Tuesday, February 2, 2010

R.I.P, Aaron Ruben and other items

This morning at 10:30am, I was awakened by a tapping…as of some one gently rapping, rapping at my outside door…”’Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my outside door—only this and nothing more."

Actually, it was the UPS guy, delivering my brand-spanking-new copy of Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide—which was originally to have been delivered tomorrow but for some fortuitous reason arrived at breakneck speed today. This prompted me to change the previous photo under “On the nightstand,” since I’m certain the new Guide will probably be bedtime material for a good while now.

The reason why things have been quiet on the blog as of late is because I’ve been spending time with the latest acquisition to the dusty Thrilling Days of Yesteryear archives: a thirteen-disc collection of the entire twenty-six episode run of the critically acclaimed East Side/West Side, originally telecast from 1963-64 and starring George C. Scott. (This is why you’ll find a picture of the actor under “In the player.”) I’ve been enjoying these episodes for the past several days now and plan to have an essay about the series prepared for later this week. I also took some time out to contribute a post to Edward Copeland on Film; Eddie is still struggling with health problems but has added a few accoutrements that will allow him to get back into the swing of blogging. Today marks the 60th anniversary that the classic suspense thriller The Third Man (1949) played to American audiences and I wrote a little piece which you will find here.

I’m a little uncomfortable passing on this next bit of news because I have had a scuffle with one of the individuals in the past—but I am nothing if not dedicated to passing along news on classic television coming to DVD. TVShowsOnDVD.com reports that MPI is readying My Favorite Martian: Season 3 for a summer release—though the exact date was not available at press time.

The first two seasons of Martian were released by Rhino in 2004 and 2005, and it looked as though Season 3 would be left out in the rain were it not for a “USA-ready” release put together overseas through an Australian concern entitled Umbrella Entertainment. This news was introduced to the Home Theater Forum by Peter Greenwood, an exec with Jack Chertok Productions (Chertok was Martian’s producer, in addition to series like Sky King and Private Secretary), who stated to those individuals hemming and hawing about purchasing the third season (me being one of them) that we should make haste with our decision because the window of opportunity was closing fast. This set had one of the steepest price tags ever for a DVD collection; somewhere in the neighborhood of sixty-five to seventy bucks. (A very respectable neighborhood, I would josh…if it were funny.)

So here’s what happened: I shelled out the scratch because I wanted to complete my collection (I love what Dave Lambert says: “…few people took the time [or spent the money] to get that Australian import”—guess again, TSOD boy!) and three or four months after I purchase it…it turns up on Amazon.com for—wait for it—approximately half-price. Granted, they only had a limited number of copies available for sale…but I would still have been willing to gamble on getting a copy over paying an arm and a leg for it. I made a comment about this on HTF, and I believe I concluded my remarks by saying that I should have known better than to trust a company executive. Mr. Greenwood ended up e-mailing me to apologize for this turn of events, swearing that he had no idea the collection was going to turn up on Amazon at a far more inexpensive price. He offered to make amends by sending me a gratis copy of the My Favorite Martian music CD that they had also released at that time. Suffice it to say, I’m still waiting for that to show up in my mailbox.

Okay, I’ve got the personal animosity out of the way—this release will allow remaining MFM fans to complete their collections; the third season contains the episodes filmed in color and there will be some bonus extras thrown in. I just had trouble suppressing my gag reflex when I read this comment from Mr. Greenwood: “I’m very excited about MPI’s motivation for quality in My Favorite Martian. Providing the best possible DVD releases, with as much bonus material as we can include, is the best reward we could give fans for their years of loyalty to the show.” So…what are you saying here, Pete—that I didn’t get the best possible DVD release when I shelled out seventy clams two years ago? (What a weasel…)

There have been several notices of celebrity passings to come down the pike in the last day or two: movie producer David Brown, whose resume of blockbusters includes Jaws (1975), The Verdict (1982) and Cocoon (1985) has gone on to his rich reward at the age of 93, for starters. (Brown was also married to Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Helen Gurley Brown.) The Associated Press is also reporting that actor Justin Mentell—who was a regular on TV’s Boston Legal from 2005-2006—has died at the age of 27 from an SVU crash in Wisconsin, and blacklisted writer Anne Froelick Taylor has also shuffled off this mortal coil, passing on at age 96 January 26. (Among her screenplays: Shining Victory [1941], Miss Susie Slagle's [1946] and Harriet Craig [1950]. She was also a one-time secretary to radio/screenwriter Howard Koch, and assisted him in some of the writing of the famed The Mercury Theatre on the Air production of “The War of the Worlds.”)

But the news that really hit home—being a lifelong fan of the shows for which he wrote, produced and directed—is that of Aaron Ruben’s demise; the man who produced The Andy Griffith Show and created the spin-off series Gomer Pyle, USMC has moved on at the age of 95.

Like most of the comedy writers of his generation, Ruben got his foot in the door writing for radio. Among the talents he wrote for were Dinah Shore, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Fred Allen (no relation to Gracie), Henry Morgan and Milton Berle—whose Texaco Star Theater broadcasts (1948-49) have been mentioned frequently on this blog as examples of comedy that is in dire need of rediscovery. Ruben followed Berle into television, and he also wrote for Danny Thomas, Ed Wynn, Sid Caesar, Eddie Cantor and Phil Silvers—even directing many episodes of Silvers’ classic Bilko series.

But it’s both Andy Griffith and Gomer Pyle that he’ll best be remembered: he was once quoted when asked about the popularity of the goings-on in Mayberry: “…my theory is that the Griffith show is like the grown-ups' Oz. It's the land of, 'Oh, wouldn't it be wonderful to live in a town with no drugs, no crime, no gangs, no violence, [a place where] people greet each other, people are kind to each other’…that’s why grown-ups love that show."

Ruben also worked on sitcoms like Sanford and Son, C.P.O. Sharkey and Too Close for Comfort. Man, is it depressing to lose the people who create the laughter.

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Tom said...

This is so depressing. Everyone is dying.

Hal said...

re: EAST SIDE/WEST SIDE. I'm envious. I've been wanting to see that series for years, heard that both Scott and a young Cicely Tyson were both excellent. Also one of my personal favorites, Diana Sands, was Emmy nominated for an episode of the show (co-starring with James Earl Jones).