Friday, December 24, 2010

A Swing Time Christmas

Any time is a good time for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, especially if its Christmas time and the movie is Swing Time (1936).  Swing Time won an Oscar for best music, and Hermes Pan was nominated for another for best dance routine.  Plus, Ginger was never prettier!  Even with whipped cream in her hair.

The best Christmas scene in this movie is the snow scene.  It was shot on a sound stage, which is obvious, but you do get a little cold watching it, especially when Fred gets a face full of snow as Ginger starts the car!  The song, A Fine Romance, sung during the snow scene really helps warm you up.

Alas, the rest of the cast never comes to mind when you think about Fred and Ginger.  Their ten films together include some of the finest dancing you will ever see, so why remember the cast, or even the story line?

Well, there were others in the cast.  Who can remember Betty Furness (1916 - 1994) on "What's My Line" in the 1950s and "To Tell the Truth" in the 1960s?  She was there, in one of her 45 movie and TV roles.  Betty was also in Flying Down to Rio (1933) with Fred and Ginger.

Victor Moore (1876 - 1962) appears as well.  He has 71 roles to his credit, including 23 silent short films in 1917 alone.  He also made two movies with Bob Hope, Louisiana Purchase (1941) and Star Spangled Rhythm (1942) also with Bing Crosby.  Look for Moore in This is the Army (1943), a Ronald Reagan movie starring George Murphy (1902 - 1992).  Moore's last film was The Seven Year Itch (1955) with Marilyn Monroe.

Here's a Bit Actor to know...Helen Broderick (1891 - 1959).  Swing Time is one of her 35 movies.  She was also the mother of Broderick Crawford (1911 - 1986) who has 140 titles listed.  And I didn't know they were both born in Philadelphia, just like this Blogger!

Two more and we'll call it a day.  Eric Blore (1887 - 1959) has 86 wonderful titles.  I think I may come back to him in another post.  Blore was in The Lady Eve (1941), among his other work from 1920 to 1955.  And let's not forget Georges Metaxa (1899 - 1950) who only made 12 films, but did a great job at Ricky Romero, the band leader who gambles with Fred for his band.

I hope everyone reading has a wonderful Christmas.  I appreciate all the comments and e-mails I have received since I started this project, and several of you have become regular correspondents.  That's what makes this fun...sharing and discussing the great moments and great personalities in film.

I will not be writing tomorrow, but keep watching for more Bit Part Actors.  There are a lot of them!  Spend some time with Fred and Ginger over the holidays.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Vacation

I know, it isn't really a classic.  But you have to admit, this Chevy Chase (b. 1943) film has some good lines, good slap-stick, and the most important thing, it has Mae Questel (1908 - 1998).

Christmas Vacation (1989) was Mae's last film, in a career that includes 382 titles starting in 1930.  Mae is best known as the voice of Betty Boop and Olive Oyl in cartoons.  Her Betty Boop voice is a copy of the original Boop-Boop-A-Doop girl, Helen Kane (1904 - 1966). 

I had the pleasure of meeting Mae twice, while I was a bored member in The Sons of the Desert.  The first time was at a banquet in New York City, and then she came to the Philadelphia SoD convention in 1986.  She was fun, and always ready to tell a story about the old days.

Mae entertained us on banquet night, singing with Vince Giordano's Nighthawk Orchestra.  You can see some of her performance in the Emmy award winning TV documentary "The Revenge of the Sons of the Desert" filmed by Sandy Marshall at the convention.  (You'll see me in it as well!)

Mae's later films included a voice part in Bells Are Ringing (1960), Funny Girl (1968), Zelig (1983) a Woody Allen film where she did the voice of Helen Kane, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) again as Betty Boop. 

I'd also like to recognize Doris Roberts (b. 1930) who played the lush (used as a noun) mother-in-law.  Doris is a perfect Bit Actor.  She has 127 titles listed, starting in 1952.  She was in A New Leaf in 1971 and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three in 1974, among a lot of other work.  She also made a lot of TV remakes of famous movies, like "Bell, Book and Candle," "It Happened One Christmas" a remake of It's a Wonderful Life, and "The Diary of Anne Frank."

And we can't forget William Hickey (1927 - 1997).  I have written about him in my post on The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Check out my archives. 

The rest of the cast does a great job supporting this Chevy Chase showcase.  Beverly D'Angelo (b. 1951) is charming as always.  Juliette Lewis (b. 1973) plays Chase's daughter.  She is now making quite a name for herself as an actress with 56 titles.  Johnny Galecki (b. 1975) was the son, and he now has 46 titles.

Veteran actors, E. G. Marshall (1914 - 1998), John Randolph (1915 - 2004), Miriam Flynn (b. 1952), and the ever strange Randy Quaid (b. 1950) all add their magic to the film, without interfering with Chase's antics. 

As I said, for a real classic movie fan, this will probably never be a classic.  But if you are in the mood for something lighter than A Christmas Carol, this just might be perfect.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bit Actors Blog Label Problem

I was just looking at my blog layout.  My problem is that there are a LOT of subjects in my chosen topic.

A few weeks ago I added a label cloud on the right of my blog.  It would allow you to look for a name or title, and simply click on it to go to relevant posts.  I have now added labels for about half of my existing posts, and the cloud is really looming large.

I changed it to an alphabetical list, which isn't much better, but it is easier to read.  I am afraid if I continue adding labels, the list will be much longer than the page allows, causing it to look off balance.

I still think labels are a good thing, so I will continue adding them.  I hope I can find a solution.  Maybe I can figure out a way to put the labels as a separate page.  I can make two label lists, one for titles and one for names, but that is considerably more time consuming.

I hope you keep reading!  I am still having fun writing about my friends.  Any suggestions from experienced Blogspotters can be left in the comments or sent to me at

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Bridge on the River Kwai...for Christmas?

A recent acquisition of mine is the recently restored collector's edition of The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).  Now, how do I justify writing about a WWII movie at Christmas time?  No problem...this is a GREAT gift idea!

Columbia Pictures and Sony have released it just in time, and in a gift package that is perfect for any movie buff.  The box includes both a DVD and Blu-ray disc.  They are packaged in a 32 page book, with the Blu-ray disc in the front and the DVD in the back.  You also get a dozen small copies of the lobby cards.  See one below.

The pages of the book contain movie posters, a list of credits, stories about the film, and a LOAD of photos.  A lot of content is from the original 1957 souvenir book.

The disc has a few special features, including stars William Holden (1918 - 1981) and Sir Alec Guinness (1914 - 2000) on "The Steve Allen Show."  Actually, he didn't receive his title until 1959, so he wasn't 'Sir' at that time.

The movie itself is worthy of a blog post.  It earned seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor (Alec Guinness).  The cast list is pretty short, though, and leaves me little in the way of Bit Actors to talk about.  I believe that the main characters, played by Holden, Guinness, Jack Hawkins (1910 - 1973) and Sessue Hayakawa (1889 - 1973) all shared equally in the success of this film.

There were a few others who played the prisoners, and of course there was a good number of Asians playing their captors.  Hayakawa had quite a career, spanning the years 1914 to 1966 and 103 titles.  He worked with many stars including Jerry Lewis in The Geisha Boy (1958).

This release is a bargain.  If you don't receive it as a present, make sure you buy it for yourself!