Thursday, June 3, 2010

The last of Last of the Summer Wine…and other points of interest

Though I was truly saddened to hear of Rue McClanahan’s passing, you could say that I was prepared for bad news this morning because Movietone News’ Matthew Coniam sent me an e-mail this morning that contained a link to this troubling bit of news:

BBC ends Last of the Summer Wine

Long-running TV series Last of the Summer Wine is to be axed.

The series, which first launched in 1973 and has starred actors such as Bill Owen, Peter Sallis and Frank Thornton, will run for just one more series.

The BBC said it was "very tough to have to call time" on the show.

There had been speculation for many years that the show would be retired but it was continually recommissioned.

Based in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, Last of the Summer Wine has been much mocked for the similar themes of its episodes which saw the main characters, all in their twilight years, involved in various high jinks.

But it proved to have longevity and survived the deaths of a number of its leading actors.

Each episode over the past 37 years has been written by Roy Clarke and produced and directed by Alan JW Bell.

The programme was first shown as a one-off episode of the BBC's Comedy Playhouse, but was such a success that a series was commissioned.

Last of the Summer Wine has now run to more than 30 series and is the world's longest-running sitcom.

I’m probably a minority of one on this side of the pond, but I really did enjoy watching this show...what can I say, I'm a sucker for small-town life. Admittedly, I haven’t seen many of the newer installments because Georgia Public Television usually ends the repeats run shortly after the death of Compo Simmonite (played the incomparable Bill Owen, who sadly passed away in 1999). Last of the Summer Wine is a television institution, and when it takes its final bow the screen will glow a little less brighter at Rancho Yesteryear. (Fortunately, the fifteenth and sixteenth series of this warhorse are on sale at, so I will snap this up in a thrice.)

In addition to today being Leo Gorcey’s boithday, we’re also observing the centennial anniversary of actress Paulette Goddard’s birth on this date—TCM threw a small but intimate affair this morning with a few of her films, including Vice Squad (1953), which I just got through recording and hopefully will get the opportunity to have a look-see within the next day or so (although I’d be lying to you if I didn’t admit my main interest was in seeing TDOY idol Edward G. Robinson). Over at Edward Copeland on Film, contributor Josh R has a nice overview of her amazing film career, as does my good friend John DiLeo at Screen Savers Movies. (John singles out two of Goddard’s finest silver screen hours: Hold Back the Dawn [1941] and Kitty [1945]—Kitty was showcased on TCM some time back but I would love to see Dawn again…it’s been ages, and in a perfect world it would be available on DVD already.)

I have to see this movie. My Facebook comrade C. Jerry Kutner chats up at Bright Lights Film Journal Double Take (2009), a movie that allows director Alfred Hitchcock (circa 1962) to have a most intriguing encounter with…Alfred Hitchcock, circa 1980:

This is one of those films that can’t possibly live up to the promise of its premise. At least, that’s what A.O. Scott implies in his New York Times review. And yet the premise is such a clever one that even a halfway decent execution of it is bound to be at least … interesting. Anyway, here’s the trailer. If the reviews of Scott and others are to be trusted, we are not going to learn anything new and profound about Hitchcock or the 1960s, but we will be amused and entertained. One could do worse.

Finally, Lou Lumenick at the New York Post gives the Warner Archive’s new Classic Music Shorts From the Dream Factory collection a generous plug—but his review is so enthusiastic that I’m seriously thinking about putting this one on my wish list. (Note to Lou: It’s Charley Chase…not Charlie, despite what the poster says.) Lou also hints that a trio of Elia Kazan-directed classics—A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), Viva Zapata! (1952) and my favorite Kazan film, Wild River (1960)—may be making their way to DVD soon. (Zapata and River have been available on Region 2 disc for some time now, but it will be nice to see these become accessible to folks who don’t have multi-region players…particularly River.)

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