Thursday, November 4, 2010

Happy birthday, Shirley Mitchell!

Ninety-one years ago on this date, one of the most familiar voices of old-time radio—and later familiar television visage—was born to Shirley Mitchell in Toledo, OH…a town I still haven’t made my mind up about.  (So much for the Freberg reference.)  After attending both the University of Toledo and University of Michigan, Shirley found work as an actress in Chicago (one of the major radio centers at the time) working on soap operas such as The Story of Mary Marlin and Road to Life, and the dramatic anthology The First Nighter Program.  With those experiences on her resume, she could later be heard emoting on the likes of Suspense, The Lux Radio Theatre and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.

But it’s her comedic talents she’s best known for in OTR—she appeared frequently on Joan Davis’ Sealtest Village Store, and landed the role of man-crazy war worker Alice Darling on Fibber McGee & Molly at a time when writer Don Quinn was having to introduce new characters to account for the absence of actors Gale Gordon and Bill Thompson, who were fulfilling military obligations during WW2.  Alice disappeared when the two actors returned to Fibber, but by that time she was already going full guns with what remains her best-known radio role—southern belle Leila Ransom, who was the girlfriend (and on several occasions, fiancée) to the individual known as The Great Gildersleeve.  (Her “Leila” persona was so distinctive that she used it for another recurring character on The Life of Riley, the also-hailed-from-Dixie Louella Lounsberry.)  Shirley worked practically all of the shows, from Amos ‘n’ Andy to My Favorite Husband—the program on which she got acquainted with Lucille Ball, who remembered her when I Love Lucy got underway and cast her as one of Lucy Ricardo’s “hen pals,” Marion Strong.  (“Stop cackling, Marion—I’ve been waiting ten years for you to lay that egg!”)

From I Love Lucy, Shirley began to gravitate toward other television roles—she was Kitty, secretary to John Forsythe’s Bentley Gregg on Bachelor Father, Janet Colton on the December Bride spin-off Pete and Gladys, Marge Thornton on Please Don’t Eat the Daisies and Cousin Mae on Petticoat Junction.  That incredibly distinctive voice of hers later turned up on animated shows like Roman Holidays and a few specials based on the comic strip heroine Cathy (Ack!!!).

So to mark the auspicious occasion, everybody gets a piece of cake—including these notables!

Augustus Montague Toplady (1740-1778) – English clergyman and author of the hymn Rock of Ages

Edmund Kean (1789-1833) – English actor acknowledged to be the greatest of his time

Will Rogers (1879-1935) – American humorist and star of stage, screen and radio

Forbes Murray (1884-1982) – Ubiquitous character actor who often went uncredited in scads of feature films and shorts; probably best known for his role as Professor Hargraves in the 1945 serial Manhunt of Mystery Island

Edward F. Cline (1891-1961) – Motion picture actor-writer-director who started out at Keystone in 1913 and went on to work with the likes of Buster Keaton, W.C. Fields, etc.

Ian Wolfe (1896-1992) – Character actor whom I’m convinced was born old; his roles include Saboteur, The Pearl of Death, Bedlam and Mrs. Carlson’s butler on WKRP in Cincinnati

Treg Brown (1899-1984) – Sound effects genius who worked at the Warner Bros cartoon studio (though Leon Schlesinger insisted he be credited as “film editor”)

Frank Jenks (1902-1962) – Stage, screen and television character great whose vehicles include His Girl Friday, Tall, Dark and Handsome and Seven Miles from Alcatraz

Anthony Warde (1908-1975) – Film and television character actor whose métier was playing nasty villains and henchmen in serials like Buck Rogers, The Spider Returns and The Black Widow

Stanley Cortez (1908-1997) – Motion picture cinematographer whose films include The Magnificent Ambersons, Shock Corridor and They Saved Hitler’s Brain (The Madmen of Mandoras)

Jack Rose (1911-     ) – Screenwriter/producer who penned many of Bob’s Hope’s film comedies including My Favorite Brunette, Road to Rio and The Seven Little Foys

Gig Young (1913-1978) – Academy Award-winning actor whose vehicles include City That Never Sleeps, Teacher’s Pet and They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

Walter Cronkite (1916-2009) – The most trusted man in America

Cameron Mitchell (1918-1994) – Stage, screen and television character great best remembered as Buck Cannon on the TV western The High Chapparal

Jay Jackson (1918-2005) – Radio and television quiz show host who also lent his narrative talents to many of Robert Youngson’s comedy compilation films

Art Carney (1918-2003) – Academy Award-winning actor who is still making people laugh at his characterization of Ed Norton, best buddy to Jackie Gleason’s Ralph Kramden

Martin Balsam (1919-1996) – TDOY acting god who won an Oscar for 1965’s A Thousand Clowns among his gazillion film and television roles

Alfred Heineken (1923-2002) – Brewer

Doris Roberts (1930-     ) – Emmy Award-winning actress best known to TV fans for her roles on Remington Steele and Everybody Loves Raymond

Darla Hood (1931-1979) – Little Rascal

Noam Pitlik (1932-1999) – Emmy Award-winning television director who dabbled in acting early on in his career, appearing in regular roles on the likes of I’m Dickens…He’s Fenster, The Bob Newhart Show and Sanford and Son

David Shipman (1932-1996) – Film historian

Loretta Swit (1937-     ) – Film and television actress best known as Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan on the TV version of M*A*S*H

Delbert McClinton (1940-     ) – Singer-songwriter and harmonica player on Bruce Channel’s pop hit Hey Baby

Linda Gary (1944-1995) – Voice actress whose work included Spider-Man, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and She-Ra: Princess of Power

Laura “Pickles” Bush (1946-    ) – Former First Lady

Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) – Controversial American photographer

Berlinda Tolbert (1949-     ) – Film and television actress best known as Jenny Willis-Jefferson on TV’s The Jeffersons

Markie Post (1950-     ) – Film and television actress whose TV shows include The Fall Guy, Night Court and Hearts Afire

Kim Forester (1960-     ) – Forester sister

Kathy Griffin (1960-     ) – Standup comedienne and “D” list celebrity whom I’ve long suspected is really my best friend the Duchess under another name

Annabelle Gurwitch (1961-     ) – Film and television actress best known for her hosting of TBS’ Dinner and a Movie; currently a columnist for The Nation and a presence on NPR

Ralph Macchio (1961-     ) – Karate kid

Seven years ago on this date, I started fooling around with one of those newfangled “blogs” because all the kids were doing it.  (For the uninformed, I’m the one your parents were referring to when they asked if you’d jump off a bridge if everyone else would.)  Ostensibly, it started out as a blog centering around my OTR-collecting hobby, but over the years it’s grown beyond that to include classic movies, vintage television—pretty much all of the stuff that used to hold my interest growing up…and still does today.  (I also have a tendency to go off on tangents relating to politics or pop culture trends…but honest to my grandma, I’ve been trying to rein that in.)

To keep a blog up and running for seven years is a pretty major accomplishment—not that I’m bragging or anything, it’s just that the lifespan of these online diaries are relatively short…I’m amazed that I’ve been able to keep it up this long, because I have a notoriously low threshold of boredom.  But I firmly believe that when you write about what you enjoy, there are no limits and no expiration dates…and unfortunately, there’s not much money, either—but if I really wanted to make money online, I’d start up an e-mail scam.  (I think M. Carter @ the Movies said it best when she referred to her site as “my tedious, time-gobbling, no-paying labor of love.”)

There are so many people that I’d like to give a tremendous bear hug for offering their continued support, but I hesitate to start a list only because I’d really feel bad if I left somebody out…and because these people contacted me a few days beforehand and asked me not to because they have families, damn it.  Three people, however, will not escape my scrutiny—my friend Laura, who planted the seed for TDOY by asking “When are you getting a blog?” and S.Z. and Scott C. at World O’Crap for the inspiration to get it up and running.  (Their families are relatively safe because Laura is single, S.Z. has only puppies and kittens and Scott took a vow of chastity after getting married.)

If the good Lord’s willin’ and the creek don’t rise…I’ll be around for seven more. To everyone who stops by every now and then—either every day or once a week—thanks for encouraging my behavior. 

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Jeff Overturf said...

Keep up the "blogging behavior" Ivan! 7 years is indeed something to be proud of, but you're right...writing about what you enjoy never seems tedious and never seems to have an end.

I look forward to reading the next 7 years of TDOY. It does me good to know you're out there and celebrating what you love and is worthwhile.

Peggy said...

Happy 7 year anniversary!

Oh, and I cannot pass up another opportunity to say....Birthday List...YAY!

quizshowbob said...

7 years is an amazing blog life. I didn't even get a computer until 4 years ago.

Toby O'B said...

I wouldn't mind tedious now and again - sometimes I could use a break. But I keep going because like you I'm writing about what I love.

Congrats on marking seven years and all the best for the future with TDOY, Ivan!

Pam said...

Happy Anniversary! If you have been blogging for seven years, I don't even want to know how long we have known each other. Must be 30 years by now.

Laura said...

That's really impressive!! Congrats and best wishes for many more years of blogging.

Best wishes,
Laura (for your readers, I'm a different Laura from the one in your post! LOL)

Scott said...

Happy Wood and/or Copper anniversary, Ivan! Seven years is like 50 in blog years (so you should actually be getting a gold watch). The internet wouldn't be the same without you.

Winifred said...

Congratulations. Seven years that's brilliant. Keep up the good work.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Thanks to everyone who had well wishes and good things to say about the blog (are you sure you're in the right place?). I'd take another victory lap but I'm still a little winded after the CiMBA award.