard Mansfield Taylor actually was born in rugged lumber territory; Oregon (November 1, 1924). Oregon is the setting for "Seven Brides," of course.

After Navy service, the 22 year-old joined the Portland Beavers as a shortstop, and moved on to the Seattle Senators. At that time, there were no West Coast professional baseball teams, so he wasn't scouted by either the S.F. Giants or L.A. Dodgers. After a ligament injury, the tall, good-looking ex-athlete turned to a career in movies. He played a baseball player in the 1950 comedy "Kill the Umpire," and was signed to MGM the following year. That's when Richard Taylor became Jeff Richards. 

He played a baseball player - again - in "Angels in the Outfield" (1951) and yet again in "Big Leaguer" (1954). That was the year, age 30, he became one of the brothers in "Seven Brides..." He was nearly a decade younger than his dance partner. 

His career kicked into gear with "The Marauders" (1955) and "The Opposite Sex" (1956),  where he didn't quite have seven bride possibilities, but wasn't doing badly at all. You might recognize Joan Collins and Ann Miller among his admirers.


While some of the other guys who played brothers in "Seven Brides" didn't amount to much, and may not have been able to put their arms around many or any famous women,  Richards was considered a very promising star in his 30's. Mamie Van Doren is a victim of rope in this odd publicity still for the 1958 cult item "Born Reckless." 


Not one to brood over those "sobbin'" women in "Seven Brides," Jeff moved on to the "Island of Lost Women" in 1959 with John Smith. A variation on "sword and sandals" flicks, it was a bare chests & sarongs epic. If the film was re-made today, it might be the men in sarongs and the women showing the bare chests. 

Starring roles in mediocre films and TV shows didn't help his career.  He starred in the forgotten "It's a Dog's Life" (1955) and "Secret of the Purple Reef" (1960). Well, the ONLY other young brother from "Seven Brides" to actually be the star of a movie was Russ Tamblyn, so nice going, Mr. Richards. PS, you were fortunate not to get a dog bite in that 1955 epic...



Richards was the title character "Jefferson Drum" in 26 episodes of the NBC series (1958-59). 


So, "that guy" who was just another brother in a favorite film musical, actually was quite a guy, with some starring opportunities on TV and in film, and a pretty good credit list in the 50's. 

After a six-year drought, his last screen appearance was in "Waco" (1966) starring his pal from the "Seven Brides" days, Howard Keel. 

Zoom Blah! or..."Caption This, Please."

You've seen it on social media all the time: "CAPTION THIS!" 

Somebody tosses a photo and people are supposed to have fun imagining what could be said. 

IMAGINING is the fun part. Seeing what people contribute usually isn't. So, just IMAGINE what could be going on and...keep it to yourself! 

What exactly this is, well, it looks like a ZOOM question and answer session, and Julie does a few of these, which usually involves the usual Catwoman questions and appropriate gushing praise for a living legend.

She's always been polite to those amateurs who point a camcorder at her at a memorabilia show and say "This is going on YouTube" or "I have a Public Access TV Show!!!" 

What harm does it do? Not a lot. During the pandemic, "ZOOM BLAB" is pretty vital. For months, Stephen Colbert and the professionals have been training their cameras on themselves, and doing remote interviews with people. It beats re-runs. 

So here we have what looks like the West Hollywood version of Bill Maher, clutching a teddy bear and asking questions...make up your own scenario to explain Julie's expressions. Looks like a pretty hilarious Q&A -- well, the guy is certainly having the time of his life and he sure gets reactions! 

It does confirm that Julie is a fantastic mime, and could've been a huge star in silent films, a rival of Mabel Normand! 





 










Monday, August 10, 2020

BEN BLUE WAS JULIE NEWMAR'S MAIN SQUEEZE - LITERALLY

Julie and I are always looking for her "lost" TV shows.

Over the years, many have turned up, and (copyright permitting) some clips have been shared on YouTube. One item that may not exist anymore is from "ALL-STAR REVUE."

The early variety show struggled along for several seasons, never as successful as "The Colgate Comedy Hour" or the later "Show of Shows," both existing today thanks to kinescopes (16mm camera to TV screen) made as the live shows aired.

It was expensive to make kinescopes, but some stars were egomaniacs and some fans were archivists and we thank them for taking the time and spending the money! 

UNFORTUNATELY, few were intent on preserving "ALL-STAR REVUE," which was originally titled "FOUR STAR REVUE" after the four alternating hosts. By the third season, Ed Wynn was burned out, Danny Thomas was gone, and the two main hosts were Tallulah Bankhead alternating with George Jessel.

George hosted seven episodes. Tallulah hosted six. Turning up to host one show: Rosalind Russell, Perry Como, the Ritz Brothers, Olsen and Johnson, Bob Hope, Ben Blue and Dennis Day. Several second bananas turned up quite a few times, including Ben Blue. 

Mr. Blue was a slim, sad-faced guy who some thought of as a junior Buster Keaton. THIS guy:

He usually wasn't smiling, and neither was Julie Newmar after her scene with him.

Ben Blue hosted on March 28th 1953, but Julie recalls that George Jessel was the star of the episode that featured her in an uncredited comic dance number. It was April 18th 1953, the last show for the season, and the last appearance for Julie because "I had to be taped up after Ben Blue got his arms around me!"

Rib-tickler Ben turned out to be a rib-cracker. While hoisting Julie in the air for a comical dance moment, he accidentally did some serious damage to a few of her ribs. She completed her scene of course, but perhaps after that, she thought of her co-star as Ben Black And Blue.

Ben Blue did a lot of comical dance numbers when he guested on the "ALL-STAR REVUE," usually with a statuesque woman much taller than he. More desperate than amusing now, at the time, audiences howled at his wobbly-legged dancing and his gawping at the unattainable he was trying to impress. 

Viewers were tolerant in that naive age, and laughed at mime acts that involved dense dopes tripping over their feet, constantly dropping their hats or gloves, or repeatedly getting an arm caught in a coat sleeve. It was a slower-paced time when people didn't yell "GET ON WITH IT!" Those were the days when Mr. Hulot could take a holiday and people were impressed. 

While Keaton's comedy was witty and well-timed, vaudevillians like Ben Blue were obvious and goofy. His segments on "All Star Revue" didn't vary much as he performed the same schtick over and over. The tall blonde you see above could've had the same fate as Julie. Who knows, maybe instead of a broken rib she ended up with a stomped toe.

The two sequences above were from the February 14th 1953 episode hosted by Perry Como — one of only a half-dozen surviving episodes of the series. 

Still lost are scenes that somebody should've been recording off the flickery TV screen: a sketch featuring Martha Raye, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre...Tallulah doing a dramatic monologue as Nurse Edith Cavell and getting laughs with a Scarlett O'Hara parody on "Gone With the Wind..." young Johnny Carson in a doctor sketch...arias from Rise Stevens and "I'm Gonna Live Till I Die" from Connie Russell...so many other magic moments.

What we know about the missing episodes of "All Star Revue" comes mainly from the weekly reviews in the trade newspaper Variety. IMDB doesn't even list Julie's "All Star Revue" show because, like the two women above, most of the extras were "uncredited," and not mentioned by name in Variety reviews.

At the time, Julie was doing uncredited scenes in movies (including "The I Don't Care Girl" "Band Wagon" and "Farmer Takes a Wife" all released in 1953).  

It's long odds and a tall order that somebody will discover a kinescope of the show featuring short Ben and his tall dance partner Julie. Do we have hope? Hope, yes. When Bob hosted the show, he had the money and the ego to demand that somebody kinescope it for him. Also surviving, a shows hosted by Danny Thomas, The Ritz Brothers and Olsen and Johnson.

Fortunately Julie's first sitcom guest spot was on "The Phil Silvers Show," and it was filmed. Fans love that one, and she was the hit of the episode, and did get billing: Julie Newmeyer.

It was JULIE NEVMEN in YUGOSLAVIA

Ah! JULIE NEVMEN!!! 

So gasped the Yugoslavians when they went to see "Marriage-go-Round." Somehow James Mason's name was the only one that wasn't "translated." 


Monday, August 3, 2020

Auctioning off Julie Newmar #1

A little over $50 to get 5 negatives of Julie lounging in the grass...

Including...

Auctioning Off Julie Newmar #2

UP THE ANTE...

$102 for a strip of five negatives...

including...

Monday, July 27, 2020

Time Machine -- Brett Somers

Rememer this little moment?

Brett Somers on "The Match Game."

Saturday, July 25, 2020

THE DONALD vs THE CATWOMAN

You're right, Donald.

Far right, in fact.

On Facebook, Julie sometimes mentions some outrageous decision or statement from The Donald (as ex-wife Ivana called him). Usually she writes with a sigh or a good-natured quip since she has a great sense of humor.

Too bad the loonies and trolls on Facebook respond with insults, and can't curb their enthusiasm for being obnoxious.

Some can't wait to unload their bile. Recently Julie posted a reminder that photos are for sale on her website. Many respond happily, but that last one? The Trump troll?

Stars get hundreds and thousands of comments on Facebook and Twitter. They don't have the time to read all of it. They are given the highlights if they ask. That's why most of this stuff gets no response or comment. Few stars ever engage or provoke trolls.

Still, it's sad that people think their offensive behavior will be tolerated (there are ways of BLOCKING abuse). It's especially obnoxious when they use profanity or hurtful and highly-charged words.

"Libtard" is a favorite among Trump fans. They've seen Trump mimicking the handicapped, almost as often as he's spewed insults at people, mocked with name-calling, or responded to questions with rudeness.

"Libtard" combines Liberal and Retard. Retard is an antiquated word for someone with Down Syndrome, someone such as Julie's son.

Anyone who checks Julie's Facebook page has seen her loving pictures of John, so using the term is clearly meant with malice.

It's so ignorant of Trump's bottom-feeders to single out anyone who didn't vote for Trump when MORE THAN HALF THE COUNTRY didn't vote for him.

When Julie, or anyone offers an opinion or statement on their Facebook page, the key thing to remember is "THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE."

You're a guest on that page. Be polite. Is that too much to ask?

Perhaps it is, because fans of Donald are only aping his own insensitivity and un-Presidential behavior.

The reporter was Serge Kovaleski who often covered Trump. Trump would claim he never heard of the man, never saw him, and it was just a coincidence that he gestured the way he did. That claim of innocence has been debunked.

If the original post doesn't include profanity or troll-language, the response shouldn't either.

Oh, 1966. "Batman '66."

Simpler times.

The villains were cartoonish but pretty harmless.

Batman took care of jokers.

Catwoman? Don't even THINK about it, Mr. Trump...

Monday, July 20, 2020

Carl Reiner, Howard Morris...Nude Julie and a Bubbly Bathtub

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The passing of Carl Reiner led to many fond recollections of his work as both an actor, writer and director. His connection to Julie Newmar was casting her in an episode of “Good Heavens.” The show only lasted 13 episodes (February 1976-June 1976). He concept, not the most original, was Carl playing an angel granting wishes to suitable mortals.

So far no episodes seem to have turned up via “the usual suspects” in the bootleg world, but who knows, Netflix or some cable channel may re-discover it someday.

I met Carl several times, and he was just as you’ve seen him, a funny, mild-mannered, really nice guy.

He had humility. I was at the press screening for “All of Me.” The audience roared with laughter and applauded as the lights came up, but there was Carl Reiner, standing in the lobby, calling out as people were leaving: “How did you like it? How was it?”

One of the highlights on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” was the episode where Laura Petrie gets her toe stuck in the bathtub spout. It was, Carl said, inspired by a true-life incident. Is there anyone who hasn’t idly stuck their toe in the spout?

Carl said that what that show classic was because of what wasn’t seen: Mary Tyler Moore naked in that bathtub. Every plaintive cry from behind the locked door brought more and more laughs. It was all in the imagination of the audience, until the end when, covered thanks to husband Rob breaking down the door, the plumber could set her free.

Julie Newmar would take it further and longer via an 11 minute segment on “Love American Style.”

The director was Howard Morris, who had not only appeared in a memorable “Dick Van Dyke Show” episode himself (as an eccentric art expert) but had worked with Carl Reiner much earlier on “Your Show of Shows.”

Julie's a famous actress taking a bath before her wedding. She talks to the groom on the phone and idly...gets her toe stuck.

A wise comedy director knows better than to coach Julie Newmar. When you have a formidable living presence like Julie, you just let her be both the “straight” and the “comic.” She’s one of the very few who can get “reaction laughs,” just by facial expression. In this case, it was a collection of stares and glares as Charlie Callas played an inept plumber making odd noises and lapsing into Cary Grant and bird impressions while trying to figure out how to extricate a toe from a faucet. At first he's blindfolded and gets lots of laughs groping around the room and around Julie. He gets even more when he realizes what famous star is now in front of him and behind only bubbles.

It was an interesting comedy exercise; Julie and Charlie didn’t really work together. Director Morris had some two-shots (as you see above), but there were plenty of close-ups. The viewer saw Charlie’s heated excitement and the alternately cool reactions of Julie to his clowning and her cat-like howls of frustration over still being stuck in the tub.

Callas was a gifted clown. Like Jerry Lewis, some found him hard to take and undisciplined. I remember attending a Friars event with both Jerry Lewis and Charlie Callas among the guests. Those two naturally gravitated toward each other, like a mugging showdown. They drew their weapons: their faces, and “gurned” at each other, seeing who would break up first. It was a social situation, there were no video cameras or reporters around. This is something they did naturally.

It ended in a draw, when Howard Cosell came over to tell them that the banquet was starting. They both attacked him with oddball expressions till he helplessly laughed and turned away.

The big difference between Mary Tylor Moore’s bathtub scene and Julie’s, is that Julie was in front of the camera the whole time. You didn’t have to imagine her. As fantastic a comedy talent as Mary was, the laughs would’ve been ruined if she’d been in view. Laura Petrie in that kind of trouble is cringeworthy. Julie’s never played “mortified,” and her character here is a sophisticated actress. The longer the scene lasted, the better, with a few added twists (the groom arriving, and a cop played by always droll Richard Stahl) keeping the scene and the bathtub bubbles frothy. Props to the prop man who had to periodically stir up the suds and add more bubbles. (A tough job, but somebody had to do it…and do it…about two dozen times during the many hours it took to film the sequence).

The very first “stuck in a bathtub” scene involving a fabulous star was in “The 7 Year Itch.” Hangdog sap Tom Ewell frets over Marilyn Monroe needing a plumber’s helper. Another coincidence: Julie knew Marilyn. They were both at 20th Century Fox at the same time, and had a history of studying acting with the top teachers in New York. She discussed Marilyn briefly with my friend Norman Mailer on a classic episode of “The Mike Douglas Show.”

The scene in the movie is less than 30 seconds. As good as Marilyn was, and as much of a pro as Victor Moore was as the plumber, there was no way that scene could’ve been extended. Marilyn was way too vulnerable/sexual and old, doleful Victor could only get a few laughs over his embarrassment and lust. About 15 extra seconds were snipped out of the finished film: a moment where Victor Moore accidentally drops his wrench and has to fish it out of the tub. Did he accidentally touch Monroe in the wrong place while doing it? The way it was filmed just wasn’t funny, it was just…uncomfortable. With Callas in “Love American Style,” director Morris made sure that Charlie got the wrench in one hand and only Julie’s shapely leg in the other.

And so, only Julie Newmar is the memorable actress doing a comical bathtub scene involving a plumber trying to get her unstuck — in full view of the audience. Julie would appear in two more segments of “Love American Style” as well as in a segment of a pilot film (“Fools, Females and Fun”) that was intended to be a rival as a saucy short story collection. This one remains her favorite.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

A 50's or 60's PANDEMIC? "It could've happened!"

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It was predicted.

From the locusts of the Bible to the plagues of Europe mere mortals have worried about pandemics caused by nature-gone-nuts.

After the "Spanish Flu" (which sickened 500 million people and lasted from February 1918 to April 1920), the question was: "when will it happen again?" Albert Camus wrote "The Plague" in 1947.

"Panic in the Streets" (1950) was a film about a "pneumonic plague" spreading through a city.

Books and newspaper editorials cautioned "better hygiene" and "vegetarianism."

It may be a modest surprise that after SARS and EBOLA, this COVID-19 packed more of a wallop?

What would've happened if this thing happened a few decades earlier?

Perhaps one of Julie's movies would've been about the problem!

What if Dorcas or Katrin or Stupefyin' Jones had to be concerned about a lethal form of flu??

Maybe the script would've been Abbott & Costello silly ("When the flu flies, we must flee" - yes the actually did such a routine). We do need comedy to help cope with tragedy. Late night talk show hosts tell Covid jokes and we've all seen a variety of comical mask memes on social media.

How about a moment...where the citizens of Dogpatch, USA start acting SMART, and wear masks, and don't wait for 10,000 to be infected in one day!

A film might point out that if there's a paper shortage, ladies can make masks out of underwear or nightgowns...

And finally, a film might instruct sophisticated city people to stay safe!

Katrin: "What if, after the pandemic, we take off our masks and make a baby? A genius and a blonde get together to have the perfect child!"

Professor Delville: "Yes, but what if the child ended up a boy with blonde hair and no intelligence? What would happen?"

Katrin: "He might grow up to be Donald, the President of the United States!"