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Tuesday, December 27, 2005


by Jim McAllister

I have always been fascinated by radio. As a kid, I loved to listen to far away stations late into the night and let my imagination run wild wondering about those distant places. Radio was fabulous and was a theater of the mind. It was the number one source of entertainment for about thirty years until television came along to unseat it around 1950.
From 1920 to 1950 radio
was the king of the airways.
That ended in the early
1950's with the emergence
of television. (picture courtesy
of James Steele collection
copyright 2005)
Even with the advent of FM, radio remained a secondary choice for entertainment as it lost its live shows and settled into recorded programming. Today, radio is almost equal parts programming and commercials whether it be AM or FM. I don’t claim to be an expert on the business end of broadcasting, but I wonder if radio is shooting itself in the foot with all their commercials. It appears that they are when I see the appearance of satellite radio and its lack of commercials available for a small monthly fee. It is like listeners are crying, "Enough is enough!"
Fortunately, there is an alternative to heavily commercialized and "pay to listen" radio. That alternative is National Public Radio (NPR). NPR has been around since 1970 and like most enterprises, it started small with a staff of only 30 and a group of 90 stations. Today they have 700 employees and over 780 stations. Their listeners have doubled in the last ten years to 30 million as compared to 2 million in the early 1980's. The reason for this success is obvious to anyone who enjoys high class, intelligent radio: NPR’s goal is to provide commercial free news, talk, and entertainment to their listeners through private support. As part of their mission statement they proclaim that they "work in partnership with member stations to create a more informed public; one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas, and cultures." "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" are the two most popular programs on NPR and various published reports list "Morning Edition" as the number one listened to morning news program in the United States. Overall, these two programs are the second and third most listened to programs in America. Newer programs like "The Motley Fool Radio Show", a show of financial advice, and "Day to Day", a weekly newsmagazine, are continually being added.
A Crosley radio from 1950, a great little
companion in its day. Commercial
radio had reached its heyday by 1950.
(Courtesy: Crosley Inc.)
Although NPR produces about 120 hours of national programming weekly for its affiliates, local stations also provide important and interesting shows to complement the national stuff. Our affiliate in Phoenix is KJZZ-FM and they provide us great jazz recordings on week nights from 7-11 with local entertainer Blaise Lantana hosting the show. On Sunday nights from 6-11, we are treated to "Those Lowdown Blues" hosted by local blues club owner and musician Bob Corritore. Bob plays great selections from his own lifelong collection of blues recordings and has been doing his show for 18 years on KJZZ. Throw in local news, traffic, and weather cut-ins, all with no commercials, and you have an enjoyable local and national radio listening experience.
News is a big deal at NPR as evidenced by the aforementioned popularity of "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered". While many networks have decreased news coverage for various reasons, one of which being the dreaded "bottom line", NPR has stepped up their coverage with 37 locations around the world reporting with 22 news bureaus and offices in the United States and 15 in international sites. This coverage has been described by listeners as "vital, "essential", and "indispensable". In 2002, NPR West was established in Los Angeles to give better coverage of the western United States. By establishing this facility, NPR established a critical mass of editorial staff for both coasts. This newsgathering and production division captures news, trends, and ideas from California to Colorado and Seattle to Santa Fe. NPR West also allows more coverage of ethnic diversity, cultural dynamism, and vibrancy of the modern American West. In 2004, $15 million was set aside to invest over three years to expand news services and add more staff. Yes, news is a big deal at NPR!
How about entertainment? Politics and society? Business? People and places? Health and science? Holiday news? Books? Music? Arts and culture? You’ll find national and local coverage of them all on your local NPR affiliate and they will come to you commercial free with articulate hosts.
Radio in general may have lost its luster many years ago but we still have that ray of sunshine amongst the clouds, National Public Radio. (Comments?


If you read this column (and I hope you do!) you know that I write a lot about movies. The vintage stuff is what I enjoy the most, especially from the 1930's and 1940's. This was the golden age of movies in my opinion. It was the era of the great character actors, the emergence of sound films and, hence, the introduction of new stars and the demise of many who couldn't cut it with the new technology. It was a time when the Depression cut the heart out of the American economy paving the way for wonderful musicals followed by the era of film noir in the 1940's.
It was a wonderful time for the movies. Television had not yet made its appearance as a serious threat to the silver screen and radio, as big as it was, was more of a companion than a serious competitor. When television did make its move in the 1950's, it brought about panic driven changes in Hollywood that caused the 1950's to be one of the less enjoyable eras of motion pictures and one possessing far less quality than the previous two decades.
I have added a link to my list that may be of interest to those of you who like to know about the details of various films. That link is "IMDB" and will probably give you all the information you would ever want to know about films. If you are watching something and see an actor that you like but can't think of his or her name, just go to IMDB, type in the movie name, and read the credits. IMDB goes into great detail on cast lists printing all members even if they did not receive billing when the film was made. It is a wonderful link for those interested in film, I use it every day for research and enjoyment.
Enjoy a movie today! JM

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


by Jim McAllister

I love the American people. Nobody can take a series of punches to the jaw and then get up to score a knockout like they do. That is the epitome of resiliency and I am proud to admit I am one of them.
For many years now, the purveyors of political correctness, along with their buddies from the sensitivity police, have been trying to destroy Christmas even though 95% of the people in the United States celebrate the holiday. They would like to substitute greetings like "Merry Winter", "Happy Holidays", and "Season’s Greetings", for "Merry Christmas". Hopefully this year, we are seeing the beginning of the end of that practice as it appears that the multitudes have arisen and said "Enough is enough, we want Christmas!"
Some examples of this backlash are the changes in policy by some large retailers like Sears, Target, and Lowe’s, who have reinstated the word "Christmas" into their advertising. They haven’t done this just because they want to be nice guys. They did it because of some mass boycotts taking place on their stores such as Target which had a 700,000 person boycott staring at them.
(Photo courtesy Ian Britton)
Some may say, "What about the other religious holidays in December? Isn’t it demeaning to them to try to shove Christmas down everybody’s throat?" I don’t look at it that way. Other beliefs are entitled to celebrate in their own way and should receive the respect they deserve. It is just a case of the United States being overwhelmingly Christian, hence, Christmas is a big deal. To use an analogy from sports, what is the biggest sporting event in the United States and probably the world? It’s the Super Bowl. Should the people from the Major Indoor Soccer League complain because they don’t get the coverage of the Super Bowl? Of course not, their sport, although it is respected for what it is, has a much smaller following than football.
It is a shame that it has come to this but there is actually a group of lawyers available to fight for the rights of those who want to celebrate Christmas. This nationwide group of attorneys is "poised to fight the battle for Christmas" and are trained in Christmas related litigation. It’s them against the American Civil Liberties Union in the battle over "Merry Christmas" v. "Happy Holidays". It is sad that a time of year that used to be set aside for joy and happiness has resulted in legal battles.
I have no personal religious beliefs one way or the other, but I have grown up with Christmas and have always enjoyed the feel of that holiday with the tree, the presents, and the fellowship of the family. So, to those of you who dislike that type of celebration, please bear with us. We respect you and mean no harm. We are just stuck in our ways and prefer to keep things that way.
(Photo courtesy Ian Britton)
Last year in this space, I listed my five favorite holiday films in no particular order. They were and still are: "A Christmas Story" (1983), "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947), "Holiday Inn" (1942), "It’s a Wonderful Life" (1946), and "The Bishop’s Wife" (1947). These are shown endlessly during the holidays so there are plenty of opportunities to view them.
Here are some more Christmas and holiday films that I like and think that you would enjoy: "A Christmas Carol": This one has been made many times for television and the movies and, although most of the versions are excellent, I prefer the 1951 film with Alastair Sim as Scrooge and the 1984 television film with George C. Scott in the same role. "Christmas in Connecticut" (1945): Barbara Stanwyck stars as a supposed cooking expert who has to entertain a war veteran (Dennis Morgan) and her boss (Sydney Greenstreet) for Christmas dinner. The results are hilarious. "Holiday Affair" (1949): This stars a beautiful and young Janet Leigh as a widow with a young son who is being pursued by two guys (Robert Mitchum and Wendell Corey) with very different personalities. It’s funny and heartwarming. "The Man Who Came to Dinner" (1941): Monty Woolley is superb as the Alexander Woollcott type critic who breaks his leg and is forced to spend the winter with a mid-western family. Woolley re-created his role from the hilarious Broadway play of the same name.
Regardless of one’s beliefs, these are all great films to watch. I hope you get a chance to see them and have a great holiday.


My prediction came true, at least so far. "King Kong" doesn’t appear to be the blockbuster that was expected. It took in $50 million its first week to be number one at the box office but that doesn’t seem like that much when compared to what other blockbusters have done. Let’s wait for the word of mouth reactions before we make a real judgment.
My feelings all along have been that these movies are relying too much on special effects. The audience feels that it has "been there, done that." Also, this flick has a running time of 3:07, much too long. A lot of kids are going to this one so there will be a lot of squirming in the seats once they are bored with the repetitive special effects. Good luck to parents on that one!
Another factor is that they tried to make a spectacular remake of "King Kong" in 1976 and it failed. Are audiences really that different now? I don’t think so plus the fact that not as many people are going to the show anymore with all the other options available to them including home theaters.
The stars in this one don’t intrigue me either. Naomi Watts is a pretty girl and a good actress but I think that at 36 (37 now) she is a bit old for the Fay Wray part. Fay was 26 when the original was made and that seems a lot more logical for that part. I like Jack Black but not as Carl Denham, that role will always belong to Robert Armstrong. Suggestion: See the new "King Kong" if you must. Then, check the schedule for Turner Classic Movies and watch the original 1933 version. If you are a true movie buff I think you will enjoy the period charm of the older version more.
Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, and Peter
Billingsley. A nice Christmas movie narrated
by Jean Shepherd who relates memories
of past Christmases. (Turner Entertainment)
"A CHRISTMAS STORY" all day on TBS...Starting at 9:00 p.m. (MST) on Christmas Eve, WTBS will be showing "A CHRISTMAS STORY" (1983) all night and through Christmas Day. I’m sure that everyone has seen this wonderful film that takes us back to Jean Shepherd’s memories of Christmas in an earlier time. There are wonderful performances by Peter Billingsley, Darren McGavin, and Melinda Dillon. It is worth having on all day just for background and that great line, "You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!"
....And with that, I bid you all, "Merry Christmas".

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


by Jim McAllister

(Author's note: The three topics mentioned here have been controversial in Scottsdale: Speed cameras on a very dangerous freeway to attempt to stop the carnage, huge American flags on a large tent roof located in a fairgrounds area, and the installation of light rail. In the following paragraphs I give my opinion, what is yours? If you are from elsewhere in the country how would you feel if these items applied to your area?)

I have lived in Scottsdale since 1987 and I have never regretted the decision to leave the icy winter climes of Kansas City and Cincinnati for this oasis in the desert. It's not that those are bad places. I grew up in Cincy and lived in Kansas City for many years after being stationed there in the Air Force so I had to leave many good friends behind but I felt the time had come to make my move. I think it all started when I was a kid in Cincinnati and would watch the football games from the west coast on television and see everybody in the stands in their bright colored clothes, laughing and having fun in the sunshine. As I watched the games it would be dark in Ohio, usually with icy rain beating against the windows, and the prospect of another thirty days without sunshine. Winter in the mid-west: ugh! Unlike the typical conservative Cincinnatian who would never leave their home town, all I could think about was the day I could live out west and fulfill my lifetime dream: to wear shorts and see lawn sprinklers operating on New Year's Day.
A Scottsdale sunset, there is none more
In December of 1979, I decided to run in the Fiesta Bowl Marathon in Scottsdale. A friend of mine, who had run many marathons with me, and I decided to drive from Kansas City to do the race. Well, that was that as I was hooked on the area as soon as I saw the flowers blooming in December. Eight long years later I made the move and am glad I did.
As great as modern Scottsdale is, there are still some things that people here worry about which cause me to roll my eyes and shake my head: Concerns about the speed cameras on the 101 freeway, the "dreaded American flag" of Westworld's tent, and light rail.
Why would anyone complain about speed cameras being anywhere? The speed limit is posted and that is the maximum you drive, period! If you do complain you are obviously in favor of breaking the speed limit and simply do not want to get caught. Isn't 75 MPH enough? I can't believe you are in that much of a hurry. I don't want to hear this silliness about speed traps, big brother, and a loss of rights either. Ask the families of the people whose loved ones have been killed on that road about rights. Besides, Scottsdale has their ubiquitous little radar vans on the streets every day to catch speeders, I don't hear complaints about them. Admit it, you just want to fly down that freeway.
The controversial American flags at
Westworld in Scottsdale.
I like the Westworld flag. Note to complainers: You probably got on the bandwagon after the gulf war and 9-11 adorning your cars with flag stickers and banners. At that time you didn't seem to worry about the aesthetics of patriotism. Of course, those flags are gone now as that is yesterday's news. Well, in case you haven't noticed, we are still involved in war and the protection of our country from people who would like to kill you and your family. I suggest you put those flags back on your cars and salute the Westworld tent every time you have the pleasure of seeing it. Don't tell me that it is unsightly and destroys the looks of your neighborhood. It is your country's flag plus it is not even close to you, it is surrounded by Westworld's barns, fairgrounds, ugly three story apartments, an ice rink, and an office park.
Light rail in Houston, Texas. It seems
expensive for Phoenix at $54 million per
mile plus will anyone ride it? I don't think
anyone in Scottsdale will.
Light rail is nothing but a modern streetcar. Phoenix used to have those but disbanded them about 50 years ago for gasoline buses. They do need some type of public transportation and if they want to waste their money on light rail that's up to them. As far as Scottsdale, I'm proud of the city council for shelving the idea. Of course, the idealists disagree. They think that the citizens of Scottsdale will actually ride light rail. Yeah, just like they ride the buses in Scottsdale, one at a time and that's the driver by himself. Do they really think that people who live in Troon or Desert Highlands are going to inconvenience themselves to save a couple bucks on gas and help the environment? The people who believe that are sadly lacking in knowledge of human nature. Remember, this is the place where people sit parked in their idling $50,000, 8 miles to the gallon air conditioned SUV's, burning $3 per gallon gas and talking on their cell phones. They are not going to ride a streetcar and at a $54 million installation cost per mile plus subsidies this would be a folly of utmost proportions.
Yes, Scottsdale is wonderful but some of us are spoiled with our great lifestyle. Maybe we need to stop a moment and smell our Starbuck's coffee.

Friday, December 09, 2005


For those of you who have followed my column from the old blog, you know what I write about in these weekly forays. For anyone new who has stopped by, I appreciate your patronage and hope you enjoy my stuff. Mostly I cover entertainment items like movies, music, books, radio, television, and sports with an occasional look at something I consider important like the recent columns about World War II.
I am a history guy, in particular American history, as I feel that it is a subject that is important to all. Most events happen in cycles and by studying history we get a better idea of what is happening now and what may be happening in the future plus maybe some will realize that this good life we lead now is not something that was just handed to us for no particular reason.
Enough oratory....I invite anyone who has a question to please bring it on. You can leave it on the "comments" section of any of my blogs or email me at I'll do my best to give an intelligent response! Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


by Jim McAllister

Can you imagine today’s American society being placed in a time machine and being transported back to the dark days of World War II? With today’s attitude toward overbuying and waste and looking at bankruptcy as a viable way out, how would these people handle the teamwork approach to rationing of major consumer items? It would be interesting to see their reaction to the rallying call of, "If you don’t need it, don’t buy it!"
With the arrival of the war in December of 1941, a lot of strain was administered to the pipelines of supply and demand. The war consumed a lot of goods which threatened to cause shortages on the home front, so in the spring of 1942 the rationing of items such as most types of food, gasoline, and even clothing was instituted. Everybody was affected and the way Americans coped with this inconvenience is a testimony to their strong will.
People formed clubs to work together to maintain supply channels so that the guys fighting on the fronts could have more. Scrap drives were organized to provide more metal, paper, and rubber and many people removed bumpers from their cars to help that effort. Recycling became popular as used cans were a good source for ammunition casings. In order to provide more fresh produce for the troops, many families planted "victory gardens". These gardens provided families with produce so that normal supplies would benefit the soldiers. This program was an inexpensive enterprise for the people as all they needed was a small piece of ground, a little fertilizer, and some seeds. It is estimated that there were over 20 million victory gardens planted during World War II providing 40% of America’s produce. War bonds were a source used to provide funds for the war. Hollywood played a big part in the sale of bonds as stars entertained around the country to solicit sales.
WAR RATION BOOK and stamps
from World War II (courtesy of
Roz Becker)
Rationing was handled by using stamps contained in a "War Ration Book". Red stamps were used to buy meats, butter, fat and oils, and cheese. Blue stamps were used for canned, bottled, and frozen fruits and vegetables, plus juices and dried beans, soups, baby food, and catsup. The stamps had expiration dates and all families were issued enough to allow for their fair share of these commodities. Other items such as gasoline, tires, coffee, clothing, and fuel oil were also rationed and while the pooling of stamps and watching expiration dates was a dizzying experience, it was necessary for the success of the war effort and very few complained. The America of the wartime 1940's had a teamwork discipline. The mentality of the people was reinforced by the pleas of the Office of War Information which cried, "Do with less so they’ll have enough".
Some items were not rationed such as pancake flour, canned turkey and chicken, pasta, and pickles so the use of these items went up considerably because of their availability and the weariness of some citizens who were tired of trying to keep track of the red and blue points and their expiration dates. Actually, most people were eating healthier during this time as shortages encouraged them to explore the seven food groups instead of relying so heavily on fatty items like meat and dairy products. Macaroni and cheese became a popular item since two boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese dinner could be bought with one ration coupon. That item sold 80 million boxes in 1943! Cottage cheese also became a popular substitute with sales ballooning to 500 million pounds in 1944. Oleomargarine became a substitute for butter as it became common to see housewives squeezing the familiar oleo plastic bag to spread the yellow color into this awful tasting item.
One of the negative side effects of all this patriotism was the appearance of the black market. By utilizing the black market, a person could buy a lot of items that were in short supply even though they would have to pay inflated prices. It was annoying to those who worked hard to conserve but it still existed to supply such items as meat, sugar, and gasoline to those who could afford it.
So there it was, wartime America and the reality of what rationing was all about. As always, we faced up to adversity and made it through. Although World War II ended in 1945, rationing was continued until 1946 as the much depleted pipelines had to be refilled. By the late 1940's, prosperity was returning and the Depression of the 1930's was just a bad memory. More women were entering the workplace, and television was making its move into the living rooms of America sending a chill up the spine of the movie business. However, there was room for everyone and both survived.
Let’s hope that we never have to live through rationing, but if we do, I hope we handle it as well as those brave souls of the wartime 1940's.


by Jim McAllister

Humphrey Bogart ("Bogie") was an interesting guy. When we see his screen persona as the dark, brooding, film noir antihero, it is hard to imagine that he grew up in the midst of wealth. Born in December, 1899 to a prominent New York doctor and his wife, who was a famous children’s illustrator, Bogie was actually the image of the Gerber baby at one time. Wealth did not equal happiness though as his parent’s constant bickering and drinking may have played a part in the Bogart image of years later.
As an unhappy youth, he spent some time at a private school before being expelled in 1918. A couple of years in the navy followed but in spite of his drifting, he had developed an interest in acting and made his stage debut in 1921 playing a Japanese butler in a play in Brooklyn. His drifting days were over and from1922 to 1935 he appeared in twenty-one Broadway productions.
A couple of attempts at Hollywood failed during this time but his big break was to arrive in the form of a 1934 play by Sherwood Anderson, "The Petrified Forest". He had rave reviews as the killer Duke Mantee and he won the role in the movie version produced by Warner Brothers. After being nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar though, he was relegated to a string of Warner’s "B" features between 1935 and 1941.
The 1940's were now arriving and along with them came the era of film noir: movies with dark and sinister overtones beset with dishonorable characters and lots of gray and black scenes. Bogart was a natural for this style and won the role as "Mad Dog" Roy Earle, the sympathetic antihero of "High Sierra"(1941). This was to be the last film where he did not get first billing (Ida Lupino did). With the success of that film he was now on the "A" list and on his way to 1940's stardom.
To reinforce his new found fame, he followed "High Sierra" with his role as detective Sam Spade in "The Maltese Falcon" (1941) based on the Dashiell Hammett story. In 1942 he made perhaps his most memorable film, "Casablanca". In this best picture Oscar winner, he plays Rick, the nightclub owner with a mysterious past, who encounters his lost love (played by Ingrid Bergman) in a tense wartime situation. After this success, he received a new $200,000 per film contract from Warners and a chance to make decisions regarding his roles.
Bogie was on a roll now as he made the popular "To Have and Have Not", based on an Ernest Hemingway story, in 1944. Fate was involved in this film as this is where he met his future wife, Lauren Bacall. In 1946 he made the classic, "The Big Sleep", based on the Raymond Chandler story, as he played the role of the Chandler private sleuth, Philip Marlowe.
In 1947 there appeared a different Humphrey Bogart in the role of the paranoid Fred C. Dobbs in "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre". It was another great role for him and proved his versatility. In 1948 there was "Key Largo" with Bacall which was about a group of people held captive by gangster Edward G. Robinson in a Key Largo hotel. In this one Bogie got to be a sort of antihero again.
He was to make two more movies in the 1940's giving him twenty-five for the decade, but his best work was behind him. In 1951 he finally got his well earned best actor Oscar for his role as Charlie Allnut, the riverboat captain in "The African Queen", but this was a departure from the film noir roles that seemed best suited for him.
Humphrey Bogart died on January 14, 1957 at the age of 57. His great friend and director, John Huston, in his eulogy to his friend, stated that "He is quite irreplaceable, there will never be another like him." I agree.


DARK PASSAGE (1947) It’s Bogie and Bacall with nice support from Agnes Moorhead and Bruce Bennett in a preposterous plot but entertaining Warner Brothers entry about an escaped convict (Bogart) having plastic surgery to change his appearance while he looks for the person who actually murdered his wife. It’s a nice 1940's curio with some good street scenes and fun dialogue. It’s not high on most Bogart lists but enjoyable.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


by Jim McAllister

With the Thanksgiving season just a week in the past it only seems appropriate to list some "turkey" movies that have haunted us through the years and right up to the present. Usually the terms "turkey" and "money loser" are partners so I am working with that assumption. Some of these actually seemed like a good idea at the time while others gave rise to the question, "What in the world were they thinking?".
In the early days of motion pictures, there was a kind of "wing it" approach when it came to trying to come up with something the audiences might enjoy. After all, the movie business was a new entry on the entertainment scene so some trial and error was in order. Later on, when sound entered the business, a whole new set of rules applied.
So, what are some of these great ideas that turned into losers? It would take a book larger than "War and Peace" and all of James Michener’s epics combined to list them all so I will go strictly from what stands out in my memory.
Katharine Hepburn was in a slump in the mid to late 1930's. She just couldn’t seem to click in any project and then along came "Sylvia Scarlett" in 1935. In this one she is on the lamb with her father (Edmund Gwenn) so she disguises herself as a boy when they join a touring show. It kind of sounds like a couple of real winners from the early 1980's that made a fortune from the same basic theme: "Victor, Victoria" and "Tootsie". Unfortunately, this was the 1930's, an era with very different attitudes about such things, and "Sylvia Scarlett" was a flop with a cost of over $1,000,000 and a net loss of $363,000 in Great Depression dollars. This was a loss that was hard for struggling RKO studios to take and Hepburn was fired assuring her of a few more years of being considered "box office poison".
This was Hepburn's only attempt at
"screwball comedy". Her career didn't
really recover until 1940 and THE
Most of us like and respect Michael Caine. How can you dislike a guy whose real name is Maurice Micklewhite? Caine is now 72 and has a distinguished career that goes back 46 years and contains such favorites as "The Ipcress File", "The Cider House Rules", and "The Quiet American". Ah, but we all have a blemish somewhere and his is this ultra horrible entry from 1978, "The Swarm". Michael is not the only star to crash and burn in this one as Olivia deHavilland, Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda, and Fred MacMurray also went the same route. This story of killer bees from Irwin Allen was a miserable mess and only grossed $10 million after a cost of $21 million. Fortunately, Caine recovered and went on to some of his finest work while learning a lesson in choosing roles.
Let’s jump ahead a few years to 1987 and the classic dud, "Ishtar" starring Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty. With the success both of these guys have had, all we can say is, "Fellas, why?" This thing is basically a rip-off of the old Bob Hope-Bing Crosby "road" movies except those were funny. "Ishtar" cost $55 million and brought back $12.7 million, true turkey numbers. You have to hand it to Dustin, he bounced back the next year and won an Oscar for "Rain Man" plus despite the ineptitude, he received $5.5 million for doing "Ishtar", not bad bucks for 1987.
days of 1982. It was a great film
follwed by the regrettable ISHTAR
in 1987.
Eddie Murphy has had a decent career but I don’t think that his movies ever matched his work on Saturday Night Live. One glaring example of that would have to be "The Adventures of Pluto Nash" from 2002. Are you ready for this? Eddie plays a nightclub owner who is fighting with the mob. Sounds fairly feasible except when we learn that it is the year 2087 and the club is on the moon! This loser cost $100 million to make and returned a whopping $4.4 million at the U. S. Box office. Eddie, Eddie, Eddie.
One of my favorites and a strong candidate for the all-time turkey movie award has to be "Gigli" from 2003. I like Ben Affleck and felt sorry for him during his relationship with Jennifer Lopez. He is a decent actor and seems like a genuinely nice guy and here he was tied up with a woman who can’t sing or act, has an inflated ego, and has somehow convinced a portion of the public to like her. As the hot couple of 2003, they just had to make a movie together and that was "Gigli". Unfortunately, this mess of silly scenes with an unpronouncable title was a showcase for Lopez (of course!) and was a major flop. Here are the figures: production costs of $56 million plus about $30 million more in promotional costs with first weekend box office receipts of $3.8 million. Will someone please put a cork in that bottle of red ink!
The above are notable losers. Then there are the unexpected winners that made great profits with low production costs like "The Blair Witch Project" (1999), "Tadpole" (2002), and "Star Wars" (1977).
I guess it proves that you can never accurately overestimate or underestimate the tastes of the movie going public.
Thanks for the reaction to the women in World War II column. Here are some more vintage pictures from that era.
Poster from World War II exemplifying
the role of women in the war. (U. S.
National Archives)
Norman Rockwell's 1943 painting of
Rosie the Riveter from an issue
(Curtis Publishing)
Here are a couple of hard working
women of World War II, the "Rich-
mond Welders". (Photo courtesy
of Margaret Fong)


In reply to the gentleman or lady from Oregon who mentioned they thought "Your Show of Shows" ran until 1964, you may be thinking of some other shows done by Sid Caesar after the cancellation of "Your Show of Shows" which ran from February 1, 1950 until June 5, 1954. Sid did "Caesar's Hour" from September 27, 1954 to May 25, 1957 on NBC with Nanette Fabray and Janet Blair (no Imogene). He then tried to re-capture the magic with Coca in 1958 with "Sid Caesar Invites You" but tastes had changed by then and that show was a failure. The show you may be thinking of is "The Sid Caesar Show" which ran during the 1963-1964 season and co-starred Gisele MacKenzie. I hope this clears that situation up for you and thanks for the comment.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


by Jim McAllister

With November being the month that contains Veterans’s Day, I believe that it is appropriate to honor another group of individuals that were instrumental in the war efforts of this country during World War II: the women of America.
World War II had broken out in Europe by 1939. In the same year, the Depression was still raging in the United States and we would not be involved in the war until December 7, 1941 with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. At this time it was thought that the woman’s place was in the home and her duties included housekeeping chores like cleaning, doing laundry, and taking care of the kids. This was about to change with the U. S. involvement in World War II; a change that was never going to be fully reversed to the so called "old days".
The war effort was being fought on two fronts which required a tremendous use of manpower for the military forces. The men who did not go into the military were deferred because of war involved employment, physical disabilities, age, or various other reasons. Somebody had to pick up the slack in the American workforce so the call went out to that large untapped source: the American woman.
At first there was some resistance to women flocking into the workforce but by 1944 there were 19 million women working in the war industry. There were various forms of propaganda issued to justify the use of women in these jobs, one of which, as mentioned by Leila Rupp in her book, "Mobilizing Women For War", was that the situation was only temporary and that "allowed the public to accept the participation of women in unusual jobs without challenging the basic belief about women’s roles." (TEXT CONTINUES AFTER PHOTO)

"Rosie the Riveter" at work on a B-17
bomber in December, 1942.
This does not mean that women were welcomed into industry with open arms and afforded the same rights and privileges of their male counterparts. Many companies still would not hire them and those that were hired were often given inferior jobs and pay. The romantic memory of "Rosie the Riveter" being accepted as "one of the guys" wasn’t always the case although many women did do more important and laborious work as the war progressed. Those who didn’t like women in important roles had to face the law of supply and demand. After all, who else was going to do these jobs?
So, the U. S. was in a full scale war. The men were filling the tanks and the trenches and the women took their places in the factories turning out war goods. It all sounds very simple except for one thing: who was minding the house and kids while the women were working 48 hours per week in the plants? Answer: the women were doing that too.
I’ll tell ya, you had to be tough to be a woman in the U. S. during World War II. Here is an example of the daily routine for many women in that 1941-1945 era: For starters, many women had to work at night in order to balance a home and family with a job as described by Doris Weatherford in her book "American Women and World War II". These women would get off work in time to get home and see their kids off to school. They would grab a quick breakfast, then clean up the kitchen. Then it was off to bed about 10:00 a. m. to sleep for an hour and a half until the kids came home for lunch. After cleaning up that mess it was back to bed and sleep a couple more hours until about 3:00 when the kids got out of school. She would then do laundry if there was time and cook dinner with the limited amount of war rationed supplies available. The family would then eat supper when her husband got home about 6:00 (if he worked in a war related industry and was not fighting). After supper she would clean the kitchen (again!), then take another nap before getting up and going to work at about 10:00 p. m. and start the cycle again. Husbands rarely helped in the chores as this was considered "woman’s work". Thus, the working housewife averaged about 5 to 6 irregular hours of sleep per day.
As World War II ended in 1945, the reaction of working women was mixed. For some, it was wonderful to leave their hectic schedule and return to the home full time again. Some wanted to continue work but didn’t because it was the assumption of society that they should leave the workforce now that they weren’t as necessary as before. Then there were those who enjoyed the new independence they had found through their wartime jobs and wanted to continue with the income they were used to even though they faced demotions and pay cuts in the post war era. One thing was certain: World War II jobs had given women confidence in themselves that they had never known before and laid the groundwork for the advancement and education of women in the workforce today. Hats off and a salute to Rosie the Riveter and the women of World War II!

Val Kilmer (L) and Robert Downey, Jr. in
the funny and unusual Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.
Don't worry about the plot, just enjoy the
the fast paced humor.
Movie Review: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
by Jim McAllister

I am going to be up front with this one. I want you to read this review of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang but if you are not a fan of the unusual, this may not be for you. I thought this movie was hilarious in the way I enjoyed the movies of Mel Brooks and the old It's Garry Shandling's Show from Showtime in the 1980's. It is a total farce and a satire of detective movies, in particular the works of Raymond Chandler since the movie is in five sections with each being titled after a Chandler work.
Robert Downey, Jr. plays Harry Lockhart, a petty crook who accidently gets into acting and detective work as he pursues his childhood girlfriend Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan) who went to Hollywood years before to become an actress. Harry meets private eye Gay Perry (Val Kilmer), who really is gay, and the race is on.
Downey acts as a narrator and says a lot of funny stuff, he also talks to the audience along with Kilmer at the end and it is all hilarious. Hilarious, that is, if your sense of humor is a bit unusual. I laughed all the way through. (Running time: 103 minutes, Rated "R" for language, nudity, violence)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

MILTON BERLE...The original
Mr. Television

TV COMEDY, 1950-EARLY 1960'S

by Jim McAllister

From the comedy-variety format to the sitcom, television provided a new outlet for humor.
Although television had been around in an experimental mode for several years, it never made a breakthrough into the public consciousness until the New York World's Fair of 1939. Unfortunately, shortly after that breakthrough, World War II arrived and the development of television was delayed until the mid 1940's. America was ready for the new medium as set ownership in the American home went from 1% to 50% from 1948 to 1953 and by the 1960's, 90% of homes had a tube. Today that percentage is in the 98% range.
So, what was the role of comedy in this success? One of the first successful comedy shows was the "Texaco Star Theater" which came on the air in 1948. It starred Milton Berle (aka "Uncle Miltie") and ran for seven years on NBC. Berle was the king of Tuesday nights with his raucous brand of comic material. In those early days of television, he was able to command 75% of the viewing audience. In 1950 "Your Show of Shows" made its debut starring Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca. It ran until 1954 and was a ninety minute extravaganza of live, original, comedy broadcast on Saturday nights on NBC.
The 1950-1951 season was a watershed era for television comedy because of the aforementioned shows plus, by this time, radio had been severely diminished by the new medium. In 1950, the comedy-variety program was the most popular form of comedy on television. There were twenty-five shows of this format during that time and only eleven situation comedies. This was, however, the last year that any form of comedy show was more popular than the situation comedy.
Star based comedy shows were popular at this time but there were not many of them. One that stood the test of time was "The Jack Benny Program" which ran for fifteen years. Benny's show, like many comedy hits of that era, was a carry over from the days of radio.
Also coming over from radio were several sitcoms such as "The Aldrich Family", "Beulah", "The Goldbergs", and one of the most successful of the 1950's sitcoms, "The Burns and Allen Show" starring vaudeville and radio favorites, George Burns and Gracie Allen.
The 1951-1952 season was a bad one for comedy. More radio comedies gave television a try with mixed results. Nineteen new shows came on the air but only one, "I Love Lucy", made a serious impact. What an impact it was as "Lucy" ran for six seasons on CBS and was continually number one in the ratings. It is probably the most loved show ever on television as it has been on since October 15, 1951 either with new episodes or in reruns. It also set some precedents as it was the first filmed sitcom, was the first to use a California setting, and was the first to film in front of a live audience.
From 1952 to 1955, sitcoms began to dominate the television comedy scene. The era of the comedy-variety show was fading, perhaps in proportion to those who were either dismissing the vaudeville mentality or were too young to remember it. The number of sitcoms grew from twenty-two in the 1952-1953 season to thirty-three in 1954-1955. Some of the big hits of the time were "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" (another carry over from radio) which had its debut in 1952 and ran for fourteen years to make it the longest running sitcom of all time. 1953 brought "Make Room For Daddy" starring Danny Thomas, another success with an eleven year run. Also in 1953, the longest running comedy show of any kind, "The Red Skelton Show", was picking up steam. Red actually started on NBC in 1951 and spent twenty years on the air until 1971, mostly on CBS. While many radio comedians failed on the TV screen, Red was successful to the end and was canceled mainly because of demographics, not audience size. He gave his final "Good-night, God bless" on August 29, 1971.
From 1955 to 1960, comedy programming went into a tailspin as the mid to late 1950's was the era of the television western. Starting with "Gunsmoke" in 1955, the western built to twenty shows by 1957 and averaged thirty shows in production from 1958-1960. During that time the comedy-variety show continued to decline and situation comedies slipped in number to seventeen by 1959-1960.
By the early 1960's, the western had run its course as far as being a dominant form of television entertainment and the comedy format began a resurgence, especially in the form of the situation comedy. There was some adult entertainment that was successful such as "The Dick Van Dyke Show", which ran on CBS from 1961-1966, and only left the air because of the star's wish to move on rather than as a result of bad ratings. As we shall see, Dick Van Dyke's co-star, Mary Tyler Moore, was to go on to even more success in the 1970's with her own groundbreaking show, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show". Most of the comedy of this era, however, was of the "screwball" type with shows like "The Beverly Hillbillies", "Gomer Pyle", and "Bewitched" drawing large audiences.


Thanks for checking out the new blog. It will be a continuation of the old blog which was an expanded version of my newspaper column in the "INDEPENDENT" papers of Phoenix/Scottsdale. I hope you continue to check it out, updates are usually on Wednesday each week and for you regulars you know the stuff I write about (radio, TV, movies, music, books, sports, or whatever).

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When I saw this movie advertised as starring one of my favorite British actors (Clive Owen, "Croupier") and TV star Jennifer Aniston ("Friends"), I figured I had to check it out. After all, it is like mixing oil and water: Owen is one of the best in the UK and Aniston? Well, she spent ten years on a silly sitcom but I have to admit I liked her in "The Good Girl" (2002) and in one of my all time favorite cult flicks, "Office Space" (1999).

"Derailed" is a good mystery with a lot of action and plenty of twists and turns in the plot to hold your interest during its 100 minute running time. Never mind that it is one of the most preposterous stories that you will ever see. You're at the movies to be entertained, not to watch a boring reality experience and this one fits the bill. Isn't that what Hollywood is all about?

Owen plays Charles Schine, a man with a lot on his mind. His daughter is ill, he has just been canned by one of his biggest accounts at the advertising agency where he works, and although he has just met the sultry Lucinda (Aniston) on a commuter train, his troubles are just beginning. What those troubles are I will let you find out by going to this film but, rest assured, Charles is in for a wild ride.

Caution: When you see "Derailed" don't expect another "Citizen Kane" and don't talk to strangers on commuter trains! Owen and Aniston work together about as well as can be expected and Vincent Cassel is convincing as a bad guy. This one is rated "R" for violence, language, and a small amount of sexual action. JM