Saturday, July 31, 2010

Images from SoD

Just a quick post to finish up my "Mister Ed" blog.  I guess I didn't expect it to be three days, but it was certainly worth it.

Below is a scan of the banquet program from November 15, 1996 when Alan Young and Connie Hines, the stars of "Mister Ed", plus Will Hutchins, the star of "Sugarfoot" all came together at the Two Tars Tent (Philadelphia chapter) of the Sons of the Desert 25th anniversary banquet.

All three stars have autographed the program to me.  What a special night!

Friday, July 30, 2010

SOME Players on Mister Ed

The full cast list is immense for the wonderful TV show "Mister Ed" that aired from 1961 to 1966.  Of course, Alan Young and Connie Hines as Wilber and Carol Post, plus Allan Lane who voiced Mister Ed, plus a few others were the mainstays of the series.  Let's look deeper.

Mister Ed was played by Bamboo Harvester, a palomino foaled in 1949.  He was trained by Lester Hilton who also worked on the Francis the Talking Mule series, and was an apprentice of Will Rogers. 

If you glance quickly down the list you will see many names that you may recognize:
Jack Albertson
Richard Deacon
Donna Douglas
Bill Baldwin  (No, not THAT Bill Baldwin, the other one who was in Rocky.  Remember?)
Bobby Diamond  (If you are my age, you will remember Diamond as Joey on the Saturday morning TV hit "Fury," pre "Mister Ed.")
Sharon Tate
Jack LaLanne
Butch Patrick  (If you are younger than I, you will remember Patrick as Eddie on "The Munsters," post "Mister Ed.")
Henry Brandon, who we already discussed here.
And, of course, George Burns.

It looks like everyone recognized the quality of "Mister Ed" and wanted to be part of it.  And the list above just scratches the surface.

Let's quickly pick a name at random and see what that person has done in addition to "Mister Ed."  How about Chick Chandler.  Probably no relation to George Chandler from "Lassie."  Chick lived from 1905 to 1988, and appeared in 170 roles from 1925 to 1971.  His name is unknown to me, but he must fit perfectly into the Bit Actor category.

I don't recognize many of the early titles he was in.  Included in the movies I know; one Mr. Moto movie in 1938; The Bride Came COD in 1941 with James Cagney and Bette Davis; two movies with Humphrey Bogart, The Big Shot (1942) and Action in the North Atlantic (1943); three Blondie films with Penny Singleton; and some other very good films, Showboat (1951), Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick in 1952 with Alan Young, A Star is Born with Judy Garland in 1954, etc., right up to It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

Starting in the 1950's he spent most of his time on TV, including three episodes on "Mister Ed" and right up to "Bonanza" in the 1970's.  Most of these appearances were one or two episodes, but he did star in one season of a 1961 TV show called "One Happy Family" that included Dick Sargent.  Sorry, but I never saw it!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Alan Young

I met Alan Young at a Sons of the Desert banquet in Philadelphia, quite a few years ago.  As I have mentioned before, the Sons of the Desert is a club dedicated to the study of Laurel and Hardy.

Alan Young is a delightful man.  What I like about being a member of a group like the SoD is the accessibility you have to meet and chat with people whom you have enjoyed in movies and on TV.  It is one thing to go to a huge convention that is open to the public and stand in line to get an autograph and exchange pleasantries with a star, but at a SoD banquet or convention, you get to communicate with sit in the bar and share a drink and a real conversation about the old days.  And they seem to enjoy it as much as we do.

Alan Young was born in 1919 in England.  He is most famous for his work on TV with a talking horse!  He plays the bagpipes well, and he did for us at the banquet. 

His first film was Margie in 1946 with Jeanne Crain.  My earliest memory of him came on a recording of the soundtrack of his 1952 film, Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick, which I believe were red, 78 rpm records, in a box set complete with a cartoon cover depicting Young and co-star Dinah Shore.  I was only 2 years old when that movie came out, but by the time I was 4 or 5, a memory of that record set that my parents bought, and the old console radio/record player from RCA was implanted in me.

He had another good part in 1952 in Androcles and the Lion, and his career was off to a great start.  He found TV, or maybe it found him, in 1954, and he was also quite good at voicing animation.  He became the voice of Scrooge McDuck!

His most famous film role was in 1960 with Rod Taylor in The Time Machine, where he played the two Filbys, David and James.  He even reprised that role in a documentary in 1993, again with Rod Taylor, and in later years appeared in a 2002 remake of The Time Machine, with Mark Addy playing David Filby.

His part as Wilbur Post in "Mister Ed" lasted from 1961 to 1966, and must have given him many wonderful memories.  It was one of my favorites, of course, of course.  The guest stars he got to work with on those 144 episodes in five years is amazing, and worthy of recognition in another post. 

Pardon me if I have waxed rhapsodic in this post, but the memories are what keep us young.  I guess Alan is still young because at 91 years old, he is still working.  Alan also has a great web site and you can purchase autographed items from him.  Just go to

No, Alan Young was not a Bit Actor, but I had to include him in my blog, which is really dedicated to everyone in entertainment.  Alan Young is a star!  All my best, Alan, and thanks for the memories.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Do You Remember Paul Newlan?

I don't.  Although I've probably seen him many times, and so have you.  Paul "Tiny" Newlan was born in 1903 and started acting in films in 1935 as an extra, as most young actors and actresses do.  His first film was Millions in the Air starring John Howard.  It also included Bob Cummings and Billy Gilbert in the cast.  (I think both of them did better than John Howard over the years.)

Newlan had quite a few small parts in some very good movies.  In Cecil B. DeMille's 1936 film The Plainsman with Gary Cooper, he played a "man getting whipped on wrist."  Not a bad movie, but I bet it hurt.

Some other work for Newlan was with Fred MacMurray and Harriet Hilliard (of Ozzie and Harriet fame) in Cocoanut Grove in 1938.  That film also includes an acquaintance of mine, Red Stanley, who was a musician and was married to Anita Garvin.  They were both great people!

At the turn of the decade (1939 - 1940) he worked in some more notable films.  The Gracie Allen Murder Case (without George Burns), Another Thin Man, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (he was a whipper), but his scenes were deleted in Life Begins for Andy Hardy.  What a variety of films!

Later in the 1940's he appears in The Harvey Girls (1946) with Judy Garland; Road to Utopia and Road to Rio (in 1946 and 1947) with Hope and Crosby; Copacabana (1947) as the owner of Genevieve the seal, with Groucho Marx and Gloria Jean; The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947); The Fountainhead and The Inspector General in 1949, and the list goes on.  We aren't even half way through his list of acting roles, but many roles he played are still uncredited.

He was in four films with Bing Crosby and eight with Bob Hope (three with both of them), and four with Abbott and Costello.  In 1950 he was in Winchester '73 with James Stewart and in 1955, To Catch a Thief directed by Hitchcock.

In the early 1950's he started working on TV but continued making movies.  He worked mostly in dramas and westerns, but he does appear in "The Beverly Hillbillies."  His last film was in 1970, There was a Crooked Man with Kirk Douglas and Henry Fonda...and Newlan's part was uncredited.

So, when is an extra more than just an extra?  I think Paul Newlan qualifies as a Bit Actor, with 190 roles in 36 years.  He passed away in 1973.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Whatever Happened to Dorothy Comingore?

She was in one of the greatest films ever made, some say THE greatest film ever made, and had a fairly important role, too.  But her name is certainly not on anyone's list of great actresses, not even great bit actresses.

The film was Citizen Kane from 1941, and she played Charles Foster Kane's mistress and second wife, Susan.  Dorothy Comingore was born in 1913 and started in films in 1938, making 20 films before Citizen Kane

Comingore's career started on the stage under the name Kay Winters, and she was "discovered" by Charlie Chaplin, but it does not appear that she ever worked with him.  She changed to her screen name Linda Winters for movies.  She didn't use her real last name until Citizen Kane.

Her first film was a musical two-reeler called Campus Cinderella with Penny Singleton.  She worked again with Singleton in Blondie Meets the Boss, the next year.

She took roles in movies that wouldn't make it to anyone's "A" list, including a pair of Three Stooges shorts, Oily to Bed, Oily to Rise in 1939 and Rockin' Thru the Rockies in 1940.  I guess it paid the bills.  She did manage to get a small part in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in 1939 as a woman at the station.  Capra and Stewart..she must have thought she would build a wonderful future from that point.

After Citizen Kane she had a good part in a 1944 film called The Hairy Ape with William Bendix and Susan Hayward, but she was very selective about the parts she accepted.  Perhaps the success of Citizen Kane clouded her perception of her popularity.

Two more films with minor roles, and a few TV appearances rounded out her 27 screen acting jobs.  In 1951 she was on the Hollywood blacklist, and in 1952 she refused to testify to the House Un-American Activities Committee.  It was a shame how America reacted to the "Communist threat" after World War II, but the career of this Bit Actress in movies and TV was over.  Dorothy passed away in 1971.

Monday, July 26, 2010

"Iron" Mike Mazurki, the Wrestler

My guess is that you will know Mike Mazurki from his photo.  He played in over 150 roles in the movies and TV, from 1934 to 1990, the year of his death.

He stood six and a half feet tall, and started his working career as a wrestler, football and basketball player.  His size and his face got him some small roles in the movies, and then his acting career took off.  He continued to wrestle as well.

He worked in 14 films as an uncredited thug, wrestler or fighter, before his big break came in 1945's Murder, My Sweet starring Dick Powell.  He used his physical characteristics to become a gangland thug on film, but he was also great in bringing his character into comedies. 

That same year he was also in The Thin Man Goes Home and Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in Hollywood.  He played Splitface in the 1945 version of Dick Tracy, and appeared as well in the 1990 version by the same name, starring Warren Beatty.  For another change of pace, look for him in Neptune's Daughter with Esther Williams and Red Skelton. 

Mazurki was at home doing film-noir, as well as sit-coms.  After TV became popular, Iron Mike started appearing on the small screen and also continued in movies.  He appears several times in "Have Gun - Will Travel." "The Untouchables" and "Perry Mason" where you would expect to see him, but he also worked on "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis," "The Munsters," "Mister Ed" and "Gilligan's Island."

In 1959 he worked with Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot, and then in 1963 he had a small role in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World with almost every great comedian who was alive at the time.

He found a lot of work in westerns, on TV and the big screen.  He also appeared in a comedy/sci-fi TV series in 1966-1967 called "It's About Time" but I have never heard of it.  I guess I was wrapped up in "Star Trek" at that time.

Although Mazurki continued to work up to 1990, he only had small roles after 1975 and Challenge to be Free, a true story with Mike in the lead as a trapper accused of murder.  I guess his age was catching up to him.  He brought a lot to movies and TV, and I am pleased to write about this great Bit Part Actor.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

More Casablanca

I might as well go back to one of the best films ever made, Casablanca from 1942, simply because of it's masterful use of bit actors to completely set the tone of the movie.  As much as an artistic director is responsible for designing sets to go with a director's idea of the story, bit actors and actresses create the feel and add color to the production.

Casablanca is full of great people to write about.  We covered Cuddles Sakall yesterday.  Dooley Wilson was the famous piano player/singer at Rick's Cafe Americain.  As everyone knows, he really couldn't play the piano (he was a singer and a drummer) but that didn't stop him.  He played an accordionist in his next film, Two Tickets to London in 1943, and a piano player again in 1949's Knock on Any Door, also with Bogart.  Dooley only made 19 films, but was popular on the stage.

Ludwig Stossel was always one of my favs in Casablanca.  He played Mr. Leuchtag who was preparing to leave for America with his wife.  They are having a drink with Cuddles, rather Carl the waiter, while practicing their English.  Leuchtag, "Vhat Vatch, liebchen?"  Wife, "Ten Vatch."  Leuchtag, "Such Vatch!"  I love it!  Then Carl says, "You will do beautifully in America."  Stossel played 130 roles, including Great Guns with Laurel and Hardy in 1941, and became the Little Old Winemaker in Italian Swiss Colony ads.

John Qualen was Berger, the Norwegian freedom fighter who came to Rick's to assist Victor Laszlo in his escape.  Here is an actor!  In his 88 years he played 209 roles in film and TV, from 1931 to 1974.  Over 50 movies in the decade 1931 to 1939.  Do you remember him in The Grapes of Wrath in 1940?  Qualen also played in a huge list of TV shows from the early 1950's teleplays, up to 1974 and "Streets of San Francisco."

There are too many great stories in the cast list of Casablanca, so I will save some for later.  Or I guess I could just write all day!