Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy birthday, Norman Leavitt!

Profuse apologies for getting this up so late in the day today, but I was busy yesterday working on something that I will post later on in the week and I just got to the point last night when I announced to no one in particular: “I can’t do no more!”  We don’t have any nonagenarians on the birthday list today, but it’s refreshing to see a few veteran performers who are hale and hearty in their eighties including actors Paul Picerni (88), Allyn Ann McLerie (84) and Malachi Throne (82).

But because Thrilling Days of Yesteryear has become the go-to place for Mayberry R.F.D. arcana, I thought it only fitting that we shine our natal anniversary spotlight on character actor Norman Leavitt, who made occasional appearances on the show as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed postman George Felton.  Leavitt, born on this date ninety-seven years ago in Lansing, MI, won—according to the always reliable IMDb—an Emmy Award in 2010 for Grey’s Anatomy (as part of the make-up crew)…despite the fact that he died in 2005.  (So I don’t want to hear any more whining about how you people can never find the time to get anything accomplished.  By the way, I’m sure the IMDb folks will get around to correcting this error as soon as they take care of that Marie Prevost stuff for Stacia.)

All seriousness aside, Norman was one of those unsung character players who appeared in hundred of movies and TV shows where you may not had his name on the tip of your tongue but you certainly remembered his face.  His cinematic oeuvre includes The Harvey Girls, The Big Clock, The Great Lover, Harvey, Comin’ Round the Mountain, Off Limits (as “Chowhound”), The Three Stooges in Orbit and The Day of the Locust—he was also a favorite of Jerry Lewis, who used him often in uncredited bits in the likes of Cinderfella, The Patsy and The Family Jewels.

Leavitt had an extensive television resume in addition to his work on R.F.D.; he appeared in several episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, but also made the rounds on such series as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, December Bride, Perry Mason, Wagon Train, Tales of Wells Fargo, Dennis the Menace, Laramie, Rawhide, Bonanza and The Virginian.  His most sustained exposure was playing the part of Ralph, the deputy of Texas Ranger Hoby Gilman (Robert Culp) in the TV oater Trackdown.  (I’m not sure why a Texas Ranger would need a deputy—the guys on Laredo never did—but if Bygone Video would like to send me some of their Trackdown sets gratis, I’d certainly be willing to find out.)

So happy birthday to you “Postman Felton”—and a happy one to these fine folks as well:

Rex Stout (1886-1975) – Crime-mystery novelist who created gourmet sleuth Nero Wolfe

Ray Taylor (1888-1952) – Motion picture director whose forte was B-westerns and serials; his oeuvre includes Flash Gordon, Dick Tracy, The Green Hornet, Riders of Death Valley and Gang Busters

Ethel Shutta (1896-1975) – Popular actress-singer of the 1930s who was a featured vocalist on Jack Benny’s early Canada Dry radio show and also starred alongside Eddie Cantor in the stage and screen versions of Whoopee!

Robert W. Welch, Jr. (1899-1985) – Founder of the John Birch Society

William H. Daniels (1901-1970) – Academy Award-winning motion picture cinematographer whose oeuvre includes Flesh and the Devil, Dinner at Eight, The Naked City, Winchester ’73 and How the West Was Won

Judy Malcolm (1910-1998) – Comic actress seen in scores of Columbia comedy two-reelers, notably as the woman who would slap the face of Gus Schilling as she walked by and screech: “How dare you look like somebody I hate!”

Mary Martin (1913-1990) – Emmy Award-winning stage, screen and television singer-actress best known for her work in stage productions like South Pacific, Peter Pan and The Sound of Music; mother of actor Larry Hagman

William Tracy (1917-1967) – Stage, screen and television character actor best known for starring alongside Joe Sawyer in a series of Hal Roach Studio “streamliners” in the 1940s and for playing the titular role in the 1940 serial Terry and the Pirates (he was Terry, not the pirates)

Paul Picerni (1922-     ) – Stage, screen and television actor whose vehicles include Operation Pacific, I Was a Communist for the FBI, House of Wax, The Brothers Rico and TV’s The Untouchables

Dick Shawn (1923-1987) – Stage, screen and television comic actor whose vehicles include Wake Me When It’s Over, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, The Producers, Love at First Bite and Angel

Allyn Ann McLerie (1926-     ) – Stage, screen and television singer-actress best remembered here at TDOY as Janet Reubner on The Tony Randall Show; her other vehicles include Calamity Jane, The Reivers, Cinderella Liberty and TV’s WKRP in Cincinnati and The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd

Abby Mann (1927-2008) – Academy Award-winning motion picture and television screenwriter-producer whose oeuvre includes Judgment at Nuremberg, A Child is Waiting and The Marcus-Nelson Murders…the latter which became the basis of the TV series Kojak

Malachi Throne (1928-     ) – Stage, screen and television character actor best known as Noah Bain on the TV series It Takes a Thief; also appeared as Commodore Mendez in the Star Trek two-parter “The Menagerie”

David Doyle (1929-1997) – Stage, screen and television character great whose TV legacy is that of John Bosley on the series Charlie’s Angels; he also had roles on The Patty Duke Show, The New Dick Van Dyke Show and Bridget Loves Bernie

Jim Nesbitt (1931-2007) – Country music singer-songwriter whose specialty was novelty songs

Lou Rawls (1933-2006) – Grammy Award-winning R&B/soul music vocalist

Billy Paul (1934-     ) – Grammy Award-winning R&B /soul music vocalist

Woody Allen (1935-     ) – Academy Award-winning motion picture writer-director-actor whose oeuvre includes Bananas, Sleeper, Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters and Crimes and Misdemeanors

Sandy Nelson (1938-     ) – Rock ‘n’ roll session drummer who had a few instrumental hits of his own

Richard Pryor (1940-2005) – One of the funniest men to ever walk the face of this planet

Bette Midler (1945-     ) – The Divine Miss M; singer-actress-comedienne whose vehicles include The Rose, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Ruthless People, Outrageous Fortune, Beaches, The First Wives Club and the TV sitcom Bette

Gilbert O’Sullivan (1946-     ) – Irish pop singer-songwriter

Jonathan Katz (1946-     ) – Emmy Award-winning writer-comedian best known for the animated situation comedy Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist

Richard Keith (1950-     ) – Drummer and moppet actor best known for playing “Little” Ricky Ricardo, Jr. on the TV sitcom I Love Lucy

Treat Williams (1951-     ) – Stage, screen and television actor whose vehicles include Hair, Prince of the City, Smooth Talk, Dead Heat, Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead and TV’s Everwood

Larry Charles (1956-     ) – Emmy Award-winning writer-director-producer best known for his work on the sitcoms Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfield and for directing such films as Borat, Religulous and Brüno

Charlene Tilton (1958-    ) – Stage, screen and television actress-singer who achieved boob tube immortality as nymphette Lucy Ewing Cooper on Dallas

Candace Bushnell (1958-     ) – Author-columnist whose book Sex in the City became the basis for the head-scratchingly popular TV series and subsequent movie spin-offs

Sarah Silverman (1970-     ) – Actress/standup comedian whom I’m also convinced masquerades as singer-musician Amy Winehouse since I’ve never seen a photograph of the two of them together

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Pam said...

Ah...Bette Midler. The best show I think I've ever seen. We actually BOUGHT tickets to her last run at Radio City. I mean...paid cash!

quizshowbob said...

It seems like almost everytime I pop in one of my Perry Mason DVDs, Norman Leavitt shows up as some type of expert witness in at least one of the episodes.

Stacia said...

I just saw Leavitt in "The Big Clock," and said to myself, "Self, that guy was in 'The Big Clock.'" If I could just parlay that kind of identification into working for me over on the LA Times' Daily Mirror mystery guests, I'd have a sweet, sweet gig.

Also, I didn't know Lou Rawls was no longer with us. Seriously. I have no idea how I missed that.

Stacia said...


Scott said...

Alas, I never saw Bette Midler live, but I did see (and only because friend was in it) a production of Whose Life Is It, Anyway? starring birthday girl Charlene Tilton.

It was everything you're thinking it was. And a lot less.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Also, I didn't know Lou Rawls was no longer with us. Seriously. I have no idea how I missed that.

I can relate. I didn't learn until I did yesterday's b-day list that Graham Crowden, the actor from the Britcom Waiting for God, died in October. I had to pass this along to my parents, who were saddened because God is one of their favorites.

but I did see (and only because friend was in it) a production of Whose Life Is It, Anyway? starring birthday girl Charlene Tilton.

You know, I didn't think it was physically possible for a jaw to actually drop to the floor...but that statement got the job done.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

p.s. to Stacia -- thanks for plugging the blog over at the L.A. Times' Daily Mirror!

JR said...

The Norman Leavitt that won a make-up Emmy is actually Norman Leavitt Jr, son of "our" Norman Leavitt. I was in touch with Norman senior several years ago and he was very proud of his son...

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Thanks for clueing us in on that, if you can get the notoriously stubborn IMDb to correct it you'll be carried around on the shoulders of the blogosphere like a regular hero!

Stacia said...

I'll be happy to try to correct it, unless someone else has.

This reminds me of when Jim Thompson, author and dude who made a cameo in "Farewell, My Lovely," was listed as having been a producer a full 20 years after he died.

P.S. You're welcome, Ive. But I figured a LOT of the people who read the Daily Mirror mystery guest posts will LOVE TDOY, so it was more of a public service to them. Because I'm so generous, as you well know.