Alias Smith and Jones

This television show only last three seasons from 1971-1973 and from reading the reviews of the day it attracted young viewers because of the young male leads Pete Duel and Ben Murphy. It’s a western comedy about two reformed non-violent bank robbers who are trying to go straight.

The Governor has promised them amnesty if they stay out of trouble for a while but no one can know so, they are still wanted. The episodes are humorous and different from the two big westerns at the time…Gunsmoke and Bonanza. The episodes tended to be uneven though but overall it was a good show.

Pete Duel was going through problems in his life at the time. During the first season, he was driving drunk and pulled into the path of an oncoming car. Two people were injured and one hospitalized. This would haunt him till his death and he would fight a drinking problem to the end.

Pete and Ben are in about every shot of the series. They both worked 12-14 hour days 6-7 days a week. Pete was never happy with the show. He was restless and wanted to do different things. When the second season started he was put on 2-year probation for the accident and lost his drivers license.

One quote from him around this time about being in a TV series was “It’s a big fat drag to any actor with interest in his work. It’s the ultimate trap.” He was very environmentally conscious and often spoke out on issues like pollution.

After being driven home from the set on December 30, 1971, he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the early hours of December 31, 1971.

The show continued on with Roger Davis taking over Duel’s character in the series. It lasted only 17 episodes after Duel’s departure.

This is from Wikipedia… it’s a sad commentary

Upon learning of Duel’s death, executive producer Jo Swerling, Jr., initially wanted to end the series, but ABC refused.  Swerling later stated:

ABC said, “No way!” They said, “You have a contract to deliver this show to us, and you will continue to deliver the show as best you can on schedule or we will sue you.” Hearing those words, Universal didn’t hesitate for a second to instruct us to stay in production. We were already a little bit behind the eight ball on airdates. So, we contacted everybody, including Ben (Murphy), and told them to come back in. The entire company was reassembled and back in production by one o’clock that day shooting scenes that did not involve Peter — only 12 hours after his death.

The Intro

Narrator: Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry – the two most successful outlaws in the history of the West. And in all the trains and banks they robbed, they never shot anyone. This made our two latter-day Robin Hoods very popular – with everyone but the railroads and the banks.

Jed ‘Kid’ Curry: There’s one we thing we gotta get, Heyes.

Hannibal Heyes: What’s that?

Jed ‘Kid’ Curry: Out of this business!

Sheriff Lom Trevors: The governor can’t come flat out and give you amnesty now. First you have to prove you deserve it.

Hannibal Heyes: Ah. So all we have to do is just stay out of trouble till the governor figures we deserve amnesty.

Jed ‘Kid’ Curry: But in the mean time, we’ll still be wanted.

Sheriff Lom Trevors: Well, that’s true. Till then only you, me and the Governor will know about it. It’ll be our little secret.

Hannibal Heyes: That’s a good deal?

Jed ‘Kid’ Curry: I sure wish the governor’d let a few more people in on our secret!

Raised Eyebrows: My Years Inside Groucho’s House

Steve Stoliar wrote this book about being a student at UCLA and working at Groucho Marx’s house starting in 1974. This book is not about the peak years of The Marx Brothers or Groucho…just the opposite. It’s the decline of Groucho Marx’s health and his eventual death.

Steve was in UCLA heading up a petition to get “Animal Crackers” released again to theaters for which he was successful. The Marx Brothers popularity was on the rise again. Groucho traveled to the campus to help out. Groucho’s PA Erin Fleming eventually hired Steve as a secretary and archivist. Steve worked in Groucho’s house for a little over 3 years. He was a huge fan not only of Groucho but of old Hollywood.

The number of famous people that passed through Groucho’s house was incredible. Old Hollywood stars and also new ones at the time. Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Bud Cort (Harold and Maude), Alice Cooper, Dick Cavett, Woody Allen, Mae West, Queen (they are not in the book though), and many writers from the early days of motion pictures.

The sad part of this story is Erin Flemming (no relation to Harpo’ wife Susan Flemming). She was mentally unstable and both helped Groucho and hurt him. She would scream, berate, and push Groucho to make appearances he had no business doing in his condition. She convinced Groucho that his kids were terrible and she actually tried to get him to adopt her as his daughter. She would fire people for any reason and be very unpredictable.

After Groucho passed on it took years before the court case between Erin and Groucho’s son Arthur Marx to settle. Erin ended up losing and she was in and out of mental hospitals and wandering the LA streets for the rest of her life.

Steve slowly builds a friendship with Groucho and many of the celebrities that passed through the house. Steve didn’t seem to embellish anything in the book. There is only a couple of celebrities he said anything bad about. One was Barbara Streisand.

As a matter of fact, there’s really only one time that I can recall being officially snubbed at Groucho’s house. It was when Elliott Gould arranged for his ex-wife, Barbra Streisand, to come with him one Sunday afternoon along with their young son, Jason. Streisand never made eye contact with me the whole time she was there nor acknowledged my presence in the room even when I was speaking. It was as though I didn’t exist. Others spoke to me and Streisand made comments to the people around me, but to her I was, apparently, invisible.

Groucho had a number of mini-strokes and year by year he worsened. He would have good days and bad ones but he never lost his wit.

Steve was/is a true fan. He relished working there with his hero. Imagine being nineteen years old and working for a celebrity you really admire.

Groucho’s health was fine until around 1972 and he had his first stroke. That is when he started to really age. In the early seventies, he would appear on talk shows with his quick wit and singing songs. After the stroke, you could tell a difference.

Steve was there until the very end and ended up as a television writer and a cartoon voiceover actor.

This is a very interesting book. I will say again that Steve is about a fair as you can get retelling stories. Groucho’s daughters would go on to say that he was very truthful. Some say he was too easy on Erin and some said he was too hard on her… I would say it’s only for Groucho fans but you get a lot of Marx Brothers stories and some information about old Hollywood.

Steve and Groucho

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Rob Zombie wants to make a movie out of this book. That kind of takes me by surprise…not that a movie could be made…but that Rob Zombie wants to do it.

https://1428elm.com/2018/06/16/waiting-for-groucho-marxs-raised-eyebrows-from-rob-zombie/

As it just so happens, in an interview Zombie mentioned that his favorite book was Raised Eyebrows written by Groucho’s former assistant, Steve Stoliar. It details the last years of the comedian’s life through Stoliar’s eyes.

SteveZombie2.jpg

 

 

Harpo Speaks

I have mentioned this book before but not in detail. It is my favorite autobiography I’ve ever read. He starts off in his childhood in the late 1800s and ends up in the 1960s. I have read this book at least 7-10 times. It’s always my traveling companion on trips just in case I need something else to read. I’ve read books by and about Groucho and others written about the Marx Brothers but this book that Harpo and Rowland Barber wrote tops them all. He doesn’t go through all of the movies by detail but he packed so much living in his life that his life was full enough without much info about the movies.

He was always himself no matter what. The Brothers never would conform to anyone’s standards. He was counterculture before counterculture. Harpo jumped out of the window in 2nd grade and never came back but ended up hanging out with some of the best-known intellectuals of the 20th century and was a member of the Algonquin Round Table but yet he could hardly spell. He frequently stayed at William Randolph Hearst’s super-estate San Simeon. He called himself a professional listener…the only one of the bunch.

He taught himself the harp and played with an unorthodox style. Professional harp players would ask him to show them how he played some of the things he did…

Harpo was a good friend of Alexander Woolcott and Wolcott would invite Harpo and a select few to Neshobe Island in Lake Bomoseen in Vermont that Woolcott owned for the summers to play games and hang out every day. Harpo could make life interesting in the dullest of surroundings. He was friends with Robert Benchley, Salvador Dali, Dorothy Parker, Charles MacArthur, Alice Duer Miller, George Bernard Shaw,  Beatrice Kaufman, and Ruth Gordon.

Wolcott also arranged for Harpo to tour Russia in the 1930s. Harpo actually did a bit of Spy work for the American government at the time…transporting some papers on his leg out of Russia to America.

If you read this just to read about the Marx Brothers movie career…don’t…if you want to know what they went through to get where they did…then yes read it. This book tells what old-time Vaudeville was really like. Not a romantic version of it by some old timers that told their story after they retired. Awful boarding houses, spoiled food, and harassment by promoters.

He never seemed to age in spirit. He kept up with new things and was not stuck in the past.

His son Bill Marx wrote a book later on about his life with Harpo. When the Beatles came out Bill…who studied jazz and played piano, hated them. Harpo told him in 1964 that he better start liking them because their songs would last through time. He said this in 1964 before the Beatles matured. The guy had been around George Gershwin, Oscar Levant, and Irving Berlin. Bill said in 1970 he was playing piano in a club somewhere and what was he playing? Let It Be… “Dad was right.”

Harpo married Susan Flemming when he was 48 in 1936. George Burns asked him in 1948 how many children did he want to adopt? Harpo said “I’d like to adopt as many children as I have windows in my house. So when I leave for work, I want a kid in every window, waving goodbye.”

Harpo was known to wake one of his children up in the middle of the night if he worked late just to play games with them.

They ended up adopting 4 children…below was the house rules for the kids…

  1. Life has been created for you to enjoy, but you won’t enjoy it unless you pay for it with some good, hard work. This is one price that will never be marked down.
  2. You can work at whatever you want to as long as you do it as well as you can and clean up afterwards and you’re at the table at mealtime and in bed at bedtime.
  3. Respect what the others do. Respect Dad’s harp, Mom’s paints, Billy’s piano, Alex’s set of tools, Jimmy’s designs, and Minnie’s menagerie.
  4. If anything makes you sore, come out with it. Maybe the rest of us are itching for a fight, too.
  5. If anything strikes you as funny, out with that, too. Let’s all the rest of us have a laugh.
  6. If you have an impulse to do something that you’re not sure is right, go ahead and do it. Take a chance. Chances are, if you don’t you’ll regret it – unless you break the rules about mealtime and bedtime, in which case you’ll sure as hell regret it.
  7. If it’s a question of whether to do what’s fun or what is supposed to be good for you, and nobody is hurt whichever you do, always do what’s fun.
  8. If things get too much for you and you feel the whole world’s against you, go stand on your head. If you can think of anything crazier to do, do it.
  9. Don’t worry about what other people think. The only person in the world important enough to conform to is yourself.
  10. Anybody who mistreats a pet or breaks a pool cue is docked a months pay.

 

If you are looking for an autobiography…get this book.

Here is a small portion of Chapter 1 of Harpo Speaks!

I’ve played piano in a whorehouse. I’ve smuggled secret papers out of Russia. I’ve spent an evening on the divan with Peggy Hopkins Joyce. I’ve taught a gangster mob how to play Pinchie Winchie. I’ve played croquet with Herbert Bayard Swope while he kept Governor Al Smith waiting on the phone. I’ve gambled with Nick the Greek, sat on the floor with Greta Carbo, sparred with Benny Leonard, horsed around with the Prince of Wales, played Ping-pong with George Gershwin. George Bernard Shaw has asked me for advice. Oscar Levant has played private concerts for me at a buck a throw. I have golfed with Ben Hogan and Sam Snead. I’ve basked on the Riviera with Somerset Maugham and Elsa Maxwell. I’ve been thrown out of the casino at Monte Carlo.
Flush with triumph at the poker table, I’ve challenged Alexander Woollcott to anagrams and Alice Duer Miller to a spelling match. I’ve given lessons to some of the world’s greatest musicians. I’ve been a member of the two most famous Round Tables since the days of King Arthur—sitting with the finest creative minds of the 1920’s at the Algonquin in New York, and with Hollywood’s sharpest professional wits at the Hillcrest.
(Later in the book, some of these activities don’t seem quite so impressive when I tell the full story. Like what I was doing on the divan with Peggy Hopkins Joyce. I was reading the funnies to her.)
The truth is, I had no business doing any of these things. I couldn’t read a note of music. I never finished the second grade. But I was having too much fun to recognize myself as an ignorant upstart.
 
 I can’t remember ever having a bad meal. I’ve eaten in William Randolph Hearst’s baronial dining room at San Simeon, at Voisin’s and the Colony, and the finest restaurants in Paris. But the eating place I remember best, out of the days when I was chronically half starved, is a joint that was called Max’s Busy Bee. At the Busy Bee, a salmon sandwich on rye cost three cents per square foot, and for four cents more you could buy a strawberry shortcake smothered with whipped cream and a glass of lemonade. But the absolutely most delicious food I ever ate was prepared by the most inspired chef I ever knew—my father. My father had to be inspired because he had so little to work with.
I can’t remember ever having a poor night’s sleep. I’ve slept in villas at Cannes and Antibes, at Alexander Woollcott’s island hideaway in Vermont, at the mansions of the Vanderbilts and Otto H. Kahn and in the Gloversville, New York, jail. I’ve slept on pool tables, dressing-room tables, piano tops, bathhouse benches, in rag baskets and harp cases, and four abreast in upper berths. I have known the supreme luxury of snoozing in the July sun, on the lawn, while the string of a flying kite tickled the bottom of my feet.

I can’t remember ever seeing a bad show. I’ve seen everything from Coney Island vaudeville to the Art Theatre in Moscow. If I’m trapped in a theatre and a show starts disappointingly, I have a handy way to avoid watching it. I fall asleep.
My only addictions—and I’ve outgrown them all—have been to pocket billiards, croquet, poker, bridge and black jelly beans. I haven’t smoked for twenty years.

The only woman I’ve ever been in love with is still married to me.

My only Alcohol Problem is that I don’t particularly care for the stuff.

Duel

Duel was a TV movie that came out in 1971.

Steven Spielberg’s first full-length movie. It came out as a TV movie in the US but after some scenes were added it was released in theaters in Europe and Australia. It starred Dennis Weaver.

This movie was much better than your regular TV movie. Dennis Weaver was superb in it. Another star was the Truck itself. It had its own personality. This is one of the best TV movies ever made.

Steven Speilberg told Dennis Weaver at one time that he watches this movie at least twice a year to see what he did as far as techniques.

The story is simple but effective. It still works today.

It’s about a man who is driving to a business meeting and part of his journey is through the desert. He starts being followed by an ugly as hell diesel Peterbilt truck. The truck starts passing Weaver and then starts bumping him later on. The suspense in this movie is great. You cannot see the truck driver but he has plates from all over the US that makes you think he picks random people out and starts harassing them.

The movie reminds you of a Hitchcock film. The suspense builds and builds and you feel Dennis Weaver’s fear.

Weaver is run off the road by the truck and he sees a diner.

Weaver’s character stops at a diner and phones his wife about a fight they had the night before… He gets off the phone and thinks he finds the truck driver that’s been targeting him for miles inside the cafe…

If you like suspense movies the movie is worth a watch.

 

You Can’t Take It With You 1938

I first watched this movie in the 90’s and I still watch it from time to time. Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur had great chemistry on screen. The following year they would be in “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington”…another great movie. Capra wanted Jean Arthur in It’s a Wonderful Life but she was committed to a Broadway show.

This movie is about a rich man named Tony Kirby (Jimmy Stewart) who is working reluctantly for his ruthless banker dad. He falls in love with his stenographer Alice (Jean Arthur). The father doesn’t really care but his mother is outraged that he would love someone beneath him. This part of the story you have seen before but it’s when the great Lionel Barrymore who plays Alice’s grandfather Martin Vanderhof enters the movie gets going.

Martin and his family do exactly what they want, his daughter Penny received a typewriter in the mail by mistake and thinks she is a novelist, Alice’s sister dances everytime music is played and a basement full of unemployed older gentlemen who like to invent things…especially firecrackers… It’s a crazy household but they live life and are not bothered by a thing.

This is the opposite of the Kirby family who is uptight, overwhelmed and disgusted by this family…except Tony of course.

The movie is full of off the wall humor and Alice’s family is great. Anyone that comes to the house wants to stay…and sometimes does. The grandfather goes out and finds one person (Mr. Poppins) who invents things but works at a terrible job and Martin invites him to live at the house with his family to be…”a lily of the field” and quit his dreadful job.

Here are some quotes from the meeting

Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff: How would you like to come over to our house and work on your gadgets?

Poppins: Your house? Well I don’t know, thank you.

Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff: Oh go on, you’ll love it. Everybody at over at our place does just what he wants to do.

Poppins: Really?

Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff: Mmm-hmmmm.

Poppins: That must be wonderful. But how would I live?

Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff: The same way we do.

Poppins: The same way? Well, who takes care of you?

Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff: The same One that takes care of the lilies of the field, Mr. Poppins, except that we toil a little, spin a little, have a barrel of fun. If you want to, come on over and become a lily too.

This is a screwball comedy and a good one. Lionel Barrymore is magnificent in this. Just a few years later he would play mean Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life.

This movie was directed by Frank Capra. Some critics in his day called him “Capra-corn” because of the optimism he showed for the everyday man. I think he was a great director. This is one of his best movies.

It’s a very good movie…any movie with Jimmy Stewart can’t be bad. The comedy holds up today. After the movie, you will want to be a lily of the field.

This movie is based off a play written by the great George Kauffman and Moss Hart.

Logan’s Run

1970’s futuristic sci-fi movie. That’s all it takes for me to watch.

Sometime in the 23rd century… the survivors of war, overpopulation, and pollution are living in a great domed city, sealed away from the forgotten world outside. Here, in an ecologically balanced world, mankind lives only for pleasure, freed by the servo-mechanisms which provide everything. There’s just one catch: Life must end at thirty unless reborn in the fiery ritual of Carousel.

And so begins this movie from 1976.

A future society living in a dome and everything is run by a computer. Everyone is under 30 because when you turn 30 you are killed in the Carousel ceremony. Logan and Jessica try to escape and after nearly being killed, they find an old man outside the dome who tells them how life used to be many years ago. it’s a bit more complicated than that but a good sci-fi movie to watch.

The Cast is Micheal York, Jenny Agutter, Richard Jordan, Roscoe Lee Browne (Voice only), Peter Ustinov and a brief appearance by Farrah Fawcett.

Peter Ustinov is great in this movie as the old man… He keeps this movie grounded and he is my favorite character in the movie.

I like the special effects for its time period. You can tell it was made in the disco era and this was pre-Star Wars. Some of the set looks huge and they mix them with miniatures. I wish I could have a room like Logan’s.

Jenny Agutter is beautiful in this movie and there is a small appearance by Farrah Fawcett.

I’m very surprised that there hasn’t been a remake since everything else has been remade to death.

Roger Ebert’s review in 1976

“Logan’s Run” is a vast, silly extravaganza that delivers a certain amount of fun, once it stops taking itself seriously. That happens about an hour into the film, but even the first half isn’t bad if you’re a fan (as I am) of special effects and cities of the future and ray guns and monorails whizzing overhead. The movie was made on a very large budget – the figure $9 million has been whispered about Hollywood – and it looks it. “2001” it’s not, but it has class. The plot is fairly routine stuff, by science-fiction standards; It seems to be a cross between Arthur C. Clarke’s “The City and the Stars” and elements of “Planet of the Apes” (1968). It’s about another one of those monolithic, self-perpetuating domed cities we’re all scheduled to start living in 300 or 400 years hence. 

People wear the regulation futurist leotards and miniskirts, and glide around enormous interior spaces that look like modern buildings in Texas (these scenes were shot on location in modern buildings in Texas). They don’t seem to eat anything, although they drink stuff that’s apparently nutritious, and when they feel like sex they just plug themselves into a cross between a teleporter and a computer dating service and materialize in each other’s bedrooms. 

The only catch in this idyllic existence is that nobody’s allowed to live more than 30 years. On the appointed last day, they ascend heavenward in a “carousel” that incinerates them while their friends applaud. In theory, if you get to the top of the carousel without being zapped, you can continue to live. But there are no old people in the city . . . 

Our hero is Logan, played by Michael York with a certain intelligence (meditate on how some of his dialog would sound coming from anyone else and you’ll see what I mean). He’s a “sandman,” assigned to intercept “runners” who attempt to escape their society. Most people start to run just as they’re approaching their 30th birthdays – Logan’s world is just like ours. One day, after being double-crossed by the computer-mind of the city, Logan runs, too. And the beautiful Jessica (Jenny Agutter) runs with him. 

It’s here that the movie gets to be fun. Logan and Jessica float through an irrigation system, are trapped on an elevator, get into fights with other sandmen (during which we reflect that everyone’s death rays are terribly inefficient), walk through an ice tunnel populated by Roscoe Lee Brown playing a computerized Tin Man and finally emerge into a largely abandoned Washington, DC. This flight is not unaccompanied by laughter on our part. The audience seemed to laugh a lot, indeed, but it was mostly tolerant laughter. Maybe the moviemakers themselves even knew some scenes would be funny, as when, Jessica and Logan, dripping wet in the ice tunnel, get out of their wet clothes and into some dry animal skins and then immediately, inexplicably, put their wet clothes back on again. There are the obligatory shots of the man and woman confronting the brave new world with their arms about each other, and then a truly marvelous confrontation with the lone survivor of Washington (played by Peter Ustinov with a twinkle in his eye and, I swear, in his voice, his beard and his toes as well). After a knockdown fight borrowed from old Westerns, the movie’s ending is unabashed cornball utopian. But “Logan’s Run” has wit enough to work on such a level; even while we’re chuckling at such an audacious use of cliche, we’re having fun.

 

 

Adam 12

I watched this in syndication in the mid-seventies. I never thought much of it at the time. When I started to watch it as an adult I was surprised at how good this show was. I couldn’t believe how realistic it was for that time. They covered subjects like child pornography, drug addiction, and everything else criminally related.

It was on 7 seasons from 1968 through 1975.

Sometimes as an adult and you watch shows or movies you did as a kid you think wow…how did I like this? Now I’m thinking why didn’t I like it more?

The show starred Martin Milner as Officer Pete Malloy and Kent McCord as Officer Jim Reed. The show was created by Jack Webb and Robert Cinader. The pair also created a spinoff from Adam-12…Emergency. Jack Webb also created Dragnet.

They wanted to capture a typical day in the life of a police officer. There was no Dirty Harry on this force. These officers went by the book even if it would have benefitted them at times not to.

Some of the guest stars were… Tony Dow, Willie Aimes, Ed Begley Jr, Karen Black, David Cassidy, Micky Dolenz, Tim Matheson, Ozzie Nelson and many others. It was odd seeing Robert Donner…who played Yancy Tucker on The Waltons a few years later…playing a heroin addict-informant.

The episodes were written around actual police cases to add some realism. The showed all that the censors would allow.

Reed is happily married and Malloy is the happy bachelor. The interplay seems natural and not forced. The one big thing I like about the show is the continuity from beginning to end. You see a raw rookie in Jim Reed and Malloy slowing training him up and eventually both becoming friends as seasons past by.