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11/23/03 - SUPERMAN'S PALS: NOEL NEILL & BOB HOLIDAY!

noel neill
I just read two great new books related to my favorite superhero, SUPERMAN, and I must recommend them both to you.
Both were self-published labors of love, and both are loaded with information and rare photos on their main subjects.
First, TRUTH JUSTICE & THE AMERICAN WAY: The Life And Times Of Noel Neill, The Original Lois Lane an authorized biography by Larry Thomas Ward. This is a teriffic scrapbook, biography, filmography of our favorite Daily Planet reporter.
I love spotting Noel in numerous comedy shorts and small parts in Hollywood movies, B-westerns and serials. I attended one of her personal college appearences in 1975 (at Queens College in New York) and have seen her at conventions - she is just as charming in real life as she seems on the screen.
It was interesting to read about her post-SUPERMAN career as an exec for west coast television sales at United Artists. (Could she have sold your local TV station the A.A.P. cartoon package?) She worked for UA in Los Angeles until 1981! (I worked at UA from 1978-84, in New York - I worked for the same company/same time as Lois Lane! Who knew?)
She's since been a manager for Tom Selleck (handling his fan mail). What an intersting career.
If you have any interest in the SUPERMAN TV show or serials, or Noel Neill, this is a MUST-HAVE!
broadway
The other book is called SUPERMAN ON BROADWAY by Bob Holiday and Chuck Harter. Holiday was the actor who played Superman on Broaday in 1966.
Though I've never seen him in action as Superman, I did live in New York at the time, and the publicity he recieved as "the new Superman" was quite effective.
And what a nice guy Bob Holiday is. This book collects all his memories of the experience, clippings, stills, TV appearences, just everything... plus the story of his showbiz career before the tights and cape - and his subsequent business in home design.
Both books lack the professional slickness of a major publisher - but who cares! It's great to hear these stories and meet these people. I highly recommend both books to all Superman fans!


9/21/03 - 3-D Blog - Final Weekend

melody
I'm still in the midst of the 3-D festival in Hollywood - where Will Ryan, Tom Knott, my wife (and sometimes Rita Street, Patty Ryan, Amid Amidi and others) are holding seats in a whole row in the center.
Yesterday was amazing. MELODY and BOO MOON were outstanding. Mint 35mm prints were run and the 3-D was teriffic.
MELODY is by far the best cartoon made in 3-D, the flat UPA designs and the three dimesional layouts were incredible.
It raises the question: Why is MELODY such a forgotten cartoon? It came out months before TOOT WHISTLE PLUNK AND BOOM, but it is just as innovative. TOOT WHISTLE was put up for the Oscar and won. History is written by the victors. However, all the praise heaped on TOOT WHISTLE (which is one of my all time favorites) could be equally lavished on its "Adventures In Music" predecessor MELODY.
MELODY was released by RKO (print screened had full RKO titles), TOOT WHISTLE was put out by Buena Vista. Was Disney championing his own distributor by ignoring MELODY? Was the industry fed up with 3-D and embracing CinemaScope - thus reflected by a TOOT WHISTLE nomination, and win?
boo moon
Boo Moon title art

The print of BOO MOON was incredible! The original titles, like POPEYE THE ACE OF SPACE stated it was "A Stereotoon". The depth layouts were great. Even the title card (at right) is "in depth" - the bottom of the title is closer to our eyes, the top of the lettering (and skyline) is in the distance.
It's hard to describe 3-D depth, but the Famous crew did a wonderful job. Casper flying toward the camera was wonderful and when he floats through space toward the moon, every little star in the background seems to be at a different depth - and of course the original Paramount titles and vivid Technicolor hues were amazing.
Oskar Fischinger experiments and clips from MELODY in an experimental Vectorgraph 3-D system were shown at the rareties program on Saturday.
Hats off to Sabucat Productions for this amazing one-of-a-kind event.


9/18/03 - 3-D Blog - Days #5 & 6

time for beany
In a nutshell...

B'WANA DEVIL was fun but perhaps the worst feature film made in 3-D (at least ROBOT MONSTER was hilarious throughout). The five minute black & white introductory film featuring Lloyd Nolan, Miss 3-D and Beany & Cecil, was hilarious! Stan Freberg was here in person and spoke before the film - as was "Miss 3-D" (Sorry I forgot her real name).
Last night we saw a beautiful print of HYPNOTIC HICK, the Woody Woodpecker cartoon. Not a particularly funny cartoon, but Lantz did perhaps the most 3-D "gags", adding bits that leap off the screen.
Spotted Simpson's directors Jim Reardon and Nancy Kruse in the crowd - also saw film director Curtis Harrington (L.A. Confidential), animators Scott Shaw!, Mark Kausler and cartoon/comics writer Earl Kress in attendence - and I want to praise the Q & A sessions moderated by 3-D historian Dan Symes and Sony's Michael Schlesinger.
The party continues tonight with the 3 Stooges (SPOOKS, my favorite 3-D film ever).
If you haven't come by, and are still thinking about it, the best is yet to come on Saturday, with Casper, The Stooges and Disney's MELODY amongst the rarities to be screened.


9/16/03 - 3-D Blog - Day #4

working for peanuts
The fun continues...
Last night we saw MGM's rodeo romance ARENA, starring Gig Young and Harry Morgan. Director Richard Fleischer was there to do a Q&A.
One of the questions he answered in depth was how/why Walt Disney hired him to direct 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (directly after ARENA). Walt told him that anyone who could make an actor out of Bobby Driscoll (in Fleischer's THE HAPPY TIME) was a great director. Richard brought rivals Max & Walt together and he said Walt & Max were good friends for the rest of their lives.
This was followed by REVENGE OF THE CREATURE (with co-star Lori Nelson Q&A). This was preceeded by Disney's cartoon WORKING FOR PEANUTS (animator Tony Anselmo introduced the film in Donald's voice!). While just a routine Donald versus Chip and Dale chase around a zoo -- WORKING FOR PEANUTS (Directed by Jack Hannah) does boast great backgrounds by Evind Earle and the use of 3-D is superb.


9/14/03 - 3-D Blog - Over the weekend!

Saturday we saw five feature films and three shorts.
I got a small headache.
Note to self: bring aspirin.
The KISS ME KATE screening had turnaway crowds. Kathleen Grayson and Tommy Rall gave a Q & A hosted by musical expert Miles Kruger. LUMBERJACK RABBIT got big laughs. So far, every film we've seen IS actually better in 3-D.
aka space attack
Saw friends Eric Goldberg and Leonard Maltin at various screenings.
IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (with a Q & A with actress Kathleen Hughes, Ray Bradbury and Forry Ackerman), GOG (with Joe Dante hosting a Q & A with director Herbert Strock), GORILLA AT LARGE and CAT-WOMEN OF THE MOON, were very enjoyable in 35mm & 3-D.
The evening ended with a Universal Nat King Cole musical short, but the wacko highlight of the day (for me) was THE ADVENTURES OF SAM SPACE, a 1953 stop-motion short with voices by Paul Frees!
The animation was crude, and the character designs of the puppets ranged from amaturish to delightfully bizzarre. It's about two boys and a professor who blast off into space to ward off an attack by robotic space creatures. Great sets. I suspect this short was a pilot for a TV series.
Who knows?
This 3-D festival is providing a fantastic film education about a transitional time in motion picture history. Four more features today... bring 'em on!


9/13/03 - 3-D Blog - Day #1

motor rhythm
The 3-D Festival in Hollywood is where I am, through next Sunday.
Friday night was the opening and it was packed. I spotted big name directors Joe Dante, Quentin Tarentino and John Landis in the crowd - all apparently planning to attend (like me) every show.
Dante is expected to introduce GOG today at 4:15pm.
Last night was teriffic. The sound and picture superb (best 3-D presentation I've ever seen). You can buy cardboard glasses for 25 cents or fancy plastic ones for $3.00 (or clip-on glasses for $15.00).
Last night was HOUSE OF WAX (with a Q & A with co-star Paul Picerni) and STRANGER WITH A GUN (a B+ Western with Randolph Scott).
The Randolph Scott picture was a hoot. Production values and locations were consistent with Columbia's 1953 B-Westerns and serials (but it was really cool to see it in color & 3-D) and the 3-D "gags" (shooting at the audience, throwing a rope toward the camera, etc.) were corny - but the film was a lot of fun.
Also screened was the RKO stop-motion animated short MOTOR RHYTHM, which was originally made for and shown at the 1939 New York World's Fair. It shows a Plymouth automobile being constructed, via stop motion, piece by piece to a jazzy score - including the Stooges theme, "Listen To The Mocking Bird".
Today, LUMBERJACK RABBIT, KISS ME KATE, CAT-WOMEN OF THE MOON and others...


8/12/03 - Gold Key's DICK VAN DYKE Comics!

gold keydick van

Just a heads up for a very funny series of entries on Mark Evanier's NEWS FROM ME web blog.
dyke
Mark, a former writer for Western Publishing, is posting a series of plot synopsis from Gold Key's 1961-65 publication of DICK VAN DYKE tie-in comic books.
The thing is, Gold Key never did a series of DICK VAN DYKE SHOW comics! Mark is just makin' them up - with perfect visualzations of what the covers might have been.
I wish these could be drawn up and published! And maybe next Mark can do up other 1960s series Western forgot (though they're aren't many). Personally I'd love to see recent shows like SEINFELD, FRAISER or DREW CAREY given the Gold Key treatment...


11/2/02 - LEON SCHLESINGER'S JOHN WAYNE B-WESTERNS!

wayne and duke
Turner Classic Movies ran a few of the John Wayne B-Westerns produced by Leon Schlesinger this month. Outside of Schlesinger's name on the opening titles, these films have nothing to do with animation (though the titles of HAUNTED GOLD (1932) featured animated characters - and Harman-Ising spoofed Schlesinger's RIDE 'EM COWBOY (1932) with RIDE 'EM BOSKO in 1933).

waynewayne
waynewayne

In 1932, with his Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series firmly established at Warner Bros., producer Leon Schlesinger made a deal with his distributor to remake a series of Ken Maynard silent movies (originally produced by First National Pictures which Warner Bros. acquired in 1928).
At a low-low budget of $28,000 a piece, Schlesinger cast young John Wayne (and his miracle horse, Duke) to star. To keep the budgets low, each film relied on ample stock footage from the earlier Maynard pictures. And thus, each film made Schlesinger a very healthy profit.
But why didn't Schlesinger continue to produce feature films? One reason may have been that by the time these westerns were completed, he had a new problem on his hands. Schlesinger's relationship with the Harman-Ising studio fell apart in early 1933, and he spent the next six months setting up Leon Schlesinger Productions to continue the popular Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies.
For the next 11 years Leon devoted himself solely to his cartoon studio (or the racetrack), and left the features to Jack Warner.

The Leon Schlesinger westerns were:
RIDE 'EM COWBOY (8/27/32) - a remake of The Unknown Cavalier (1926)
THE BIG STAMPEDE (10/8/32) - a remake of Land Beyond The Law (1927)
HAUNTED GOLD (12/17/32) - a remake of The Phantom City (1928)
THE TELEGRAPH TRAIL (3/18/33) - a remake The Red Raiders (1926)
SOMEWHERE IN SONORA (5/20/33) - a remake of Somewhere In Sonora (1927)
THE MAN FROM MONTEREY (7/15/33) - an original screenplay which used stock footage from a group of Ken Maynard films.


10/21/02 - THE RAGTIME EPHEMERALIST!

chris ware
I'm fond of old music - including Ragtime - but I'm an even bigger fan of cartoonist Chris Ware. This weekend, at a Ragtime Festival in Fullerton, CA I picked up a copy of Ware's semi-annual publication THE RAGTIME EPHEMERALIST - and I'm blown away by it.
If you enjoy Ware's time-warp graphics in his award winning Acme Comics Library series (or his amazing book, Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth) you will equally enjoy this 260 page squarebound paperback journal. If you happen to love Ragtime, or music trivia, this is a must-have.
This thing is literally packed with information and visuals. Editor Ware presents over a dozen in-depth articles, on such subjects as "Ragtime's Women Composers", "The Tronbone In Ragtime", "Scott Joplin In Chicago" and a fictional piece by Seth and Kim Deitch!
This is an incredible publication - I've never heard of it or seen it before (and the first two issues are sold out) but I highly recommend it. It's visually wonderful, very entertaining and loaded with information. Check out the website and enjoy!


10/15/02 - GENE AUTRY!

sioux city sue
Gene Autry, the famed singing cowboy (and previous owner of the Anaheim Angels, see this story from last week's L.A. Times), is one of my favorites.
I was first introduced to Gene as a kid, when I saw his 12 chapter Mascot serial THE PHANTOM EMPIRE on TV.
Later on when I got interested in B-Westerns, I realized how fitting the science-fiction-musical-western (with comedy) was as Gene's first film.
Autry became a movie cowboy superstar in the late 1930s. His films usually try to be traditional westerns, but for some reason, they usually veer off into some bizzarre situations.
My favorite Autry bizzaro moment comes in the middle of COMIN' ROUND THE MOUNTAIN (1936) when Gene, trying to raise the spirits of a flood ravaged town, starts to lead them in song. At the mid point, he turns to the camera, breaks the fourth wall, and asks the movie theatre audience to sing along as well - the words to are suddenly superimposed over the action in "bouncing ball" style!

ding dong donkey
Sioux City Sue (1946)
The Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Los Angeles is a fantastic tribute to the real west - not the one portrayed in Autry's films. The museum's website makes available some of Autry's best films - all restored from 35mm master materials - including my two favorites MELODY RANCH (1942) which co-stars Ann Miller and Jimmy Durante, and SIOUX CITY SUE (1946) co starring Sterling Holloway, in which Gene lends his voice to a cartoon character "Ding Dong Donkey" (the film contains animation sequences by Walter Lantz Productions).
There is much more to say about Gene Autry (I haven't even mentioned his sidekick "Frog" (Smiley Burnette) and his sidekick's sidekick "Tadpole" (Joe Strauch, Jr.), but I'll be doing so in later entries to this Journal.


10/14/02 - TV PARTY!

tv party book
I've alway's enjoyed Billy Ingram's TVparty! website, and now I have to highly recommend his wonderfully entertaining new 300 page trade paperback, TVparty: Television's Untold Tales which just came out.
This compendium of short articles is loaded with facts and trivia about all the oddball and cherished TV shows we grew up on. Even if you didn't grow up on these series, the book is a revelation - filled esoteric memories and rare photos, and all sorts of proof of how much TV shows (and commercials) of the 1950s & 60s warped our minds (in good way).
Winky Dink, Shrimpenstein, Bob McAllister, "Hank", Jot, The Hathaways - If these names mean anything to you, run out and get this book immediately!
There are articles on My Mother The Car, Paul Lynde, Groucho, George Reeves, Shazam, Bette Davis, Robert Blake and much much more. And a fantastic CD-Rom is included featuring a montage of great clips and commercials from the rarest TVparty archive material.
This isn't just the website in book form. It's a great read and is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!


10/12/02 - CURT SWAN!

curt swan book
Here's a book I've been waiting all my life for!
Curt Swan was my first favorite comic book artist, and I have to admit, he's still my favorite. Don't get me wrong, I love Kirby, Ditko, Wood, Gil Kane, Will Elder, and many others are high on my list. But Swan was my first love - I hold a special place for his Superman family comics of the 1960s. Inked by George Klein, edited by Mort Wesinger, lettered by Ira Schnapp, they made the impossible seem realistic - at least to this eight year old kid.
One of the few pieces of original comic art I own is a Swan piece from a 1962 Superman issue. I have it framed and hanging in my living room. Swan's Superman was the "real" Superman. We all knew it in our hearts.
And now, a fellow fan Eddy Zeno has put together a loving tribute in a new illustrated biography, CURT SWAN: A LIFE IN COMICS, just out from Vanguard Productions.

superman's pal
One of my favorite
Swan covers
This 192 page book (available in both hardcover and trade paperback) is loaded with Swan art and personal remembrances from close friends and colleagues. Panel gag cartoons from Stars and Stripes, rare pencil sketches, examples of his earliest Superman art (under Siegel & Shuster's name in 1948), special art for magazine covers and commercial comic strips are among the Swan rareties displayed here. And Arlen Schumer does one of his color montage tributes in the center section.
There is also tons of great Swan DC comic art from his greatest era (in my opinion), the 1960s and early 1970s.
There hasn't been enough said about Curt Swan and his influence on American comics. This book is long overdue - and much deserved.


10/11/02 - THE LOST PLANET!

lost planet ad
This is one of the worst serials ever released by Columbia Pictures - but I love the costumes, gadgets, posters and stills from this film.
The lightning-bolt jumpsuits, the wire-tube space helmets, the funky ray guns, the mad inventions of evil Dr. Grood - It's got everything!
Judd Holdren stars and gives an incredibly bland performance as "Fighting Rex Barrow". He knows this is a turkey and his career is going very badly. This is his last starring role. He was previously CAPTAIN VIDEO (1951) and COMMANDO CODY (1952) - as well as "Larry Martin" in Republic's ZOMBIES OF THE STRATOSPHERE (1953). After THE LOST PLANET (1953) it was all downhill from there.
I understand Holdren left acting and drifted into real estate - later committing suicide in the 1970s.

lost planet
Comedy relief Ted Thorpe
THE LOST PLANET features such devices as The Fluoro-Ray, The Stellar-Scope, The Prysmic-Catapult, The Cosmic Cannon and of course, The Sonic Vibrator.
Chapter titles like "Trapped By The Axial Propeller!" (chapter 2), "Dr. Grood Defies Gravity!" (chapter 11), and "In The Grip Of The De-Thermo Ray!" (chapter 14) are more exciting than the actual film itself.
Released at the height of the early 1950s "Space Cadet" craze, THE LOST PLANET tried to cash in the popularity of such TV kids shows as Space Patrol, Tom Corbett-Space Cadet, Rocky Jones-Space Ranger and of course, Captain Video.
chapter 5
This is also the most juvenile of any serial I've ever seen. There is no pretense at trying to attract adults - other than the appearence of starlet Vivian Mason.
It's very frustrating because they had the gadgets, they had the costumes, they had the ultra low-budget special effects (including the Howard Swift animated "Cosmo-jets"). They could have made a good film - or at least as good as CAPTAIN VIDEO (which I think is excellent).
The screenplay tries to recall FLASH GORDON with its regular Earth guy hero (Holdren, as a newspaper reporter) who discovers a power mad Ming-like dictator (Michael Fox as Dr. Grood) and a captive scientist ally (Forrest Taylor as the Zarkov-like Professor Dorn). If only the filmmaking (directing, acting, script) was as competent as that descriptive sentence.
I do not recommend that anyone should see this serial, but I admire it because it represents a lost genre of Saturday morning kids entertainment - the genre that was inspired Buzz Lightyear - and was a whole lot of fun.


blood n thunder
7/23/02 - Great New FANZINES!

All of a sudden, all of my friends are seemingly jumping into the fanzine business!
Two new publications made their debut at the 2002 San Diego Comic Con - both by longtime friends who are pouring their passions about specific pop culture subjects (mainly movies) into new zines of high quality.
Leonard Maltin, who started his career publishing FILM FAN MONTHLY, a movie fanzine from 1968-1975, is returning to self-publishing with MOVIE CRAZY, a new 16 page newsletter "for people who love movies". Leonard plans to write each issue himself - and I can tell you that new facts, rare photos and serious film research and opinion are in store. And they'll be some cartoon research in there as well.
movie crazy
Four issue subscriptions are available. Check out Leonard's new website leonardmaltin.com for more information.
Old friend's Ed Hulse and Mark Trost are behind the publication of BLOOD N' THUNDER (pictured above), a magazine with a new perspective on old-time radio drama, pulp magazines, cliffhanger serials and B-Movies - shedding light on the origins of current popular culture by highlighting their original inspirations.
I recommend both these publications highly.


MORE TO COME!

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