Friday, November 17, 2017

Top 100 Classic Radio Shows

Don't you love it when you come home to find yourself tripping over a package delivered by UPS? This is exactly what happened to me last week and, discovering the box weighs a ton, carried it into the house to discover what was inside. Complimentary copies of the first of three books to be published this winter. Unlike the two reference guides published later this year, this one is a lavish hardcover coffee table book. Titled The Top 100 Classic Radio Shows, the book is a product of our fascination with the era that intrigued, educated and entertained listeners in equal measure. Through archives, personal interviews, and papers of those involved with programming during the golden age of radio, this book is the culmination of three decades of hard work, long road trips, thousands of hours of scanning photographs, and licensing recordings of the vintage radio broadcasts.

My co-author, Carl Amari, is the radio host of Hollywood 360, a weekly four-hour program focused on delivering the best of old-time radio programs, with trivia interlaced in between. Every Monday a new four-hour program is posted on the site and you can become a faithful weekly listener by visiting the link below.


Choosing what would specifically be considered the 100 greatest was not easy. Radio personalities Ed Wynn and Kate Smith were not included because their influence was more historical than entertainment. Few recordings exist from those two personalities, thus it was decided to cover only the programs that recordings commonly circulate among collectors.

From Amos n' Andy, Jack Benny, Little Orphan Annie, Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy and The Lone Ranger, this book serves as a primer for anyone wanting to learn the basics of Old-Time Radio 101, and various bits of trivia sprinkled on every page to serve as Old-Time Radio 102. The graphic layout is spectacular, easy on the eyes, and includes three bonus audio CDs in the inside back cover.

I was shocked to discover that a book this lavish, slick and glossy, full color and 224 large-sized pages is retailing $29.95. One would expect a retail price of $59.95. At least, that is what I usually pay for books produced in this same manner. It is now available on Amazon.com for a discount price.

Friday, November 10, 2017

For Sale: The Original Robby the Robot

Robby the Robot is back in the news again. He made his debut in the 1956 classic, Forbidden Planet, designed by a talented group of individuals at the MGM prop department, a radical advance from the walking tin cans that appeared in such films prior as The Phantom Empire and... well, name a movie that pre-dates Forbidden Planet and you know what I am talking about. He's become an iconic symbol for fans of classic science-fiction films, marketed as wind-up toys and figurines multiple times, and the costume was reused multiple times on other productions. And Robby is up for sale.

Robby was cool. He cost $125,000 to be made (equivalent of more than $1 million by today's inflation), considered themes expensive movie prop made up to that time, and was worth every penny. He looked like a million bucks. The diorama used as a backdrop of Altair IV looked cheap compared to Robby, who overshadowed the cast (with respect to Leslie Nielsen and Anne Francis) upon his first entry in Forbidden Planet. It was not until Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey that the bar was raised with science-fiction production. (Some might debate that Gort in The Day the Earth Stood Still was equally cool, and I won't dispute that.) 

Because Robby remained a prop on the MGM lot, he was recycled for use on numerous movies and television productions, from The Invisible Boy (1957), four episodes of The Twilight Zone, The Addams Family, My Little Margie, The Thin Man, Morky and Mindy, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.The Love Boat, Wonder WomanThe Monkees, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Hazel, Lost in Space and Columbo. Robby makes a brief appearance either in tribute or as a spoof in such films as Heavy Metal (1981), Gremlins (1984), The Big Bang Theory, The Simpsons, and in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

So it might come as a surprise that a recent auction at Bonhams will offer Robby the Robot to the highest bidder. In conjunction with Turner Classic Movies, the annual auction of movie memorabilia, props and costumes usually contains half a dozen eye-brow raisers. Among the items this year is a trench coat worn by Peter Falk on Columbo. 

Robby was on display behind glass as the 2006 San Diego Comic Con and had I known about that beforehand, I would have flown out there just to have my photo taken with the iconic movie prop. My only hope is that Robby will be purchased by someone who can put him on display at a museum for fanboys like myself to pay a visit.

The auction house offers an online catalog for curiosity seekers and potential bidders, with descriptions of the items. (I often read the descriptions for those occasional bits of trivia, which I find fascinating.) The link below offers a direct view of Robby the Robot as promoted on Bonham's website. 

The Bonhams auction will be held November 21. If you cannot wait to see what the gavel price will go for, check out Julien's November 17 auction when an x-ray of Marilyn Monroe's pelvis and Evil Kinevel's motorcycle goes up for sale.



Friday, November 3, 2017

The Passing of Lois Laurel and Joan Winwill

In reading the latest issue of Bob King's Classic Images magazine, I was reminded that no matter how many newsgroups, Facebook groups and digital newsletters I subscribe to, there is always something news-related that fell below the radar. Proving that subscribing to hardcopy magazines in a digital age is still worthwhile. Case in point the mention of the passing of two women with minor acting careers.

Lois Laurel with her father, Stan Laurel
Lois Laurel, the only daughter of comedian Stan Laurel, died after a long illness in a Mission Hills, California, hospital on July 28, 2017. Her father was half of a legendary comic team of Laurel and Hardy. Her mother was actress Lois Neilson, the first of the comedian's four wives. She appeared in uncredited roles in several of their comedy shorts, The Chimp (1932), Swiss Miss (1938) and The Bullfighters (1945). She was married to actor Rand Brooks, who plays supporting roles in numerous movies including Scarlet O'Hara's first husband in Gone With the Wind (1939), and Lucky Jenkins in a number of Hopalong Cassidy movies. 

Among her favorite stories to relate was the day she received a phone call from a journalist who asked her if she was "the daughter of Laurel and Hardy." For those familiar with Stan Laurel's appearance on This is Your Life, Lois was among the guests on that telecast. You can watch that loving tribute through the link below and Lois appears at the 23:45 minute mark.


Lois Laurel was 89.

Joan Winmill Brown
Joan Winmill Brown passed away at the age of 89 in June 29, 2017, in Maui, Hawaii. Windmill was born in London, England, on December 21, 1921. She began her career as an actress on stage shortly after World War II. She played a major role in the hit play, The Chiltern Hundreds, at London's West End in 1947. She met Robert F. Kennedy after a stage performance and the two became romantically involved over the following year. The two year affair was ended when Kennedy's family put an end to the relationship. Following the breakup, her career took a downward turn as she frequently turned to barbiturates and sleeping pills to help with her insecurities. She took on a small role on stage as Mary Wells, the maid, in Bela Lugosi's British tour with the play, Dracula, from April through July of 1951. 

Joan Winmill Brown, as she was known during her 30 years of marriage to William F. Brown, was also the author of 18 successfully published books. 


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween, Hollywood Style

I love Halloween. The time of year when the seasons change, the leaves change colors and an excuse to watch the good ol' horror films with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. My favorite are the Universal monsters like Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Mummy, The Invisible Man... well, you get the idea. And of course, I like to browse through my collection of photographs (and photographs people sent me) of gorgeous Hollywood starlets who also love to celebrate Halloween. Here are a few of them!

Adele Jergens

June Knight  1938

Yes, that's Virginia Bruce

Ava Gardner

Esther Ralston

Ida Lupino

Joan Crawford

Mae Murray of the Ziegfeld Follies
 Special thanks to David Tribble, for supplying some of these photos.