Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mister Finlayson

My Uncle Pat died in April of 2011.  He comes to mind often.  I've been going through a stack of movie books that my cousin Beverly sent to me that were his.  Anyone that knew Pat knew that he loved movies.  Even when he was on board his ship during the war, he'd write home to his mother and Papa about movies he'd seen or movies that he wanted to see.

His love for film never faded.  When I was a kid, Pat would drive to Gadsden, AL from his home in Macon, GA to visit his brother Westbrook and that large family of his.  Pat always had nice cars and liked to keep them in tip-top shape and always clean.  He'd always ask me to wash his car during his visits and expected a good job for the money he paid.  Pat would also treat me to a movie.  He'd let me pick'm, and politely suffered through my choices.

Pat became a collector of movies when Beta and VHS tape recorders came on the market.  Pat had one of the first recorders in Georgia.  I heard it cost him a pretty penny, but Uncle Pat got his money's worth out of them.  Every time we'd go see Pat, he'd show us his large catalog of videos.  He had spent hours and hours and years and years creating a library and an extensive index of actors, directors, producers, etc.  Did I mention that Pat loved movies?  He had many shelves through out his house filled with video tapes.

Pat was a handsome fellow with a golden voice.  I wonder what would've happened if he had tried to make it in Hollywood.  He loved movies so much and was quite talented himself.  Pat loved to sing and when I watch movies made in the 1930's, whenever a crooner sang to the object of his desire, I often think of Pat.  Pat could've sung that!

My sister Jennie chuckled as she told me that even when Pat was near death, while medical professionals were tending to him, he had his eyes fixed on and old movie playing on the television.  That was Pat.

Out of all the movies, all those years, I think it's safe to say that Pat's favorite movie was Mr. Roberts (1955).  It's a comedy about life aboard a cargo ship during the war.  Pat served on an LST which was a type of amphibious cargo ship that could actually land on beaches.  Pat spoke often about this movie.  He related to it.  There was something about it that stirred up old memories of his days in the service, of old friends.  I can only make a vague relation for you, but he loved that movie so much.  He couldn't mention the movie title without laughing.

One of these days I'll run across a DVD copy of it, and I'll buy it.  Maybe I won't be able to appreciate it like my Uncle Pat did, but I will most definitely be reminded of that sweet fellow every time I see it.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

cool as mcqueen

James Coburn was as cool as Steve McQueen, and McQueen was cool.  James Coburn was directed by the best, from John Sturges, Sergio Leone to Sam Peckinpah.  I don't think there was a roll McQueen ever played that Coburn couldn't have played just as well.  The two seemed to be cut from the same cloth and yet, McQueen seemed to garner more of the fame.

Coburn played some memorable rolls in film, but I can't help believe he got to play his share.  Jame Coburn was a household name, had an acting career that spanned over 40 years and yet...

Coburn also became Flint, Derik Flint.  The Flint movies were mediocre.  I believe Coburn deserved better than playing a mod version of the James Bond character.  Flint is a secret agent somewhere between James Bond and the later to follow Austin Powers.  I had a lot of friends when I was in grade school that thought Flint was awesome.  Not me, I thought James Bond was awesome.
Maybe McQueen knew the ropes better than Coburn.  When The Magnificent Seven was being made, Yule Bryner had a heck of a time trying to keep McQueen from upstaging him.  McQueen was good at marketing McQueen.  One of Coburn's most memorial scene was in the same know the one I'm talking about.  Coburn has his eternal moment as he bested the man with the gun, with a knife.

Yeah, he was as good as McQueen.  I could just as easily imagine Coburn in the starring rolls of Bullitt, The Getaway, Tom Horn and The Hunter.  Maybe Coburn was just as cool and just as good an actor as McQueen, but McQueen knew how to sell his wares.

Then again, maybe Coburn just enjoyed his career without pushing his way through.  Maybe he just enjoyed acting and not the struggle to the top.  He had a big smile, a big laugh, and a nice easy going personality.  Maybe a lot of what we saw on the screen revealed a lot of he who he was in real life.  Maybe McQueen had a bigger ego to feed than Coburn and Coburn was too cool to feel he had to be out in front.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

elusive one arm man

Dr. Richard Kimble was on the run because he was convicted of killing his wife.  He knew he didn't do it.  For four years we watched 120 episodes from '63 to 47 to see if Richard Kimball would ever catch up with the elusive one arm man.  Kimble was looking for his wife's killer, while trying to elude Lt. Phillip Gerard, who was always in hot pursuit.  The show was an ongoing cat and mouse game.

Dr. Kimble became a nomad, taking on small jobs here and there, always looking for his wife's real killer.  He'd always run into folks that seemed to be in some kind of trouble of their own.  Richard would help someone out during each episode and then have to start running again.

The Fugitive was in no way an original concept.  There are several old movies with the same general premise.  There was also a real incident that happened at that time that is believed to have inspired the story of the show.  There was a doctor convicted of killing his wife, but the doctor said that a 'bushy haired man' was the murderer.  I must admit that the one arm man is more intriguing than a busy hair man.  Other shows have come and gone with a like premise; The Incredible Hulk and The A-Team come to mind.  They were all portraying innocent fugitives on the run, helping people in need along the way.

David Janssen played the desperate roll of Dr. Richard KimbleThe big voice of William Conrad read opening narrative intro of The Fugitive. By the way, William Conrad was the original voice of Matt Dillon in the radio's Gun Smoke.  You all might remember Conrad playing a private investigator Frank Cannon in Cannon.  He was a big guy with a big voice.

Yes, Richard finally caught up with the one arm man on the show's finale.  During those four years we saw very little of the one armed man, he was always there, out there somewhere.  Pretty much everyone who owned a television set made sure to watch it.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

court jester

I was a big fan of Danny Kaye as a kid.  He could sing silly songs, do funny faces and make me laugh.  Today TCM is showing his movies all day.  Hans Christian Anderson just started a few minutes ago.  I can hear my children in the next room giggling and laughing to his antics.  Danny's brand of humor, his way, transcends generations.  I think children a hundred years from now will still be drawn to Danny Kaye.

Life is a great big canvas; throw all the paint you can at it."
          -Danny Kaye

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Adventures of...

Jonny Quest! Hanna-Barbera were the the ones that introduced limited animation which was a technique to  cut corners to meet the budgetary demands of television. HB made oodles of cartoon shows, but The Adventures of Jonny Quest stands out as their best.  A show like this simply could not be made today.  The bad guys would DIE in this cartoon.  Producers wanted this show to be as action packed as a 007 movie.  Dr. Quest and his bodyguard killed bad guys with explosives, bazookas, machine guns and lasers.  They destroy evil monsters that were pretty scary for us kids back in the day.  I remember watching that large mechanical spider on the move for the first time and I had goosebumps!

By the time the early seventies rolled around, some namby-pamby watch group took Jonny Quest edited the shows content for violence, depictions of deadly weapons, scary monsters and tense moments.  Gee-Whiz Wally, they took out all the good stuff.  Not to worry though, the show still lives on in all it's uncut glory.  There are still people out there that believe that the original Jonny Quest is too violent for kids today.

There just hasn't been a show like it before or since.  I loved how the The Adventures of Jonny Quest used rich colors and deep shadows.  The incredible musical scores, the sound effects and storyline made up for the limited animation.  The original Adventures of Jonny Quest was full tilt forward!

Back in the eighties and later in the nineties, Jonny Quest was reincarnated, but they were NOTHING like the classic original.  Each episode was a thrilling adventure for my young mind.  I loved it back in the day when cartoons weren't politically correct.  Here's a show that they'll never do again.

P.S. I enjoy the outro more than the intro to this show.  I always loved it when those frogmen in the boat buy it.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


The Flintstones is one of my favorite productions of Hanna-Barbera studios.  The cartoon was based on the Jackie Gleason situation comedy classic The Honeymooners.  Fred Flintstone was based on Jackie's character Ralph Kramden.  Barney Rubble was based on Art Carney's Ed Norton.  The man of a thousand voices, Mel Blanc did the voice for Barney - a dead on Ed Norton impersonation.  There's also a little Life of Riley as well.  Life of Riley starred William Bendix, but it was Jackie Gleason that played the Chester A. Riley character the first season on television. So I'm sure Jackie was inspired and lifted traits of Chester Riley for his Ralph Kramdon.

Chester, Ralph and Fred were cut from the same cloth.  They were all clumsy working class guys, always trying to figuring on ways to get ahead in life the easy way.  Their schemes never seemed to work for them.  It was always fun watching them try.

The Flintstones was such a popular show, and so much like The Honeymooners that Jackie Gleason once pondered suing Hanna-Barbera, but didn't want to go down in history as “the guy who yanked Fred Flintstone off the air”

The Flintstones was the first animated made for prime time television show.  It was not aired as a kids show.  In fact, it was sponsored by Winston cigarettes.  So many cartoons cater to children, on their level.  The Flintstones was family entertainment.  I didn't watch the show on Friday nights.  I discovered it a few years later when it was aired on Saturday mornings for children.  The Flintstones came long before The Simpsons or King of the Hill.  It was the first of it's kind and a loved American classic.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Toy Story ReDux

Once upon a time there were these two kids that loved the movie Toy Story (1995) so much that they decided to remake it, not with computer generated animation, but with real toys.  They started back in 2010, using the soundtrack of the original movie and acting it out with toys (on strings) and real people.  It's a shot for shot remake of the original movie.

I remember thinking when I first saw Toy Story that it would've been neat if they had used real people to portray the non-toy characters in the story.  In Toy Story, the toys looked so real, that I thought it would've been better for the people to be real.  Well, this project gave me a taste of what it might've been like.

Along with their YouTube release of Toy Story, they also recreated the touching ending of Toy Story 3.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

takes me back

There was something about drinking a soda from a bottle.  I had a particular fondness for Grapico.  I drink the diet Grapico from a can these days, but drinking from a can limits the experience that I remember.  I liked the bumpiness of the bottle, and the feel of the chill on the bottle.  As with most colas, sipping a cold beverage from a bottle makes the treat somehow complete.

If I could go back in time.  I'd go to Claytons and draw me an ice cold Grapico from their soda chest.  I'd pop that cap and drink it slow.  I'd take a little time to browse through the comic book rack.  It would be great to go back, just long enough for a taste of it.