While I was bravely navigating the cut-throat waters of online hotel reservations yesterday, I was also genuinely surprised—and as follows, genuinely pleased—with the amount of submissions I have received of late for the new “Classic Chops” feature that is scheduled to start at The Large Association of Movie Blogs next Wednesday (June 2). Here’s the inaugural post; you may recall that I recently had a bit of a back-and-forth with Dylan “Fletch” Fields (the proprietor of Blog Cabins, and the hardest working man in the movie blog bidness) regarding the presence of classic film blogs at the LAMB, and I just want to say that he has given no less than 110% in helping to make this new feature a reality…even providing the cute logo (I hope the Shari Lewis estate isn’t reading this) to your right (though I believe the logo was donated by Mrs. Cabins). If anyone from the LAMB is reading this (hey, I can dream) I just want to remind them that submissions for posts/essays on classic films (prior to 1965…though that may be subject to change) are due Tuesday, June 1 at (e-mail links to me at classicchops(at)gmail(dot)com). I have received several e-mails with links to fabulous pieces of writing, and the great thing about it is what I don’t use next Wednesday always has a chance of making the cut in a future “Classic Chops” edition.
Speaking of fabulous writing: if Farran Smith Nehme—better known as that Self-Styled Siren—ever decides to join the LAMB, they might as well just back up a truck filled with LAMMYs to her domicile because she’d win practically everything in a walk. Her latest piece on the classic What Price Hollywood? (1932) is enough to make me hang it up and retire from blogging, raising bees in my declining years (hey—it worked for Sherlock Holmes). I also want to give a shout-out to my fellow vintage Britcom aficionado from across the pond, Matthew Coniam, and alert you to another blog that he’s taken control of entitled Eccentrica Britannica (subtitled “A Website of Strictly Local Appeal”). To be certain, many of the topics Matthew muses on are a bit esoteric…but I fell in love with this wonderful essay on British comedy institution The Crazy Gang (Charlie Naughton, Jimmy Gold, Jimmy Nervo, Teddy Knox, Bud Flanagan and Chesney Allen)—so much so that I looked around for some of their classic films on DVD (Alf's Button Afloat , The Frozen Limits )…and I’m “practically skint” at this point.
While I’m on the subject of classic British comedy, here’s an interesting bit that announces an original script for Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979) will be auctioned off next month by Sotheby’s at the Great British Comedy Event (the Pythons will be feted, not to mention [Dawn] French & [Jennifer] Saunders and the BBC comedy show Have I Got News For You). And on the subject of comedy shows, the announcement of a fifth series of The IT Crowd will surely make fans happy; I watched a few episodes of this sitcom on IFC while I was enjoying (heavy sarcasm does seem to suit me) my hospital stay and found it positively hysterical.
There’s only one thing better than a classic movie…and that’s a free classic movie. This blurb here announces a series of free movies at the Middletown Township Main Library in Middleton, NJ starting in June—all four movies are the collaborations between actor Cary Grant and director Alfred Hitchcock: Suspicion (1941, June 1), Notorious (1946, June 15), To Catch a Thief (1955, June 22) and my all-time favorite Hitch film, North by Northwest (1959, June 29). If I lived in this area, you can betcha-by-golly-wow I’d capitalize on seeing these classics on the big screen—so if you’re in the neighborhood, why not take in a movie? Shows start at —the article says coffee and dessert is served at (could I eat dessert in 15 minutes? I don’t know).
TVShowsOnDVD.com is announcing that Shout! Factory will release Leave it to Beaver: Season 4 to DVD on September 14th…and I can’t tell you encouraging a thing like that is to hear. Mainly because it looks as if the Factory will release the remaining Beaver seasons in separate sets; you may recall that the company is releasing the whole enchilada on June 29th (Leave it to Beaver: The Complete Series)—and that’s all well-and-good, but for those people (oh…say, me, for example) who dutifully bought seasons one and two when they were originally released by Universal…why, they don’t have to double dip. (I have my fingers crossed for Seasons Five and Six.)
And hey now…I realize this is a bit out of vintage TV’s bailiwick, but I think there may be a few folks (Brent McKee, call your office) who’ll be tickled pink to learn that Shout! Factory is bringing The Larry Sanders Show in its entirety to DVD. The release date on this seventeen-disc set (yowsah!) is September 28th, and the collection will contain (I’m assuming) all eighty-nine episodes of the popular HBO sitcom (1992-98). The SRP on this bad boy is $149.99, so you may have to surf a few online stores in search of the elusive discount.
Derek Tague—the hardest working man in the OTR research bidness—was kind enough to send me an e-mail yesterday jogging my memory that this year will be the fortieth anniversary of the foundation of Radiola, the old-time radio company that for many individuals (I know I was one of them) defined OTR listening through their vinyl record releases (and later cassette and CD). He suggested that I approach Mark Tepper of Radio Spirits (the company that bought out Radiola/Radio Yesteryear) with a proposal to re-release some of those great LPs in CD form and in speaking with Mark yesterday, he has taken Derek’s suggestion under advisement. But I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Radio Spirits does have a new release that will certainly be of interest to Radiola fans: the company has re-released The Story of The Shadow (originally released in a 4-LP/cassette set in 1985) on compact disc, making this long sought-after collector’s item available to Shadow fans. The great thing about this release is that not only does it feature four vintage Shadow broadcasts—“The Vengeance of Angela Nolan” (06/27/54), “The White Legion” (03/20/38), “Friend of Darkness” (02/19/39, which features a young Richard Widmark) and “They Kill With a Silver Hatchet” (05/26/46)—but it also features audio interviews with many of the individuals who were associated with the classic program: Bret Morrison, Walter Gibson, Grace Matthews, Gertrude Warner, Ken Roberts, André Baruch and the late Rosa Rio, to name a few. Mark is very interested in further releases of this type; he’s kicked around the idea of bringing back past Radiola triumphs like The Jack Benny Story to CD.
With Derek’s e-mail, however, came a little bit of sorrowful rain—it was the first time that I learned of the passing of three individuals who most assuredly made their marks in old-time radio (or “the hobby,” as OTR buffs refer to it). Jim Harmon, the author of such seminal OTR reference books as The Great Radio Heroes and The Great Radio Comedians, has gone on to his rich reward (I have a hardback copy of Jim’s Radio Mystery and Adventure and Its Appearances in Film, Television and Other Media that I don’t plan to part with for the world)…not to mention Ron Lackmann (author of Comic Strips & Comic Books of Radio's Golden Age and The Encyclopedia of American Radio) and Charlie Stumpf, who co-authored Heavenly Days: The Story of Fibber McGee and Molly and Walter Tetley: For Corn's Sake. It was truly devastating to learn this news (particularly Jim, who wrote one of the first books I read on the subject of Radio’s Golden Age) and they will definitely be missed. (I “re-upped” my subscription to The Internet Old-Time Radio Digest to make certain I’m better informed on happenings in “the hobby” in the future.)
Gee, this post ended up being longer than I originally planned—so let’s see if I can wrap this up. Turner Classic Movies will be hosting a salute to Clint Eastwood on May 31, Memorial Day…and while I bow to no one in my respect and admiration for the actor-director, isn’t that kind of why the once-proud-and-great American Movie Classics is still in business?
The Warner Archive is taking pre-orders for a collection that I’d invest in were it not for the fact that I recorded all three movies from TCM in the past—it’s Red Skelton’s “Whistling” series: Whistling in the Dark (1941), Whistling in Dixie (1942) and Whistling in Brooklyn (1943). This MOD collection is due out June 1…and if these discs weren’t MOD I might consider a purchase. (The "Whistling" films are my favorite Skelton vehicles…with the possible exception of A Southern Yankee : “It’s nice to be back among the magnolias again…”)
Finally, in the “I-can’t-believe-this-is-news” department, the Associated Press has issued forth the earth-shaking bulletin that country music great Willie Nelson has…cut his hair. Reports that Nelson’s strength has disappeared, leaving him incapable of lifting even a guitar pick, are unsubstantiated at this time.