Monday, January 18, 2010

A few items of interest, with a lot of shameless name-dropping

I didn’t learn until a day or two after I picked up my Kreativ Blogger award that Tonio Kruger at Confessions of a Half-Breed Prince had bestowed upon TDOY the same honor—three days before Mr. Copeland, in fact. So I just wanted to give Mr. K a shout-out and thank him for singling out this humble piece of real estate in the blogosphere; he was also generous enough to describe the goings-on here as “one of the best old TV show blogs ever. Not to mention the distributor of more info about TCM and Facebook than you'd ever want to know.” (I am now unable to leave the premises of Rancho Yesteryear because my head has swelled to three times its normal size…and this might be a problem, which will be revealed in the last few paragraphs below.)

There has been a great deal of talk about the current “Late Night” wars on many of the top pop culture/entertainment blogs of late, and the only reason why I didn’t get into the fray is because I don’t really have a dog in the fight…only to say that I have never thought Jay Leno was funny, and I stand by this statement. However, there are two essays on the topic that are must-reads: the first being Mark Evanier at newsfromme and his fair-and-balanced (and I mean that with all sincerity) take on “What Went Wrong?” But for those of you who are old enough to remember when late night television was Steve Allen and Jack Paar, etc. you’ll get a huge kick out of Kliph Nesteroff’s “The Late Night Distemper of Our Times.” Kliph’s dissection of the talk-show debacle that was The Jerry Lewis Show (ABC, 1963) is worth the price-of-admission—I personally enjoyed the classy comment Tonight Show host Johnny Carson made to his departing producer Perry Cross at Cross’ farewell party (Perry couldn’t get Carson to give him a raise so he jumped ship to Lewis’ new program).

Kliph also writes a bit on how NBC talked Tonight host Steve Allen out of his job in order to do a primetime show (this sounds oddly familiar) than would compete against Ed Sullivan and his CBS program The Talk of the Town. I found this material interesting in light of a nice clip I heard on NPR’s Weekend Edition this past Saturday that talks about Sullivan and his long-running variety show as host Scott Simon interviews Gerald Nachman about Nachman’s new book, Right Here on Our Stage Tonight!: Ed Sullivan’s America. Nachman is also known in old-time radio circles as the author of Raised on Radio, an informal history on Radio’s Golden Age that, though it contains more than its share of inaccuracies, is a very important tome to keep on your shelf if you’re an OTR fan.

Speaking of OTR, my friend Rodney Bowcock—whose short-lived blog, Rodney Bowcock’s Comics and Stories, is still sadly missed—will be the guest on Radio Once More this evening beginning at 9:00 pm EST. Rodney, along with hosts Neal Ellis and Ken Stockinger, will discuss a wide variety of topics but will maintain a focus on Paul Rhymer’s immortal Vic and Sade. If you want to participate in the conversation, their “Listener Line” is (410) 360-6070—but if you’re a bit shy about being on the radio, you can also e-mail questions and comments to

Bill Crider gets the credit for passing this one along to me; this article says that the Jack Benny estate had authorized permission to rescue some previously unreleased public domain masters owned by CBS—and that the network has put the smackdown on that despite the International Jack Benny Fan Club’s offer to do the preservation at no cost to CBS.

The author of the article, Joe Gandleman, rightfully terms this turn of events as “a bullet through the head of this body of Benny work.” The president of the IJBFC, Laura Leff, has posted the following at the Fan Club website (which I’m “liberating” for the benefit of those who are pissed off about this news as I am):

CBS permanently seals Jack Benny television masters

In December 2008 when I was at CBS overseeing the color specials transfer, I was told that CBS had the Benny television program masters. I was breathless!

I got a listing of their holdings, and selected about 25 shows that are currently uncirculated and in the public domain. I sent the request for us to digitally preserve these shows, at the IJBFC’s cost, to Lorra-Lea Bartlett, the Manager of the CBS Contracts Rights and Clearances department.

This was followed by about nine months of waiting for the CBS New York legal department to respond to the request. On September 7th, I was asked to provide a letter from the Benny Estate requesting that the programs be released, and “that should get this unstuck.” The Estate happily provided the letter to CBS. I continued to follow up weekly for status.

Today I was informed by Peter Murray, Lorra-Lea’s assistant, that she had talked with CBS’ Vice President of Business Affairs, and “there are so many issues with those shows, that even if we took the time to figure it out, we still almost certainly wouldn’t do the deal.” So that’s it. Access to the Jack Benny television masters is sealed.

In 1964, James Aubrey told Jack Benny that his weekly television series was terminated with the words, “YOU’RE THROUGH, OLD MAN!” Sadly, 46 years later, CBS has repeated the sentiment by condemning these shows to permanent silence.

Want to tell CBS what you think?

Web feedback:

Regular mail:

Sumner Redstone, Executive Chairman

Leslie Moonves, President and CEO

51 West 52 Street

New York, New York 10019-6188

CBS is going to hear from me about this matter, though it’s going to take a day or two for me to collect my thoughts and control my anger in order not to use inappropriate language in my response. If you’re a fan like I am, I urge you to put pen to paper and do the same—keep in mind that e-mailing them does very little good because they pay people to go through e-mails and delete them. (I only wish that the recent set of commemorative stamps honoring television’s past had a Jack Benny Show among them, but I bet you could use another CBS show like I Love Lucy or The Burns and Allen Show.)

Finally, I’ve been wondering for the past couple of months as to what would be the fate of the Classic Film Festival that’s held at the University of Georgia’s Classic Center each year as a fundraiser for UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication—particularly in light of TCM’s on-air promotion of the first ever Classic Film Festival being hosted by Bobby Osbo hizzownself in Hollywood from April 22-25, 2010. I thought that perhaps the Athens event was being phased out since I hadn’t heard any additional news about it.

Well, the answer came in the form of an e-mail I received from the Film Noir Foundation: noir guru Eddie Muller (author of the must-have book on the subject, Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir and close, personal friend to Vince Keenan) announces that he will be co-hosting a showing of Double Indemnity (1944) with Mr. O on Friday, March 26 at 1:00pm…here in beautiful downtown Athens. As a rule, I’ve unfortunately had to miss out on many of the movies shown during the festival mostly because a) I have no money and b) I have no money. But I am going to do my darndest to attend this, because I’d like to get an opportunity to meet Mr. Muller and at the very least shake hands; his books (which also include Dark City Dames: The Wicked Women of Film Noir and Grindhouse: The Forbidden World of “Adults Only” Cinema) on the subject of the film style are among the very best out there.

If you live in or nearby Athens and are curious as to what else is being offered up:

March 25 – Thursday (opening night)

8:00 pm To Catch a Thief (1955)

March 26 – Friday

1:00 pm Double Indemnity (1944)

4:00 pm Stand by Me (1986)

8:00 pm Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

12:00 mid The Shining (1980)

March 27 – Saturday

1:00 pm All About Eve (1950)

4:00 pm Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)

8:00 pm The Godfather: Part II (1974)

March 28 – Sunday

2:00 pm The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Seeing Indemnity on the big screen is reason enough to attend—and if I can scrape up the necessary gitas, I’m going to see Eve and Steamboat as well.

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J.C. Loophole said...

Thanks for passing along the info about the Jack Benny Show masters. I've never written any kind of "Now cut that out!" type of letter to anyone, but I am sending my letter post haste. Thanks again.

Vince said...

You've got to go to the Classic Film Fest just to shake Bobby Osbo's hand for me. Eddie will be working Noir City in SF starting this Friday and then in Seattle next month, and he always puts on a good show.