The Mr. Bill Show

I was a kid in the seventies and I would stay up and watch Saturday Night Live… Mr. Bill got my attention right away. The hapless Mr. Bill would live in fear of Mr. Hands and Sluggo.

The poor guy and his dog Spot were kicked, punched, buried, burned, stabbed, stepped on, and dropped from the Empire State Building. At school, there was a lot of Ohhhh Nooooo…when someone fell or got hurt.

Walter Williams invented Mr. Bill in 1973 and after SNL had a contest for anyone to submit home movies…Walter and Vance DeGeneres made the first film with an 8mm camera. Lorne liked Mr. Bill and it premiered in the first season…Walter wasn’t paid anything for them for a while but he kept sending them in and Lorne Michaels kept airing them.

Walter eventually was hired as a staff writer in the 4th and 5th season and wrote skits and for the Weekend Update. After the 5th season, he left the show with the original cast but did make a couple of more Mr. Bill’s for SNL that aired in 1981 to bring the total number to 24 Mr Bill Shows.

Mr. Bill’s popularity never completely waned and Walter Williams has made episodes for Fox TV and commercials for different products.

Vance DeGeneres originated “Mr Hands” and helped William film a few of the first films and later sued Williams for part ownership. The judge awarded DeGeneres some money but ruled that the basic idea was Willaims.

From Wiki…SNL Appearances

  1. February 28, 1976 (The Mr. Bill Holiday Special)
  2. October 16, 1976 (Mr. Bill Goes To A Party)
  3. January 22, 1977 (Mr. Bill Goes To A Magic Show)
  4. March 25, 1978 (Mr. Bill Goes To The Circus)
  5. April 8, 1978 (Mr. Bill Pays His Taxes)
  6. October 14, 1978 (Mr. Bill Goes To New York)
  7. October 21, 1978 (Mr. Bill Moves In)
  8. November 18, 1978 (Mr. Bill Goes Fishing)
  9. December 2, 1978 (Mr. Bill Is Late)
  10. January 27, 1979 (Mr. Bill Goes To Court)
  11. February 24, 1979 (Mr. Bill Shapes Up)
  12. March 17, 1979 (Mr. Bill Is Hiding)
  13. May 12, 1979 (Mr. Bill Runs Away)
  14. May 19, 1979 (Mr. Bill Goes To The Movies)
  15. May 26, 1979 (Mr. Bill Visits Saturday Night Live; cold open)
  16. October 13, 1979 (The All-New Mr. Bill Show)
  17. November 3, 1979 (Mr. Bill Stays Home)
  18. November 17, 1979 (Mr. Bill Builds A House)
  19. January 26, 1980 (Mr. Bill Gets Help)
  20. April 5, 1980 (Mr. Bill Strikes Back)
  21. May 10, 1980 (Mr. Bill Gets 20 Years In Sing Sing)
  22. December 20, 1980 (Mr. Bill’s Christmas Special)
  23. April 11, 1981 (cold open with Chevy Chase)
  24. October 17, 1981 (Mr. Bill Goes To L.A.; final appearance)

 

Interview with Walter Williams

http://www.mrbill.com/WWInterview.htm

 

The Marx Brothers – Horse Feathers

Next to Duck Soup…Horse Feathers (1932) is my favorite Marx Brother movie. Their five movies for Paramount are great. When they moved to MGM their movies had more of a plot but were diluted and tame in comparison with the Paramount films.

They were the kings of being irrelevant or irrelephant as Groucho would say.

There are some 1930’s references in the movie and many double entendres. With the Marx Brothers, you either get them or not. They are chaos and anarchy all rolled into one. They were anti-establishment before the term was popular. In the 1970s their popularity soared again when college students would wait in lines around theaters to see their films that were 40 years old at the time.

Harpo has some of his best visual gags in this movie. Chico or Chicko gets lost sometimes when talking about the brothers but he plays a big part in the act. Zeppo was regulated as the straight man and Groucho…is Groucho.

In Horse Feathers, Groucho plays college president, Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff. Groucho runs the school and chaos reigns. He finds out the college cannot support the football program. The professors are kissing up to Groucho (Wagstaff) because he is a President. Here is an exchange.

Wagstaff: This college is a failure. The trouble is, we’re neglecting football for education.

The Professors[in unison] Exactly, the professor is right.

Wagstaff: Oh, I’m right, am I? Well, I’m not right. I’m wrong. I just said that to test ya. Now I know where I’m at. I’m dealing with a couple of snakes. What I meant to say was that there’s too much football and not enough education

.The Professors: That’s what I think.

Wagstaff: Oh, you do, do you? Well, you’re wrong again. If there was a snake, you’d apologize. Where would this college be without football? Have we got a stadium?

The Professors: Yes.

Wagstaff: Have we got a college?

The Professors: Yes.

Wagstaff: Well, we can’t support both. Tomorrow we start tearing down the college.

This is the plot from Wiki…which for a Marx Brothers movie is not as important.

The film revolves around college football and a game between the fictional Darwin and Huxley Colleges.[a] Many of the jokes about the amateur status of collegiate football players and how eligibility rules are stretched by collegiate athletic departments remain remarkably current.[5]Groucho plays Quincy Adams Wagstaff, the new president of Huxley College, and Zeppo is his son Frank, a student at the school who convinces his father to recruit professional football players to help Huxley’s terrible football team. There are also many references to Prohibition. Baravelli (Chico) is an “iceman”, who delivers ice and bootleg liquor from a local speakeasy. Pinky (Harpo) is also an “iceman”, and a part-time dogcatcher. Through a series of misunderstandings, Baravelli and Pinky are accidentally recruited to play for Huxley instead of the actual professional players. This requires them to enroll as students, which creates chaos throughout the school.

The Cast

  • Groucho Marx – Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff
  • Harpo Marx – Pinky
  • Chico Marx – Baravelli
  • Zeppo Marx – Frank Wagstaff
  • Thelma Todd – Connie Bailey
  • David Landau – Jennings
  • Robert Greig – Biology professor Hornsvogel
  • Reginald Barlow – Retiring President
  • E. H. Calvert – Professor in Wagstaff’s office
  • Nat Pendleton – Darwin football player MacHardie
  • James Pierce – Darwin football player Mullen
  • Theresa Harris – Laura, Connie’s maid
  • Walter Brennan – Football commentator (uncredited)

Full Moon

I bought this book in the 1980s and in America was called “Full Moon” and in the UK it was called “Moon the Loon”. It was written by  Chris Trengove and Dougal Butler, Dougal was Keith’s personal assistant. Dougal doesn’t try to justify Moon’s actions, he just tells the stories that are now legendary.

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The book will have you physically burst out laughing at different parts of it. Keith left a trail of wrecked cars, wrecked drums, wrecked hotel rooms, wrecked nerves, wrecked bars, and many smiles.

Dougal doesn’t try to tell Moon’s life history. If you want Keith’s life get Dear Boy, a terrific and thorough bio on Keith by Tony Fletcher. Full Moon highlights the tales of Mr. Keith John Moon…Patent British Exploding Drummer. It is a very quick read at around 250 pages. The audio version is approximately 9 hours long.

Butler worked for Moon for ten years and was right there during much of the craziness.  He was behind the wheel of Moon’s AC Frua 428 as it flipped end-over-end through a field off Chertsey Lane after Moon decided to grab the shifter and downshift at around 120 mph.

The book also touches on Moon’s long-suffering wife Kim who endured all the craziness she could and finally leaves Keith. He had the ability or curse of not being able to be embarrassed…this a fun book to read. It was originally published in 1981. It was a collector’s item for a long time but it was republished in 2012.

The audiobook format is read by British actor Karl Howman, a friend of both Moon and Butler, who features in some of the book’s stories and is thus well familiar with the subject matter. Karl reads it in a cockney voice and it fits perfectly.

This book will not give you a history of The Who…just some great stories of my favorite drummer.

 

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A quick look at Gomer Pyle USMC and Frank Sutton

I watched a few episodes this weekend. The show has a local connection for me because of Frank Sutton.

The show ran from 1964 to 1969 and was a spinoff from The Andy Griffith Show. The character of Gomer Pyle was portrayed by Jim Nabors and he left The Andy Griffith Show in the 4th season in an episode entitled Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.

Gomer was a naive country boy from Mayberry North Carolina who joined the Marines and Andy went with him for the induction and helped the clueless Gomer get accepted. Frank Sutton played quick tempered Sgt Carter who would be tormented by Gomer Pyle for five seasons. I would watch the show as a kid and I thought Sgt Carter was mean to Gomer…as an adult I could understand if Carter would have choked him.

The show was a major hit. It never placed lower than 10 in the Neilson ratings. In 1969 Jim Nabors wanted out because he wanted to do a variety show. No one could understand why he wanted out of a hit show but he wanted to be in a program where he could sing, dance, and do different bits.

CBS offered Nabors a variety show so he was happy. They also offered Frank Sutton his own show Sergeant Carter–USMC. It would employ a black recruit who, unlike Gomer, would always be one step ahead of the Sergeant. It could have been a big hit but he turned it down because he felt like he did everything he could do with the character.

Sutton ended up co-starring with Nabors on his variety show and Sutton worked well in the comedy bits but was not a dancer or singer. CBS told Nabors he had to fire Sutton but Nabors refused and the show was canceled.

The local connection with Sutton is he was born in Clarksville Tennessee, a few miles from where I live. Sutton appeared in movies and shows from the 50s thru the 70s. The Twilight Zone, Have Gun Will Travel, Gunsmoke, Route 66 and many more.

He took acting in East Nashville High School and graduated in 1941.

After high school, Sutton returned to Clarksville to become a radio announcer. He enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II and served in the South Pacific, taking part in 14 assault landings. Sutton was a sergeant who served from 1943–1946 in the 293rd Joint Assault Signal Company. He was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart; he had been medically rejected by the Marine Corps.

Frank, a heavy smoker,  would only live to be 50. He would die of a heart attack in 1974 just a few months shy of his 51st birthday. In 2017 a statue of Frank Sutton was unveiled in Clarksville Tn. Here is a link to the story of the unveiling. Statue of Frank Sutton in Clarksville.

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This is an interview with Frank Sutton that was never published around the time of the variety show.

 

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Sutton

 

Charlie Chaplin – The Kid

This 1921 movie by Charlie Chaplin teamed him up with young Jackie Coogan. You may remember the adult Coogan as Uncle Fester on the Addams Family. It’s a great film with some classic scenes between Chaplin and Coogan. This was Chaplin’s first feature film. He was finishing up his First National contract as he co-founded United Artists with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith.

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The Jackie Coogan and Chaplin…Jackie Coogan as Uncle Fester

The story starts off with a woman (Edna Purviance) that abandons her baby in the back of an expensive car hoping that the owners will give her baby a life that she can not. The car is then stolen and the baby is left on the street. The Tramp (Chaplin) finds the baby and takes it home and raises him. Five years pass and he loves the kid and together they have a great scheme going on.

The kid goes around throwing rocks through windows and out of nowhere later on comes The Tramp who would just so happen to have glass and materials with him to fix the window for a price.

The authorities soon find out that the Tramp is not the kid’s father. While this is going on the mother who is doing really well now is looking for her child. The Tramp and Kid are pursued and in this film, Chaplin had some serious and tender moments combining comedy with pathos which at the time was a turning point. The movie was considered a masterpiece when it was released.

One scene that jumps out is the scene where social services are physically taking the child away and Chaplin fights…not comically but really fights to keep the Kid.

The film was written, directed, produced and starred… Charlie Chaplin. Edna Purviance makes her last appearance acting with Chaplin. She would be directed by him one more time in a drama as a leading lady. This movie kicked off Coogan’s very successful child acting career.

Jackie Coogan would become a star in the twenties. He earned 3-4 million dollars acting and when he turned 21 in 1935 he thought he was set for life only to find out the money was gone. His mother and step-father spent all of his money on furs, jewelry, and cars. His mom said that Jackie enjoyed himself acting and no promises were ever made to give him any of the money. Jackie sued his mom in 1938 and only received 125,000 dollars of his money.

Coogan had financial problems for a long while and even went to Chaplin for help which Chaplin gladly gave him money.

One good thing came out of it. The “Coogan Act” which made parents set aside at least 15 percent of their child’s earnings to a trust fund.

If you get a chance this is a great short entertaining movie.

 

 

This is Spinal Tap

I remember seeing this movie with some buddies in the 1980s and we all loved it. A great mockumentary of the fictional rock group Spinal Tap and their dying drummers. There are many quotable lines in this movie and they have stayed with me since I saw it the first time. I’ve met some people who didn’t get this movie at all and some who loved it.

The movie starred Michael McKeon as singer/guitarist David Saint Hubbins, Christopher Guest as guitarist Nigel Tufnel (reminded me of Jeff Beck), Harry Shearer as bassist Derek Smalls, Tony Hendra as manager Ian Faith, David Kaff as keyboard player Vic Savage and R.J. Parnell as drummer Mick Shrimpton…also Rob Reiner as the Marty DiBergi the filmmaker.

Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, and Christopher Guest actually wrote, played, and sang the music.

The movie was released in 1984 and started slow but built a cult following. At first, some people thought it was about a real band and they would ask Reiner why he would do a documentary on a band no one had heard of.

Christopher Guest said he was inspired at an LA hotel in 1974 when a British band came in and the manager of the band asked the bass player if he left his bass at the airport. The bass player replied I don’t know if I left it…did I leave it? Do you get my bass at the airport? Guest said this went on for 20 minutes back and forth and it stuck with him.

They did have a basic story but the movie was ad-libbed with no script. They had over 100 hours of film and had to edit it down. They have regrouped many times and played live concerts as Spinal Tap.

This Is Spinal Tap was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry because it is a film that is considered “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress.

My favorite bits? Stonehenge, Nigel’s “Mach” piece, these go to 11, Nigel’s bread, you can’t dust vomit… there are too many to name them all. check the videos out at the bottom.

 

Some of it hits home according to some rock stars.

Quotes about the movie

The Edge – “It’s so hard to keep things fresh, and not to become a parody of yourself,”. “And if you’ve ever seen that movie Spinal Tap, you will know how easy it is to parody what we all do. The first time I ever saw it, I didn’t laugh. I wept. I wept because I recognized so much and so many of those scenes.”

Ozzy Osbourne reportedly thought it was a real documentary. ” “They seemed quite tame compared to what we got up to”

Joe Perry from Aerosmith –  “It was great, every bit as brilliant as it was supposed to be, so good. Even then, we had been through it all six times. I told Steven the next day, ‘You’ve got to see this movie! It’s so good. It’s hilarious.’”

Steven Tyler from Aerosmith – “That movie bummed me out, because I thought, ‘How dare they? That’s all real, and they’re mocking it’

Pete Townsend –  “Keith Moon “was ‘Spinal Tap incarnate.”

Stonehenge

 

These go to 11

 

Nigel’s Bread

 

Can’t dust vomit

 

Trailer

 

 

 

A Look at The Andy Griffith Show

There has been so much written about this show and the writing will never stop. It was a show about the quirky citizens in a fictional town called Mayberry. The Andy Griffith Show is not just another show. The series will be around long after we are gone and still being discovered by future generations.

Some of the love I have for the show is about escapism. The low pressure of living in Mayberry where you are allowed to live slow and friends are only a few miles away. Nowadays our lives are so full of technology and rush that it would be tempting to walk through the screen.

Mayberry was based on a small North Carolina town called Mount Airey where Andy grew up. Griffith has also said that although the show was in the sixties, Mayberry had a 1930s-1940s feel to it.

Andy Griffith and Don Knotts were a great comedy team. I wish they would have made a few movies together. Knotts wanted to do that but Griffith always backed away from it. You can put them up there with other great comedy teams. Andy was a great straight man and Don played off of him so well.

I’ve seen parents play episodes to their kids for lessons, schools play episodes for students and heard of preachers writing sermons around episodes. The humor wasn’t dirty but it wasn’t sterile either. Most if not all of the first 5 season episodes are classics.

The show offered a little of everything… One of the things I liked was the bluegrass music of The Dillards who appeared on the show as the Darlings. Denver Pyle played Briscoe Darling Jr. and played the jug with the Dillards.

Seasons 1-5 were in Black and White with Don Knotts as Barney Fife. Don’s last season was the 5th season and seasons 6-8 were in color.  I have all of the Griffith Show episodes but I will admit…I don’t really watch the color episodes as much as the black and white ones. Yes, there are some good later episodes but it’s Andy. He walks around Mayberry like he is owed money. Andy later admitted on many of the later episodes he was going through the motions.

He started to get a little tenser on screen in the 5th season but Barney was still there and kept things light. In the 6th season with Barney gone, Andy acted impatient with his fellow odd citizens where at one time he enjoyed them.

It was one of the most successful television shows ever. The Series went out on top and had a successful spinoff called Mayberry RFD.

In the early 70s Mayberry RFD and other shows such as  The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, Mister Ed, Lassie, Petticoat Junction, and Hee Haw were canceled because of the rural purge the network did… everything that had a tree got canceled it seemed.

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