At the beginning of each new year, a ritual known as “New Year’s resolutions” is generally attempted here at Rancho Yesteryear…and I’m sorry to say that since my track record for making and keeping them has been pretty abysmal in the past I resolve this year not to make any more resolutions. (D’oh!!!) Actually, when I had breakfast with my parents on New Year’s Day morning and Dad asked me if I had made any I told him that I resolved to eat “that last piece of rye toast”…and I did not disappoint.
I’m going to kind of come out with the bad news first—I have made a sort of semi-official resolution that I’m going to make a concerted effort to put more movie and television reviews up here on the blog because I’ve sort of slacked off on that…and unfortunately for Peggy and other birthday fans, that means I’m going to have to eliminate the daily birthday shoot-outs. Believe me, if there was a way I could continue them I’d do so in a heartbeat but they really make a pig of themselves with regards to my free time. If I do get wind of someone who’s celebrating a milestone natal anniversary however, I’ll certainly make mention of it.
Most of the recent inactivity here at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear can be attributed to the fact that I spent a goodly amount of time at the ‘rents during Christmas and New Year’s—I went over Christmas Eve for a spread that included my mom’s pepperoni rolls, hot beef dip and Bugles, peel ‘n’ eat shrimp, etc.; she had even made a generous portion of Christmas cookies, particularly one that I took a liking to that involves Snickers miniature candy bars. (She has promised to give me the recipe, assuring me that I will be responsible for making them from now on because—and I quote—“they are a pain in the ass.”) Sister Kat prepared a sumptuous feast for dinner the next day including a turkey breast (which was there only for the purpose of making a sandwich later) and a standing rib roast courtesy of the good folks at Publix supermarkets, who smiled down on their customers by having a sale before Christmas. (I just so happen to have one in my freezer right now which will be trotted out on the next special occasion…or when I get really hungry, whichever comes first.) I had planned to return to Rancho Yesteryear the following day (December 26) but because a portion of Georgia benefited from a small snowfall on Christmas Day—an all-too-rare occurrence, I might add; the last “White Christmas” was back in 1882 according to the television talking head—I stayed around for an extra day so as not to inconvenience my father by having to drive amongst people not used to tooling around in the white stuff. The 2-3 inches of frozen precip that we received was my nephew Davis’ introduction to the wonders of playing in the snow although he didn’t particularly care to walk around in it. He was fascinated by it, though, as this photographic evidence will attest:
By the way, let the record show that this is Davis’ first appearance on the blog (though I think I have mentioned him in passing); my sister has made no bones about the fact that she is tired of seeing my niece Rachel get all the exposure. This was a particularly trying holiday for Rach—some wisenheimer kid stood up in her class to announce that “there ain’t so sanity clause” and when she confronted sister Debbie and my brother-in-law with this, they decided to come clean with the truth. (I later told Deb that had she had a copy of Miracle on
34th Street on hand this unpleasantness might have been avoided.) Her belief system shattered, Rachel stormed upstairs to her room and then stormed right back down five minutes later to announce: “I suppose there’s no such thing as the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy, either!”
Sister Debbie and Family were nice enough to continue supporting my TV-on-DVD acquisition habit by gifting me with copies of The Lucy Show: The Official Third Season and The Fugitive: The Fourth and Final Season, Volume One; sister Kathryn chose instead to present me with items of a more personal nature, including some nifty business cards promoting this ‘umble scrap of the blogosphere. I got a much bigger kick this Christmas watching Davis play with his stuff; I got him a Fisher Price school bus that kept him fascinated for the better part of a half hour (the kid made out like El Bandito, including a train set that wasn’t too shabby). I know people have a tendency to brag on and on about their grandkids or nephews/nieces or whatever but this little guy is really smart as a whip; he’ll be in the living room playing and when he hears the ice machine in the kitchen he’ll burble “Ice…Ivan!” because he knows I like a lot of ice in whatever beverage I’m imbibing at the time. (He’s also got an endearing way of pronouncing my name; he has to stick out his tongue while saying it.)
So when I returned to Castle Yesteryear I spent most of my free time staring at telebision and working on the necrology that I posted on Tuesday; I had wanted to get a piece up yesterday but the TCM Our Gang marathon sort of occupied most of my time (with the exception of a side trip to Publix with Mom to get a few items). I was up at the butt-crack of dawn to record all of Our Gang silents and with the exception of July Days (1923), which I missed getting the first two minutes of (I nodded off before it started); I didn’t do too badly in my acquisitions. I know there are some of you saying: “Why didn’t you just program the darn DVD recorder already?” but I’m a bit anal in that I don’t like to record TCM’s “filler” in between these shorts—I mean, come on, I can only hear Arlene Dahl tell that Marilyn Monroe story so many times. I enjoyed most of the Our Gang silent comedies (though I don’t particularly care for the heavy use of stereotypical humor that was apparently en vogue at the Roach studios at that time—was Allen “Farina” Hoskins the only kid in that group allowed to be scared?) but if these are the same ones that were going to be released by Laughsmith/Mackinac Media (that project, announced in 2005/2006 apparently went south according to this Nitrateville thread). I thought the music chosen for the shorts was pretty sub-standard; there’s a reason why it only costs a few extra bucks to go first class and Mackinac would have benefited from hiring somebody like Ben Model to do the heavy lifting in this instance. (Ben did let me know that he was commissioned to work on a number of Our Gang releases available at reelclassicdvd.com, which would appear to be the place to go if you're interested in acquiring better versions of the films shown on TCM.)
Anyway, because I neglected to get a post up yesterday I forgot to mention that January 5 was the 50th anniversary of the television premiere of Mister Ed. I didn’t completely dismiss it; Edward Copeland graciously allowed me to compose a post to commemorate the show on his blog but I always like to give readers a heads-up in case they don’t make Mr. C’s blog an essential read (and they really should). I always get a tad misty-eyed about the show because it was one of my late friend and feuding partner Sam Johnson’s favorite reruns. It was also Jack Benny’s favorite show…though I suspect that that had a lot to do with the fact that his best friend George Burns owned a large chunk of it.
Projects and distractions last year kept me from making this final announcement but there’s no time like the present—and that’s exactly what I’d like to give to two lucky TDOY readers…a gift of one of Radio Spirits’ newest CD releases. RS’ own Mark Tepper gave me the go-ahead last year to develop a set of The Great Gildersleeve broadcasts from 1948 that make up one of the show’s best-remembered storylines: Gildy finds an abandoned baby in his car one day while shopping and when efforts to locate the child’s parents fall through he decides to adopt the little nipper into the Gildersleeve clan. There are sixteen broadcasts in this story arc that constitute some truly classic radio; I’ve always felt The Great Gildersleeve was one of that medium’s most underrated sitcoms and I really feel this eight-CD release is one of the best I’ve worked on. I’ve got two copies of it to give away, and all you have to do is send me an e-mail at igsjrotr(at)gmail(dot)com with “Gildersleeve Baby” in the subject header and something witty in the body of the e-mail like “I want it” or “Give me one of them or I’ll punch your face in” along with a snail mail address (if you want to use a phony name that’s fine but the address needs to be legit—the post office will no longer allow me to send things to “behind the third trash can in the men’s room at the bus depot”)
I’ll award these sets to two entrants via random number generating and if you want to hold off on giving me your snail-mail address until you receive word that you’re a lucky winner I’ll certainly understand but that may, of course, slow down a tad the time it takes for me to get these out. All entries must be received by EST on Thursday, January 13 and I’ll select the winners the next morning. The Gildersleeve set has a retail value of $31.95 and would make a swell gift either for yourself or the OTR buff in your family. But remember—you can’t win if you don’t enter…and this offer is not good for any member of my family (though Jeff Overturf can enter if he wants, since he’s “redopted”).